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Fly Southwest? Here Are the Best Credit Cards for You

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Chicago, Illinois, USA - May 21, 2013:  Southwest Airlines aircraft on the move with the Chicago skyline in the background.

As most major airlines do, Southwest Airlines offers co-branded credit cards that reward their frequent fliers, but those cards are only some of the many options out there for earning rewards on travel purchases. Here’s what the airline’s loyal customers need to know about Southwest credit cards before deciding to apply.

Should I Get a Southwest Credit Card?

Southwest and Chase offer three co-branded credit cards — two for consumers and one for businesses owners. All of them give cardholders two points per $1 spent on purchases with Southwest as well as hotel and car rental partners. Purchases elsewhere earn one point per $1. Southwest credit cardholders can redeem points for Southwest travel, including Southwest airfare and vacation packages, in addition to international flights, hotel stays, rental cars, gift cards and event tickets, among other offerings.

Each card also offers cardholders a signup bonus and anniversary bonus points. Points never expire, as long as your account is open, and there are no blackout dates or seat restrictions when you book Southwest flights with points. Southwest also lets members of its loyalty program qualify for a companion ticket (you can choose someone to fly for free with you) after 100 qualifying one-way flights or 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. (Using one of their credit cards can help you get to that perk faster.)

If that appeals to you and you have good credit — rewards credit cards generally require applicants have good or excellent credit scores — your next step is to decide which card to apply for. (Note: If you don’t know where your credit currently stands, you can find out by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

How Do the Southwest Credit Card Offers Compare?

While all the Southwest credit cards offer rewards, customers can choose between two reward levels: Premier and Plus. Here are the differences.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Cardhp_plus_card

The Perks: In addition to the points all cardholders earn on purchases, people with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card earn 3,000 bonus points on their account anniversary, every year.

Signup Bonus: You can earn 40,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening your account.

Annual Fee: $69, applied to your first billing statement.

APR: Variable 16.24% to 23.24%, based on creditworthiness.

Additional Details: The foreign transaction fee is 3%.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit CardSouthwest Airlines Credit Card

The Perks: With the Premier card, consumers earn an extra 6,000 points on each account anniversary. There are also no foreign transaction fees on this card.

Signup Bonus: You can earn 40,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening your account.

Annual Fee: $99, applied to your first billing statement.

APR: Variable 16.24% to 23.24%, based on creditworthiness.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Cardsouth west premier business card

The Perks: Business owners can earn rewards faster by adding employee cards. Those employees would be authorized users on the account and would have the same spending ability as the primary cardholder, unless you set limits on their account. The anniversary bonus is 6,000 points, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Signup Bonus: You can earn 50,000 bonus points for spending $2,000 within the first three months of opening an account.

Annual Fee: $99, applied to your first billing statement

APR: Variable 16.24%

Alternatives to the Southwest Credit Cards

If you’re the type of traveler who doesn’t want to commit to a single airline but still wants to use a credit card with a high rewards rate, you have several good options.

capital one venture cardCapital One Venture Rewards

The Perks: You earn two miles per $1 spent on this card, which you can redeem for a statement credit at a rate of 100 miles for $1. There are no foreign transaction fees.

Signup bonus: You can earn 40,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Annual fee: $59, waived the first year

APR: Variable 13.24%, 18.24% or 23.24%, based on creditworthiness.

BCCA-travel-BarclaycardBarclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

The Perks: You earn 2 miles per $1, which you can redeem for a statement credit at a rate of 100 miles per $1, and you get 5% miles back each time you redeem. There are no foreign transaction fees, and this card also has chip-and-PIN capability, which can be useful overseas.

Signup bonus: You can earn 50,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of opening an account.

Annual fee: $89, waived the first year.

APR: Variable 16.24%, 20.24% or 23.24%, based on creditworthiness.

Additional Details: Balance transfers have an introductory 0% APR for 12 months and carry a fee of $5 or 3%, whichever is greater. There’s a minimum interest charge of $0.50.

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Cardbank americard

The Perks: You earn 1.5 points per $1, which you can redeem at a rate of 100 points per $1. There are no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee, which sets it apart from the other cards in this list.

Signup Bonus: You can earn 20,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 within 90 days of opening an account.

Annual Fee: None

APR: Variable 15.24% to 23.24%, based on creditworthiness.

At publishing time, Capital One Venture Rewards and Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard are each offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.


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Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.