By Chad Morris


5 Min. To Read

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With the help of Chase, Southwest Airlines has a suite of Visa credit cards that earn miles in Rapid Rewards, its frequent flyer program. Even better, the cards offer enticing perks like admission to special events and access to international flights through partner airlines.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card earns two points for every dollar spent on Southwest flights. It also earns the same rate on hotel bookings and car rentals with select companies. All other purchases earn one point per dollar spent. The card receives 3,000 bonus points on each anniversary. There is a $69 annual fee for the Plus card, and foreign transactions incur a 3% surcharge.

For a $99 annual fee, Southwest offers the Premier card. It earns miles at the same rate as the Plus card, but receives 6,000 anniversary points once per year instead of the Plus card’s 3,000. The Premier card also has no foreign transaction fees.

Premier cardmembers can qualify for A-List Status by earning 35,000 points in a calendar year. This program offers a variety of benefits that Plus cardholders don’t receive, such as Fly By Priority lanes (for quicker access to ticket counters), reserved check-in, free same-day standby, and a 25% point bonus on revenue flights.

Both cards come with a host of lucrative benefits. Points accumulated with either card can be used to reserve air travel to any destination Southwest flies. The airline currently services over 90 airports with no checked bag fees. Southwest does not enforce blackout dates, and any seat on an aircraft can be booked using points. While the company has few restrictions on booking with Rapid Rewards points, there are some tickets that cannot be obtained with points. These include charter flights, government and military tickets, vacation packages, and paper tickets.

International travelers will benefit from Southwest’s alliance with over fifty foreign airlines. Rapid Rewards points can be redeemed for flights on British Airways, Iberia, Lufthansa, and Aeromexico. A one-way non-stop flight from New York’s JFK to London’s Heathrow costs 153,410 points on Air France.

Cardholders are also eligible for Companion Pass, which provides a free ticket for one friend when you pay for a flight with Rapid Rewards. To qualify, you must fly 100 one-way flights or earn 110,000 points in a calendar year.

Southwest has partnered with a selection of hotels and car rental agencies where Rapid Reward points can be redeemed. These include Best Western, Hertz, Universal Orlando Resort, Avis, and Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts. Gift cards starting at 5,000 points can also be redeemed for

A variety of other gift cards are also available to Rapid Rewards cardholders. Redemptions start at just 3,000 points, and more than 70 merchants appear on Southwest’s rewards redemption site. Some of the more tantalizing ones include Cheesecake Factory, Foot Locker, Kohl’s, Bath & Body Works, Panera Bread, and Amazon. A $50 Amazon gift card costs just 5,000 points.

If you have a particular item in mind, you can skip the gift card and check out the merchandise Southwest offers. A variety of products are available for redemption on the Rapid Rewards site, including electronics, golf supplies, travel accessories, luggage, school supplies, and more. A very nice Wenger Swiss Gear Synergy backpack costs 7,285 points; and a Hamilton Beach coffeemaker is 6,859 points.

Beyond products, Southwest offers special occasions exclusively to holders of its credit cards. Auctions are available for tickets to a variety of events. One upcoming auction is a suite room at a Texas Rangers baseball game large enough for 17 guests. The package comes with food and beverages during the game at no additional cost.

Premier and Plus cards are also available in business versions. They earn the same level of points and anniversary bonuses. The Premier business card achieves A-List Status faster than its consumer version with only a 15,000 point requirement. Employee cards are available free of charge, and all cards in a single account earn the airline’s Rapid Rewards points.

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