Southwest Credit Card - The Premier or the Plus

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Premier or Plus? Which Southwest Credit Card Will Make Your Day?

Southwest Airlines offers two Rapid Rewards credit cards, the Premier and the Plus. Both offer you a fabulous signup bonus, excellent rewards program, and an anniversary present each calendar year. So, what's the difference between the 2 cards, and which one is really the best? Take a look at this head-to-head comparison of the Southwest Airlines Plus and Premier credit cards to find out.

Why Opt for a Southwest Rapid Rewards Card at All?

Before you we dive into what sets each card apart from one another, let’s take a quick look at all the benefits you can get from both the Southwest Airlines Plus and Premier cards. For one thing, both cards offer a tremendous signup bonus. Get 40,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in three months. This is a very generous welcome that’s valued at around $700. Add to that the relatively low spend requirements, and the Southwest signup bonus ranks highly in the credit card industry.

On top of a hefty signup bonus, Southwest credit cards come with a nice rewards program. Cardholders earn 2 rewards points per every dollar spent on Rapid Rewards hotels and car rentals and 1 point per $1 for all other purchases.

Plus, you can get fabulous travel benefits from either one including things like no blackout dates/seat restriction, so you can fly or book hotels whenever you want to travel, and the first bag flies free (no baggage fee for the first piece of luggage you check).

Now that you’re excited to get on the Southwest Airlines credit card bandwagon, we can discuss the differences between the two cards.

Southwest Airlines Rewards Cards at a Glance

Southwest Airlines Premier CardSouthwest Airlines Plus Card
Signup Bonus40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months
Rewards Program2x points for each dollar spent on Southwest purchases
1x points for each dollar spent on other purchases
2x points for each dollar spent on Southwest purchases
1x points for each dollar spent on other purchases
Tier Qualifying Points1,500N/A
Anniversary Points6,000 Points3,000 Points
Foreign Transaction FeeNone3%
Annual Fee$99$69

So, What’s Different?

While they share a lot of the same great benefits, there are some marked differences between the Plus and the Premier cards. Here’s a closer look at the important ones:

Annual fees

  • This is the first difference between the Plus and the Premier Southwest cards. While the Plus only charges $69 per year, you will pay $99 annually for the Premier. Honestly, neither one is a large sum to pay for a good travel rewards credit card, but if you just can’t bring yourself to pay $99 for a card, then your choice is pretty obvious. I should note though that you get a lot more benefits for the Premier card (obviously).

Anniversary Points

  • Another difference betwixt the two Southwest Airlines cards is the anniversary present that you earn each year. This is no trifling amount, either. The Plus delivers 3,000 reward points, and the Premier gives you a whopping 6,000 points each year on the anniversary of starting your account. That's a generous offer that you won't find too often elsewhere, and it's also the biggest deciding factor for most applicants. If you are all about the points, then the Premier is the only way to go for you. And if you're doing the math, the extra anniversary points you get offset the extra $30 you’re paying annually for the Premier card.

Foreign transaction fee

  • Finally, the foreign transaction fee is different between the two cards. The Plus charges you the industry standard 3% for all transactions made in a foreign currency. While this might not mean anything to right now as you sit in front of your computer reading an article, it has a tremendous impact on your travel expenses. After all, how much money do you spend on food, tours, souvenirs, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses while you are traveling? $5,000? $10,000? Now, tack on another 3% of whatever you’ve spent that goes straight to the credit card company. All of those foreign currency transaction swipes add up pretty quickly, making a foreign transaction fee a really big deal.The Southwest Airlines Premier card, on the other hand, charges no foreign transaction fee. That means whatever you are charged in foreign currency is exactly what you pay and no more. By the way, this fee also applies to purchases made online in a foreign currency even if you are making the transaction from your living room. If you make frequent foreign currency purchases or travel a lot, the Premier card pays for itself after just $1,000 of foreign currency transactions, so bear that in mind.

Tier Qualifying Points

  • With the Premier card, you can earn 1,500 tier qualifying points towards Southwest Airlines’ exclusive A-list and A-list Preferred status every time you spend $10,000. When you are on one of these lists, you get priority boarding, standby priority, bonus rewards, and more. You’ll also have an accelerated earn rate when you get on the A-lists of 25% or 100% respectively, making every purchase more valuable. You don’t earn A-list points with the Plus card.

Companion Pass or Why Points Matter

One important benefit I almost missed is the coveted Companion Pass from Southwest Airlines. This envious card allows your significant other (or any other companion you choose) to fly with you for free for almost 24 months! That’s an astronomical savings, especially if you fly often. Here’s how it works:

  • Earn 110,000 bonus points to qualify for the Companion Pass
  • Your chosen companion gets a free ticket to accompany you whenever you fly
  • The pass is good from the time it’s issued until December 31st of the following year. That means if you sign up on August 1st of 2018, your pass will expire in December 2019, giving you 17 months of free flying. That’s incredible!

Southwest Airlines lets you switch your companion up to three times throughout the lifespan of the Companion Pass, so choose wisely. With such a huge perk riding on your points earning, it’s understandable why so many people prefer the Premier card over the Plus (since it helps you rack up points faster).

Using Your Points for FREE Flights

Points are only as good as the value they give you, so how valuable are Southwest points anyways? Well, here are a few scenarios you can use to redeem your bonus points for free flying fun:

  • Let’s say you want to go from LA to NY.
  • If you fly business class, it’ll cost around 70,000 miles, while the Anytime Fare category will cost less than 60,000.
  • The signup bonus already gives you 40,000 miles, so you only have to earn 20,000 or 30,000 more to cover your entire flight. You can do this by making purchases with your Premier or Plus card earning 2 miles per dollar on Southwest purchases or 1 mile for regular purchases until you rack up your bonus miles.
  • There’s an even easier way to get the flight for free, though. Opt for the Wanna Get Away fare. These are Southwest’s cheapest tickets, and they can bring a 70,000 mile flight down to a ridiculous 7,000 miles!

Bottom Line

Which one is right for you? Ask yourself how you plan to use the card, and that'll answer this question. If you're constantly flitting off to overseas locations, want to earn elite status with Southwest Airlines, or love racking up more points through bonus promotions, then the Premier is the card for you. If you want to save on the annual fee, don't go abroad very often, and aren't really going to qualify for elite status anyways, then you might as well opt for the Plus and save the $30. Either way, the Southwest Airlines cards can really provide a stupendous value as time goes by. The one criteria is that you use Southwest Airlines. If you don’t, all the massive points earning won’t do you any good. If you do, though, there’s a boatload of benefit to be had from these cards since you can redeem points for international flights, hotel stays, cruises, gift cards, and car rentals.

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