Choosing the Southwest Airlines Card that Matches Your Travel Lifestyle

August 27th, 2014

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sw1Southwest Airlines is currently the largest domestic carrier in the U.S. They attract the flying public for a number of reasons. First, customers enjoy their competitive pricing and variety of expanding flight routes. Second, standard amenities are the norm, not the exception, on Southwest. These include free baggage checks on your first two bags, no charge for choosing your seat, and no blackout dates. Third, Southwest uses innovative new technologies, like e-boarding passes that use mobile apps for customer convenience. Finally, Southwest offers a great rewards program that is constantly updating itself to benefit the flying public. Here are three credit-card offers that provide different ways to save money on Southwest flights and other purchases your travel lifestyle necessitates.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: This economical Southwest Rapid Rewards card provides outstanding benefits for travelers on a budget. Currently, new members can receive 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 during the first three months of card membership. According to Southwest’s site, that would cover two average round-trip flights when redeemed for Southwest’s Wanna Get Away Fares.

The card has a reasonable annual fee of $69, which is less than that of many similar cards. Cardholders receive a 3,000 point anniversary bonus at the end of their first year of membership. The points keep on coming, though, with double points earned on purchases from Southwest and its hotel and car-rental partners. All other purchases earn one point for each dollar spent, and for a limited time, customers can earn up to 10,000 points on balance transfers at a rate of one point for every dollar transferred.

Now that all these points are stacking up, the choices for how to use them are also impressive. Opt to use these for fare discounts on Southwest flights and save even more money or redeem them to purchase hotel accommodations, car rentals, gift cards, or international flights on more than 50 global carriers in over 85 destinations.

swSouthwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: At first glance, the Rapid Rewards Premier card may appear similar to the Rapid Rewards Plus version. The introductory bonus is presently the same, earning 50,000 points when spending $2,000 in the first three months the account is open. Card members will also accrue points in the same manner, with double points per dollar for Southwest-approved purchases and one point for all other merchandise and transactions. So what are the differences between the two cards?

Well, it should be noted as per MileCards.com that program perks for this Southwest Rapid Rewards card are designed for the frequent flier who requires travel options that accommodate a busy lifestyle. Essentially, the more you use this card for travel, the more points you earn that qualify you for A-List or A-List Preferred status. For every $10,000 in purchases, Premier cardholders earn 1,500 tier qualifying points, up to 15,000 TQP annually. Fliers earning 35,000 TQP in one year receive A-List status and the following perks: priority check-in, reserved check-in, standby priority, fly-by priority Lanes where available, a dedicated A-List phone line, and a 25 percent earnings bonus on all eligible Southwest flights. Fliers earning 70,000 TQP annually gain A-List Preferred status. In addition to all of the perks given to A-listers, they will enjoy free Wi-Fi in flight when available and an increase to a 100 percent earnings bonus on all eligible Southwest flights.

Premier Rapid Rewards members also receive a 6,000 point anniversary bonus at the end of their first year of membership which somewhat offsets the $95 annual fee. Overall, this card is a good option to consider for frequent fliers who may desire the extras that make traveling by air more convenient, comfortable and flexible.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: For many cardholders, having a co-branded airline card isn’t a necessity, yet they want to take advantage of special airline offers when possible. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is just such a card. It offers an introductory 40,000 point bonus for spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of use, and cardholders can earn 5,000 more points by adding an authorized user who makes a purchase on the account within the same time frame. At the end of the first year of membership, cardholders will also receive a point bonus of 7% for all the points earned, including those redeemed, within the first year of membership. Added to that, Chase’s card earns double points for all purchases, not just those associated with airline purchases. The card also has a $99 annual fee that is waived for the first year.

For traveling, the Chase Sapphire Preferred allows transfer of points to Southwest and five other major airlines, and it also gives discounts on Amtrak fares and partner hotels. Those who travel abroad will also like the added convenience of carrying a card with a chip and signature feature for international transactions. This card demonstrates the flexibility to suit the needs of frequent fliers but also has the economic benefits that budget-minded cardholder’s desire.

Credit-card offers come and go, but these offers allow you to take advantage of Southwest’s great fares and programs while keeping some change in your pocket. Consider which one suits your travel lifestyle the best while offering the perks and benefits you’ll use the most.

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