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The best credit cards for you depend on your travel goals and spending habits. If you want to book Southwest flights for free, a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card may seem like an obvious choice. I’ll explain why you should also consider a card that earns transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Chase issues 5 Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards. All of these cards earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points. 3 are personal cards and 2 are business cards.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card (NEW!)
A Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card is not the only way you can earn Southwest points from credit cards
Chase Ultimate Rewards has 10 airline transfer partners. One of the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners happens to be Southwest. That means that you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account at a 1:1 ratio. Then you can use the Southwest Rapid Rewards points to book flights.
There are 3 Chase Sapphire cards that earn transferable Ultimate Rewards points
In this post, I’ll compare our favorite travel card for beginners, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, to Chase’s Southwest credit cards.
4 reasons a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card is a better way to earn free Southwest flights
Interested in business cards? Chase has just released a new business Southwest co-branded card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, and you can read about that here. Basically, the same principles apply. There is a nice welcome offer and the benefits may appeal to frequent Southwest flyer. However, for similar reasons I’m about to list, I’d suggest a Chase Ink Business Preferred card for most people over the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card.
1. The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card has a better welcome offer
The current welcome bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card is 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
The current Southwest Rapid Rewards offer on all 3 personal versions of the co-branded credit cards is 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
Update 1/6/20: For a limited time, the welcome bonus on all three Southwest personal credit cards is higher, but the bonus is tiered and the minimum spending requirement to earn the full bonus is higher. I still value the welcome bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred higher, but if you’re going to open a Southwest card, now would be a good time to do so. The new offer on all 3 Southwest personal credit cards is for up to 75,000 Rapid Rewards points. Earn 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $1,000 in 3 months. Then if you spend an additional $4,000 (for a total of $5,000 in the first 6 months), you’ll earn another 35,000 points.
Earn your first 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points today! Click here for 25 valuable ways to redeem the bonus.
2. Earn more points on everyday spending with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card
Both cards earn 1 point per dollar on most purchases. But the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card has bonus categories that the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards do not have.
- The Southwest Rapid Rewards co-branded credit cards earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest flights.
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card also earns 2 points per dollar on Southwest flights. But you get 2 points per dollar on all travel, not just Southwest flights.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card also earns 2 points per dollar at restaurants.
3. You can use points for Southwest flights by transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest Rapid Rewards, but you can also transfer to other airlines
Chase Ultimate Rewards has 10 airline partners and 3 hotel partners. One of the airline transfer partners happens to be Southwest. That means that you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest Rapid Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. Then you can use the Southwest Rapid Rewards points to book flights.
You can also check other airlines that are direct or indirect Ultimate Rewards partners for lower cost redemptions. For example, last year I booked last minute tickets for my parents to come to Dallas from Florida. Roundtrip tickets on any airline were at least $700 roundtrip. On Southwest, the cost in points was 38,000 points each way. But I was able to use British Airways Avios to book American Airlines flights for only 7,500 points each way! You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to British Airways.
You can only book Southwest flights with Southwest Rapid Rewards points
All 5 Southwest credit cards earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Southwest Rapid Rewards points cannot be transferred to hotel programs (such as World of Hyatt), bank programs (such as Chase Ultimate Rewards), or other airlines. Southwest is not part of an airline alliance and they do not have partner airlines. This means that you can only book Southwest flights with Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
4. Points earned from the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card give more redemption options (such as free hotel stays)
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are one of my favorite award currencies. These points are extremely versatile when it comes to redemption options. The two options that provide the most value for booking travel are:
- Transfer Ultimate Rewards to airline and/or hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. There are 10 airline partners and 3 hotel partners.
- Use the Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption portal. This is basically using your points as cash to book through their portal. The value of Chase Ultimate Rewards earned from a Chase Sapphire Preferred card is 1.25 cents per point. For example, the 60,000 point welcome bonus would be worth $750 if you use them in the redemption portal.
1 reason to get a Southwest co-branded card instead of a Chase Sapphire card: The Southwest Companion Pass
The Southwest Companion Pass allows a designated companion to fly with you for free anytime you book a Southwest flight. You can do this as many times as you want for the duration of your pass. The pass is valid for the year in which you earn it, plus the entire following year. You can add your companion to any ticket booked on Southwest, even tickets booked on points! Your only cost is taxes and fees (which is $5.60 for domestic flights). See terms and conditions on southwest.com.
How can I earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
There are two ways to earn it:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in one calendar year
- Earn 110,000 qualifying points in one calendar year. Note that in 2020, 125,000 points will be required. Our comprehensive Companion Pass post has been updated with the most current info and best strategy.
Points earned from Southwest credit cards qualify for the Companion Pass. This includes the welcome bonuses. The easiest and quickest strategy to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is to open 2 Southwest credit cards. You can get one personal card and one business card.
Do Chase Ultimate Rewards count towards the Companion Pass if I transfer to Southwest?
Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest do NOT qualify for earning the Companion Pass.
So for those interested in a Companion Pass, Southwest cards should be prioritized over a Chase Sapphire card. This is pretty much the only reason I would ever suggest a Southwest credit card over a Chase Ultimate Rewards earning credit card.
Chase 5/24 considerations
Are Chase Sapphire and Southwest credit cards subject to Chase 5/24*?
*If you do not know what I am talking about, read this post about Chase’s 5/24 policy.
Yes. All of these cards are subject to the 5/24 policy.
I am under 5/24. Can I open 2 Chase Sapphire or 2 Southwest credit cards?
There are some reasons you may want to do this:
- To earn another bonus
- If you’re trying to earn the Southwest Companion Pass
Chase Sapphire cards: You cannot have both personal Chase Sapphire cards at the same time. But you can have a Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card and a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Southwest cards: You cannot have more than one personal version of the Southwest credit cards at the same time. This is a fairly new rule. But you can have one business card and one personal card.
Can I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred and a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card at the same time?
Yes, and I actually encourage it. If you’re trying to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you will need a Southwest Rapid Rewards business card and a Southwest Rapid Rewards personal card. So I would start with those. After that, a Chase Ultimate Rewards earning card should be your next move.
Remember, all of these cards are subject to 5/24, so you will want to open them before opening credit cards from other banks! Once you’ve opened 5 cards, you will not be approved for any Chase 5/24 cards until 25 months after your 5th newest card was opened.
While you can have these cards at the same time, I do not recommend trying to open them at the same time.
Space out your applications to avoid scrutiny by Chase if you plan to open multiple cards
This applies to any Chase card, not just the cards discussed in this post. Chase has been known to flag or even shut down people who open too many accounts too quickly.
More about the Southwest Rapid Rewards program
Southwest is a great airline for many reasons: low fares, free checked bags, friendly employees, free changes/cancellations, and an easy-to-use loyalty program.
If you live in a city that Southwest serves and mostly fly domestic, Southwest Rapid Rewards is a great loyalty program.
- Points are easy to earn and use
- Award ticket availability isn’t limited like other US airlines
- Low fares=low redemption costs
- The Southwest Companion Pass makes your points even more valuable
The Southwest Rapid Rewards program does not have an award chart
Southwest award flights are usually priced according to the paid fare at the time of booking. In other words, a lower fare will cost a lower amount of Southwest Rapid Rewards points. On the other hand, a higher fare is going to cost more points. But the good news is that if a seat is available, you can book it on points.
With Southwest, you do not have to worry about award ticket availability
Southwest does not limit the amount of tickets available to book on points like American Airlines and most other airline programs. You will always be able to book flights with Southwest points (unless the flight is sold out), but it might not be the lowest redemption option.
If you want to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points but you do not think you can meet the requirements to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred card instead of a Southwest co-branded credit card. You can transfer points earned from the CSP to Southwest. So it’s like having the Southwest card, but with many more redemption options.
It makes more sense to earn points that are flexible. By collecting Ultimate Rewards, you can still book Southwest flights, but you also have access to other airlines, hotels, and the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal.
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