When it comes to the Freddie Awards for the Best Loyalty Card in the Americas, the smart money bets on the Southwest Premier Visa Card by Chase. It’s won the category for nine of the last ten years, including this year.
And while I think the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier card is a decent option, it’s not the best Southwest card. That would be the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Priority card (which is pictured above but was not the winner.)
Here’s why I think the Priority is better than the Premier card for anyone who’s invested in Rapid Rewards enough to get a co-brand card. This is important because you can only have one Southwest co-brand card.
The Priority Card has a $149 annual fee, and the Premier card has a $99 annual fee. What makes the Priority card worth $50 extra?
Regarding earning points, both cards have the same bonus categories.
- 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases
- 2 points per $1 spent on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases
- 2 points per $1 spent on local transit and commuting including rideshare
- 2 points per $1 spent on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming
- 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Both cards also offer the following benefits.
- 25% back on In-flight WiFi and drinks. YMMV for what this is worth to you. It would depend on how much you fly on Southwest (and how much you drink when flying on Southwest)
- Cardmembers will receive a boost of 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points every year.
- Points earned with the card count towards earning a Southwest Companion Pass
- Earn tier qualifying points – You’ll earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for each $10,000 in purchases. TQPs can be used to count toward qualification for Rapid Rewards A-List or A-List Preferred status. A-List starts at 35,000 TQP.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
Here’s where the benefits differ
- Premier cardholders get 6,000 points on each anniversary while Priority cardholders get 7,500 points.
- Premier cardholders get two EarlyBird check-ins each year while Priority cardholders get four Upgraded Boardings when available. (Here’s why that makes a huge difference.)
- Priority cardholders get a $75 Southwest annual travel credit.
Since the Rapid Rewards Priority Card is only $50 more than the Premier version and you get a $75 annual credit for Southwest purchases, there’s no reason to get the Premier card if you pay for 1 flight per year. In addition, 4 Upgraded Boardings are worth more than 2 EarlyBird, now that you can apply for the upgrade at check-in instead of having to wait until you get to the airport.
While either card pays for itself if you can use the benefits provided, you can double your money with the Priority card. I’m sure if more people with a Premier Card knew about the benefits of the Priority card, that would be the card winning the Freddie Award from now on.
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In fairness, winning a Freddie and being the best are nowhere near the same. Anyone who feels different is welcome to explain Marriott as the best hotel program, which is pretty much the same as saying Delta is the best airline program.