Southwest is the world’s largest low-cost carrier airline. It’s become popular for offering inexpensive fares and low or no fees, in exchange for providing a more basic service. To reward customers that take Southwest flights regularly, the company started the Rapid Rewards program, offering rewards points towards future flights.
The Rapid Rewards Program’s popularity has led to many credit card companies partnering with Southwest to offer Southwest reward miles for using the card. This makes using those credit cards a great idea for people who live in one of Southwest’s hub cities.
What is a Hub City?
A hub city is a city from which an airline makes a large number of arrivals or departures each day. Rather than offering direct flights from every individual city to every other individual city, most airlines use what is called a hub and spoke system. By placing a hub in a central area, they can get passengers from one part of the country to another while requiring only one transfer.
As an example, rather than offering direct flights from Boston to Los Angeles, Boston to San Francisco, Boston to Portland, and vice versa, the airline runs a flight from Boston to Chicago, and from the three west coast cities to Chicago. Customers going from Boston to any city on the west coast get off at Chicago and transfer to get to their destination.
This lets an airline serve cross-country routes without having a huge number of expensive cross-country flights. Southwest’s hub cities, with more than 200 departures each day, are Chicago, Baltimore, Las Vegas, and Denver.
What is a Travel Rewards Card?
A travel rewards credit card is a type of credit card designed for people who love to travel. Every time you use the card, you are rewarded with airline miles or points that you can redeem to travel-related rewards, like airfare, car rentals, or hotel stays. Your rate of earning is correlated to how much money you spend, generally working out to 100 points per $100 you spend, but many cards offer bonus points for using the card at specific types of retailers, letting you earn double points, triple points, or more.
The Best Card for Domestic Fliers
Southwest Plus Card
The Southwest Plus card gives you the chance to earn Rapid Rewards Miles with every purchase you make at a rate of 100 points per $100 spent, and 200 points per $100 spent at Southwest or a partner hotel. The number of points you can earn is unlimited, so you can easily rack up enough points for your next vacation.
The card charges a $69 annual fee but makes up for it with a 3,000-point bonus added to your Rapid Rewards account on your card anniversary. With some flights costing fewer than 5,000 points, that’s almost a full free flight just for being a cardholder.
To sweeten the deal, the Southwest Plus card will give you a bonus of 50,000 miles for spending $2,000 in your first three months with the card. That’s enough for more than ten one-way flights on some of Southwest’s less expensive routes.
The Best Card for International Fliers
Southwest Premier Card
The Southwest Premier Card is a souped-up version of the Southwest Plus card that appeals to international travelers. It earns rewards at the same rate as the Southwest Plus card but doubles the annual bonus to 6,000 points awarded on your cardholder anniversary, which is enough for a free flight. The card also does not charge an annual fee, so you can use it anywhere that you travel.
The biggest benefit of the Southwest Premier card is that the points you earn by making purchases with the card are added to the points you earn from flying when you are trying to qualify for Southwest A-List or A-List Preferred status.
You can earn up to 15,000 qualifying points from your card each year. A-List members get priority boarding, a 25% earning bonus on flights, free same-day standby, and priority check-in benefits. A-List Preferred members get a 100% earning bonus on flights and free in-flight WiFi in addition to A-List member benefits.
If you earn 110,000 qualifying points in a year, you’ll earn a Southwest Companion pass for the rest of the year, and all of the following year. The Companion Pass benefit gives you a second ticket free whenever you purchase a ticket or redeem Rapid Rewards Points for one.
Best Credit Card Partner for Southwest
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program has partnered with Southwest, allowing you to convert Ultimate Rewards points that you earn with Chase’s cards into Rapid Rewards points. If you’re already a Chase customer and don’t want to apply for a new credit card, you can use this trick to earn extra Rapid Rewards points without adding another card to your wallet.