If you like to save money on airfare, you’ve come to the right place. Today I’m going to review the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa credit card from Chase.
Is it worth it?
More than likely, you’re at least vaguely familiar with this card, as it’s among the more popular travel rewards credit cards for United States residents with reasonably good credit who like to vacation with any regularity. Here’s how it works:
-The card has an annual fee of $69.
-Cardholders earn unlimited points in the following categories:
-2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards
hotel and car rental partner purchases
-1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
-3,000 annual anniversary points bonus
-Points don’t expire as long as your account is open
-No blackout dates or seat restrictions when you redeem with points
-As usual with Southwest, bags fly free and there are no fees to change a reservation
Southwest also offers great sign-on bonuses. Right now, they’re offering 50,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months you have the card.
That all sounds exciting, you might think, but what does that actually mean? How do I benefit?!
I’m here to break it down for you!
Say you live on the East Coast and you’re looking to take a vacation to Los Angeles, California, in May 2018. You also have a wedding to attend in Orlando in July of this year. You’re considering signing up for the Southwest credit card in an effort to earn some points and hopefully defray the cost of two major air vacations in one year.
So you sign up for the Southwest credit card. You’ll be charged the $69 fee right away.
Then, you book your flight to Orlando for you and your significant other.
Just for argument’s sake, I used a flight from Newark International Airport to Los Angeles, departing May 19, 2018, and returning along the same route on May 26, 2018.
We’ll assume you want the cheapest flight possible. That would be $178 per person to LA, and $211 per person back to Newark. Including taxes and fees, that comes to a grand total of $778.00. As long as you’re both signed up for the Rapid Rewards program (free and you're prompted to do so at purchase), you’ll earn about 1,916 points each for this trip. These are the points you'll earn just for being a Rapid Rewards member. This is separate from what you'll earn by having the credit card.
Of course, while you’re in Los Angeles, you’re going to need a rental car and a hotel. You’re on a budget, but you also want to enjoy your vacation.
The Best Western Plus Hollywood Hills, a Southwest partner hotel, will cost you $1,506 for 7 nights, which isn’t too shabby, all things considered. Your stay will earn you 13,000 Rapid Rewards points. Again, this is separate from what you'll earn for having the credit card.
Renting an economy car (the lowest-cost choice) from Budget during your stay will cost you a total of $347.67, and will net you another 600 Rapid Rewards points. Once again, separate from the points you'll earn by using your Southwest credit card.
So, let’s summarize our totals so far.
Credit card annual fee: $69
Airline tickets: $778
Rental car: $347.67
Rapid Rewards Points
Airline tickets: 1,916 x 2 = 3,832
Rental car: 600
Credit Card Used--2x Southwest and partner purchases: 5,401.34
PLUS 50,000 bonus points for spending $2,000 in the first three months
Grand total: 72,833.34 points
So, now we know that we can earn quite a lot of Rapid Rewards points from getting the card, spending enough to get the bonus, and taking a trip using partner hotels and rental cars. But what does 72,833.34 points actually buy you?
You’ve got that wedding coming up in July. You and your significant other don’t get away on many trips together, so you’ve decided to make a week of it and enjoy some of the attractions in Orlando.
You book tickets from Newark to Orlando, leaving on July 7 and returning on July 14, 2018. If you use the Southwest website to book, you can actually search in points rather than dollars. You’ll see that you can make this trip for only 29,564 points. Total. (Plus the $22.40 United States-required September 11 security tax, which cannot by law be paid with points.)
If you’re keeping track, this means your trip to Orlando is only costing you $22.40 so far. And you’ll still have 43,269.34 points remaining. That’s enough for two more round trip plane tickets for you and your SO!
You still need a hotel and car for this trip, though, so you might as well book through Southwest to maximize the points you’ll earn. A quick search shows a 7-night hotel stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Orlando for $898 TOTAL (are you kidding?! That’s just $128 a night!) that will leave you earning 9,000 additional Rapid Rewards points. Again, just because you're a Rapid Rewards member. This comes before you use your card.
Book a car for $417.17 through Budget for your trip and you’ll earn another 600 points. Just for being a member!
So, let’s break down the Orlando trip.
Airline September 11 Fee: $22.40
Rental Car: $417.17
Rapid Rewards Points
Starting value: 72,833.34
Airline tickets cost: -29,564
Rental Car: 600
Credit Card Used--2x Southwest and partner purchases: 2,755.14
Even after getting two round-trip plane tickets FREE, you’ll still have 55,624.48 Rapid Rewards points left. This is of course not even taking into consideration the points you’ll earn at 1 per $1 spent on all other travel-related purchases.
In 2018, given the above model, you would spend a grand total of $4,078.24 for a week-long vacation to Los Angeles and a week-long vacation to Orlando during peak travel times, not including food or entertainment. You would be left with enough Rapid Rewards points to book at least one more full vacation with round-trip airfare for two to another destination pretty much anywhere in the United States. Want to go visit family in Washington for another week? Fly there for free! If you can stay with relatives while there, you’ve just given yourself a totally free week of vacation.
Once your one-year anniversary has passed, you’ll get another 3,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points from Southwest. You’ll also be charged another $69 annual fee. You’ll have to calculate, based on future vacation plans, if it would be worth it for you to keep the card open.
One way to DEFINITELY make it worth your while is to earn more points via the Southwest referral program. Once you have the card, you can invite others to sign up via a special referral link. If someone signs up for the card using your link, you will earn 10,000 Rapid Rewards points, just like that! You’re allowed 50,000 free points earned in this way each year.
Yep, you read that right. That means you can earn enough Rapid Rewards points just by getting friends and family to sign up that you and your SO can get free round-trip airfare on one vacation EVERY YEAR. (You’ll pay the $69 annual card fee, as well as the $22.40 September 11 fee, however.)
To me, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Credit Card from Chase is ABSOLUTELY a no-brainer if you’re planning a few trips via airplane in the next few years (points do roll over). Of course, you need to be prepared to pay off your credit card. I would never advise you to sign up if you don’t feel you will be able to pay the balance of the card in a reasonable amount of time.
If you’re in love with the idea of free flights, I’d love for you to sign up for the Southwest card using my referral link. I’ll earn 10,000 bonus points if you do! That will help me take more great trips that I can write about here on the blog. I’ll love you forever!
That being said, I am in no way affiliated with Southwest Airlines, Visa, or Chase. Aside from the 10,000 bonus referral points, I won’t receive any compensation for this post or for your choice to sign up for a credit card. I’m not a financial adviser, and I don’t pretend to know what financial decisions are right for you or your family. I do hope this information is helpful to you, though, as you make your vacation plans for 2018!