southwest plane takeoff tower in background

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While we didn’t think it was possible for Southwest to be even more customer friendly, the unimaginable just happened. Southwest has done away with expiration dates for flight credits — sometimes also known as travel funds or flight vouchers. This means all currently unexpired flight credits as of July 28, 2022, as well as any new flight credits, can be used indefinitely.

Flight credits are often issued when cancelling a Southwest Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fare, or when changing one of these fares to a lower-priced alternative flight. Although the airline doesn’t charge any change or cancellation fees, you don’t get cash back when you adjust these non-refundable tickets. Instead, you receive a flight credit, which traditionally expired one year after the purchase date of the original ticket — but which now never expire. No need to try to squeeze in a last minute vacation to utilize expiring credits — you can use them any time.

But how does this more favorable policy impact the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card? Let’s take a look at the card’s annual $75 travel credit, as well as the other benefits of the card.

The Southwest Priority card’s $75 travel credit

One of the best benefits of the Southwest Priority Card is that all card holders receive a $75 travel credit every year. Although the $149 annual fee on the card is higher than the other Southwest personal credit cards, this travel credit effectively brings your yearly cost down to just $74. This is a great deal, thanks to the plethora of card benefits.

But there’s one catch — the $75 credit resets each year, so it’s a use-it or lose-it credit. If you happen to not be flying Southwest that particular year or are typically paying for Southwest flights with points instead of cash, you might find yourself not using the credits.

However, with this new policy in place, there’s no reason to not utilize those credits. Because even if you aren’t flying on a paid Southwest flight any time soon, you can use your Southwest Priority Card to purchase any Southwest flight — even one that you have no intention of flying — that costs around $75, and that amount will be credited on your credit card statement. If you then cancel the flight more than 24 hours after booking, you’ll receive a Southwest flight credit that will never expire, which can then be used at any future date — even years down the line.

Additionally, if you purchase a Wanna Get Away Plus fare, that flight credit is fully transferrable to another passenger (regular Wanna Get Away fares are non-transferrable), so you have even more flexibility.

Digging into the Southwest Priority credit card

Beyond the $75 travel credit, the Southwest Priority Card is perfect for Southwest flyers who want elite VIP benefits from their credit card when they travel. Although it’s Chase’s most expensive Southwest personal credit card, it offers some great benefits, especially compared to Southwest’s other two personal credit cards. In fact, these perks can easily offset the card’s annual fee, making it one you’ll have no problem keeping in your wallet year after year.

Also, all points earned on the Southwest Priority card — including bonus points from the card’s sign-up offer — count toward the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. This pass is one of the best benefits in the travel world as it allows a friend or family member to fly with you for free (plus taxes and fees) an unlimited number of times. It’s essentially a terrific buy-one-get-one deal that could save you thousands of dollars for the duration of the pass.

Plus, points earned on the Southwest Priority card never expire, and you’ll never have to worry about blackout dates or seat restrictions when redeeming your points. That’s because Southwest has what’s known as a “fixed-value redemption” frequent flyer program, which means when you redeem your points, the number of points you’ll need is tied to the cash price of the ticket. So while you’ll always be able to get a seat with points as long as there’s one for sale, the higher the price, the more points you’ll need to secure a seat.

And with the current sign-up bonus, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in three months after opening the account.

See if you qualify for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.

Advantages of the Southwest Priority credit card

We’ve already talked about the $75 Southwest travel credit that Southwest Priority card holders get each year, which can be used to buy Southwest tickets. Just use your card to pay for your flight — or the taxes and fees on an award flight — and you’ll receive a statement credit offsetting the cost, up until you hit the $75 cap.

Then, starting with your first anniversary as a Southwest Priority card holder — which means after you’ve had the card for a year and each year thereafter — you’ll get 7,500 bonus points. Currently, Southwest points are worth approximately 1.4 cents per point when you redeem them for the airline’s “Wanna Get Away” fares, making those 7,500 bonus points worth $105. That means with just the bonus points and the $75 travel credit, you’re actually coming out ahead by $31 after paying your annual fee starting with your second year as a card holder.

On top of these two concrete money-saving benefits, you’ll also get four upgraded boarding certificates each year with the Southwest Priority card. Southwest boards its planes a little differently than most other airlines, as there are no assigned seats. Instead, you’ll get a boarding position between A1 and C60 when you check in to your flight, with A1 being the first to board and C60 being the last.

But, if you don’t get a boarding position you like, you can pay for an upgraded boarding position — A1 through A15 — at the airport, if available. The cost depends on the flight but ranges between $30 and $50 per upgraded boarding position. With the Southwest Priority card, you’ll get a statement credit for this purchase, up to four a year, saving you between $120 and $200 per year.

southwest interior plane early boarding

And if earning Southwest A-List elite status is important to you, the Southwest Priority card can get you a few steps closer, as you can earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) for every $10,000 in purchases you make on the card. There’s no cap to the number of qualifying points you can earn, which means theoretically you could earn A-List status without even stepping foot on a Southwest plane. However, you’d probably be better off combining TQPs earned from the credit card with TQPs earned from flying Southwest.

On top of it all, the Southwest Priority card also offers 25% back on all in-flight purchases made on Southwest, along with shopping protection benefits and no foreign transaction fees.

Earn bonus points with the Southwest Priority credit card.

Disadvantages of the Southwest Priority credit card

The biggest disadvantage of the Southwest Priority card is its bonus categories, and Southwest points themselves. While you’ll earn 3 points for each dollar you spend on Southwest, you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar on all other travel purchases that aren’t booked through the Southwest Rapid Rewards travel portal.

And while the card now also earns 2 points per dollar on transit and commuting, along with select telecommunication purchases, there are no bonus points for some of the more common categories, such as gas, groceries or restaurants. This means on most of your everyday purchases, you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar.

Compare that to a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which earns 3 points per dollar on dining out, select streaming services and online grocery purchases, and 2 points per dollar on all travel purchases (or 5 points if purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards). You can even transfer your Sapphire Preferred points to Southwest or one of Chase’s 13 other airline and hotel partner loyalty programs for more flexibility.

Another downside of the Southwest Priority card is that it doesn’t provide the same travel protections that you see on many other Chase credit cards. While the card offers some travel protection benefits, including car rental collision insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance and travel accident insurance, it doesn’t offer some of the better — and more utilized — benefits, such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance, as well as trip delay insurance.

Additionally, the card’s car rental coverage is secondary, meaning you’ll need to first look to your own personal auto insurance policy for coverage if you have an accident with your rental car before your credit card coverage kicks in.

Also, there are restrictions you’ll want to be aware of when you apply for a Southwest credit card. You’re only eligible to get the Southwest Priority card if you don’t currently have a personal Southwest credit card, and if you haven’t received a sign-up bonus on any personal Southwest card in the past 24 months. In addition, if you’ve opened five or more credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months, Chase will deny any new credit card applications. This is known as Chase’s “5/24” rule.

Stacking up the Southwest Priority card to our benchmark card

CNN Underscored has chosen the Citi® Double Cash Card card as our current “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market — rather, we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.

Here’s how the Southwest Priority card scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that is better than our benchmark, red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.

Citi Double Cash Card Southwest Priority Card
Card type Mastercard Visa
Sign-up bonus None Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in three months after opening the account
Earning rate 2% on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off) 3 points per dollar on all Southwest purchases, 2 points per dollar on local transit and commuting (including ride-shares), internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services, and Rapid Rewards hotels and car rental partners, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Redemption value 1 cent (cash back) 1.4 cents per point when redeeming for “Wanna Get Away” fares
Ease of basicredemptions Easy Easy
Advanced redemptionoptions Can transfer Citi ThankYou points to 16 partners if you also have the Citi Premier℠ or Citi Prestige® Card None
Quality of advanced redemptions Good N/A
Annual fee $0 $149
Foreign transaction fee 3% None
Travel perks None $75 annual Southwest credit, 25% back on in-flight purchases, 4 upgraded boarding credits
Purchase protections None Purchase protection, Extended warranty
Travel protections None Auto rental collision damage waiver (secondary), Lost luggage reimbursement, Baggage delay insurance, Travel accident insurance
Other perks None 7,500 points on each card holder anniversary (starting with your second year), 1,500 tier-qualifying points toward Southwest A-List or A-List Preferred status for every $10,000 spent on the card
Introductory APR on purchases None None
Length of introductory APR on purchases N/A N/A
Introductory APR on balance transfers 0% None
Length of Introductory APR on balance transfers 18 months N/A
Introductory balance transfer fee 3% or $5, whichever is greater N/A
APR after intro period ends/standard APR 16.99%-26.99% variable 19.74%-26.74% variable

When reviewing other credit cards, we use this format and these criteria to compare them with our benchmark. You can read our credit card methodology for more details on what we take into account when it comes to perks, protections and redemption value.

Other credit cards similar to the Southwest Priority

If you’re looking for a credit card that earns Southwest points, there are several additional options beyond the Southwest Priority card. First, Chase offers five different Southwest credit cards — three personal cards and two business ones — so there are four other Southwest cards to consider.

On the personal side, there’s the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Both charge lower annual fees than the Southwest Priority card but come with far fewer perks. They could be good choices for less frequent Southwest travelers, but probably aren’t best for true Southwest fanatics.

There’s then the previously mentioned Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which has more bonus categories than the Southwest Priority and more valuable points that can also be transferred to Southwest at a 1-to-1 ratio — meaning when you transfer 1,000 points, you’ll get 1,000 Southwest points — whenever you want to book a Southwest flight. And if your vacation takes you elsewhere, you can instead transfer your Chase points to other travel partners, such as United, JetBlue and Hyatt, meaning you’ll have a lot more flexibility.

But the main disadvantage of using the Chase Sapphire Preferred instead of the Southwest Priority card is that points earned with the Sapphire Preferred don’t count toward the Southwest Companion Pass, so you’d be better off with a Southwest credit card if that’s a priority for you.

Should you get the Southwest Priority credit card?

southwest plane from underneath cloudy sky

It doesn’t have the best bonus categories or the most valuable points, but if you’re a frequent Southwest flyer, then the Southwest Priority card should have a place in your wallet. While you might not use the card for everyday spending — unless you’re trying to rack up qualifying points toward the Southwest Companion Pass — it can easily pay for itself if you fly Southwest more than a few times a year, and the card’s benefits will be popular among Southwest loyalists. And now that the card’s $75 annual travel credit can be turned into a flight credit that never expires, it’s definitely worth taking a good look at this card if you’re a Southwest fan.

Learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards available right now.

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