We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again, Southwest Airlines is our favorite for Disney travel. The beauty of Southwest’s program is that they tie the actual cost of the flight to the number of points you’ll need, and the typical value of one point is around 1.5 cents. This means a round trip flight that costs $150 will cost around 10,000 Rapid Rewards points.
Southwest offers a “Premier” and “Plus” card. In this post, we’re going to review the Premier card, which comes with a $99 annual fee.
Sign Up Bonus (Grade: A-)
The card is offering a 40,000 point bonus for spending $1,000 in the first three months. As previously mentioned, the points are worth about 1.5 cents each, which means this sign up bonus is worth $600.
|Sign Up Bonus||40,000 Rapid Rewards|
|Value Per Point||1.5 cents|
|Value of Sign Up Bonus||$600|
Daily Spending (Grade: C+)
We would give this a “B” for someone who flies Southwest regularly. For the person who only flies them a handful of times throughout the year, it’s tough to go higher than a C+. You earn two points per dollar on Southwest flights. At 1.6 cents per point, that’s 3.2% back on Southwest purchases, which isn’t bad. For all your other purchases, you’re looking at one point per dollar spent so only 1.6% back on your purchases… not so good. As we’ve mentioned in other posts, our benchmark is the Citi Double Cash, which has no annual fee and 2% cash back.
|Category||Points per Dollar Spent|
|All Other Spending||1x|
Additional Perks (Grade: A++)
No Change Fees – You can actually book a Southwest flight on points and then re-book it if a lower rate appears, actually getting the difference in points put back into your account. It doesn’t happen automatically, so you have to be watching fares and act when you see them go down, but can you imagine airlines actually giving you points back? Travel with Grant offers a good detailed explanation of how this works.
Annual Bonus Points – On your card member anniversary each year, Southwest gives you 6,000 bonus points. Since we value these at 1.5 cents each, the bonus is worth $90. This just about covers your $99 annual fee for the card (in points).
No Foreign Transaction Fee – One of the perks offered on the Premier card which isn’t offered on the Plus card is no foreign transaction fee. This only comes in handy for most people sporadically. We live in Seattle, so we make trips to Vancouver a couple times a year and are happy to have this sort of perk.
Bags Fly Free – With Southwest’s policy that bags fly free, you don’t have to try to squeeze a week-long vacation into a carry-on suitcase just to cut corners. This can be a really nice savings on family vacations where our luggage load always seems to get out of hand.
Redeeming Points (Grade: B-)
Your only good options here are redeeming points for flights on Southwest. While they offer many other ways to redeem points, most of them are at a pretty bad exchange rate.
The biggest benefit of redeeming Rapid Rewards for flights is having them tied to the actual cost of the flight. This gives you a chance to be super frugal and take the 6 am flight if you really want to save some points, or you can take a little later flight and pay more if you’ve got the points to spare.
Overall Grade: B+
If you fly Southwest, this is a card to get and keep. For everyone else, this is probably a card to get and not keep. Take advantage of the great sign up bonus. If you fall in love with Southwest (very possible) and start flying them more regularly then keep the card. If not, drop it before your next annual fee comes due. Once you have those 40,000 points, you’ll be able to use them and still have access to the “No Change Fee” policy and “Bags Fly Free” whether you have the card or not. Either way, this is a great way to fly the family to Disney on your next vacation.