The Best Credit Cards for Southwest Airlines Flyers [2021]

Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8
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Southwest Airlines is more than just a low-cost carrier; it has a reputation among travelers for excellent customer service and offering low-cost flights to popular destinations. You can also fly Southwest to destinations like Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Cancún, Belize, Aruba, and Hawaii.

If you love using miles to pay for flights, you are in luck. Southwest has an easy-to-use frequent flyer program called Rapid Rewards. One element of this program that stands out is that there are no blackout dates; if a seat is available on a flight, you can use miles to purchase a seat on that flight.

There are many ways to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Not surprisingly, one of the best ways to earn points fast is with a credit card. This article will highlight all of the credit cards that will help you earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points and can help you decide what credit card might be best for you.

Why Fly on Southwest Airlines?

If you are a frequent Southwest Airlines customer, you know why they are a favorite among frequent travelers. If you have never flown Southwest, you might be wondering what all the hype is about and if you should give them a try.

Here are just a few reasons why Southwest is so popular among travelers:

Southwest Airlines
There are lots of options for those who want to earn lots of Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Image Credit: Southwest

The Best Credit Cards for Southwest Flyers

Credit cards are the best way to earn points or miles fast. In addition to great sign-up bonuses, many cards earn 2x or 3x in select bonus categories. Putting your everyday spending on the right credit card can ensure you have plenty of points to book your next flight.

There are 3 categories of cards that earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points or earn points that can be transferred to Southwest Rapid Rewards.

  1. Southwest Airlines credit cards
  2. Chase credit cards that earn transferable Ultimate Rewards points
  3. Marriott Bonvoy credit cards that earn transferable Marriott Bonvoy points

Hot Tip: Looking for even more ways to earn lots of Southwest Rapid Rewards points but don’t have any flights planned? Check out our guide to earning Southwest Rapid Rewards points without even flying.

Southwest Credit Cards

Southwest offers 5 different credit cards — 3 personal and 2 business — backed by Chase.

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards:

  1. These cards are subject to Chase’s unspoken 5/24 rule. If you aren’t familiar with this rule, it appears that Chase is not likely to approve you for another Chase credit card if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards, regardless of carrier, within the last 24 months.
  2. Southwest will not grant you a sign-up bonus on a personal Southwest credit card if you already are a Southwest cardholder or if you previously were a cardholder and earned a sign-up bonus within the last 24 months.
  3. You can earn a sign-up bonus on a personal Southwest card and a Southwest business card without waiting 24 months.

Recommended Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards

Hot Tip: For a head-to-head comparison of Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards, check out the best Chase Southwest credit cards, comparing the benefits and perks of each.

Other Chase Credit Cards

Ultimate Rewards Earning Chase Credit Cards

Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. Since the points transfer nearly instantly, this means you can earn and use your Ultimate Rewards points quickly on award travel.

Chase offers some of the best travel rewards credit cards available. The credit cards earn flexible points that can be transferred to hotel and airline partners, including Southwest. Chase Ultimate Rewards points can also be redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal for 1 to 1.5 cents a point, depending on which Chase credit card you have.

Keep in mind a few things when looking to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest Airlines:

  • When you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, your points are worth 1.5 cents per point if redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Since this rate is slightly higher than the 1:1 ratio you get when you transfer points to Southwest, you will want to price out your trip on both the Chase travel portal and through Southwest.com. Sometimes, it might be cheaper to book through the Chase travel portal.
  • These cards are also subject to the Chase 5/24 rule mentioned above.

Recommended Chase Ultimate Rewards-Earning Credit Cards

Bottom Line: Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred into Southwest Rapid Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio. 

Chase’s Cash-Back Credit Cards

Chase offers a line of cash-back cards that have big earning potential.

Credit CardBenefits & Info

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card


Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card
Learn More
(at Chase's secure site)

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
  • Good to Excellent Credit Recommendation (670-850)
  • Annual Fee: $0

Be aware that if you have a premium card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Chase Sapphire Reserve card, or Ink Business Preferred card, you can turn your cash-back from these cards into transferable Ultimate Rewards points, which can be more valuable.

For example, you can earn 1.5% cash-back on non-bonuses categories with the Freedom Unlimited card. But if you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you could be earning 1.5 points per dollar instead. These points can then be transferred to Southwest Airlines at a 1:1 ratio.

Marriott Bonvoy Credit Cards

Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to many different airlines, including Southwest. Unfortunately, Marriott’s transfer ratio to most airlines is 3:1; that means that for every 3 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred, you only get 1 Southwest Rapid Rewards point.

Marriott does offer a 5,000-point bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer, so if you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, you will get 20,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points plus a bonus of 5,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points = 25,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points 

While it might not be the best avenue to use your Marriott Bonvoy points, if you would rather have Southwest Rapid Rewards points than Marriott Bonvoy points, this can be a good opportunity to boost your Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

Earn Southwest Points Through a Marriott Flight + Hotel Package

If you are a loyal Marriott customer, you might want to check out a Hotel + Air package as a great way to also transfer points to Southwest Airlines at a better rate than 3:1 (although the rate still isn’t 1:1 so it’s not ideal).

These packages consist of 7 nights at a Marriott hotel plus airline miles. You choose your package based on the category of hotel you want. There are package options that come with either 50,000 airline points or 100,000 airline points.

Marriott Hotel + Air Package
Image Credit: Marriott

Recommended Marriott Bonvoy Credit Cards

The following credit cards all earn Marriott Bonvoy points. You can transfer these points into Southwest Rapid Rewards points at a 3:1 ratio. You will also get a 5,000-point bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card - Earn 3 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases, plus 10x total points on eligible purchases in select categories. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary. Plus, earn up to 17X points per $1 at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and 2X points per $1 on all other purchases. Annual Fee is $95.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card - Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Earn up to 14X points per $1 at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, earn 2X on other travel purchases, then 1x on all other purchases. A solid card for Marriott loyalists looking for a no-annual-fee card offering Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card - Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $200 in Statement Credits for eligible purchases at U.S. Restaurants within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 6x per $1 at hotels participants in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program plus 3x at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines. Annual Fee is $450. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 of eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made on your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

This is a solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card, click here.

Bottom Line: Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to Southwest at a 3:1 ratio. For every 60,000 Marriott Bonovy points you transfer, you will get a 5,000-point bonus. This means that 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points would turn into 25,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. For more information, see our guide on how to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to airline partners.

American Express Credit Cards

If you are in a pinch, and really need Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you can earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points by transferring your Membership Rewards points with American Express.

This is not the best use for your Membership Rewards points, so this is something you would only want to do to top off your account for a specific redemption.

To do this, you would first transfer your American Express Membership Rewards to Marriott Bonvoy. These will transfer at a 1:1 ratio. Then you can transfer those Marriott Bonvoy points to Southwest Rapid Rewards at the 3:1 ratio mentioned above. That means that for every 3 Marriott Bonvoy points you transfer you will only get 1 Southwest Rapid Rewards point.

It’s not a great deal, but it’s always good to know all of your options in a pinch.

Bottom Line: Want to earn status with Southwest? Check out our guide to credit cards that help you earn airline elite status.

The Best Card To Earn Southwest Points for Every Type of Traveler

Type of TravelerRecommended Card for Earning Southwest Points
A casual traveler who uses Southwest a couple of times a yearChase Sapphire Preferred card: Stick with flexible points that can be transferred to Southwest, or any other Chase hotel or airline partner, any time you need them.
A frequent flyer on Southwest AirlinesSouthwest Priority card: This card earns 2x on Southwest purchases and includes 4 upgraded boarding passes and a $75 Southwest credit each year.
A traveler who values perks like priority boarding, inflight drinks, and Wi-Fi discountsSouthwest Priority card: This card includes 4 upgraded boarding passes plus a 20% rebate on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi purchases.
A traveler who rarely uses Southwest AirlinesChase Sapphire Preferred card: This is one of the best overall travel rewards cards out there. It offers strong earning potential plus flexibility when it comes to using your points.
A business owner who only uses Southwest a couple of times a yearInk Business Preferred card: Stick with flexible points that can be transferred to Southwest, or any other Chase hotel or airline partner, any time you need them. This card also offers lots of perks for business owners.
A business owner who flies on Southwest Airlines oftenInk Business Preferred card: This card earns 3 points per $1 spent (up to $150,000) each year on purchases in the multiple bonus categories including travel.
A business owner who wants A-List status on Southwest AirlinesSouthwest Premier Business card: This card earns tier qualifying points towards A-list status.
Any traveler who wants to earn the Southwest Companion PassAny of the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards. Points earned from any of the 4 Southwest credit cards will count towards the 125,000 points needed to earn the Companion Pass.

Final Thoughts

Southwest Airlines is a customer favorite for many reasons like its easy-to-use Rapid Rewards program, no checked bag or change fees, and great customer service. It’s no wonder why lots of different types of travelers fly Southwest every day.

No matter how often you fly Southwest Airlines, there is a great credit card out there to help you earn lots of Rapid Rewards.


The information regarding the Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card and Chase Freedom Unlimited® card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, click here.


Frequently asked questions

What is the best credit card to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points?

There isn’t 1 card that is best for every traveler. Different types of travelers can benefit from different credit cards offering various bonuses and perks. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one card that is generally a winner for everyone.

This card earns 2x points on travel and dining. These points can be transferred to Southwest, as well as other hotel and airline partners, and the annual fee is $95.

How can I earn Southwest points quickly?

Earning Southwest Rapid Rewards points quickly is easy when you are using the right credit card. Using a credit card that offers multiple points per dollar in categories that you routinely use is the key to earning points fast.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and Ink Business Preferred card both earn 3 points per dollar on travel purchases. The points from these cards can then be transferred to Southwest Airlines at a 1:1 ratio.

Do Southwest points expire?

No, Southwest points do not expire.

Which Southwest credit card is best?

That depends on what you want out of the card! On the personal side, the Southwest Priority card offers the most benefits but charges the highest annual fee. The Southwest Plus card and Southwest Premier card, on the other hand, come with more affordable annual fees but don’t offer as many benefits.

Consider how often you fly with Southwest, or how often you will fly Southwest in the future, and then select the card that makes the most sense for you.

Katie Seemann

About Katie Seemann

Katie is an Ohio native who caught the travel bug after spending a semester in college in Nottingham, England. In addition to exploring England, she visited Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands during that time and loved every minute of it (everything except the hostel in Scotland – that’s an experience she doesn’t intend on repeating!) In 2015, Katie discovered the world of points and miles, and since then she’s earned countless points and has an embarrassingly large number of credit cards in her wallet (which she needs a spreadsheet to keep track of!)

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4 comments

  1. Parcel World April 4, 2019

    I am really happy to say this is an interesting post to read. I learned new information from your article, you are doing a great job. Keep it up!

    Reply

  2. Travellers Tom April 15, 2019

    Well written and solid advice. I already do most of these things but it was a great refresher for me! Like you I value and use ultimate reward points the most. Ironic to use my sapphire reserve instead of southwest cards to earn SW points, but because they transfer so easy and fast it’s a no brainer to do that. I do the same for Hyatt!

    Reply

  3. This might sound like a dumb question, but because of the family boarding Southwest enforces, we want to stick with them. So, how exactly do I transfer Chase Ultimate Reward points over to Southwest? What is the process to do that? I’m lost!

    Reply

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