Southwest Plus vs. Southwest Premier

When I’m not traveling, I tend to be looking for the next trip.  At the very least, I’m looking into how to get here or there, really anywhere.  You see, I have a bit of wanderlust.

It doesn’t so much matter where I’m going, just that I’m going.

Unfortunately, the only place I’ll be going in the next few weeks is work.  I might be able to sneak in another weekend excursion or a little day trip, but I won’t be doing any real traveling until this summer.

That leaves me with some idle hands.  Very idle hands.

I thought I’d put those hands to work and whip up a little post on the Chase Southwest cards.  I was approved for the personal Premier card a few months back, and just recently approved for the Plus card.  There’s also a Business version of the Premier, for any of you entrepreneurial folks out there.  You see, I was rather excited about getting approved for the other Southwest card.  I had to tell someone.  A friend of mine would do.  Unfortunately I picked one that thinks my travel hacking is crazy…

“But wait, both cards are for the same planes?”

“Well, yeah…”

“Ok, so you have two identical cards?  Why on earth do you need two of the same credit card?”

“Identical?  No, no, no, wait.  Wha-well, sure they both have planes on them, but..”

“That’s crazy.”

“Let me explain!”

The Cards

Southwest credit cards are currently issued by Chase.  There are three cards:  the Southwest Airlines Premier (personal), Southwest Airlines Plus (personal), and Southwest Airlines Premier (business).  All are remarkably similar.  When I first received my personal Premier card, I wrote a short post about it here.

Now that I’ll be getting the Plus, I think it’s worth comparing the two.

Sign-up Bonus

The standard bonus on both the Plus and Premier are 25,000 Rapid Rewards miles after a $2,000 spend within 90 days.  Not bad, but we can do better.  Typically once or twice each year, Chase increases the bonus to 50,000 Rapid Rewards for the same $2,000 spend.  Keep a look out for the increased offer, as that’s when these cards really shine.  Better still if you can time those miles for a companion pass!

Annual Fee and Anniversary Bonus

One of the few things that actually is different between the cards:  the annual fee.  On the Premier, you’re looking at $99/year to keep the card open, and 6,000 Rapid Rewards miles as an anniversary bonus.  Basically, $99 for 6,000 Rapid Rewards, or 1.65 cents per point.  This isn’t actually too bad, since Rapid Rewards are worth around 1.4-1.5 cents per point.  You’re only paying a 17% premium, and at such small dollar values, it’s almost negligible.  A different way of thinking about it:  Those miles are worth at least $84, so you annual fee is really only $15.

The Plus card has a $69 annual fee, and only offers 3,000 miles for its own anniversary bonus.  With this you’re paying 2.3 cents per point, or a 64% premium on those Rapid Rewards.  Those miles bring your effective annual fee down to $27.  Again, very small dollars, but it might make a difference to some.

Earning

Both cards earn at identical rates:  2 RR miles per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines purchases, and also on Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Purchases.  1 Rapid Rewards point per $1 on every other purchase.  To be honest, I’m surprised the Premier doesn’t earn more.  The Premier just doesn’t stand out from the Plus very easily.  I’d include some more benefits with the Premier, but hey, that’s probably why I’m on this side of the table, and not sitting in at board meetings with the banks.

Benefits

Both the Premier and Plus are Visa Signatures, and come equipped with all the Signature benefits.  Some of these include travel interruption insurance, access to a special Visa Signature hotels, 24/7 roadside service, lost luggage insurance, and other benefits.

The Premier boasts at least one item that the Plus can’t claim though.  No foreign transaction fees on the Premier.  For some, this might be the reason it’s worth the higher annual fee.  In my opinion. every traveler should have at least two cards with no foreign transaction fees, from different networks.  I happen to have a Discover, American Express, and a few MasterCards and Visas with no foreign transaction fees.  Depending where you’re traveling, make sure you have a no foreign transaction fee card on a network that’s widely accepted.

I mean, my American Express without foreign transaction fees is great, but if the grocery store in Ulaanbaatar doesn’t accept AmEx, well..

 

The Verdict

Personally, I’ll be hanging on to both cards for the moment.  I have no reason not to, since the next annual fees won’t come up for almost a year.

When they do come up, I have a feeling I’ll cancel the Plus.  Without some kind of retention offer, it’s not worth keeping both cards in my wallet.  Since the effective annual fee on the Premier (after those  RR miles) is lower than the effective annual fee on the Plus, I’d rather keep the Premier open.

I will definitely hang onto one of the cards, for at least the duration of my companion pass eligibility, December 2017.  The 2 miles/dollar on Southwest spending is totally worth it.  We’ll be using the Companion Pass and our Rapid Rewards miles for the flights, of course, but we’ll still have to pay the security fees, taxes, etc.  If we end up exploring the Caribbean at all (courtesy of the Companion Pass), then I’ll enjoy getting the extra miles on the higher international flight fees.  The Rapid Rewards I earn will be worth even more to me for my Companion Pass eligibility, since the miles are essentially worth double.

Let’s see how far those Rapid Rewards will take me!

An my companion(s)!

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3 comments

  1. Newbie here. What do you mean when you wrote: “Better still if you can time those miles for a companion pass!”

    Is it all about coordinating travel when you open the cc and/or qualify for the rewards as well as using your companion pass? Any help is appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kylar, thanks for stopping by! With the Southwest cards, you’ll want to earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards within a calendar year to earn the Companion Pass. Since each Southwest card earns you 53,000 points with the minimum spend (50,000 from the bonus, 3,000 from the actual spend), you can get 106,000 Rapid Rewards just from the cards! You’ll want to time the bonuses so that they hit in the same calendar year, so you get as close to the Companion Pass as possible!

      Let me know if you need links to the cards!

      Like

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