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People often ask me, “What’s the first card I should sign up for?” I almost always recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred rewards card, but the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards can be great too. I’ve had some friends and readers ask if they should go for the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Southwest credit card. It’s a tricky situation since Chase will most likely decline you for either credit card if you’ve applied for 5+ cards in the last 24 months, so choose wisely.
Learn more: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
So if you’re wondering which card makes the most sense for you, here’s my advice…
Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred if…
1) You like to travel internationally
I love to travel abroad. That’s where the real value is when we’re talking miles & points, especially when you’re redeeming points for international premium cabin flights. These flights can get up to the $10,000 mark! I don’t think I will ever be in a financial situation where I could pay that kind of coin for a plane ticket.
I’ve used Ultimate Rewards points earned from my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card towards premium cabin flights on Lufthansa (many times), Thai Air, and Singapore Airlines. It’s a little sexier than using my Southwest Rapid Rewards to fly to, say, San Diego. Even though I love San Diego, Las Vegas, and many other domestic destinations, buying those plane tickets with $$ is more feasible than paying for international travel.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred also has a 0% foreign transaction fee, which makes it great for international travel. The Southwest Premier card doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee, but the Plus has a 3% fee.
It’s worth noting that you can fly to some Mexico/Caribbean locations with Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
2) You want a solid daily card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is hands-down a better daily card. You receive 2x Ultimate Rewards points on dining and travel.
3) You don’t like boarding like a herd of cattle
I have a love/hate relationship with Southwest. I usually enjoy the customer service, but I dread the boarding process even when I’m in the A group. I’m usually traveling with a companion, so there’s always that awkward moment when I’m holding a seat, trying not to make eye contact with the people passing by. It’s a cluster.
What’s worse is when the departing plane already has passengers on it and they’ve taken all the good seats. How dare they! I’ve even paid for the privilege of boarding first (Early Bird), only to find the cabin already full of people when I boarded.
4) You want respect
This isn’t really an important point, but I remember the first time I pulled my Sapphire Preferred out of the envelope. I almost dropped it. This is a legit card that’s heavy and made out of real metal. Every time a friend or family member gets the Chase Sapphire Preferred, they always call me afterward pumped about how cool it looks, and how every time they pay with it, the cashier is blown away by its sleek design.
Adding to the aesthetic delight, Chase put the numbers on the back of the card. Brilliant. Anyway, it’s just a cooler card than the Southwest cards, for what that’s worth.
5) You like flexibility
Ultimate Rewards points transfer into Southwest anyway. Plus, they are as extremely flexible because they can be transferred into many other top travel programs such as Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, Ritz-Carlton, United, British Airways, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France. Yeah, great options.
6) You shop online or want to maximize your rewards
The Sapphire Preferred gives you access to the point-maximizing Ultimate Rewards shopping portal. Don’t buy anything online without seeing if you can earn an extra point bonus by shopping through the UR portal. It’s legit, and a great way to double dip if your Ultimate Rewards card gets a category bonus already. For example, Kohls randomly will have a 10x Ultimate Rewards bonus.
Get the Southwest Airlines Card if…
Ok, I made a really strong case for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card there, but here are a couple of reasons why you would choose a Southwest card over the Sapphire Preferred. They are:
1) You can make special use of the multiple versions
There are more options to choose from with the Southwest-branded cards. There’s the personal and business, so you have options.
2) You want to travel only domestically
If you want to only travel domestically and Southwest services your specific routes best, then it’s a no-brainer to go for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. It’s still a close call though because I often use Ultimate Rewards points to transfer to British Airways Avios for short haul domestic flights.
3) You want the Southwest Companion Pass
This is the biggest perk of the Southwest loyalty program and is probably the best domestic travel deal… in the world. To receive the Companion Pass you must earn 110,000 qualifying miles in a calendar year. The Companion Pass allows you to bring a guest with you on revenue and award flights. It’s nice.
However, right now isn’t an ideal time to complete your requirements for the Companion Pass. To truly maximize on the Companion Pass, you want to meet the qualifications as early in the year as possible. That’s because you receive the Companion Pass for the remainder of the year you met the 110,000 tier in, plus the full year following.
If you did meet your qualifications now you would have the Companion Pass for over a year which isn’t so bad – plus you may not want to wait a few months before you could start getting half off on our Southwest flights.
And just so you know the points earned from the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card do count towards to the Companion Pass, including the sign-up bonus. Points (Ultimate Rewards/hotels) transferred into Southwest do not count towards the Companion Pass.
Conclusion on the Southwest vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
I have had both of the Chase Sapphire Preferred (still have) and Southwest cards and enjoyed the specific benefits of each one. But, I value international travel especially in premium cabins higher than domestic travel, but the Companion Pass is a very good deal if you can reach the qualifications. If you’re looking for which credit card to apply for, make sure you do the research and select wisely.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.