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Do you fly Southwest Airlines often? Applying for a Southwest credit card is an easy way to earn Rapid Rewards points. It’s also easier to earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. But which card should you apply for first if you don’t have perfect credit?

southwest credit card easiest to get
Once you find the Southwest credit card that’s easiest to get for you, you can begin earning more Rapid Rewards. Photo by Johnny Jet

Different Southwest Credit Cards

There are three personal and two small business credit cards to choose from. Each one has a different annual fee and benefit tiers. The options can feel perplexing as only Delta Air Lines seems to have more options.

Here are the personal and business cards you should consider first.

Related: What Credit Score Do I Need for the Southwest Airlines Credit Card?

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is the entry-level personal Southwest credit card. Therefore, it should be the easiest of the personal cards to qualify for. It also has the lowest annual fee of $69 (vs. $99 and $149).

Credit card benefits for the Southwest Plus card include:

  • Earn 2x Rapid Rewards per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • 3,000-anniversary points with each annual renewal
  • Baggage delay insurance up to $100 daily for 3 days
  • Lost luggage reimbursement up to $3,000 per passenger
  • Purchase protection up to $500 per claim ($50,000 per year)

You will have the best approval odds with a credit score of at least 670. But it’s possible to qualify with a score in the mid-600s. Some data points in previous years report people qualifying with a score slightly above 600.

However, banks are tightening their application requirements during this pandemic so you should consider applying if your score is 650 or higher. Getting credit card pre-approval from Chase or the CardMatch tool is a free way to check your approval odds so you don’t waste an application.

Apply for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Instead?

If your score is near or above 670, you can also consider applying for the mid-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. This card has a $99 annual fee and has a 6,000-point anniversary bonus. The other card benefits are similar to the Plus card. You will need to decide if the extra 3,000 points are worth the additional $30 fee.

One data point for the Premier from November 2019 states an application was approved with a 660 credit score. Their initial card limit was $9,500.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

This is one of two Southwest small business credit cards available. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. This card’s annual fee is $199.

While this is your only option for a Southwest Airlines business product, it’s an exciting product. Cardholders:

  • Earn 3x Rapid Rewards on Southwest Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2x points for every $1 you spend on social media and search engine advertising; internet, cable, and phone services
  • 4 Upgraded Booking per year (when available)
  • Inflight WiFi credit (up to 365 annual credits)
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • 9,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points each cardholder anniversary
  • No foreign transaction fee

Qualifying for a business credit card is different than applying for a consumer credit card. As Chase reports your payment activity to the personal credit bureaus, you should have a personal credit score of at least 700 to apply.

As the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card is a small business credit card, your business activity can help you qualify. It’s possible to qualify as a sole proprietor or as an organized business such as an LLC.

The other Southwest business card is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card.

Business Credit Cards

As the business climate is a little different these days, some online data points suggest it’s harder to qualify for Chase business credit cards since mid-April 2020. It appears Chase is more likely to approve applications when if you have a Chase business checking account and are an incorporated business.

Even if you’re a sole proprietor, it’s still worth considering applying if you have steady business income and good credit. You can try calling the reconsideration line if they decline your application.

The current Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card 100,000-point signup bonus is one of the best credit card offers if you can earn it. You get the first 70,000 bonus Rapid Rewards by spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. Earn the remaining 30,000 points by spending $25,000 total in the first 6 months.

The full 100,000-point bonus is enough to earn the Southwest Companion Pass for 2020. While you need to earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year, Southwest is giving Rapid Rewards members a 25,000-point credit. So you only have to earn 100,000 points in 2020. The signup bonus and any credit card purchase rewards you earn count toward the annual point requirement.

Related: Best Southwest Airlines credit cards

Chase Credit Card Application Rules

Having a specific credit score doesn’t equal automatic approval. Chase reviews each card application on a case-by-case basis. You and your spouse may both have identical credit score but it’s possible Chase (and other banks) approve one application and deny the other.

These are some of the card application rules to consider before applying for a Southwest credit card.

5/24 Rule

Having too many new credit cards can result in an instant rejection–even if you have perfect credit. This guideline disqualifies you when you add five or more credit cards with a preset spending limit to your credit report in a rolling 24-month period.

This 5/24 rule is unpublished but well-known online. It applies to most of the co-brand Chase credit cards that earn travel rewards. If you’re the primary or authorized user for essentially any card, it can be subject to the 5/24 rule.

2 New Chase Cards in 30 Days

If you recently applied for another Chase credit card, wait at least 30 days before applying for another one. Chase will most likely decline your second card application within a 30-day period.

Qualify for the Southwest Signup Bonus

Because there are multiple Southwest credit cards, it’s easy to think you can earn more than one Southwest Airlines signup bonus. This belief is true, but it may not be as easy as you think.

To earn a repeat bonus for a personal Southwest credit card, you must close your current card account. It must also be at least 24 months since earning your last Southwest Airlines signup bonus for a personal card.

This restriction doesn’t apply if your current Southwest card is a business version or an employee card. If you’re an authorized user for a personal Southwest card, you must first close your card before applying to become a primary cardmember.

The business card signup bonus is easier to qualify for. You qualify for the Southwest Airlines Performance Business Credit Card signup bonus when you haven’t earned the bonus on that specific card in the last 24 months. So if you earned the bonus on a personal card in 2019, you can get the Performance Business if Chase approves your application.

Summary

You may consider the entry-level Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card if you want the best approval odds. However, the mid-tier Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier can be almost as easy to qualify for. With either card, plan on applying when your credit score is in the mid-600s or higher.

FAQs

What credit score do you need for a Southwest Airlines credit card?

It’s best to apply for a personal or business Southwest Airlines credit card with a credit score of 670 or higher. This score is the start of “good credit.” However, several data points indicate you can get approved with a score closer to 650. Chase also considers your recent credit card applications and annual income when you apply.

Although it has been several years, one online report indicates getting approved for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card with a 607 credit score. If your score is below 670, it can be worth the few minutes to request credit card pre-approval. This task doesn’t impact your credit score and is free.

Which Southwest credit card is best?

Here are the best personal and small business Southwest credit cards:

The Priority Card is the best personal card because of its many card benefits. Despite the $149 annual fee, you get these card benefits:

  • $75 annual Southwest credit
  • 4 Upgraded Bookings per year (when available)
  • 7,500-anniversary points
  • Earn 2x Rapid Rewards on Southwest purchases
  • No foreign transaction fee

If you only want a card that earns Rapid Rewards points and has a lower annual fee, the best alternative can be the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. The card earns 2x Rapid Rewards on Southwest purchases and 1 point per $1 on everything else. You also get 3,000-anniversary points when you pay the $69 annual fee.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card benefits include:

  • 365 annual inflight WiFi credits
  • 4 Upgraded Booking per year (when available)
  • Earn up to 3x Rapid Rewards on purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • No foreign transaction fee

Is it worth getting a Southwest credit card?

Getting a Southwest credit card can be worth it when you fly Southwest Airlines on a regular basis. Each purchase earns Rapid Rewards points. You redeem these points for Southwest award flights.

There are three different personal Southwest credit cards. The top-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card has a $149 annual fee. Although this fee is relatively steep, it’s worth it if you use the $75 annual Southwest travel credit and the 4 Upgraded Bookings. You also get 7,500-anniversary points each card renewal.

The other two Southwest credit cards are good if you only want a card that earns Rapid Rewards points or has an annual fee below $100. Keep in mind that your effective annual fee with the Priority Card can actually be less once you redeem the $75 annual Southwest travel credit.

These two cards earn 2 Rapid Rewards per $1 on Southwest purchases and 1 point per $1 for everything else.

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Josh Patoka
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