If you don't already have a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card, now's the time to  apply for one, as the airline just launched one its most lucrative welcome offers in history.

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New cardholders of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewars Premier Credit Card, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card Card can currently earn 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending just $1,000 on purchases in the first three months, and an extra 35,000 points after spending $5,000 total on puchases in the first six months. If you earn both tiers, that 75,000 point bonus would be worth approximately $1,125 towards travel, according to The Points Guy's 1.5 cent valuation of Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

Rapid Rewards points can can be used to book any seat on any Southwest flight, and while the airline doesn't strictly operate on a fixed point-to-dollar redemption system, flights will generally be priced at about 1.3 to 1.7 cents per point. Best of all, Southwest lets you can change or cancel any award flight without penalty. Cancel a flight, and Southwest will refund all of your points. Change your flight, and you'll only pay for--or be credited--the difference. That kind of flexibility is unheard of in the airline industry these days, at least for those of us without elite status.

All three Rapid Rewards credit cards offer the same 75,000 point welcome offer and the same bonus category earnings (2x points on Southwest purchases, including partner hotel and car rental bookings), but differ in some other important ways:

Rapid Rewards Plus Card

  • $69 annual fee
  • 3,000 point card anniversary bonus
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • No tier qualifying points

Rapid Rewards Premier Card

  • $99 annual fee
  • 6,000 point card anniversary bonus
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 spent, up to 15,000 points.

Rapid Rewards Priority Card

  • $149 annual fee
  • 7,500 point card anniversary bonus
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 spent, up to 15,000 points.
  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • Four upgraded boardings per year (based on availability)
  • 20% back on in-flight purchases

If you're primarily getting the card for the 75,000 point welcome offer, then the $69/year Plus card will do just fine. But we think the Priority card more than justifies its $149 annual fee thanks to its $75 annual travel credit, upgraded boarding credits, and 7,500 point annual bonus.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Shutterstock