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Imagine the Oscars, but with awards given out for the best travel and credit card programs. Every year, representatives of the travel industry get together for an awards banquet to honor the most outstanding travel providers, including credit cards affiliated with loyalty programs. The awards handed out are called the Freddies, in honor of British Airline pioneer Freddie Laker.

For the second year in a row, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier credit card was chosen by travelers as the best loyalty credit card for the Americas. Furthermore, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program also received the award for the best customer service among airline loyalty programs in the Americas.

Why the Southwest Credit Card Won

The Freddie Awards are decided based on the votes of more than 3 million travelers around the world, and the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier card won participants’ praise for allowing customers to earn points toward any available flight in any fare class, with no blackout dates or capacity controls.

Furthermore, points earned from the credit card count towards their Companion Pass, which allows cardholders to designate a traveler to receive a free (except for government-imposed fees) companion ticket for all paid and award flights. Since Southwest has no change fee, award bookings can be canceled at any time, and cardholders can have their points redeposited in their account.

The Rapid Rewards Premier card also offers the ability to earn additional Tier Qualifying Points, and can redeem points for More Rewards, which include international flights on other airlines, hotels and car rentals. There is a $99 annual fee, but cardholders receive 6,000 points as an anniversary bonus.

Alternatives to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card

As attractive as the Rapid Rewards Premier card is, it only narrowly beat out some similar cards that can offer rewards that make more sense for different kinds of travelers.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card from Chase

Southwest also offers a Rapid Rewards Plus card, which has a lower annual fee of $69. Cardholders do not have the option of earning Tier Points or redeeming points for flights on other airlines, hotels and car rentals, but points earned still count toward Companion Pass status.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

For each dollar spent, this card offers one point in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, and double points for travel expenses and spending at restaurants. Points can be redeemed directly for travel, or transferred to one of several airline and hotel partners, including the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program. In addition, cardholders receive a 7% annual points bonus each year. Points transferred to Southwest appear instantly in customers accounts, although they do not count toward a companion pass. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.

Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus Business cards

Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, these cards earn points in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program that can be transferred to airline and hotel programs, including Southwest Rapid Rewards. Ink Bold and Ink Plus cardholders earn one point per dollar spent on most purchases, and double points on gas and hotels. Five points per dollar are offered for purchases from office supply stores as well as telephone, television and Internet services. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.

As always, rewards credit cards are best used if you pay the balance in full each month, as interest charges on balances can wipe out the reward benefits you earn over time.  Before you apply for a credit card, it’s also important to know where your credit score stands so you can figure out whether you meet the issuers’ general credit criteria. You can monitor your credit scores for free using a service like Credit.com, where you can also get an analysis of your credit standing and tips for how to improve your scores.

Compare these cards to other travel rewards credit cards on Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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