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TravelHow you can redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points

How you can redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points


Southwest Airlines is known for its generous policies on ticket changes and cancellations, complimentary checked bags, and unique boarding process. However, Southwest Rapid Rewards is yet another enticing feature for frequent travelers.

One notable advantage is the program’s lack of blackout dates for award redemptions. Moreover, it offers an incredible Companion Pass benefit, allowing you to bring a companion on paid and award flights for just the cost of taxes and fees.

If you are new to Southwest or want to learn more about using points on Southwest, this guide will cover everything you need to know about redeeming your Rapid Rewards points. Fortunately, the process is relatively straightforward, but there are a few peculiarities you should be aware of.

You can also redeem your Southwest points for gift cards, merchandise, hotels, experiences and Rapid Rewards Events, but Southwest flights almost always provide the best return on your hard-earned points.

Related: Southwest raises fees for EarlyBird check-in, upgraded boarding

Redeem points on Southwest flights

Southwest 737 interior. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Redeeming Rapid Rewards points on Southwest flights is simple. The number of points required for a ticket is proportionate to the ticket’s cost in cash — so the more a paid seat costs, the more points you must redeem. Southwest promises no blackout dates on any redemptions, so you can use your Rapid Rewards points to book any Southwest Airlines ticket for sale. If the flight has one open seat, you should be able to book it with points (but be prepared to pay up).

TPG values Southwest points at 1.3 cents each, and it’s easy to consistently get that value whether you’re booking domestic or international flights. (This value used to be a little higher, before Southwest devalued Rapid Rewards points by 4%).

The booking process is simple. Head to Southwest’s website and enter your flight search parameters. Be sure to check the “Points” button at the top right to see the results for award flights.

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The results page will then display all available flights using points. If desired, you can filter by things like price, duration and departure time. Select the one you want, log in to your account (if you haven’t already) and follow the on-screen steps to complete your redemption.

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You can reserve any fare class using Rapid Rewards points, but we recommend sticking to Wanna Get Away fares. That’s because your redemption value tends to be lower for limited benefits when you book the more expensive fare types. Business Select fares, for example, include priority boarding and security, a free premium drink on flights over 176 miles, and more flexible same-day changes — relatively small perks for a hefty increase in points.

If you hold a Chase travel card, you have the option to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for Southwest flights through the Chase Travel℠ portal. Because flights booked through the portal show up as revenue tickets, you’ll still earn Rapid Rewards points on flights booked with points this way.

For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can pay for your ticket with Ultimate Rewards points at a value of 1.5 cents per point, allowing you to fly for free while still earning Rapid Rewards points. But be aware that flight prices may be higher on the portal, so always compare prices to the Southwest site before booking.

Free award ticket changes and cancellations

Another thing that makes Rapid Rewards points so popular is Southwest’s flexible change and cancellation policies.

You can change any Southwest flight for free and are only responsible for paying the difference between your original and new flights. If the cost of an award flight you’ve booked goes down, you can rebook your trip at the lower rate, and you’ll be refunded the points difference.

If your plans change and you cannot make an award flight, you can cancel for free. Your points will be refunded to your account without penalty (even on Wanna Get Away fares). You can even opt for the taxes paid to go back to the credit card you used to book the reservation.

There’s one thing to remember: You can’t no-show for the flight and get your points back. You must cancel at least 10 minutes before the scheduled departure, which is still pretty lenient.

Related: How to re-price a Southwest flight when the fare decreases

The Companion Pass doubles the value of your Southwest points

One way to maximize the value of your Rapid Rewards points is by earning the Southwest Companion Pass. With this perk, you can choose a companion to fly with you on all your Southwest flights while your pass is valid. Your companion will only need to pay the taxes and fees for their ticket, regardless of whether you used cash or points for your ticket. As long as the flight has a seat available for your companion, you can use your pass. This essentially doubles the value of your Rapid Rewards points when traveling with your designated companion.

To earn the Companion Pass, you must either earn 135,000 qualifying points or complete 100 qualifying one-way flights on Southwest within a calendar year. Once achieved, you will have the Companion Pass for the remainder of the current year and the entire following year.

Qualifying points for the Companion Pass can be earned by flying paid Southwest flights, spending on a Southwest credit card, shopping through the Southwest shopping portal and utilizing Southwest’s partnerships. Keep in mind that flights booked using Southwest’s new Cash + Points option will not earn Companion Pass-qualifying points, but they will count toward Companion Pass-qualifying flight segments. Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy (more on that later) do not count toward the Companion Pass either.

Here’s a look at some of the current Southwest card offers:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

With these generous welcome offers, earning the Companion Pass becomes relatively easy. By meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Performance Business Card, you can earn at least 85,000 points, leaving you with only 50,000 points left to earn the pass. You can achieve this by spending more on your new card, flying with Southwest, earning points through partners or combining these methods.

The information for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: 15 lessons from 15 years of having the Southwest Companion Pass

Southwest Rapid Rewards FAQ

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Have questions about Southwest Rapid Rewards? Let’s address them.

How do I join Southwest Rapid Rewards?

You can join the Southwest Rapid Rewards program for free on Southwest’s website. Just click the “Create account” link at the top of the page.

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Next, fill out the requested information and click the yellow “Create account” button at the bottom of the screen. Your account will be created immediately, and you can start earning and redeeming Rapid Rewards points.

When do Southwest Rapid Rewards points expire?

Southwest Rapid Rewards points don’t expire as long as your account is open.

Can I transfer points to Southwest?

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest Rapid Rewards at a 1:1 ratio, meaning 10,000 Chase points are equal to 10,000 Rapid Rewards points. These transfers generally process instantly. Although this is a solid transfer ratio, keep in mind that TPG values Chase points at 2.05 cents each (compared to 1.3 cents for Rapid Rewards points), so you may lose some value in the process.

Further, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Southwest Rapid Rewards at a 3:1 transfer ratio. You’ll get 5,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred, so 60,000 Marriott points are worth 25,000 Southwest points. This transfer ratio isn’t ideal, but it’s a good option to have if you’re short on points for a Southwest redemption.

Related: What it’s really like flying Southwest Airlines all the way to Hawaii

Bottom line

Southwest Rapid Rewards points are an excellent choice for travelers seeking flexibility in booking flights within a wide domestic network. With the added benefit of fee-free changes and cancellations, along with the inclusion of two free checked bags for every passenger, Southwest is a preferred option for many travelers. Southwest points are easy to redeem for flights, and being able to transfer points from partners or book on the Chase travel portal adds flexibility. Moreover, the Companion Pass allows you to double the value of your points when traveling with a friend or family member.

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