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TravelSouthwest Rapid Rewards: Guide to earning, redeeming and maximizing points

Southwest Rapid Rewards: Guide to earning, redeeming and maximizing points


Southwest Airlines prides itself on its “transfarency” philosophy — low fares and no change fees, hidden fees or unexpected bag fees. Regardless of your fare type, each passenger can check two bags for free, and Rapid Rewards points are some of the most easily redeemable compared to other loyalty programs. Therefore, it’s no surprise that some TPG staffers regard Southwest as one of the top airlines.

Keep reading to learn some of the best ways you can earn and redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

Southwest Rapid Rewards program overview

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Like Southwest Airlines itself, the Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program has amassed a loyal following. Despite not having a standard award chart or being part of an airline alliance, its promise of no blackout dates and the ability to earn Southwest’s famous Companion Pass makes Rapid Rewards an excellent choice for couples, families and those with not-so-flexible schedules.

Like JetBlue’s TrueBlue program, all Southwest award tickets are priced based on the ticket’s cash value. This means the more expensive the ticket you want to book, the more points you’ll need. TPG currently values Rapid Rewards points at 1.4 cents per point, meaning 10,000 points should give you around $140 in value.

However, depending on your ticket’s value, you may get more or less.

Related: Southwest provides points; extends elite status and Companion Pass for select travelers

Southwest elite status

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In addition to the Companion Pass, Southwest offers two elite status tiers: A-List and A-List Preferred.

Southwest A-List elite status

To qualify for A-List status, you must fly 20 one-way Southwest flights or earn 35,000 tier-qualifying points in a calendar year.

Tier-qualifying points include those earned from paid flights booked through Southwest or by meeting spending thresholds on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card. Purchased points and points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment, credit card bonuses, tier bonus points, flight bonus points and partner points do not count toward A-List or A-List Preferred status.

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With Southwest A-List status, you’ll get the following:

  • Priority boarding
  • 25% bonus on points earned from paid flights
  • Free same-day standby/changes (taxes and fees may apply)
  • Priority check-in and security lane access
  • Dedicated A-List member phone line

Southwest A-List Preferred elite status

A-List Preferred status requires you to fly 40 qualifying one-way Southwest flights or earn 70,000 tier-qualifying points in a calendar year. You’ll receive all the benefits of A-List status, but this tier comes with additional perks:

  • 100% bonus on points earned from paid flights
  • Free inflight Wi-Fi
  • Two free premium drinks on flights of 176 miles or more

Related: What is Southwest elite status worth?

How to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points

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There are a few ways to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points — many of which don’t require flying.

Earn Rapid Rewards points by flying

As you might expect, you can earn Rapid Rewards points every time you fly on a paid Southwest Airlines flight. The number of points you’ll earn on every trip depends on the cost of your flight, your A-List elite status, the type of ticket you purchased and your payment method.

Southwest has four ticket classes. Each includes different benefits, with the highest fare — Business Select — including priority boarding and a free alcoholic drink on board. Here’s how many points each fare class earns:

  • Wanna Get Away: 6 points per dollar
  • Wanna Get Away Plus: 8 points per dollar
  • Anytime: 10 points per dollar
  • Business Select: 12 points per dollar

You’ll earn points on your ticket’s base fare. The base fare is the ticket’s cost, excluding any associated taxes and fees. When you purchase a Southwest ticket, you can view your flight’s base fare on the airline’s website.

So, if you purchased a Wanna Get Away fare with a $100 base price, you’d earn 600 Southwest Rapid Rewards points after you take your flight. On the other hand, a Wanna Get Away Plus ticket would earn 800 points, an Anytime ticket would earn 1,000 points and a Business Select ticket would earn 1,200 points.

As mentioned, Southwest A-List and A-List Preferred elite status earn even more miles on paid flights. Each status tier earns the following bonus on paid flights:

  • A-List: 25% bonus
  • A-List Preferred: 100% bonus

Using the above $100 base fare example, an A-List member would earn 750 Rapid Rewards points on a Wanna Get Away fare, while an A-List Preferred member would earn 1,200 Rapid Rewards points. The mileage bonus is arguably the most valuable perk of Southwest elite status and can help you rack up tons of extra miles throughout your travels.

Earn with Southwest credit cards

Southwest Airlines has several cobranded credit cards issued by Chase. Currently, the airline offers three personal and two business credit cards, each with varying benefits, welcome bonuses and annual fees.

At this time, you can earn Southwest’s lucrative Companion Pass, valid through Feb. 28, 2025, plus 30,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening on the following personal cards:

Southwest also offers the following business cards:

In addition to an attractive welcome bonus, each card has unique benefits. For example, the Southwest Priority card includes an annual $75 travel credit and 7,500 bonus points (worth $105 per TPG’s valuations). This completely offsets the card’s $149 annual fee and will help you earn more points throughout the year.

Additionally, you can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest Rapid Rewards at a 1:1 transfer ratio. If you don’t mind missing out on the Southwest-specific perks, you may consider applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card since it earns 2 points per dollar spent on travel and 3 points per dollar spent on dining purchases.

Earn points while you eat with Rapid Rewards Dining

Like many airlines, Southwest offers a dining rewards program where you can earn points. Create a Rapid Rewards Dining account, and link your credit cards to earn Rapid Rewards points every time you dine at a participating restaurant. This is in addition to the rewards you’d earn with a credit card, so link a card that earns bonus points on dining to maximize your points-earning.

RAPIDREWARDSDINING.COM

Make sure to sign up for email notifications when you enroll in Rapid Rewards Dining. By doing so, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent at participating restaurants. Unfortunately, opting out of email notifications will drastically cut your earnings to 1 point per $2 spent.

The Rapid Rewards Dining program offers an attractive set of welcome bonuses. You’ll earn 500 bonus points after you spend $25 and review a participating restaurant in the first 30 days, and you can earn additional points by leaving reviews and performing other tasks. You can search through all participating restaurants on the Rapid Rewards Dining website.

Make purchases through Rapid Rewards Shopping

You can earn bonus points when you shop online with Rapid Rewards Shopping. Like Rapid Rewards Dining, the miles you’ll earn with this shopping portal are in addition to the points you earn with a credit card.

Using Rapid Rewards Shopping is simple: Sign up for an account, find your merchant on Rapid Rewards and click through its link before making a purchase. Points are usually credited to your Rapid Rewards account within a week of making a purchase, but some merchants may take longer to process.

RAPIDREWARDSSHOPPING.SOUTHWEST.COM

The number of points you’ll earn per dollar spent varies by merchant and changes frequently. The portal often has promotions that offer bonus points when you spend a set amount of money. Keep an eye on the Rapid Rewards Shopping website to see when these promos are happening.

One last thing: Always check a shopping portal aggregator like Cashback Monitor before you shop through Rapid Rewards Shopping. The merchant you’re ordering from may offer more points elsewhere.

Book hotels

Southwest has partnerships with some of the major hotel companies. That allows you to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points instead of hotel points, but we don’t generally recommend this option.

You can earn up to 10,000 points per night by booking hotel rooms with Southwest Hotels or Rocketmiles. Compare rates with both, and book with whichever platform, if either, best suits your needs.

The number of points you’ll earn often correlates to the price of your hotel room, and you’ll earn more points when you book Points Plus properties. Remember that you cannot earn hotel points or use hotel elite status benefits on these bookings, and you’ll generally need to book directly with the hotel to use these benefits.

You can book many boutique hotels through Southwest Hotels, so it may be worth booking these through Southwest Hotels if they otherwise wouldn’t earn points. Compare pricing with the hotel’s website to ensure you get a comparable rate through Southwest Hotels or Rocketmiles.

Related: 10 easy ways to earn more Southwest Rapid Rewards points

How to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards

Now that you’ve earned Rapid Rewards points, let’s discuss how to redeem them.

There are several ways to redeem your points, but you’ll almost always get the most value from your Rapid Rewards points if you redeem them for travel on Southwest flights. Other redemption options like gift cards and merchandise will yield much less value.

The process for redeeming Rapid Rewards points for flights is largely the same as booking a paid flight. Head to the Southwest homepage, enter your search criteria and select the “Points” option. Click the yellow search button to see your flight options.

SOUTHWEST.COM

You’ll see award pricing to the right of each available flight. You can filter flights by the number of layovers and departure times using the buttons at the top of the page. Then, click on the ticket price when you find a flight you’d like to book and follow the on-screen prompts.

What fare type should I choose?

You can redeem points for flights in any of the four Southwest fare types. Wanna Get Away — the least expensive fare type — is best for most travelers.

Wanna Get Away Plus is slightly more flexible, with free confirmed and stand-by same-day flight changes. Additionally, these fares let you transfer flight credit to another person if you cancel your flight.

Anytime fares have the same benefits as Wanna Get Away Plus, as well as priority security and EarlyBird check-in. Anytime cash fares are refundable, but remember that Wanna Get Away fares are also refundable when booking with points.

Finally, the benefits of Business Select fares are hardly worth the additional cost. These tickets include group A1 to A15 boarding, expedited security at select airports and a free alcoholic drink on board. Usually, they cost more than triple the points cost of a Wanna Get Away fare, so we recommend staying away from them in most cases.

Can I change Southwest award tickets for free?

Like all Southwest fares, you can change or cancel Southwest award tickets for free. If you opt to change a ticket, you’re only liable for paying the new ticket’s fare difference if it’s more expensive. On the other hand, if you switch to a cheaper flight, Southwest will refund the difference in points. With this in mind, we highly recommend keeping an eye on award pricing after you book a flight — if the fare goes down, you can request a refund for the additional miles.

Canceling a Southwest award ticket is just as simple. When you cancel your ticket, the miles you used to book will be refunded to your Rapid Rewards account. There are no additional cancellation fees.

Do I have to pay taxes and fees on award tickets?

SOUTHWEST.COM

You are liable for paying certain types of taxes and fees when you book Southwest award tickets.

Can I redeem for partner award tickets?

As mentioned above, Southwest is one of the few airlines without international airline partners.

Related: 10 countries you didn’t know you could fly to on Southwest

Maximize your miles with the Southwest Companion Pass

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

The Southwest Companion Pass is undoubtedly one of the most valuable perks. After earning the pass, you can choose a companion to travel with you for just the cost of taxes and fees on Southwest flights booked with cash or miles. You can use the Companion Pass on as many flights as you’d like, effectively doubling the value of your Rapid Rewards points.

You can earn a Companion Pass by flying 100 Southwest one-way flight segments or — more practically for most — earning 135,000 qualifying points. Qualifying points include Rapid Rewards points earned by flying, spending on credit cards and making purchases via Rapid Rewards Dining and/or Rapid Rewards Shopping.

Welcome bonuses on Southwest cobranded credit cards count toward the Companion Pass, so you can make some serious progress by opening one of the Southwest credit cards featured earlier. Additionally, all Southwest credit card holders get 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points deposited into their account annually.

Remember, you can earn a Companion Pass valid through Feb. 28, 2025, plus an extra 30,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening on the following cards:

Unfortunately, transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards do not count toward the Companion Pass.

Your Companion Pass will be valid for the remainder of the year it’s earned and the entirety of the following year. If you plan on earning your Companion Pass through credit card welcome bonuses, try to time your spending to earn the required mileage at the beginning of the year. This will give you the most time to enjoy your hard-earned Companion Pass since it will be valid for almost two years.

You can only set one companion at a time, but you can change your companion three times per year. You can change your companion by calling Southwest at 800-435-9792. Remember that your companion will not earn Rapid Rewards points on their flight, but you’ll still earn points if you fly on a paid ticket.

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

Bottom line

Southwest Rapid Rewards points are extremely easy to earn and redeem, and the incredibly valuable Companion Pass sets Southwest apart. Don’t miss your fast track to a Companion Pass with the right cobranded credit card.

On the other hand, Southwest has had its fair share of operational issues. Not to mention, its top-tier elite members and full-fare Business Select customers aren’t guaranteed a bulkhead or exit row seat, which could make Southwest’s transcontinental and Hawaii flights uncomfortable for taller travelers.

Still, the program remains popular with all kinds of travelers, especially families.

Now you know how to make an informed decision about Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program so you can decide if it’s right for you to engage with.



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