Southwest Airlines is one of the biggest budget carriers in the United States with a reputation for low fares, no cancellation fees and free checked bags. The airline serves 99 domestic destinations as well as routes to Central America and the Caribbean.
Rapid Rewards® is Southwest’s frequent flyer program that is often regarded as one of the best frequent flyer programs for earning & redeeming points/miles. It features customer-friendly policies, high earning potential and a solid average points value. There’s plenty of value in this loyalty program if you play your points right. Especially with Southwest’s infamous Companion Pass.
See the best credit card sign-up bonuses here
|Domestic hubs||Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orlando, Phoenix|
|Personal credit cards||Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card|
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
|Business credit cards||Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card|
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
|Redemption options||Southwest flights, international flights, hotel stays, rental cars, merchandise, gift cards & charitable donations|
|Average point value||$0.015|
Rapid Rewards Elite Status
Signing up for Rapid Rewards allows you to earn points toward award flights and elite status. At the A-List and A-List Preferred tiers, you’ll earn more points and unlock additional benefits.
To achieve A-List or A-List Preferred status, you need to earn a certain number of tier-qualifying points or fly a certain number of qualifying one-way flights in one calendar year. Once you gain elite status, it’s good through the end of the following calendar year.
|A-List||35,000 points or 25 one-way flights|
|A-List Preferred||70,000 points or 50 one-way flights|
Tier-qualifying points. These are not the same as Rapid Reward points. Tier-qualifying points are earned by purchasing tickets for Southwest flights or using the Rapid Rewards Priority or Rapid Rewards Premier credit cards (more on that later).
Qualifying one-way flights. One qualifying flight is a trip from origin to destination, including any connections. A flight from Los Angeles to Chicago counts as a single one-way flight, whether or not the flight is nonstop or has connections.
Be sure to check Southwest Airline’s website for any changes to the requirement and benefits for A-List and A-List Preferred status.
Enjoy the following perks with your elite status:
|Points bonus||25% on flights||100% on flights|
|Expedited security lanes||Yes||Yes|
|Free same-day standby||Yes||Yes|
|Free in-flight WiFi||–||Yes|
|Dedicated customer service line||Yes||Yes|
*Source: Southwest Airline’s Rapid Rewards Tiers & More page
The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most valuable aspects of the Rapid Rewards program. It allows a guest to fly with you for free, not including taxes and fees, which starts at $5.60 one way.
To receive the Companion Pass, you’ll need to earn 125,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in one calendar year. Qualifying points include points earned from Southwest tickets, Southwest credit cards and base points earned from select Rapid Rewards partners.
The Companion Pass is valid the year you earned it until the end of the following calendar year.
*Source: Southwest Airlines Companion Pass page.
Earning Rapid Rewards Points
The Rapid Rewards program is on a points system, not miles. You can earn rewards a number of ways, including flying on Southwest, using a Southwest credit card, shopping or dining with program partners and more.
Earn Rapid Rewards points by flying with Southwest. The number of points you’ll earn depends on the cost of the ticket, the fare type and your status.
|Basic||None||Business Select: 12x points|
Anytime: 10x points
Wanna Get Away: 6x points
|A-List||25%||Business Select: 15x points|
Anytime: 12.5x points
Wanna Get Away: 7.5x points
|A-List Preferred||100%||Business Select: 24x points|
Anytime: 20x points
Wanna Get Away: 12x points
All fares include two free checked bags (up to 50 pounds each), no change fees
and reusable funds for up to 12 months should you cancel your flight.
Wanna Get Away. These are the cheapest fares and have no additional benefits.
Anytime. These are a little more flexible than “Wanna Get Away” fares. Canceled trips can be refunded as the original form of payment, or you can use your refund towards another flight for up to 12 months.
Business Select. Passengers flying Business Select can access priority security, priority boarding and one complimentary premium inflight beverage of your choice.
*Source: Southwest Airline’s Earn When You Fly page.
Earn Rapid Rewards points when you use the following credit cards issued by Chase:
|Features||Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
$149 annual fee
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
$99 annual fee
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
$69 annual fee
|Welcome bonus||40,000 points||40,000 points||40,000 points|
|$1,000 in the first 3 months||$1,000 in the first 3 months||$1,000 in the first 3 months|
|Ongoing rewards||2x on Southwest
1x on everything else
|2x on Southwest
1x on everything else
|2x on Southwest
1x on everything else
|Anniversary bonus||7,500 points||6,000 points||3,000 points|
|Upgraded Boardings||4 per year||–||–|
|Inflight drinks & WiFi||20% back||–||–|
|Elite status||Earn tier-qualifying points||Earn tier-qualifying points||–|
|Foreign transaction fees||None||None||3%|
Chase also issues two Southwest business credit cards: Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business and Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.
Earn Rapid Rewards points with the following travel partners.
- Southwest Hotels
- Best Western
- Choice Hotels
*Click here to check for any changes to Southwest’s Rapid Rewards travel partners.
Earn Rapid Rewards points when you purchase from the following shopping and dining partners:
- Rapid Rewards Shopping
- Rapid Rewards Dining
- Harry & David
As well as the following home and lifestyle partners:
- Make It Count
And the following specialty partners:
- Emergency Assistance Plus
- Rewards for Opinions
*For the complete and most up-to-date list of Southwest Rapid Rewards partners, click here.
You can purchase points for an average of $0.0275 each, but we generally advise against it. We value each Rapid Rewards point at $0.015 each, so you’ll be losing out on a lot when you buy points instead of earning them.
*We calculated this average by accessing My Account Login page. For the exact cost of buying points, login to the page and search for the flight you want to book with points and see your options for buying additional points.
Redeeming Rapid Rewards Points
Rapid Rewards points don’t expire as long as you make one qualifying transaction through Southwest or one of its partners every 24 months. And if you hold a Rapid Rewards credit card, your points won’t expire as long as your card account is open.
Southwest flights. Point pricing is tied to the award ticket’s cash price. We value Southwest award flights to be worth approximately $0.015 per point, although you could get over $0.03 per point if you’re lucky.
International flights. Book international award flights with over 50 carriers to destinations Southwest doesn’t fly to. Expect to get a value of $0.01 per point, which is lower than what you’d get for Southwest flights.
To redeem for flights, log in to your Rapid Rewards account page. From there, enter your flight information and view the fares in points.
Hotel stays. Book an award stay through the Southwest travel portal. Award pricing depends on hotel location, proximity to attractions, quality and dates.
Rental cars. Book a rental car using your Rapid Rewards points via the Southwest travel portal. Award pricing varies based on location, cash price and demand.
Merchandise & gift cards. Redeem your Rapid Rewards points for merchandise and gift cards, but they’re not the best use for your points. Expect to get a value of just $0.006 per point.
Charitable donations. Make a difference by donating your Rapid Rewards points to charity. Organizations include the American Red Cross, Make-A-Wish, Ronald McDonald House Charities and more.
*These options are available when you log in to your account.
Rapid Rewards Tips & Tricks
There are never any change or cancellation fees with Southwest Rapid Rewards. When you book an award flight, then cancel without a fee, you’ll get a full points refund (plus an electronic voucher for any taxes and fees paid in cash)*.
Since award pricing tends to increase closer to your date of travel, you should book your award ticket as soon as you can. Even if you’re not sure you’ll be able to go.
We recommend booking your award flights early,
especially during holidays and other peak travel times.
*This is an extremely generous cancellation policy compared to other carriers.
Save your Rapid Rewards points by rebooking award tickets when they go on sale. Since there are no change fees, you’ll get a refund of the difference, straight to your rewards balance.
You can use this trick with cash bookings as well, but the difference will be refunded in the form of an electronic voucher.
A hidden-city ticket is where you book travel to a destination, but you get off the plane at a layover. This is an option you should consider if the price to the final destination is far less than where you want to end up. Although most carriers disallow this practice, Southwest will let you book hidden-city tickets*.
If you choose to use hidden cities, make sure to check your bags to the layover point. When you reach your stop, it’s nice to let the crew know you won’t be returning to the plane. So they can clear standbys and avoid paging you repeatedly when you fail to show up for the next leg of the trip.
*Hidden-city ticketing violates most airlines’ policies. Southwest is a known exception because its fare rules do not specifically prohibit this practice. Check the airlines’ contract of carriage for further details.
Sometimes, Southwest will grant A-List status to those who have elite status with another frequent flyer program. At the time of publishing, Southwest is running the Southwest Status Match promotion. When you register for the program, you will be prompted to send an email with proof of current elite status with a domestic airline. Upon verification, you will receive A-List status and enjoy all of the benefits mentioned in this guide.
Southwest Airlines is one of the biggest budget carriers in the United States. And Rapid Rewards might be the best low-cost airline frequent flyer program around, thanks to the variety of routes, Companion Pass, loads of customer-friendly perks and much, much more.
But even with its plentiful routes, Southwest is somewhat limited. If you live in the Northeast or the South, you might find more route choices with another budget airline, like JetBlue.
>>More on Southwest Rapid Rewards
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