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Southwest Rapid Rewards guide

The best ways to earn and use Rapid Rewards points

Summary

Our guide gives you a complete overview of the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, including how to earn and redeem points, who it’s good for and gain elite status.

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For flyers weary of the hassles and hidden fees often associated with air travel, Southwest Airlines is a welcome alternative. With affordable fares and customer-friendly policies like free checked bags and open seating — not to mention the opportunity to snag its coveted Companion Pass — Southwest is consistently ranked as one of the most popular airlines in the United States. Plus, Southwest’s customer service agents and flight attendants have a well-deserved reputation for making the flying experience fun and entertaining.

Whether Southwest is your airline of choice or you’ve never hitched a ride with the low-cost carrier, here’s everything you need to know about its rewards program, from all the ways you can earn points to the best (and worst) ways to redeem them.

Southwest Rapid Rewards program basics

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards loyalty program is one of the easiest frequent flyer programs to navigate. It lets you earn points on flights, purchases with its hotel and car rental partners, everyday spending and more — which you can redeem for a variety of awards, including Southwest airfare (which is by far your best redemption option).

Although your flight options with the airline are limited mainly to domestic travel (Southwest also serves a limited number of other countries in North America), it’s a great option for economy flyers, as well as families and other large groups toting a lot of extra luggage.

Not only is it simple to find and book flights with your points, but you don’t have to worry about baggage fees or any other hidden charges. Plus, Southwest booking policies are very flexible, allowing you to change and even cancel your ticket at the very last minute for free — and with a full refund of your points.

Type of currencyMiles
Average point value (according to Bankrate)1.5 cents
Redemption optionsFlights, gift cards, car rentals, merchandise, hotels, experiences
Minimum required to redeemN/A
Do rewards expire?Never
Transfer partnersNone
Best for
  • Frequent Southwest flyers
  • Domestic travelers
  • Economy travelers
  • Families
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards members

Who is Southwest Rapid Rewards best for?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards program is best for people who are already frequent Southwest flyers. It can become even more valuable if you qualify for the valuable Southwest Companion Pass.

Southwest flies primarily within the United States, though they also serve other destinations in North America, so the program is good for people who prefer domestic travel. Travelers with lots of Ultimate Rewards will also want to be aware of the Rapid Rewards program because Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Southwest at a rate of 1:1.

How to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points

Score a large sign-up bonus with a Southwest credit card

You don’t necessarily need a Southwest credit card to earn Rapid Rewards points. However, one of the fastest ways to earn is to qualify for a Southwest card sign-up bonus, which you achieve by spending a certain amount of money within a designated time period.

Transfer points from non-Southwest credit cards

You might be surprised to find there are other credit cards that allow you to earn rewards that can be converted to Rapid Rewards points. The ever popular Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to a number of airline and hotel partners. One of those is Southwest Airlines, which allows instantaneous point transfers in increments of 1,000 points at a 1:1 ratio.

Shop through the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal

If you aren’t already using a shopping portal to maximize earnings while you shop online, you’re missing out. In case you aren’t familiar with shopping portals, they provide one of the easiest and most lucrative ways to boost your earnings on purchases you’d make anyway — anything from home goods and apparel to jewelry and sporting equipment.

The Rapid Rewards Shopping portal is an online gateway that offers higher points earnings on purchases from Southwest partner retailers. Depending on the merchant, you can easily earn double, triple or even multiply your points by 10. You’ll get even more if you pay the purchase with your Southwest credit card. Start earning in just a few quick steps:

  • Go to the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal and enter your Southwest log-in credentials.
  • Find a retailer’s offer that you like and click on it to be redirected to its website.
  • Shop and checkout, like usual. You should be able to use any form of payment, including gift cards.

Flying Southwest

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll earn at least 6 points per dollar on every Southwest flight as a Rapid Rewards member. You’ll get even more, up to 12X points, when flying higher fare classes like Anytime or Business Select.

Remember, you also earn at least 2X points on Southwest purchases when you pay with a Southwest card, though it may make more sense to pay with a different card. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 3X points on general travel and 5X points on air travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, after applying the $300 annual travel credit. Later on, you can transfer the earned Ultimate Rewards points to your Rapid Rewards account.

Refer a friend to a Southwest credit card

Southwest credit cards are included under Chase’s Refer-A-Friend program, so get those referral links ready, because you can score a ton of Rapid Rewards points — 20,000 points per referral and up to 100,000 points total in a calendar year — by referring friends and family to a Southwest card.

How to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points

Wanna Get Away fares

If you want to get the biggest return on your Rapid Rewards points, your best bet is to redeem them for airfare on Southwest. The airline offers a great value on most of its flight awards. Wanna Get Away fare offers the best value for your points, giving you around 1.5 cents each on average. Wanna Get Away fare is usually the first fare class to sell out on any given flight, so book early, since the Southwest cancellation and change policy is among the best of any airline.

Other Southwest flights

Another decent way to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards is by booking other classes of airfare on southwest.com. This includes the Wanna Get Away Plus, Anytime and Business Select fares. While these fares are more expensive (meaning you’ll get less value per point), they also come with additional benefits like priority boarding, full cancellation back to your payment method, early check-in and complimentary drinks.

Using Southwest More Rewards

The Southwest More Rewards site provides a few more options for Rapid Rewards members who aren’t satisfied with their flight choices on Southwest. The options include gift cards, merchandise and other travel, like international flights and car rentals. Unfortunately, the value of most items on the More Rewards site is so poor, so we advise against using your points this way.

You can find gift cards for a wide variety of restaurants and retailers available for redemption, but the value of gift cards is poor across the board, averaging only 0.7 cents per point. The merchandise option includes clothing, electronics and home furnishings. As with most rewards programs, merchandise is one of the worst ways to redeem your points: You’ll get only 0.6 cents per point on average.

Another option is using Rapid Rewards points to rent cars at a selection of agencies such as Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz and National. Your Rapid Rewards points are worth only 0.7 cents per point on average when redeemed this way, though.

Southwest Rapid Rewards status benefits

The Southwest Rapid Rewards program has three levels of elite status called A-List status. The way to qualify is to take a specific number of flights or earn a certain number of tier qualifying points, either by purchasing qualifying flights or using a Southwest card, in one calendar year.

A-List

Southwest’s basic status level is the A-List status, which you earn by taking 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points in a year. You’ll get priority boarding and a 25 percent bonus on earning points. You’ll also be able to do same-day flight changes without paying the fare difference if there are seats available on your preferred flights.

A-List Preferred

With A-List Preferred status, you’ll get all of the benefits of the A-List status, as well as bumping your earning bonus to 100 percent and giving you free W-Fi on flights. To earn A-List Preferred status, you’ll need 50 qualifying one-way flights or 70,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.

Companion Pass

The top tier of the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, with an almost mythic reputation, is the Southwest Companion Pass. To earn the Companion Pass, you’ll have to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in one year. If you do, then one designated companion can fly with you any time you fly and only pay taxes and fees.

How much are Southwest Rapid Rewards points worth?

Bankrate values Southwest Rapid Rewards points at around 1.5 cents per point, which is the approximate value you’ll get when redeeming them for Wanna Get Away fare. Other redemption methods usually give you less value per point.

You can calculate the value of any particular Rapid Rewards redemption by dividing the cash cost of a particular flight by the number of Rapid Rewards points the flight costs.

How does Southwest Rapid Rewards value compare?

Southwest Rapid Rewards points compare favorably to other airline miles like American Airlines (1 cent per point) or United Airlines (1.1 cents per point). However, the value of Southwest Rapid Rewards points is less than that of more flexible issuer currencies like American Express Membership Rewards (2.1 cents per point) or Chase Ultimate Rewards (2 cents per point). In part, that is because of the many different ways that you can use those transferable currencies.

Top credit cards that earn Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card currently comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, transit, commuting (including rideshare), internet, cable, phone services and select streaming. You’ll receive 3,000 points each year on your account anniversary, and it comes with a $69 annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has a $99 annual fee and offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You’ll earn 3 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, and 2 points per dollar on transit, commuting (including rideshare), internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services. You’ll get 2 EarlyBird Check-Ins each year and an annual bonus of 6,000 points.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card charges a $149 annual fee and provides a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You’ll earn 3 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, and 2 points per dollar on transit, commuting (including rideshare), internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services. You’ll get a $75 annual Southwest travel credit and 7,500 points each year on your account anniversary.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

The Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card* earn you 3 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, and 2 points per dollar on local transit and commuting as well as with Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners. You’ll get 2 EarlyBird Check-Ins each year, 25 percent back on in-flight purchases and 6,000 points each year on your account anniversary. However, it will cost you $99 a year in annual fees.

Frequently asked questions

Can you buy Southwest Rapid Rewards points?

Yes, Southwest regularly sells Rapid Rewards points at a cost of 3 cents per point. Because Southwest Rapid Rewards points are only worth 1.5 cents per point, this is not generally a great use of money. It’d be a better use of your money to buy a Southwest flight directly (and earn Rapid Rewards points).

What’s the difference between the Wanna Get Away and Wanna Get Away Plus fares?

Wanna Get Away is Southwest’s lowest-cost fare, and you’ll earn 6 points per dollar on any Wanna Get Away fare that you purchase. Wanna Get Away Plus is a recently-introduced fare class that comes at a more premium price than the lower-priced Wanna Get Away. With Wanna Get Away Plus, you’ll earn 8 points per dollar on airfare, and also have access to same-day changes (without a fare difference) and transferable flight credits.

How do you get a Companion Pass?

To earn the Companion Pass, you’ll need to either fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or get 125,000 qualifying points in one calendar year. Then you’ll have the Companion Pass for the rest of that calendar year and the entire year following.

Does Southwest Airlines have any transfer partners?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards program does not have any airline or hotel transfer partners.

*All information about the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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