Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining guide

Did you know you can get free plane tickets, just by eating out?

 

United MileagePlus Dining Guide

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Have you been dreaming about taking your family on a lavish vacation to Disney World or to a fabulous beach destination and wondering how you can boost your mileage earnings to get there faster?

There are more than a few ways to earn bonus miles, and one of the best is through a dining rewards program such as the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program.

What is Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program awards you points for dining out at restaurants, bars and clubs within the Southwest Rapid Rewards network in addition to the points or miles that you already earn with any credit card that you use.

Once you've registered your credit card, the program recognizes when you’ve used your card at a participating restaurant. All that it requires is your credit card number -- no other details are collected -- and there are no fees for participating in the program.

How to join Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

  1. Sign up for free. The first step is a piece of cake: Just sign up for free through the dining program website using your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards login. Be sure to include your home address so the system can recommend the best dining options nearest your house.
  2. Add your credit card numbers. Once you create an account, the site will prompt you to register your various credit cards and debit cards. You won’t have to enter in any credit card identifying details; registering the 15- or 16-digit card number is enough to notify the system to credit you for purchases made with participating restaurants. Again, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining Program will never charge you for participation or membership.
  3. Visit a restaurant in the network. You can immediately begin earning Rapid Rewards points on your restaurant purchases as soon as you finish your registration process. Not sure where to go? Use the Rapid Rewards Dining program’s search function to find your next meal out.

How to use Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining 

The fun begins as soon as you’re fully registered. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining Program works with more than 10,000 participating restaurants, bars and clubs across the U.S. What’s more, you will earn points toward your next vacation with every single one of these restaurants.

You should familiarize yourself with the list of eligible restaurants on the dining program website, and use the restauarnt search at the top of the home page to help you figure out your first stop. 

The restaurant search not only helps you find participating restaurants near your work or home, but provides details on the restaurant, including the average price of an entree, the distance from your current location, the type of cuisine offered as well as ratings and reviews from other members. Look for the chart to the right side of the page, which will show the days on which you are eligible to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining rewards. Most restaurants will offer earning opportunities all week, but a few may not, so make sure you don’t stop in on a day when you will lose out on your bonus points.

You might be surprised to find that you don't have to rack up a large bill at a fancy restaurant to earn a lot of points. For instance, Jack in the Box is included on the list in many states, which means that a few dollars spent on fast food here and there can get you closer to that Costa Rica paradise.

Screenshot of Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining search results

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining website lets you search for restaurants by distance, location, price range and type of cuisine. 

At what rate do you earn points with Rapid Rewards Dining?

The breakdown on potential earnings is really simple, according to the program website:

 
 If you don’t opt in to receive emails 1 mile per $2
 If you opt in to receive emails 3 miles per $1

How to maximize Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

  • What if you accidentally forget your credit card at work one day and have to use your debit card instead? If you’ve been proactive about registering all of your credit and debit cards with the program, you’ll still get your points.
  • Make sure you provide a valid email address, and sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining Program email communications. Again, dining program members who register to receive newsletters earn six times as many points per dollar compared to diners who skip out on emails.
  • Keep an eye on your email to make sure you’re taking advantage of all your earning opportunities. From time to time, Southwest Airlines offers bonus points for dining out a certain number of times, or for dining with specific restaurants. Make sure you aren’t missing out.
  • Check the list of eligible restaurants before you decide where to dine out. Feeling indecisive? Use the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program to narrow down your restaurant options.
  • If you’re dining out with a group, skip the hassle of splitting the bill at the table. If you pay for the entire tab using a credit card registered with the Southwest Rapid Rewards dining program, you’ll earn points on the full amount of the bill – and everyone else can just pay you back afterward using cash or Venmo. Whether it’s family or co-workers or friends, you’re making everyone else’s dining experience a lot more convenient while simultaneously racking up points toward your next free trip.
  • If you’ve recently switched cards, or if you had to report a credit card stolen or lost, don’t forget to update your credit card registration with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining Program as soon you get your new credit card in the mail. The program needs your credit card number to track your spending. So take the extra five seconds to make sure your account is always up-to-date.

Best credit cards to use with Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

By using the right credit cards, you can maximize your potential reward earnings. Many credit cards offer bonus points on restaurant purchases that can be stacked with your earnings from the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program. And of course, if your goal is to accrue Rapid Rewards points as quickly as possible, you can always use a Southwest Airlines credit card for the dining program.

According to The Points Guy, these are the best credit cards to use with Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining:

Credit Card Rewards for Dining  Annual Fee  
Chase Sapphire Preferred
2x points $95, $0 first year
Chase Sapphire Reserve
3x points $450
Uber Visa 4x points $0
American Express Premier Rewards Gold
2x points $195
Capital One Savor
4% cash back $95, $0 first year
Citi Prestige
2x points

$450

Citi ThankYou Premier
2x points $95, $0 first year
Citi ThankYou Preferred
2x points $0

Of course, you should use a card with dining rewards whenever possible, but you should also register your debit cards with Rapid Rewards Dining in case you find yourself in a pinch with only a debit card to pay. 

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining sign-up bonus

In addition to the points that you earn for each dollar of dining, you may be eligible for sign-up bonuses when you register for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program.

With the current offer, you can even earn bonuses for earning bonuses:

  • First step bonus: Earn 500 bonus points the first time you accrue 1,500 points by dining.
  • Thank you bonus: Earn 300 bonus points every time you accrue 1,000 points by dining.
  • Review bonus: Earn 10 bonus points every time you complete a review.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining Restaurants 

The list below is a glimpse of your dining options amongst the thousands of restaurants in the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining Program. If you want to search for restaurants in your vicinity, check out the search tool here.

  • Souper Salad
  • Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
  • Which Wich
  • BRIO Tuscan Grille
  • Buca di Beppo

Southwest points value

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If you are someone who loves to travel – especially to domestic locales – but doesn’t want to have to put a lot of sweat into figuring out how to redeem airline miles, Southwest Rapid Rewards points may be the happy medium you’ve been searching for.

Rapid Rewards points are easy to redeem as they are to earn – you get a consistently good return on your points without having to worry about hidden fees or wading through a lot of complex rules to use them.

Southwest points value

Rapid Rewards points – while more valuable than the average credit card point, fall in the middle of the pack for airline rewards programs. While Southwest offers more value than some competitors, including JetBlue and United MileagePlus, it’s also far outmatched by a few airlines, including British Airways and American Airlines. We value Southwest points at approximately 1.6 cents per point:

Point value by loyalty program

See Related: Best ways to redeem Southwest pointsWhich Southwest credit card is best for you?, Best ways to earn Southwest points, Southwest Airlines partners, Southwest A-List status, Booking a rewards flight with Southwest, How to get the Southwest Companion Pass

Why we value Southwest points less than some airline currencies

While programs such as British Airways and AAdvantage use a chart to price their flight awards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program ties the number of required miles closely to the price of the fare. In other words, the number of points required for a flight rises and falls with the price of the fare and remains fairly consistent across fare types. Since there are few opportunities to maximize the value of the points, Rapid Rewards points tend to have a lower value on average than rewards programs with fixed charts.

Southwest offers some advantages over these programs, however, in terms of flexibility and simplicity – you don’t have to navigate a complicated rewards chart to figure out how to redeem your points and you don’t have to deal with limited awards seats. As long as there are seats are available, you can use your points to pay for a seat.

Not to mention, Rapid Rewards points are still very valuable, especially if you redeem them for Wanna Get Away fares.

Since Wanna Get Away fares are by far the best deal on Southwest, we’ve used them to set the value of Southwest points at 1.6 cents per point. As you can see from our chart below, the other fare options on Southwest (Anytime and Business Select) don’t offer as much as value:

Fare type Value per point (cents)
Wanna Get Away 1.6
Anytime 1.1
Business Selecct 0.9

How to value your Rapid Rewards points

We’ve told you how we calculate the value of Rapid Rewards points, but, truly, the value of points is subjective – depending on your goals for your points and how you ultimately end up using them. Here are some questions you should ask yourself in valuing your Rapid Rewards points:

  • How do you prefer to redeem your points? Do you intend to redeem your points for anything besides Southwest flights? If so, you’ll probably have to shave some cents off your rewards value, since the value of redemption options outside of Southwest flights tends to be low.
  • What class do you prefer to fly in? Class is almost a moot point on Southwest flights – you get a few additional perks and priority seating in Business Select class, but otherwise, everyone sits in the same seats. Still, you should decide ahead of time if you prefer a Business Select fare, since the points will have a lower value.
  • Where do you want to fly? The more popular your destination, the higher the price of the flights and the more likely lower-priced fares will get snatched up quickly.
  • Where are you flying from? If you live in a major city, you may find yourself with more flight options (and more options for Wanna Get Away fares) than if you live in a smaller city.
  • How flexible are you on flying? If you are flexible on your dates and destinations, you are more likely to find Wanna Get Away fares (as well as great deals on discount fares).
  • How far in advance can you book your flight? Wanna Get Away fares tend to disappear quickly from the list of available flights, especially for popular times and destinations. If you don’t tend to book your flights months in advance, you may find yourself having to pony up extra points to purchase an Anytime fare.

How to calculate the value of Rapid Rewards points

There are varying philosophies on calculating the value of points, but, for simplicity’s sake, we offer the following calculation:

Rapid Rewards Value = Reward Value (in dollars)/Number of Points

In other words, to determine the value of your points, you take the amount that you would pay for your intended redemption option in cash and divide it by the number of points.

Of course, there is an endless number of factors that can affect the value of your points, such as the opportunity cost for the Rapid Rewards points that you would earn by paying for your flight with cash or a rewards card, varying prices of airfare over time, the lowest possible price that you could get by flying with any airline to your desired destination, and so on. 

But, for a basic comparison of points across rewards programs, simply dividing the price of your redemption by the number of points should give you enough information.

How flexible are Rapid Rewards points?

Rapid Rewards points are extremely flexible for an airline rewards currency -- flexibility is, in fact, one of the greatest benefits of flying with Southwest. Here's a rundown of the pros and cons of Rapid Rewards:

Pros:

  • Rapid Rewards points never expire.
  • There are no blackout dates or restrictions on awards seats on Southwest Airlines – if a seat is available on a flight, you can book it with points.
  • The Southwest Airline network offers great domestic coverage (including flights to Hawaii soon).
  • Point valuation is very straightforward – Southwest only has three types of fares (Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select fares) and the pricing and value of points is very consistent across these three options, so it’s easy to determine what type of fare you need to book and what strategy you need to take to get the best value.
  • Southwest is extremely flexible about making changes to award tickets – you can cancel up to 10 minutes before your flight and have your points refunded, and there’s no fee for changes.
  • You don’t have to worry about hidden costs or fees with Southwest. For most flights, you will only owe $5.60 in government-mandated taxes and fees.
  • Routing rules are very flexible. Since all flights are booked as one-way tickets, you can create open-jaw tickets by booking two one-way flights. Layovers aren’t allowed, but, since Southwest doesn’t fly to many international destinations, there’s not much need for complex routing.
  • Southwest partners with many companies – including hotel, car rental and other types of partners – giving you a plethora of opportunities for earning points, including some great deals that can earn you a lot of points all at once.

Cons:

  • You have few options for international travel with Southwest Airlines – outside the U.S., Southwest only travels to Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean – and it doesn’t partner with any other airlines to give you more flight options. (You can book international flights with other airlines through the More Rewards portal, but the value is terrible.)
  • Wanna Get Away fares tend to disappear quickly, so you need to book far in advance if you want a good value on your points.
  • Since the value of Rapid Rewards points is fairly flat, there aren’t many opportunities to “hack” your way to a higher point value (but the program offers many other kinds of hacks, as you’ll see in other pages of this guide).

Are Rapid Rewards points worth it?

If you want a simple airline rewards program with a lot of value, Southwest Rapid Rewards points are a great way to go. Not only can you get a lot of mileage with your points, but – since Southwest makes it simple to redeem points – you’re almost certainly guaranteed to fly great places with your points.

The best card for Southwest flyers

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card

Why should you get it?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is by far the best value for a frequent Southwest flyer, thanks to its $75 travel credit and 7,500-point annual bonus.

More things to know: 

 

  • 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • 7,500 bonus points each year after your card anniversary
  • $75 annual travel credit
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available
  • 20% discount on in-flight purchases made with your card

 

 

Related stories: Earn a sign-up bonus with the Southwest  Rapid Rewards cardsReady for your first airline card? Ask yourself these questions first


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Updated: 10-21-2018