BACK

Travel

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: how to earn and redeem points, book a flight, gain elite status and more.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

For flyers weary of the hassles and hidden fees that are 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 America. 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.

What is Southwest Rapid Rewards?

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards loyalty program is one of the easiest frequent-flyer programs to navigate, letting 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, but more on that later).

Though your flight options with the Rapid Rewards program are limited mainly to domestic travel (Southwest serves only 10 countries outside of the U.S.), 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.

Southwest Rapid Rewards program overview

Type of currencyMiles
Average point value1.6 cents
Credit cardsSouthwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card
Redemption optionsFlights, gift cards, car rentals, merchandise, hotels, experiences
Minimum required to redeemNumber of points required to cover the cheapest available flight
Do rewards expire?Never
Airline partnersNone
Flight coverageFair. 4,000+ daily flights, 100+ destinations, 10+ countries
Booking restrictions
  • No blackout dates or capacity controls
  • One-way fares permitted
  • Open-jaw tickets permitted
  • Connections permitted
  • Stopovers not permitted
  • No booking fees
  • No change fees
  • Cancel up to 10 minutes before flight and get miles refunded for no fee
Best for
  • Frequent Southwest flyers
  • Domestic travelers
  • Economy travelers
  • Families
  • Travelers who want a simple, valuable airline rewards program
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards members

How to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards

One of the best ways to accumulate points and miles for free Southwest travel is with a Rapid Rewards credit card. All of them come with generous sign-up offers and anniversary bonuses that can quickly put you on the path toward qualifying for the Companion Pass – which lets you bring one lucky friend or family member on every Southwest flight you take for up to two years, depending on the time of year you earn it. (We said it was coveted, didn’t we?)

See related: What is the best airline credit card

That said, there are lots of other ways to stack and maximize your Southwest Rapid Rewards earnings, thanks to the airline’s numerous partnerships. Below are 17 suggestions – yep, count ’em! – to get you started. Check out our list to see which options best fit your lifestyle; you may be surprised to find that you don’t have to book a plane ticket or sign up for a Southwest credit card to rack up tons of points that can get you to your next destination in no time.

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

You don’t “need” a Southwest credit card to earn Rapid Rewards points; however, one of the fastest ways to do just that is to qualify for a Southwest card sign-up bonus, which you do by spending a certain amount of money within a designated time period:

Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses

Sign-up bonusEstimated value
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
  • 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
  • 3 points per dollar on dining purchases for the first year
$640
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
  • 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
  • 3 points per dollar on dining purchases for the first year
$640
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
  • 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
  • 3 points per dollar on dining purchases for the first year
$640
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card60,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months$960
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card*80,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months$1,280

Since Rapid Rewards points are valued at about 1.6 cents apiece, we estimate that these bonuses can be worth up to $1,280 (if you qualify for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card) when you spend them on travel. 

Since Southwest Rapid Rewards cards are issued by Chase, you’ll need to keep Chase’s 5/24 rule in mind when applying. Chase is likely to deny your application if you’ve opened five credit cards with any bank – not just Chase – in the past 24 months.

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.

Learn more

More things to know:

  • 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
  • 3 points per dollar on dining purchases for the first year
  • 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

 

2. Earn points through everyday spending

You can accrue additional points through everyday spending on the Southwest credit cards. Every dollar you spend with Southwest Airlines or its partners earns you two points, while all other purchases get one point per dollar. In addition, with the exception of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card and the Performance Business Credit Card, you can earn 1 point per dollar for the first $10,000 you transfer to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card within 90 days of opening your account, and for the first $15,000 you transfer to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business credit cards (also in your first 90 days).

See related: Southwest Airlines partners

3. 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.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to dozens of travel, entertainment and dining partners. One of those partners is Southwest Airlines, which allows instantaneous point transfers in increments of 1,000 points at a one-to-one ratio. Each of the following cards comes with a generous sign-up bonus that can amount to hundreds of dollars in Southwest travel:

Sign-up bonusEstimated value
Chase Freedom Flex*20,000 points if you spend $500 in first 3 months$320
Chase Freedom Unlimited*20,000 points if you spend $500 in first 3 months$320
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card80,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months$1280
Chase Sapphire Reserve60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months$960
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card100,000 points if you spend $15,000 in first 3 months$1,600
Ink Business Cash Credit Card*75,000 points if you spend $7,500 in first 3 months$1,200
Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card*75,000 points if you spend $7,500 in first 3 months$1,200
*These cards earn cash back, but it’s awarded as Ultimate Rewards points, where 1 point equals 1 cent. You have to own a premium Chase card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card, to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Rapid Rewards.

Note that while Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be utilized for award bookings on Southwest, they’re not tier-qualifying points and won’t count toward A-list or A-list Preferred status with the airline. The points won’t help you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, either, although they can be used to book flights for whoever’s lucky enough to be your Companion Pass holder.

4. 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. Fortunately, it’s never too late to begin. 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 10 times the points you’d earn using your credit card alone, in just a few quick steps:

  • Go to the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal and enter your Southwest login credentials.
  • Find the retailer you want to shop with to see if the portal offers extra points on purchases from that store.
  • Shop as usual! You should be able to use any form of payment, including gift cards.

5. Use the Rapid Rewards Dining program

Similar to its shopping portal, Southwest offers bonus points for dining with participating restaurants, bars and clubs through its Rapid Rewards Dining program. All you have to do is register on the program’s website and link any credit card you might want to use for dining out (or ordering in, as is more likely these days). If you pay for dinner using a card that offers 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on food, you’ll be double-stacking your rewards: You’ll earn points from the card itself and points from the dining portal.

See related: Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining guide

6. Book Southwest flights

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll earn several points per dollar on every Southwest flight as a Rapid Rewards member. Remember, you also earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases when you pay with a Southwest credit card, though it may make more sense to pay with a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve (which earns 3 points per dollar on travel after earning $300 annual travel credit), and then transfer the earned points to your Rapid Rewards account.

Note that flights booked with Rapid Rewards points do not earn any additional rewards – unfortunately, you can’t double-dip that way.

7. Book higher-class airfare

While Southwest’s Wanna Get Away tickets will always offer the lowest price, the fare class also earns the lowest rate on Rapid Rewards points, with just six points per dollar spent. However, Southwest has two additional fare classes: Anytime and Business Select. In addition to some added perks, Anytime fares earn 10 points per dollar spent, and Business Select earns 12 points.

Rapid Rewards points earned
Wanna Get Away fares6 points per dollar
Anytime fares10 points per dollar
Business Select fares12 points per dollar

See related: Booking a rewards flight with Southwest

In some cases, it could make sense to buy the pricier ticket to earn some extra points quickly. If you manage to find a fare where the cost difference among the three classes is minimal, it might be a good value to spend the few extra dollars to buy that higher-fare ticket and earn up to twice as many points. (And if you buy a Business Select ticket, it comes with priority boarding and a free premium drink to boot.)

8. Gain elite status with Southwest

Southwest is pretty egalitarian in that elite status with the airline doesn’t mean quite what it does with most other carriers. That said, A-list and A-list Preferred members still get some sweet perks, like an accelerated earnings bonus on Rapid Rewards points for each revenue flight booked: A-list members earn a 25% bonus, while A-list Preferred members earn a generous 100% bonus.

See related: Southwest A-list status

9. Use Southwest’s rental-car partners

Southwest partners with eight different rental-car partners with a global presence:

  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Payless
  • Thrifty

Make sure you get credit for your car rentals by booking through the Southwest portal. Earnings rates will vary depending on the partner, but all qualified rentals will earn you Rapid Rewards points that get you closer to your next bucket-list trip. Remember that these rentals also earn 2 points per dollar when you pay for them with a Southwest credit card.

10. Buy a Southwest vacation package

If you want to take a vacation but don’t want to bother with the logistics, Southwest offers vacation packages with travel partners that can save you from having to plan out all the details yourself. (Earnings will vary.)

At the time of this post, Southwest offered an extra 600 Rapid Rewards points per room for every qualifying stay at select MGM Resorts in Las Vegas. You can also save $100 when you spend $750 or more on your next vacation. Again, bookings through Southwest earn 2x points with Southwest cards and 3x points per dollar with qualifying Ultimate Rewards cards (and a number of other premium travel credit cards, too).

11. Earn points on your electric bill

Who knew that responsible living could fast-track you to your next getaway? Residents of Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, listen up: Southwest partners with NRG Home, and eligible customers who switch over will earn an unlimited two points per dollar spent on the supply portion of their energy bill. And after two months as an active customer, you’ll also earn 10,000 enrollment bonus Rapid Rewards points.

Meanwhile, Texans who switch to Reliant on the Reliant Secure 24 plan will receive a fixed-rate price plan for 24 months and 15,000 enrollment bonus Rapid Rewards points after sign-up. You will also get another 500 points every month for the next two years, for a total of 27,000 Rapid Rewards points. That’s $432 worth of travel, which could be worth even more if you find a Wanna Get Away award fare at a great price.

12. Book hotel stays with Southwest partners

The following Southwest hotel partners offer Rapid Rewards points for qualified stays (earnings vary by hotel and the room you book):

You can also snag an extra point per dollar when you book through Southwest’s hotel portal, and even more if you stay at a Points Plus property. From time to time, Southwest offers points promotions with increased earnings potential, so it’s a good idea to make a habit of checking the Rapid Rewards Promotions page to keep an eye out for good hotel deals.

13. Book hotel stays through Rocketmiles

Rocketmiles offers Rapid Rewards members bonuses of 1,000–10,000 Rapid Rewards points per night (or more) on stays booked directly through Rocketmiles. Depending on the hotel and the number of nights you book, a few Rocketmiles reservations could, well, rocket you toward a free ride on Southwest.

14. Complete e-Rewards surveys

One quick way to earn a few points to top off your Rapid Rewards account is by filling out market research surveys through e-Rewards. However, the process can be time-consuming in exchange for a relatively small number of points.

e-Rewards Currency can be redeemed for Rapid Rewards points in increments of:

  • $15 e-Rewards currency = 300 Rapid Rewards points
  • $25 e-Rewards currency = 600 Rapid Rewards points
  • $50 e-Rewards currency = 1,200 Rapid Rewards points
  • $100 e-Rewards currency = 2,400 Rapid Rewards points

Points take about four to six weeks from redemption to post to your Rapid Rewards account.

15. Fuel up with Marathon gas

Do you live near a Marathon gas station? If so, you might want to start filling your tank there. When you sign up for Marathon’s MakeItCount Rewards program and connect your Southwest Rapid Rewards account, you’ll earn one point per dollar spent on every gallon of gas purchased at participating Marathon locations. MakeItCount members also save 5 cents per gallon on every fill-up and earn bonus rewards on select in-store purchases.

16. Buy points through Southwest

If you need just a few more points to book that special trip or take advantage of a sweet sale deal on a Southwest flight, you could find yourself scrambling to make up the difference. We always recommend transferring points from partner accounts, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. In those moments, it might make sense to buy the rest of the points you need directly from Southwest, even though the exchange rate will be poor in comparison to most of the other options listed here.

You’re limited to purchasing Rapid Rewards points in increments of 1,000 during promotional periods and 500 during all other times, with a minimum purchase of 2,000 points. The daily maximum is a combined 60,000 points on personal and gift purchases.

17. 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 – 10,000 points per referral, up to 50,000 points total in a calendar year – by referring friends and family to a Southwest card.

The refer-a-friend bonus applies to all cards within the Southwest suite, including the business cards. Even better news: Southwest updated its refer-a-friend program in 2019, which means that current Southwest cardholders can earn bonuses on any Southwest card their referral applies (and gets approved) for.

By now, you’ve hopefully learned more than a dozen ideas to fast-track your way to your next vacation, just by tweaking some of the things you’re already doing every day. Remember, sale fares on Southwest sometimes start as low as 1,350 Rapid Rewards points for a short one-way flight, so by implementing some of these tactics, you’ll be able to trade in your hard work for a fantastic getaway in much less time than you think.

How to use Southwest Rapid Rewards

Once you’ve successfully racked up a healthy stash of Rapid Rewards points, it’s time for the fun part: deciding how to use ’em.

One of the joys of the Rapid Rewards program is that Southwest makes it simple to figure out which redemptions offer the best value. You can quickly calculate the value of your points by viewing a list of flights by price, then clicking the “points” option on Southwest’s select flight screen:

Screenshot of Southwest Airlines flight menu displaying Rapid Rewards point values.

However, to cut to the chase, we’ve summarized your options and the value for each one in the list below.

Southwest Rapid Rewards redemption options

Point value (cents)
Wanna Get Away fare1.6
Anytime fare1.1
Business Select fare0.9
Gift cards0.7
Car rentals0.7
International flights0.8
Merchandise0.6
Hotel0.2
Experiences0.8

Redeeming Rapid Rewards points for airfare

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 fares

Wanna Get Away fares offer the best value for your points: around 1.6 cents each on average. The tickets aren’t quite as flexible as Anytime and Business Select fares – you won’t get a full refund if you cancel a ticket that you paid for in cash, but Southwest will redeposit rewards into your account if you paid with points, so this is a moot point for award tickets. However, you’ll want to book well in advance, since Wanna Get Away fares tend to get snatched up quickly.

Anytime fares

An Anytime fare is nearly the same as a Wanna Get Away fare, except the ticket is fully refundable – and the price is much higher. If you can’t find a Wanna Get Away fare for your desired date and destination, an Anytime fare is your next-best bet. You’ll garner about 1.1 cents per point on an Anytime ticket.

Business Select fares

Business Select fares give you a few more privileges on Southwest: You’ll be entitled to priority boarding, a priority security lane and free drinks. However, the price of these fares is high, and you get such a poor value on redemptions – around 0.9 cents per point – that we don’t think it’s worth it to spend your points for Business Select fares.

Southwest More Rewards options

The Southwest More Rewards site provides a few more options for Rapid Rewards members who aren’t satisfied with their flight choices on Southwest. Unfortunately, the value of most items on the More Rewards site is so poor, we advise against using your points this way.

Redeeming Rapid Rewards points for gift cards

You can find gift cards for a wide variety of restaurants and retailers on the More Rewards site, with amounts ranging from $25 to $100. You’ll get the best return on $50 to $100 increments, but the value of gift cards is poor across the board, averaging only 0.7 cents per point.

Redeeming Rapid Rewards points for merchandise

You can redeem Rapid Rewards points for a variety of merchandise, including clothing, electronics and home furnishings. As with most rewards programs, merchandise is one of the worst ways to redeem your points: You’ll only get 0.6 cents per point on average.

Redeeming Rapid Rewards points for car rentals

You can use Rapid Rewards points to rent cars at a selection of agencies, including 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.

Redeeming Rapid Rewards points for international flights

While choices for international flights on Southwest are very limited, you can find options for international flights on 50-plus carriers through the More Rewards site. The flight search works much like any other travel portal: You can search by origin, destination and date and see a list of flights on various airlines sorted by price. Unfortunately, this option cuts the value of your Rapid Rewards points in half. When we compare the number of points needed for a fare to its cash price, the value averages out to 0.8 cents per point.

Redeeming Rapid Rewards points for hotels

Similar to international flights, you can use the More Rewards site to search for hotels. This is by far the worst option for redeeming your points: When comparing the redemption value for hotels in several cities, we found that the points were worth only 0.2 cents on average.

Redeeming Rapid Rewards points for Southwest Experiences

You can also redeem Rapid Rewards points for various experiences, including tours, museum admission and outdoor activities. The points required vary quite a bit with each option – some experiences appear to be overpriced, but there are some good deals to be found here and there (and some unique ideas for excursions on your next trip), so the list is worth a look.

As mentioned, Southwest keeps your redemption choices simple. While you have a few different options for spending your Rapid Rewards points, you should probably stick to using them for flights – more specifically, Wanna Get Away fares. You can count on getting around 1.6 value on every point that you redeem this way, and sometimes more.

Other things to know about Southwest Rapid Rewards

Want to know more about maximizing Southwest Rapid Rewards? Check out some of our other guides below.

*The information for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card 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.

What’s up next?

In Travel

Guide to the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Learn how to use and maximize the cash back rewards program on the Bank of America Cash Rewards card.

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report
Business
14.22%
Airline
15.53%
Cash Back
16.03%
Reward
15.84%
Student
15.98%

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more