Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Loyalty Program Review

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Loyalty Program

Southwest Summary Table

Branded and Partnered Credit Cards

There are several credit cards you can use to earn Rapid Rewards points directly or through points transfer.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards

You can earn Rapid Rewards directly with any of 3 co-branded Chase cards.

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit CardLimited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 points
Earn 2x Rapid Rewards points with Southwest and Southwest hotel and car rental partners
Annual Fee: $99
Full Review
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit CardLimited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 points
Earn 2x Rapid Rewards points with Southwest and Southwest hotel and car rental partners
Annual Fee: $69
Full Review

Chase Ultimate Rewards Credit Cards

If you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can get more Rapid Rewards points even quicker thanks to numerous bonus categories.

Personal Cards

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

(Our #1 rewards card).
  • 50,000 bonus points.
  • That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through
    Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide.
  • Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $95
  • Our Review
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card
  • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Our Review
Chase Freedom®
  • Earn 5% cash back in bonus categories
  • No annual fee
  • Our Review
Chase Freedom Unlimited℠

Business Cards

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
  • Earn 3 points per $1 in select categories
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Our Review
Chase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
  • Earn 5% cash back in select business categories
  • No Annual Fee
  • Our Review

Hotel Partner Credit Cards

A few hotel programs will let you transfer points to Southwest. However, this is almost always a poor use of hotel points. Unless you are really in a bind, save your hotel points for hotel award stays at your destination.

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints®
  • Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights.
  • Up to 5x Starpoints® on eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Detailed Review
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints®
  • Up to 5x Starpoints® on eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Detailed Review
Chase Hyatt Credit Card
  • 3x points at Hyatt properties and 2x points at restaurants, airfare purchased directly from the airline and car rental agencies
  • Annual Fee: $75
  • Detailed Review
Chase Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
  • 5 Points Per $1 Spent at Marriott Rewards and SPG hotels.
  • Annual Fee: $85
  • Detailed Review

Southwest Airlines Overview

Southwest’s place in the public mind is still as a U.S. budget airline, and Rapid Rewards is Southwest’s loyalty program.

Today’s reality is that Southwest is one of the largest U.S. airlines that also flies to a number of popular vacation destinations in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Southwest has stayed true to its customer-friendly policies such as 2 free checked bags per person on every ticket, while the “legacy” U.S. airlines have frequently cut travel benefits. With the rollout of restrictive basic economy fares on American, Delta, and United, you could even consider these as more “budget” airlines now based on travel experience.

Rapid Rewards is a revenue-based program, meaning you earn points based on the amount spent on flights rather than distance flown. Similarly, you redeem points based on the price of the ticket. However, point values are not fixed — they fluctuate based on several factors, so pick what flights to use them on to get the best value.

Joining Rapid Rewards

Vist the Southwest website to join for free here.

Southwest Enroll Rapid Rewards

How to Sign in to Your Rapid Rewards Account

Sign in on the southwest.com homepage. You’ll need your account number or username and password.

Southwest Log In Rapid Rewards

Viewing Your Account Activity

Use the My Rapid Rewards page to manage your profile and see your account snapshot, activity, and promotions.

Points Expiration

Rapid Rewards points expire after 24 months of inactivity. Any earning or redeeming activity qualifies to reset the clock.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Mileage Program

Southwest Airlines A-List Status

Rapid Rewards has 2 elite status levels, A-List and A-List Preferred.

A-List Benefits:

  • Priority check-in and security
  • Priority boarding
  • Free same-day standby
  • 25% point bonus

A-List Preferred Benefits:

  • All A-List benefits, plus
  • Free inflight Wi-Fi
  • 100% point bonus

Value of Rapid Rewards Elite Status

Southwest Airlines does not have first class seats or worldwide airline partners, so many of the elite benefits of other airline programs are not relevant. Similarly, since Southwest tickets come with free checked baggage and their generous change/cancel policy, elite status holders don’t need these kinds of fee waivers.

What A-List and A-List Preferred do add are a few choice travel benefits that improve the Southwest flying experience.

Without advance seat assignments, priority boarding through A-List is a great benefit.

Moving up to A-List Preferred, free inflight Wi-Fi is a benefit provided by no other U.S. airline elite status.

Beyond A-List Preferred there is the Companion Pass that we discuss below. It does not come with any traditional elite benefits, but it solely awards free companion travel. It is also earned by a different method than A-List, making it possible to have a Companion Pass without A-List status.

Earning A-List Status

A-List is earned by 25 one-way flights or 35,000 Tier Qualifying Points (TQP) per calendar year.

A-List Preferred requires double that: 50 one-way flights or 70,000 Tier Qualifying Points.

Tier Qualifying Points are only earned in 2 ways:

  • Paid Southwest flights
  • Spending on Southwest Airlines credit cards (1,500 TQP per $10,000 spend, up to maximum 15,000 TQP earned this way).

How to Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

There are many ways to earn Rapid Rewards points. Our earn 100k+ Southwest points in 90 days shows how fast you can do it!

Flying Southwest

You earn Rapid Rewards points for Southwest flights based on your fare type and price:

  • Business Select – 12 points per dollar (excludes taxes and fees)
  • Anytime – 10 points per dollar (excludes taxes and fees)
  • Wanna Get Away – 6 points per dollar (excludes taxes and fees)

Travelers with A-List status earn additional bonus points:

  • A-List — 25% bonus Rapid Rewards points
  • A-List Preferred— 100% bonus Rapid Rewards points

Flying Partner Airlines

Southwest does not have partner airlines.

Earn Points With Rental Car Partners

Earn 600 points per rental when you book a car through Southwest’s rental car partners.

These are especially useful for rentals with agencies where many other airlines offer few or no miles: Alamo, Budget, Dollar, Thrifty, and Payless. You can also earn points with Avis, Hertz, and National.

Even better, check out special offers for rental cars. Current offers for Rapid Rewards members include 1,200-2,400 bonus points plus up to 35% off rentals through January 2018!

Earn Points With Other Partners

Rapid Rewards has many additional partners. See Best Ways to Earn Lots of Southwest Rapid Rewards Points for our picks.

Earn Points With Credit Card Partners

Southwest offers 3 credit cards through its bank partner Chase:

  • The Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card earns 2x on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases, plus a 6,000-point bonus every card anniversary
  • The Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card earns 2x on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases, plus a 3,000-point bonus every card anniversary
  • The Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card earns 2x on Southwest purchases, plus a 6,000-point bonus every card anniversary

Chase credit cards with Ultimate Rewards earn points quickly in bonus categories, which can be seen in the table below.

You need at least 1 premium travel rewards card (“*” in below table) to transfer to Southwest. As long as you have 1 eligible transfer card, you can consolidate all your Ultimate Rewards points to that card.

Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Rapid Rewards at a 1:1 rate.

CategoryApplicable Credit CardsBonus miles
Office Supply StoresChase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card5x
Cell Phones/LandlinesInk Business Preferred℠ Credit Card*3x
 Chase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card5x
Internet/CableInk Business Preferred℠ Credit Card*3x
 Chase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card5x
Shipping PurchasesInk Business Preferred℠ Credit Card*3x
Select AdvertisingInk Business Preferred℠ Credit Card*3x
Gas StationsChase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card2x
 Chase Freedom®5x (during quarterly bonus)
RestaurantsChase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card2x
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card*2x
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card*3x
Chase Freedom®5x (during quarterly bonus)
HotelsChase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card2x
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card*2x
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card*3x
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card*3x
All TravelChase Sapphire Preferred® Card*2x
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card*3x
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card*3x
Quarterly Bonus CategoryChase Freedom®5x
All PurchasesChase Freedom Unlimited℠1.5x
All Other PurchasesAll cards except the Chase Freedom Unlimited℠1x

Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal

Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal

Southwest’s shopping portal allows you to earn points for shopping online. Once registered, check your email for regular promotions to earn extra bonus miles.

See our guide on How to Maximize the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal.

 The Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining Program

Southwest’s Dining Program earns 3 points per dollar when dining at restaurants in the network. (If you decline to receive email notifications you only earn 1 point per $2.)

Sign-up bonuses range from 300 to 2,000 points and change from time to time. Bonuses typically require at least 1 qualifying dine within 30 days of registration, so plan ahead prior to joining.

Rapid Rewards Dining is provided by Rewards Network, which also manages the other major airline dining programs. You can be in multiple programs, though each credit card can only be registered in 1 program at a time.

See our guide on How to Maximize the Rapid Rewards Dining Program.

How to Redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

Southwest awards are only available on Southwest flights and are revenue-based, so finding awards is straightforward: search on Southwest.com to show the price in points.

This does not mean points are the same value for every flight. Points value is based on “destination, time, travel date, demand, fare class, and other factors.”

Often, Southwest points price at:

  • Business Select fare: 120 points/$1 (e.g., $300 fare = 36,000 points)
  • Anytime fare: 100 points/$1 (e.g., $300 fare = 30,000 points)
  • Wanna Get Away fare: 70 points/$1 (e.g., $300 fare = 21,000 points)

The Southwest Destination Finder is a good tool to search routes and estimate price, though you still need to search for the points price on specific flights.

 

Southwest Destination Finder

The Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is unique among U.S. airlines and prized by many travelers.

You’ll be granted the Companion Pass after earning 110,000 points in a calendar year by the following means:

  • Southwest flights (base points only, not bonus points)
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card sign-up bonus and purchases
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining purchases
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping portal purchases

What doesn’t count (these rules were updated April 1, 2017 to eliminate options such as partner hotel transfers):

  • Points transferred from other programs or accounts such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or hotel partners
  • Purchased points
  • Flight bonus points
  • Tier bonus points
  • Points earned from surveys
  • Partner bonus points

Timing the Companion Pass

The Companion Pass is valid from the date it is earned to December 31 of the following year.

If you earn 110,000 points in January, you’ll have nearly 2 years of Companion Pass!

Picking a Companion

You must designate a companion for your Companion Pass.

Should you need to change companions, you can do so up to 3 times per year.

Your companion cannot use the Companion Pass without you, so you must be present on all travel using the pass. It is possible to book your companion for only a portion of your itinerary.

How to Use the Companion Pass

You can use the Companion Pass on any paid or award Southwest travel. Enjoy!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Apply Now

FAQ

What is Southwest Rapid Rewards? Is it worth it? What does it cost?
The Southwest Airlines frequent flyer program is called Southwest Rapid Rewards. It is similar to other airline loyalty programs in that you sign up, earn points and elite status, and redeem for rewards.

It is a free program, which means the benefits are typically worth the effort of signing up.

What are the benefits of Southwest Rapid Rewards?
Once you’ve signed up to Rapid Rewards, you get access to elite status benefits and rewards by earning points on flights.

Earning points in Rapid Rewards is on a per-dollar-spent basis, both on flights and through travel partners. When redeeming, there are no blackout dates.

Southwest’s elite status tiers are A-List and A-List Preferred, and the Companion Pass is the highest award tier available (though it isn’t exactly an elite status).

Benefits of the various levels include priority boarding, bonus points, standby priority, and unlimited companion tickets (at the top tier).

In addition to using points to book rewards tickets, you can also use your points on travel partners. These include hotels and rental cars as well as shopping and more.

Because Southwest only flies domestically as a low-cost carrier, they partner with most major airlines to redeem international flights using points.

Where is my Southwest Rapid Rewards number?
You can find your Rapid Rewards number in a few different ways. First, you can sign in to your rewards account with your email and password if you have it available; your number will be shown on your account screen.

Next, you can find it on your membership card if you have it.

If you can’t access your accounts, you can use the “forgot my password” tool to send an email to your account. Finally, you can always call Southwest’s customer service in order to find your number.

What is the Southwest Rapid Rewards login? How do I sign up?
You can log in to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program here. You can sign up to the program here.

When do Southwest Rapid Rewards expire?
Points expire after 24 months of no qualifying activity; simply earn or redeem points during this time to keep points active.

What are Southwest Rapid Rewards points worth?
In general, points have been worth anywhere from $0.013 to $0.02 each. Your points are redeemed in dollar values, so whatever the cost of the flight is, you’ll pay for it with points.

Are Southwest Rapid Rewards points refundable?
Yes, any unused points are returned to your account on flights you have booked. If you need to make a change, you can call and update your reservation with no change fees.

Are Southwest Rapid Rewards points transferable?
Yes, you can transfer your Rapid Rewards points to another member.

Who are the Southwest Rapid Rewards partners?
While a complete list can be found here, some of them include:

Best Western, Choice Hotels, Hyatt, LaQuinta Inns, Marriott, SPG, Avis, Hertz, Dollar rental cars, Super Shuttle, 1-800-Flowers, and Reliant Energy.

Is there a Southwest Airlines credit card?
Yes, there are a few different cards: the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, and the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card.

You can also use Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardInk Business Preferred℠ Credit CardChase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit CardChase Freedom®Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card or Chase Freedom Unlimited℠ to transfer to Rapid Rewards.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is the highest award available in Rapid Rewards.

Once you’ve reached 100 one-way flights or 110,000 points, you will get the ability to take 1 companion on any flight with you for free (they pay for taxes and fees, which in the U.S. are $5.60 each way).

This status is good immediately once you reach the level and through the remainder of the calendar year, then again for the rest of the following calendar year. In order to maintain the status, you must reach this level each year.

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