Southwest Rapid Rewards guide
Southwest Airlines has been a longtime favorite for travelers heading to destinations in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. The airline has affordable flights, flexible booking options and minimal fees. Here’s what you need to know about the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.
What is Southwest Rapid Rewards?
Rapid Rewards is a free loyalty program that allows customers to earn points by purchasing Southwest flights, making purchases with a Southwest travel partner or spending on a Southwest credit card. You can use points on travel expenses with Southwest or one of its partners.
To sign up for Southwest Rapid Rewards, visit the program’s enrollment page.
How to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points
The primary way to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points is to book flights with the airline. The number of points you receive depends on the fare you choose, and taxes and fees aren’t included:
- Wanna Get Away—6X the fare price
- Anytime—10X the fare
- Business Select—12X the fare
If you purchased a Business Select ticket at $400 (before taxes and fees), you would receive 4,800 points. You can also earn points by making purchases with Southwest’s Rapid Rewards partners and through the Southwest Rapid Rewards dining program, which rewards you for dining out at participating restaurants.
If you need more points, you can buy them. You can purchase anywhere from 2,000 to 60,000 points at a time, in blocks of 500 (1,000 during promotions). Another Rapid Rewards member can also transfer points to you.
Southwest Rapid Rewards points value
Rapid Rewards points’ value sits around 1.3 to 1.4 cents when used for Southwest Airlines flights. As you can see from the table below, the exact value might fluctuate slightly depending on the details of your flight.
|Flight cost (USD)||Flight cost (points)||Value per point|
|Flight: LAX to SFO|
|Wanna Get Away||$129||9,272||$0.014|
|Flight: NY to AUS|
|Wanna Get Away||$303||22,494||$0.013|
|Flight: TUS to BWI|
|Wanna Get Away||$303||22,494||$0.013|
Flight costs accurate as of Sept. 3, 2020, on Southwest.com.
Best credit cards for earning Rapid Rewards points
You can earn Rapid Rewards points faster by making purchases with select travel credit cards, including co-branded Southwest Airlines cards. Here are our top picks:
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Best for a low annual fee
When you sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, you can earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Further, you’ll earn 3,000 bonus points on your account anniversary each year.
With the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus, you’ll earn 2X points on Southwest purchases; 2X points on Southwest hotel and car rental partners; 2X points on local transit and commuting (including rideshare services); 2X points on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services; and 1X points on all other purchases.
However, be aware that this card charges foreign transaction fees as well as a $69 annual fee (though the annual fee is lower than other co-branded Southwest cards).
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Best for A-list status
With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, you’ll pay a slightly higher annual fee of $99, but it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Just like the Rapid Rewards Plus, you can earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Additionally, cardholders get 6,000 points on each account anniversary, as well as 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQP) for every $10,000 you spend per year, with no limit on how much you can earn. In terms of rewards, you’ll earn 3X points on Southwest purchases; 2X points on Southwest hotel and car rental partners; 2X points on local transit and commuting (including rideshare); 2X points on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services; and 1X points on everything else.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Best for in-flight benefits
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers the same welcome bonus as the other two Rapid Rewards cards—40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. You’ll also get 7,500 points each account anniversary year and you can earn up to 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend per year (no limit), allowing you to reach A-List status faster.
For rewards, you’ll earn 3X points on Southwest purchases; 2X points on Southwest’s Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners; 2X points on local transit and commuting (including rideshare); 2X points on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services; and 1X points on all other purchases.
Though this card has a slightly higher annual fee of $149, it comes with some valuable perks: A $75 Southwest travel credit each year (automatically applied on eligible purchases), no foreign transaction fees, 25 percent back on in-flight purchases (like drinks and Wi-Fi) and complimentary upgrades four times per year (when available).
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best for earning double points
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can get 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of opening the account. More importantly for this guide, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to the Rapid Rewards program at a rate of 1:1.
The card comes with an annual fee of $95, and you’ll get benefits like a $50 hotel credit through Chase, no foreign transaction fees and numerous travel protections. For rewards, you’ll earn 5X points on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and Lyft Rides (Lyft offer through March 2025); 3X points on dining, select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs); 2X points on other travel; and 1X points on all other purchases. All of this gives you more opportunities to earn points at a higher rate than you would with a co-branded credit card.
Diners Club Card Premier: Best for low-cost travel perks
Southwest Airlines and Diners Club have teamed up so you can convert your Diners Club Card points into Rapid Rewards points. With the Diners Club Card Premier*, you’ll earn 1X Club Rewards points for every dollar you spend. However, you’ll lose a little value by transferring points to Rapid Rewards since 1,500 Club Rewards points equals 1,200 Rapid Rewards points.
Additionally, the Diners Club Card Premier costs $95 a year, has no foreign transaction fees and comes with a global network of airport lounges and car rental discounts, plus an assistant that will help you book travel excursions.
Redeeming Southwest Rapid Rewards points
You can use points to purchase flights without blackout dates. The number of points you’ll need to buy a flight depends on the fare and can vary by day and demand. There are a few restrictions to note as well. You can’t purchase special fares (like tickets for children or infants) with points. Further, charter flights, fares purchased through a travel agent, Southwest vacation packages and group travel are not eligible to purchase with points.
If you are a More Rewards program member with a Rapid Rewards credit card, you can also redeem your points for international flights offered by other airlines, gift cards, hotel stays, rental cars and merchandise, though redemption value will vary.
Southwest Airlines doesn’t readily advertise which airlines it partners with, but you can use your points toward international travel with partner airlines under its More Rewards program.
On the other hand, the company has many hotels and resorts it partners with, some of which include:
- Southwest Hotels
- Best Western Hotels and Resorts
- Choice Hotels
- World of Hyatt
- Marriott Bonvoy
- MGM Resorts International
Each of these partner hotels will give you Rapid Rewards points when you spend with them.
Southwest elite status: What you need to know
As you climb Southwest’s tiers, you can boost points even faster. Southwest A-List status earns you 25 percent more points on qualifying flights, while A-list Preferred status earns a 100 percent bonus on qualifying flights.
A-List status also comes with priority boarding, priority check-in and security lane access, and a dedicated member phone line. You can reach A-list status by earning 35,000 tier qualifying points or taking 25 qualifying flights in one calendar year.
A-List Preferred status comes with everything above, plus free in-flight Wi-Fi. To reach A-list status, you’ll need 70,000 tier qualifying points or 50 qualifying flights in one calendar year.
Earning the Southwest Companion Pass
A Southwest Companion Pass lets members choose one person to fly with them for free (except taxes and other fees) every calendar year, and it typically takes a lot of work to obtain it.
For existing cardmembers, you’ll need to either fly 100 qualifying one-way trips or earn 125,000 qualifying points in one calendar year. You can earn these points by using your Rapid Rewards credit card or making purchases with partner companies. Once you have achieved the requirements, you can add a companion to each flight you purchase using your Southwest Rapid Rewards login.
How Southwest Rapid Rewards compares to other frequent flyer programs
Each frequent flyer program is slightly different and has its own earning structure and perks. Like Southwest, the JetBlue TrueBlue program provides 2X points on travel with the airline and it has no blackout dates. This program also lets you pool points with friends and family.
Unlike Southwest, JetBlue partners with many other airlines, which expands your redemption options. If you’re looking for a program with extensive opportunities to travel internationally, you might also benefit from joining a larger airline’s program, like Delta SkyMiles, American Airlines AAdvantage or United MileagePlus.
The bottom line
Frequent flyer programs are free to join, so you can earn rewards with every airline you fly. However, if you’re looking for one program to stick with, the best program for you will depend on which airline you fly with most often.
*The information about the Diners Club Card Premier has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.