Maximize rewards with Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining® program

Monkey Business Images/

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired.

If you’re a frequent Southwest Airlines flyer, you’ve probably signed up with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® program. However, you might not be taking full advantage of the Southwest dining program. If you’re hoping to earn Southwest tickets, the Rapid Rewards Dining® program is one of the best ways to turn food into flights.

What is Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining?

As part of Rapid Rewards, Southwest has a dining program that lets members earn additional points by dining out at participating restaurants. Since traveling often involves restaurant meals, the dining program is a great way to make the most of your current trip to start saving up points for your next one. Even if you travel only a few times a year, these dining program rewards can help you turn even everyday work lunches and weekend brunches into free flights.

How can you earn points with the dining program?

When you sign up for Rapid Rewards, Southwest doesn’t automatically enroll you in the dining program. You’ll need to visit Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Dining site, log in with your Rapid Rewards account information and join the dining program.

Once you’ve joined, select a credit or debit card and link it to your Rapid Rewards Dining account. You can link up to 12 credit or debit cards. From there, you can begin earning points with the dining program.

Use a linked card to pay for meals at participating restaurants

The easiest way to earn points with Rapid Rewards Dining is by using a linked credit or debit card to pay for meals at participating restaurants. Keep in mind that if you pick a debit card, you need to use it like a credit card; if you enter your PIN number with debit, you won’t be able to earn Rapid Rewards points on your purchase.

You earn 0.5x Rapid Rewards points per every $1 spent, including tax and tip — however, your rewards bump up to 3x points per $1 spent if you sign up to receive Rapid Rewards Dining emails.

When you use a linked card to pay for a meal at a participating restaurant, Southwest will automatically add Rapid Rewards points to your account. You don’t need to sign in before you dine or present a membership card. All you have to do is enjoy your meal and pay with a credit or debit card linked to your Southwest dining account.

Sign up for Rapid Rewards Dining emails

Signing up for Rapid Rewards Dining emails is one of the easiest ways to increase your dining rewards. Instead of earning 0.5x Rapid Rewards points for every $1 you spend, your rewards jump to 3x points per $1.

You’ll receive a Rapid Rewards Dining email roughly once a week, and the emails include fun and interesting restaurant recommendations — you just might find a new favorite restaurant!

Leave a restaurant review

After you visit a participating Southwest Rapid Rewards restaurant, you’ll be prompted to leave a review. Every review earns you 10 bonus points, so don’t miss this opportunity. Make sure your review follows Southwest’s review guidelines, though; you can be positive or negative, but don’t be insulting. As Southwest puts it: “Focus only on your dining experience — the food, service, cleanliness, or value.”

Earn bonuses

In addition to the bonuses you can earn by writing restaurant reviews, the Rapid Rewards Dining program includes three big bonus opportunities:

  • New Member Bonus: Receive 1,000 bonus points if you opt into Rapid Rewards Southwest Dining emails, dine at a participating restaurant, spend $25 or more, and leave a review within your first 30 days of membership.
  • First Step Bonus: Receive 500 bonus points after you earn your first 1,500 points dining at restaurants and completing reviews. (Your New Member Bonus does not count towards this total.)
  • Thank You Bonus: Receive 300 bonus points every time you accrue an additional 1,000 points from dining and completing reviews.

Which cards are best to earn Southwest Rapid Points?

If you have an airline credit card that earns Southwest Rapid Rewards, you might assume that’s the best card to use with the Rapid Rewards Dining program. However, there are also advantages to using a travel credit card that lets you transfer points to Southwest, or a rewards credit card that earns points on dining. Here are our top three recommendations:

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers an unlimited 4 percent cash back on dining and entertainment. If you link the Savor Cash Rewards card to your Rapid Rewards Southwest dining account, you’ll earn 3x Rapid Rewards points per dollar (assuming you signed up for those Southwest emails) plus 4 percent cash back. Linking one of the top credit cards for restaurant rewards to your dining account is a great way to make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

If you really want to rack up those Rapid Rewards points, use a Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card that allows you to transfer points to participating travel programs and transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 2x points per dollar on travel and dining, which means that you can earn up to 5x Rapid Rewards points per dollar on purchases at participating restaurants: 3x from the dining program and 2x Ultimate Rewards points that you can turn into Rapid Rewards points.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card earns 2 points per $1 spent on all other Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases. This means that if you link your Rapid Rewards Premier card to your Southwest dining account, you can earn up to 4x Rapid Rewards points per dollar: 3x from the dining program and x1 from the Rapid Rewards Premier card.

How much are Rapid Rewards points worth?

Figuring out how much an individual Rapid Rewards point is worth, or how many points it’ll take to get a free flight, isn’t an exact science. To quote Southwest:

The number of points needed for a particular Southwest flight is set by Southwest and will vary depending on destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare type, point redemption rate, and other factors, and is subject to change at any time until the booking is confirmed.

The Points Guy estimates the monetary value of a Southwest Rapid Rewards point at 1.5 cents. In other words, 50,000 Rapid Rewards points could help you cover the cost of a $750 flight (minus taxes and fees), depending on destination, time, day of travel, demand and so on.

How can you maximize your Southwest Rapid Reward points?

If you’d like to earn as many Rapid Rewards points as possible, make sure you sign up for Rapid Rewards Dining emails — that small step alone will increase your dining points by a whopping 500 percent, since you’ll go from earning 0.5x points to 3x points per $1 spent.

Then, get to know the restaurants in your area that participate in the Rapid Rewards program, so you can spend your dining dollars in a way that earns rewards. If you’re going out to dinner with your family or grabbing lunch with your coworkers, suggest a restaurant that earns Rapid Rewards points.

Every time you eat at a participating restaurant, make sure to leave a review and earn your 10 bonus points — and don’t forget about those three special bonuses: New Member, First Step and Thank You. These might not be the only bonuses available, so make sure you sign up for those Southwest dining emails to learn about all the ways you can maximize your points.