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Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Loyalty Program Review

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U.S.

Chicago Midway, Baltimore-Washington, Las Vegas, Dallas Love Field, Denver, Phoenix, Houston Hobby, Atlanta

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Branded and Partnered Credit Cards

You can use several credit cards to earn Rapid Rewards points directly or through points transfers.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards

You can earn Rapid Rewards directly with any of the 5 Southwest co-branded Chase cards. First, let’s take a look at the 3 consumer cards available.

Additionally, there are 2 Southwest business cards:

Chase Ultimate Rewards Credit Cards

Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Southwest Airlines at a 1:1 ratio. That means you can take advantage of the numerous bonus categories on Chase Ultimate Rewards cards to earn lots of points, which can be instantly transferred to Southwest.

Business Owner? Check out our article on the best Chase business cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points.

Southwest Airlines Overview

While Southwest started as a budget airline, today it’s one of the largest U.S. airlines. Southwest has continued to expand its offerings with flights to Hawaii and several popular international destinations, including Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Despite difficulties at the end of 2022 that resulted in an operational meltdown, Southwest remains a favorite airline for many travelers due to its customer-friendly policies, such as free checked bags and no change fees.

Rapid Rewards is the airline’s loyalty program that allows passengers to earn and use points for flights.

How To Join Southwest Rapid Rewards

Visit the Southwest website and click Create account to join for free.

You can create a free Rapid Rewards account online. Image Credit: Southwest

How To Sign In to Your Rapid Rewards Account

You can sign in to your Rapid Rewards account on the Southwest.com homepage. You’ll need your account number or username and password.

You’ll need your account number, username, and password to log in to your Rapid Rewards account. Image Credit: Southwest

Viewing Your Account Activity

After logging in, click on My Account to see a summary of your trips, points, promotions, and progress toward elite status.

Click on My Account to see your points balance, flights, and progress toward elite status. Image Credit: Southwest

Points Expiration

Rapid Rewards points don’t expire if your account is open and in good standing.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Elite Status and Companion Pass

There are 2 levels of Southwest Airlines elite status — A-List and A-List Preferred. The Southwest Companion Pass isn’t technically an elite status, as having the pass doesn’t come with any elite benefits, but it offers huge perks when flying on Southwest Airlines.

Southwest A-List Status

Southwest A-List status is earned after flying 25 qualifying one-way flights or earning 35,000 tier-qualifying points in a calendar year.

Tier qualifying points are only earned in 2 ways — through paid Southwest flights or credit card spending. You can earn 1,500 TQP per $10,000 spent on select Southwest credit cards

A-List status comes with the following benefits:

  • 25% point bonus
  • Dedicated A-List member phone line
  • Free same-day standby
  • Priority boarding
  • Priority check-in and security
  • Same-day confirmed changes with no difference in base fare

Southwest A-List Preferred Status

Southwest A-List Preferred status is earned after flying 50 qualifying one-way flights or earning 70,000 tier-qualifying points in a calendar year. It comes with all of the benefits of A-List status plus these additional perks:

  • 100% point bonus
  • Dedicated A-List Preferred member phone line
  • Free inflight Wi-Fi

Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is considered one of the best deals in travel. It essentially lets you fly 2-for-1 for up to 2 years.

To earn the Companion Pass, you’ll need to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year or earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.

Companion Pass qualifying points include credit card welcome bonuses plus points earned from revenue flights, Southwest credit card spending, partner hotel and car rentals, Rapid Rewards dining, and Rapid Rewards shopping.

After earning the Companion Pass, you can add a companion to any Southwest ticket for the rest of the calendar year in which you earn the pass plus the entire following calendar year. All you need to do is pay the taxes and fees for the companion, which are $5.60 for a domestic one-way flight (taxes and fees are higher on international flights).

Value of Rapid Rewards Elite Status

One of the most significant benefits of A-List and A-List Preferred status is priority boarding. Southwest’s boarding process differs from other airlines because there are no assigned seats. Instead, you’re assigned a boarding position based on a few factors, including when you check in and your status level.

Having Southwest elite status removes the need to check in exactly 24 hours ahead of time and more or less guarantees you’ll be able to get seats with your traveling companions — and won’t get stuck in a middle seat.

If you generally pay for EarlyBird Check-In or value not having to worry about your boarding position, Southwest’s elite status can be very valuable.

How To Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

There are many ways to earn Rapid Rewards points.

Flying on Southwest Airlines

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

  • Business Select: 12 points per dollar
  • Anytime: 10 points per dollar
  • Wanna Get Away Plus: 8 points per dollar
  • Wanna Get Away: 6 points per dollar

Travelers with A-List status earn additional bonus points.

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

Earn Points With Travel Partners

You can earn Rapid Rewards points by booking travel through select travel partners.

  • Car rental partners: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National, Payless, Thrifty
  • Hotel partners: SouthwestHotels.com, Best Western, Radisson Rewards Americas, Choice Hotels, Hyatt, Marriott, MGM Rewards, Rocketmiles

Earn Points With Shopping, Dining, and Specialty Partners

Southwest has a variety of ways to earn Rapid Rewards points without flying, including shopping, dining, home, and specialty partners that can help you earn more Rapid Rewards points.

Earn Points With Credit Cards

Southwest offers 5 co-branded credit cards:

You can also earn Rapid Rewards points through Ultimate Rewards credit cards since Chase and Southwest are 1:1 transfer partners.

You need at least 1 premium travel rewards card (marked **) to transfer to Southwest. As long as you have 1 eligible transfer card, you can consolidate all your Ultimate Rewards points to that card to then transfer them to Southwest (or any of Chase’s other partners).

How To Redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

Southwest awards are only available on Southwest flights and are revenue-based, so the price in points will be based on the cash cost. Finding awards is straightforward. Search on Southwest.com, and if a flight is available to book in cash, it will also be available to book using points.

You can easily toggle back and forth between the points and cash costs of any flight. The dollar amount shown under the points price is the taxes and fees.

It’s easy to see each flight’s cost in points as well as cash. Image Credit: Southwest

The information regarding the Chase Freedom Flex℠ was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Once you’ve signed up for Rapid Rewards, you gain the ability to earn and use points on flights as well as the opportunity to earn elite status.

Rapid Rewards points are easy to earn, and there are no blackout dates when it comes time to redeem them. If a flight is available in cash, it can be booked with points.

Southwest’s elite status tiers are A-List and A-List Preferred, and benefits include priority boarding and bonus points.

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.

If you have it available, you can find your Rapid Rewards number by signing into your account with your email and password; your number will be shown on the My Account screen.

You can always call Southwest customer service to find your number.

Southwest Rapid Rewards points don’t expire as long as your account is active and in good standing.

Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth about 1.3 cents each.

Yes, if you cancel a Southwest flight that is booked with points, your points will be redeposited into your account.

Yes, Rapid Rewards points are transferable, but it’s expensive. You’ll pay $5 per 500 points transferred with a minimum of 2,000 points per transaction. A better option would be to use them to book a flight for someone else.

While a complete list can be found here, some of them include:

Best Western, Choice Hotels, Hyatt, Marriott, Avis, Hertz, Dollar, 1-800-Flowers, and Reliant Energy.

The Southwest Companion Pass is the highest award in the Rapid Rewards program.

Once you’ve reached 100 one-way flights or earned 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year, you can take a companion on any flight with you for just the cost of the taxes and fees, which in the U.S. are $5.60 each way.

This status is good immediately once you meet the requirements through the remainder of the following calendar year. For example, a Companion Pass earned in October 2023 will be valid through December 2024.

About Alex Miller

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business, The New York Times, and more.

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3 comments

Chris Reynolds

June 14, 2018

It is worth mentioning that booking a hotel with southwest rapid rewards is the most miserable experience booking a hotel of a persons life. Their website speed and capabilities remind me of a website from the late 90’s being run on a farm in Missouri. It took me 2.5 hours to book one hotel for one night in Florence, Italy because the slow site and false advertising. Each time I would chose a hotel the points would rise by 4000 and then I would have to go back and find another options. Miserable experience.

stephen roccia

August 21, 2021

My company requires me to use their corporate AmEx card to book flights. If I fly Southwest, will I still gain points even if I do not use the Chase Premier card?

Katie Seemann

August 23, 2021

Hi Stephen,
Yes, if you are flying Southwest you will earn Southwest points for your flight as long as your Rapid Rewards number is tied to the reservation.

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