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At the core of Southwest Airlines is its philosophy of Transfarency® — treating customers fairly and keeping fares low. This customer-first approach has landed Southwest consistently among the United States' most popular airlines, serving over 134 million passengers in 2019. Southwest offers its rewarding Rapid Rewards loyalty program that encourages passengers to fly with the airline. The Southwest frequent flyer program includes a strong co-branded credit card lineup and a unique companion pass that allows you to enjoy unlimited 2-for-1 flights.
Keep reading to learn more about Southwest Rapid Rewards and why frequent flyers of Southwest Airlines should get on board with this program.
What is Southwest Rapid Rewards?
Southwest Rapid Rewards is the frequent flyer program for Southwest Airlines that rewards loyal members who fly with the quirky carrier. Rapid Rewards is a fully revenue-based program, where the number of points earned or needed for an award is reflective of the cash fare. The program has operated as such since it launched in 2011.
Rapid Rewards has some unique features. Southwest makes every seat available as a reward seat, without blackout dates or capacity controls. Points are rewarded based on the fare type and ticket cost, and reward flight prices often start at a very low number of points. One other distinct feature of the program is the renowned Southwest Companion Pass, to be discussed further below.
Southwest Rapid Rewards overview
|Where does Southwest fly?||Lower 48 U.S. States, Hawaii, and limited destinations in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean|
|Hub airports||Southwest does not operate traditional hub airports like other airlines. However, they have a number of airports where they have a concentrated number of flights, including: |
|Airline alliance||Doesn't belong to an alliance|
|Airline lounges||No lounge network|
|Number of miles needed for a free flight||Varies based on the cash ticket price. Generally ranges from 2,600 to over 29,000 points each way.|
|Southwest miles value||Varies. Typically ~1.5 cents.|
How much are Southwest points worth?
The value of Southwest Rapid Rewards points varies depending on the route and dates booked. A good average estimation for Rapid Rewards points is 1.5 cents each. The value of Southwest miles is higher than average when compared to the value of award miles for some of its U.S. competitors.
As a general rule, shorter, cheaper cash tickets offer better value per point than longer or pricier fares, although this doesn’t hold true 100% of the time. For example:
- Las Vegas to Los Angeles midweek in November - $45 or 2,652 points
- Chicago to Dallas midweek in early November - $50 or 3,042 points
- San Jose to Baltimore on a Monday in November - $131 or 9,048 points
- Oakland to Denver on Monday week of Thanksgiving - $175 or 12,012 points
- Boston to Los Angeles on Tuesday Week of Thanksgiving - $316 or 23,478 points
- Seattle to Boston the day before Thanksgiving - $640 or 48,741 points
Subtracting the $5.60 TSA fee (which is levied on award tickets) from the one-way cash prices, the value for each of the award tickets is as follows:
- Las Vegas to Los Angeles midweek in November - 1.50 cents per point
- Chicago to Dallas midweek in early November - 1.48 cents per point
- San Jose to Baltimore Washington midweek in November - 1.38 cents per point
- Oakland to Denver the Sunday before Thanksgiving - 1.41 cents per point
- Boston to Los Angeles the Tuesday before Thanksgiving - 1.32 cents per point
- Seattle to Boston on a Sunday early in November - 1.31 cents per point
Pros and cons of Southwest Rapid Rewards
Rapid Rewards, Southwest’s frequent flyer program, has long been a favorite for its simplicity. Between Southwest making every seat available as a reward seat and the airline's lack of change and cancellation fees, it’s no surprise that many frequent flyers are incredibly loyal to Southwest. Rapid Rewards has been named "Program of the Year" for five consecutive years by travelers voting for the Freddie Awards, which honors companies and programs in the business of travel loyalty.
Some of the best features of Southwest Airlines and its Rapid Rewards loyalty program include:
- No change fees. When you change a cash or award ticket, you only pay the difference in fare, in either points or dollars.
- No cancellation fees. While some Southwest fares are still nonrefundable, you retain the entire ticket value for a future flight purchase. Award fares can be canceled for free and all miles redeposited up until 10 minutes before departure. The Southwest cancellation policy is rare among U.S. airlines.
- No blackout dates for award seats. All seats on all dates are offered as reward seats in the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.
- Cheap award flights at times. When revenue fares are very low, Southwest reward seats are available for very few points.
- Two free checked bags. All Southwest fares include two free checked bags. The Southwest baggage policy can save you a lot of money compared to other U.S. carriers. Southwest’s carry-on policy offers you one free cabin bag plus one personal item as well.
- Companion Pass. Southwest offers one of the most unique benefits among airline loyalty programs: its famed Companion Pass. The Companion Pass allows you to enjoy 2-for-1 flights for at least a full calendar year after qualifying for it.
- Easy point redemption. You don’t have to navigate complicated charts or itineraries to redeem your rewards. Southwest offers three fare types — Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select — with point values pretty consistent between its fare types, so it's easy to figure out how to redeem points for the best value. Not to mention, Southwest has a user-friendly website, which could make the redemption process a breeze.
Southwest and the Rapid Rewards loyalty program do have their downsides, however. For example, the revenue-based system is a double-edged sword — while you’re rewarded with miles of above-average value, there is no way to get outsized value by using them for premium seats, as with other carriers.
Here are some downsides to Southwest Airlines and the Rapid Rewards program:
- Expensive reward flights during peak travel periods. When revenue fares are very high, Southwest reward seats require a large number of points.
- Lack of airline partners. Southwest Airlines does not belong to an airline alliance, nor does it partner with any other airlines independently, so your Rapid Rewards points cannot take you to places such as Europe or Asia when used directly for flights. You’re restricted just to the Southwest route map, which includes the 48 contiguous U.S. states and Hawaii, as well as a limited number of international destinations, all within North America.
- Lack of regional airport coverage. Southwest Airlines only operates Boeing 737 type aircraft and generally flies to medium-to-large airports. For people living in rural communities, Southwest may not serve an airport close to you. As an example, Southwest does not serve any destinations within Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota or South Dakota.
- No first class. Southwest has a single cabin class — economy. If you like to use your miles to fly a premium product, Southwest may not be the airline for you.
You’ll also need to get used to Southwest’s unique boarding procedure, if you’re not already familiar with it. Rather than assign seats to individuals, passengers are assigned a boarding group and number and then queue up in order. You may then choose any open seat on the plane once you board. Some passengers have expressed love for this system, while others despise it.
How to earn Southwest points
There are plenty of ways to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points, from flying on Southwest Airlines to earning through Southwest's shopping and hotel partners. Here are some of the top ways of earning Rapid Rewards points:
The most straightforward way to earn Rapid Rewards points is to fly with Southwest Airlines. The number of points you earn depends on the type of ticket booked and your Southwest status level. The cheapest Southwest fares are branded as Wanna Get Away, though these flights are completely non-refundable. The other fares, Anytime and Business Select, are more expensive but also offer more flexible fare rules.
A-List (25% bonus)
A-List Preferred (100% bonus)
|Wanna Get Away||6 points||7.5 points||12 points|
|Anytime||10 points||12.5 points||20 points|
|Business Select||12 points||15 points||24 points|
Points earned from Southwest flights post within 72 hours. Note that you only earn points on revenue fares; Rapid Rewards points are not awarded on reward tickets.
As a quick example, let’s assume you want to book a flight from San Jose to Chicago departing on Dec. 13 and returning Dec. 17, and that your round-trip price before taxes is $257.76. You’d earn 1,548 Rapid Rewards for this ticket, which is 6X the fare before taxes, with a small rounding error since Southwest rounds up to the next dollar for each one-way fare.
Southwest credit cards
Southwest partners with Chase to offer five different co-branded credit cards — three personal credit cards and two small business products. Using a co-branded credit card is one of the fastest ways to rack up lots of Rapid Rewards points, and the cards often have generous welcome offers.
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.||$69|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.||$99|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.||$149|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card||Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.||$99|
|Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.||$199|
The perks offered by some of the Southwest co-branded credit cards are excellent. In particular, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card offers a whopping 365 Wi-Fi credits, letting you enjoy Southwest’s in-flight Wi-Fi even if you fly every day.
You should be aware that the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is the only one that does not offer tier-qualifying points toward A-List status, and this is also the only card that levies foreign transaction fees. The combination of these two factors makes it the least appealing choice, despite offering the lowest annual fee.
Southwest Airlines has a strong partnership with Chase Bank. Besides offering co-branded Rapid Rewards credit cards, Chase also allows points transfers from its Ultimate Rewards program to Southwest Rapid Rewards. You can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio in increments of 1,000 points. Here are two excellent Chase credit cards for earning Ultimate Rewards points:
Note that points transferred from Chase to Southwest Rapid Rewards cannot help you qualify for either A-List status or total points toward the Companion Pass. Ultimate Rewards-earning cards are great if you want to earn extra Southwest points, but they won’t help you achieve these other benefits of the Southwest frequent flyer program.
You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Southwest Rapid Rewards. Marriott offers transfers in increments of 3,000 Bonvoy points to every 1,000 miles or points with its partner programs. However, if you transfer in increments of 60,000 points, you’ll enjoy 5,000 bonus miles/points, yielding a total of 25,000 Rapid Rewards points for every 60,000 Bonvoy points.
Southwest Airlines partners
Southwest Airlines has an expansive partner network that includes car rental agencies, hotels and even energy companies. When spending with these partner services, you could both earn Rapid Rewards points and enjoy a discount on the service itself. Partners include:
Details on earning Rapid Rewards through these various travel and other partners can be found on the Rapid Rewards Partners page.
Southwest Airlines features a Rapid Rewards dining program where individuals can earn Rapid Rewards points by dining at restaurants within the network. If you opt in to receiving emails, the earning rate is a strong 3 Rapid Rewards points per $1. If you don’t opt in to emails, you’ll earn an abysmal 1 point per $2 spent. You’ll also earn a "First Step" bonus of 500 points after earning 1,500 cumulative points in the dining program, as well as another 300 bonus points for every 1,000 you earn after that. Completing reviews provides you an additional 10 points per dine.
You can currently earn a sign-up bonus of 1,000 Rapid Rewards points by signing up, adding a credit card to your profile, spending at least $25 at a qualifying establishment and then writing a review within the first 30 days.
Rapid Rewards shopping
The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards shopping portal lets you earn points by shopping with 850-plus online retailers. This is a great way to earn extra rewards for shopping you’re already doing. Popular retailers include Apple, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Staples, among many others. The number of Rapid Rewards earned can vary from 0.5 points per $1 spent to 20 points per $1 spent, depending on the retailer. Points can take up to 15 days to post to your Rapid Rewards account.
Southwest Vacations is a great way to bundle your flights and either hotel or rental car together into a cheaper package. You can both save money and earn bonus Rapid Rewards points, depending on the package you book — though you’ll always earn base Rapid Rewards points on the flight portion of the package you book. However, you may also earn additional points if Southwest is running a vacation package promotion.
Rewards for opinions
Southwest partners with Research Now Group to offer Rewards for Opinions, a site where you can earn Rapid Rewards points by completing online surveys. The surveys are consumer market research, asking questions about various services, products and advertising. Each survey opportunity will show the approximate time to finish it and the number of Rapid Rewards points awarded upon completion.
Rocketmiles is a booking service that lets you earn a variety of rewards points for hotel stays. The number of points or miles earned varies by property and by loyalty program. To earn Southwest Rapid Rewards through Rocketmiles, you’ll need to make sure that you perform your search with Rapid Rewards selected.
After you’ve entered your search information, Rocketmiles will provide a list and map of hotel options with the nightly rate and the total number of Rapid Rewards points earned. You can earn upwards of 1,000 points for a single night stay, making it a potentially very worthwhile option, depending on the price of the hotel.
However, the site can be confusing for multi-night stays. While a user might assume the number of points displayed is per night, it's actually a flat number of points for the full stay.
Buy Southwest points
Southwest lets you buy Rapid Rewards points for either yourself or for any other program member. You can also use this option to gift points to another member. Points are sold at a standard rate of 3 cents each, in increments of 1,000, starting at 2,000 points at a cost of $60. Given the typical value of Southwest points is only 1.5 cents, this is not a good way to add to your Rapid Rewards balance. Southwest sometimes offers sales of Rapid Rewards points, but even then, it rarely makes sense to purchase.
How to use Southwest points
While Southwest offers a few options for redeeming Rapid Rewards points, redeeming your Southwest Rapid Rewards points for Southwest flights is generally the best way to go. Southwest makes it simple and straightforward to redeem your points.
Here's a rundown on how to redeem Rapid Rewards points:
Book a flight
To book a flight using your Rapid Rewards points, you’ll need to either head to Southwest.com or use the Southwest mobile app — you won't have to log in to your Rapid Rewards account to search for flights. From the main page, you just need to enter your origin, destination, travel date(s), number of passengers and whether you want to search in dollars or points. (Note, you can easily toggle between dollars and points in the search results.)
Once you submit your search, you’ll be presented with flight options. You can use the button in the upper right corner to toggle between dollars and points, to determine the value you’re getting for your Rapid Rewards points. You can also check out the Low Fare Calendar to find the cheapest day to fly.
You can choose among three fare types: Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select. Wanna Get Away fares are the cheapest and generally best option, since the other fares don't offer enough benefit to justify the additional points.
Business Select and Anytime fares are fully refundable as revenue fares, which is the main benefit of booking these fares with cash. However, all award tickets are fully refundable, so booking with points negates this benefit.
Wanna Get Away
Once you’ve selected a fare, you’ll be taken to the booking screen where you’ll confirm your choice, pay the taxes and fees and then confirm your booking. You must have sufficient Rapid Rewards points in your account to complete the booking.
Southwest More Rewards
While booking Southwest flights is the primary use of Rapid Rewards points, Southwest offers other options for using your points through More Rewards. You can redeem your Southwest Rapid Rewards for:
- Gift cards
- Hotels & travel (including flights on other airlines)
To be eligible to use your points for More Rewards, you must be a Rapid Rewards credit cardholder. Note that the value you’ll get for your points through More Rewards is poor compared to using your points for booking flights: Gift cards typically only yield 0.67 cents per point, and the value when used for merchandise can be even worse. None of the options provide value in excess of 1 cent per point, which means that you are giving up over half the value if you redeem them this way.
Southwest Companion Pass
The famed Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most sought after benefits of any airline loyalty program. No other U.S. airline offers a deal that’s anything like the Southwest Companion Pass, even others with companion passes. Southwest’s pass allows you to enjoy unlimited 2-for-1 flights whenever you’re traveling, and you only need to pay the taxes and fees for your companion. There are no restrictions on dates or destinations within the Southwest Airlines network.
To earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you must fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. Your Companion Pass will be valid for the entirety of the following calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which you earned it. Qualifying points include those earned from flights, shopping, dining and from spending on your Rapid Rewards credit card. Points transferred from hotel programs, such as Marriott, do not count toward the Companion Pass.
Southwest offers two status tiers within the Rapid Rewards loyalty program that you can achieve by earning tier qualifying points or by the number of flights taken. Tier qualifying points are those earned directly by flying. The two status levels are A-List and A-List Preferred.
Southwest A-list status
To earn Southwest A-List status, you’ll need to fly 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.
Benefits of A-List status:
- Priority boarding to be among the first on board
- 25% Rapid Rewards point earning bonus on qualifying flights
- Priority check-in and Fly By security lane access
- Free same-day standby
- Dedicated A-List member phone line
Southwest A-list Preferred status
To earn Southwest A-List Preferred status, you’ll need to fly 50 qualifying one-way flights or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.
Benefits of A-List Preferred status:
- All Southwest A-List features listed above
- 100% Rapid Rewards point earning bonus on qualifying flights
- Free in-flight Wi-Fi
Compared to upgrades and other perks with more traditional airlines, Southwest Airlines A-List status doesn’t offer all that much — for example, everyone already enjoys free bags and no change fees. The biggest benefit is being able to board the aircraft early and get a better seat. A-List Preferred is where Southwest really adds value with a serious bonus on Rapid Rewards points and free Wi-Fi.
Southwest status match
Southwest does offer a status match if you’re interested in switching to the carrier from another airline. Southwest will honor your status with any other U.S. carrier. To be eligible for a Southwest status match, you’ll need to sign up for Rapid Rewards and then submit the following:
- First name
- Last name
- Rapid Rewards number
- Screenshot of current elite status with a U.S. based carrier, other than Southwest Airlines
You will receive promotional A-List status for 90 days. If you fly three round-trips (six one-way flights) during the promotional period, Southwest will extend your A-List status for another 12 months. This offer is available as long as you haven’t received promotional A-List status within the previous 12 months.
Is Southwest Rapid Rewards worth it?
Southwest Rapid Rewards could be an excellent loyalty program for both road warriors and infrequent leisure travelers. Your points never expire, which means that even if you fly only once a year, you could eventually earn enough for a free flight. Plus, you have the opportunity to earn plenty of Rapid Rewards points through Southwest’s large co-branded credit card lineup. Southwest’s unique Companion Pass is the most special part of its loyalty program, though — the ability to enjoy 2-for-1 flights is unrivaled by any other loyalty program.
Whether you fly weekly or rarely, joining the Southwest Rapid Rewards is worth the consideration — it offers opportunities for savings and is free to join.
Do Southwest points expire?
No, Southwest Rapid Rewards points no longer expire.
How long does it take for Southwest points to post?
Southwest Points from flights post within 72 hours. Southwest Points from credit cards typically post within one to two business days after your billing cycle closes. Points from Southwest shopping take up to 15 days to post.
Can you use Rapid Rewards points for Southwest Vacations?
Rapid Rewards points cannot be redeemed for Southwest Vacations at this time.
How do I add my Rapid Rewards number to a Southwest flight?
You can add your Rapid Rewards number to an existing reservation at Southwest.com by clicking on "Flight/Hotel/Car" at the top of the screen. Use Manage Reservations to add it to a flight. Alternatively, you can have a Southwest Airlines customer service agent add it when you arrive at the airport.
How do I find my Southwest Rapid Rewards number?
You can find your Southwest Rapid Rewards number in the initial email communication from Southwest, as well as on the monthly Rapid Rewards statements. You can also retrieve your Rapid Rewards number.
Can I use Southwest Rapid Rewards points for hotels?
Yes, you can redeem Rapid Rewards points for hotels through the Southwest More Rewards program.
Is Southwest Rapid Rewards free?
Yes, it is free to join and participate in Southwest Rapid Rewards.
Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards program a credit card?
No, Southwest Rapid Rewards is a free loyalty program for travelers. However, there are multiple co-branded Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards.
Can I use Southwest Rapid Rewards for someone else?
While you cannot combine points with another member, you may redeem your Rapid Rewards points for a ticket for anyone. You may need to delete your own Rapid Rewards number from the reservation to be able to do so.
Can you add past flights to Southwest Rapid Rewards?
Yes, you can request points for past flights for up to 12 months after your flight. You can make a request at Southwest.com through My Account > Manage > Request Past Points.
Can you gift Southwest Rapid Rewards points?
Yes, when you buy Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you can choose to deposit them into any Rapid Rewards account, allowing you to gift them to another member.
The information related to Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.