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Southwest Rapid Rewards Loyalty Program: Complete Guide

Members can earn points for Southwest flights and redeem them for flights on Southwest and its partner airlines, hotel stays, and more.
Author: Andrew O'Malley
Andrew O'Malley

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Experience

Andrew O’Malley has a BSc in Economics and Finance. He has worked in the finance industry as a risk analyst and is now pursuing a career in writing. In recent years, he has written for a number of leading publications. He studied Economics and Finance and has been fascinated with the financial markets since his teens.
Interest Rates Last Update: January 1, 2024
The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.
Author: Andrew O'Malley
Andrew O'Malley

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Andrew O’Malley has a BSc in Economics and Finance. He has worked in the finance industry as a risk analyst and is now pursuing a career in writing. In recent years, he has written for a number of leading publications. He studied Economics and Finance and has been fascinated with the financial markets since his teens.
Interest Rates Last Update: January 1, 2024

The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.

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What Is The Southwest Rapid Rewards Loyalty Program?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards program is the loyalty program of Southwest Airlines, a major U.S. airline.

Members of the program can earn points for flights and other activities, and can redeem those points for a variety of rewards, including flights on Southwest and its partner airlines, hotel stays, car rentals, and more.

Members can also earn tier status, which provides them with additional benefits such as priority boarding and increased point earning potential. To participate in the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, you'll need to sign up for a Rapid Rewards account and provide your personal and travel information. 

How Does The Program Work?

You can start earning points by flying with Southwest and its partner airlines, or by participating in other activities such as shopping online through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal, staying at partner hotels, or renting cars from participating rental car companies.

You'll earn points based on the distance you travel and the fare class of your ticket. You can also earn points by signing up for credit cards that are part of the Rapid Rewards program, or by participating in other promotions and offers.

Once you have accumulated enough points, you can redeem them for flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and other rewards. You can also use your points to purchase upgrades, such as a higher fare class or a more luxurious hotel room.

In addition to earning and redeeming points, members of the Rapid Rewards program can also earn tier status. There are three tier levels: A-List, A-List Preferred, and Companion Pass. Each tier level comes with its own set of benefits, such as priority boarding, waived fees, and bonus points. You can earn tier status by flying a certain number of flights or by earning a certain number of points within a calendar year.

Southwest Flight

What Rewards Can You Get With Southwest Rapid Rewards Miles

There are many rewards that you can redeem your Southwest Rapid Rewards points for. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Flights on Southwest and its partner airlines: You can use your points to book flights on Southwest and a number of other airlines, including AirTran, Frontier, and WestJet. You can also use your points to book one-way or round-trip flights.
  • Hotel stays: You can redeem your points for hotel stays at a variety of hotels around the world.
  • Car rentals: You can use your points to rent cars from participating rental car companies, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise.
  • Experiences: You can use your points to book experiences and activities, such as theme park tickets, tour packages, and more.
  • Merchandise: You can redeem your points for a variety of merchandise, including electronics, home goods, and more.
  • Upgrades: You can use your points to upgrade your flight or hotel room, such as booking a higher fare class or a more luxurious hotel room.
  • Gift cards: You can redeem your points for gift cards to a variety of retailers, restaurants, and more.
  • Donations: You can donate your points to a variety of charitable organizations.

Keep in mind that the number of points required for a particular reward may vary, and that availability is subject to change.

Book flights with Southwest Priority card points
Book flights with Southwest Priority card points (screenshot from Southwest app)

How To Make The Most Of The Rewards?

Here are a few tips for redeeming your Southwest Rapid Rewards points:

  1. Book early: Southwest tends to release its flight schedule about 11 months in advance, and it's generally a good idea to book your flights as early as possible to get the best availability and the lowest point redemption rates.
  2. Be flexible: You may be able to find better availability and lower redemption rates if you're flexible with your travel dates and destinations.
  3. Check the “Wanna Get Away” fares: Southwest has a fare class called “Wanna Get Away,” which tends to have the lowest point redemption rates. If you're looking to get the most value out of your points, you may want to consider booking one of these fares.
  4. Consider transferring points from hotel loyalty programs: If you have points in hotel loyalty programs such as Marriott Bonvoy or World of Hyatt, you may be able to transfer those points to your Rapid Rewards account at a good rate.
  5. Look for promotions: Southwest often runs promotions that allow you to earn bonus points or redeem your points for higher-value rewards. Keep an eye out for these promotions and consider taking advantage of them if they align with your travel plans.
  6. Book one-way flights: Southwest allows you to book one-way flights with points, which can be a good option if you don't have enough points for a round-trip flight or if you only need to fly one way.
  7. Compare the value of your points: Before you redeem your points, it's a good idea to compare the value you would get from using your points versus paying cash for a flight or other reward. This will help you ensure that you're getting the most value out of your points.
Redeem Southwest points for flights - Wanne Get Away, Anytime, Business Select
Redeem Southwest points for flights - Wanne Get Away, Anytime, Business Select (screenshot from Southwest app)

How Much Are Southwest Rapid Rewards Miles Worth?

The value of Southwest Rapid Rewards points can vary significantly depending on how you redeem them. In general, you can expect to get more value from your points if you redeem them for flights on Southwest or its partner airlines, rather than for other rewards such as hotel stays or car rentals.

Compared to other major airlines, the average value of a Rapid Rewards point is similar – about 1.3 cents . For example,  American Airlines miles worth is 1.5 cents, and United mile is worth 1.2 cents , on average. However, this is just a rough estimate, and the actual value you get from your points may be higher or lower depending on a number of factors, including the specific flight or reward you redeem your points for, the time of year you travel, and more.

How To Know If I Should Use My Points?

To get a sense of how much your points are worth, you can compare the cost of a flight or other reward in points to the cash price.

For example, if a flight costs $100 and you can redeem it for 10,000 points, each point would be worth about 1 cent. This can help you determine whether it's a good value to use your points or whether you'd be better off paying cash for the flight.

How Many Southwest Miles Do You Need For A Free Flight?

The number of Southwest Rapid Rewards points you'll need for a free flight will depend on a number of factors, including the specific route you're flying, the time of year you're traveling, and the fare class you're booking.

In general, Southwest uses a dynamic pricing model for its flights, which means that the number of points required for a free flight can vary based on demand. As a rough estimate, you can expect to redeem between 60,000 and 70,000 Rapid Rewards points for a free round-trip flight within the continental U.S. 

However, this is just a rough estimate, and the actual number of points required may be higher or lower depending on the specific flight you're booking.

To get a more accurate estimate of the number of points you'll need for a free flight, you can use Southwest's “Points Calculator” tool on its website. Simply enter your origin and destination, travel dates, and the fare class you'd like to book, and the tool will give you an estimate of the number of points required for a free flight.

Southwest insufficient points note
Southwest insufficient points note (screenshot from Southwest app)

How Can You Join the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program?

To join the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, follow these steps:

  • Go to the Southwest website and click on the “Rapid Rewards” link at the top of the page.
  • Click on the “Join Now” button.
  • Follow the prompts to create a Rapid Rewards account. You'll need to provide your personal and contact information, create a username and password, and select a security question.
join Southwest priority rewards program
(Screenshot from southwest.com)
  • Review the terms and conditions and click on the “I Agree” button to accept them.
  • Click on the “Join Rapid Rewards” button to complete the process.

After you've joined the Rapid Rewards program, you'll be able to start earning points for flights and other activities, and you'll be able to redeem those points for a variety of rewards.

join Southwest priority rewards program - final
(Screenshot from southwest.com)

Limitations & Restrictions or Fees To Consider

There are a few limitations and restrictions to consider when it comes to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program:

  • Expiration of points: Rapid Rewards points generally do not expire as long as you have qualifying activity in your account at least once every 24 months. However, if your account becomes inactive, your points may expire.
  • Blackout dates: Some flights and rewards may have blackout dates, which means that you won't be able to redeem your points for those flights or rewards during certain times of the year.
  • Capacity controls: Southwest may impose capacity controls on certain flights, which means that not all seats on a flight may be available for redemption using points.
  • Fees: Southwest may charge fees for certain services, such as booking a flight over the phone or changing a flight itinerary.
  • Taxes and other charges: You may be required to pay taxes, fees, and other charges when you redeem your points for a flight or other reward.

It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with these and any other limitations and restrictions before you start using your Rapid Rewards points. This will help you avoid any surprises and ensure that you get the most value out of your points.

How to Earn Southwest Miles?

There are a number of ways to earn Southwest Rapid Reward Miles. The best way to look at them is by splitting them into two categories, regular activities and credit card activities.

When you fly with Southwest or its partner airlines, you'll earn Rapid Rewards points based on the distance you travel and the fare class of your ticket. The number of points you earn will vary depending on these factors, as well as the specific route you fly and the class of service you book.

  • How To Earn Miles With Flights: To earn the most points, you'll generally want to book flights in higher fare classes, such as Business Select or Anytime fares. These fares tend to earn more points per mile than lower fare classes, such as Wanna Get Away fares. You'll also earn more points for longer flights, as points are generally awarded based on the distance you travel.
  • Don't Forget To Compare: It's a good idea to compare the number of points you'll earn for different fare classes and routes before you book a flight. This will help you determine the best way to earn the most points for your travel.
Find and redeem points for Southwest flights
Find and redeem points for Southwest flights (screenshot from Southwest app)

Another way to earn Rapid Rewards points is by applying for and using a credit card that is part of the Rapid Rewards program. Southwest currently offers several credit cards, each with its own set of requirements, rewards and benefits.

When you use a Southwest credit card to make purchases, you'll earn Rapid Rewards points based on the amount you spend. The number of points you earn will vary depending on the specific credit card you have and the type of purchase you make.

In addition to earning points for everyday spending, you may also be able to earn bonus points for meeting certain spending thresholds or for making certain types of purchases. It's a good idea to review the rewards and benefits of each credit card to determine which one is the best fit for your spending habits.

Card
How Much You Earn

southwest_rapid_rewards_premier_art

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 you spend

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 you spend

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 you spend

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 you spend

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business
1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 you spend

In addition to earning points for flights, you can also earn points for other activities such as hotel stays, car rentals, and shopping through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal. These activities can help you earn points faster and reach your desired reward more quickly.

  • Shop through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal: You can earn points by shopping online through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal. Simply log in to your Rapid Rewards account, click on the “Shop” tab, and browse the available merchants. When you make a purchase through the portal, you'll earn points based on the amount you spend.
  • Stay at partner hotels: You can earn points by staying at hotels that are part of the Rapid Rewards program. Simply provide your Rapid Rewards account number when you book your stay, and you'll earn points for each night you stay.
  • Rent cars from participating rental car companies: You can earn points by renting cars from participating rental car companies, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise. Simply provide your Rapid Rewards account number when you book your rental, and you'll earn points for each day you rent.
  • Participate in promotions and offers: Southwest often runs promotions and offers that allow you to earn bonus points or other rewards. Keep an eye out for these promotions and consider participating if they align with your travel plans.
Book Hotel with Southwest credit card points
Book Hotel with Southwest credit card points (screenshot from Southwest app)

Which Credit Card Program Allow Transferring Points To Southwest?

The following credit card programs allow you to transfer points to Southwest Rapid Rewards:

It's important to note that the specific transfer ratios and fees may vary, and that not all credit card programs allow point transfers to Southwest. It's a good idea to check with the specific credit card program to see if point transfers are possible and to review the terms and conditions before transferring points.

 

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Southwest Rapid Rewards Elite Status

The Southwest Rapid Rewards program has three tier levels: A-List, A-List Preferred, and Companion Pass. 

Earning elite status with the Southwest Rapid Rewards program can provide you with a number of benefits that can make your travel experience more enjoyable, such as priority boarding and waived fees. If you're a frequent Southwest flyer, it may be worth working towards achieving one of these tier levels.

These are the program's elite status levels, and they come with a variety of benefits for members.

Southwest Elite Status 2024
One-Way Qualifying Flights
Tier Qualifying Points
A-List
25
35,000
A-List Preferred
50
70,000

1. A-List Status

To qualify for A-List status, you'll need to fly 25 one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points within a calendar year. A-List benefits include:

  • Priority boarding
  • 25% bonus points on flights
  • Free in-flight drinks
  • Dedicated phone line for customer support

2. A-List Preferred Status

To qualify for A-List Preferred status, you'll need to fly 50 one-way flights or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points within a calendar year. A-List Preferred benefits include all of the benefits of A-List status, plus:

  • 100% bonus points on flights
  • Priority check-in and security lane access
  • Priority standby
Southwest A-List Status
A-List Status balance (screenshot from Southwest app)

3. Companion Pass Status

The Companion Pass is a special status level that allows you to designate a companion who can fly with you for free (excluding taxes and fees) on any Southwest flight that you book with points or cash. To qualify for the Companion Pass, you'll need to fly 100 one-way flights or earn 110,000 tier qualifying points within a calendar year.

Earning elite status with the Southwest Rapid Rewards program can provide you with a number of benefits that can make your travel experience more enjoyable, such as priority boarding and waived fees. If you're a frequent Southwest flyer, it may be worth working towards achieving one of these tier levels.

Southwest a progress towards Companion pass and A-List Status
Southwest a progress towards Companion pass and A-List Status (screenshot from Southwest app)

Buying, Give or Transfer Southwest Rapid Rewards Miles

There are a few ways you can buy, give, or transfer Southwest Rapid Rewards points:

  • Buy points: You can buy Rapid Rewards points directly from Southwest in increments of 1,000 points. The cost of buying points varies depending on the number of points you purchase and any promotions that may be available.
  • Give points: You can give Rapid Rewards points to another member of the program as a gift. Simply log in to your account, click on the “Give Points” tab, and follow the prompts to send points to another member. There is a fee to give points, and the recipient must have a Rapid Rewards account to receive the points.
  • Transfer points: You may be able to transfer points from other loyalty programs, such as hotel loyalty programs, to your Rapid Rewards account. The specific programs and transfer ratios will vary, so it's a good idea to check with the other loyalty program to see if point transfers are possible. There may also be fees associated with transferring points.
Southwest program buy transfer miles
Buy, transfer, and donate Southwest miles. (Screenshot from southwest.com)

It's important to note that Southwest has the right to refuse, limit, or modify any point purchase, gift, or transfer for any reason, including if it determines that the transaction is being made for speculative or other inappropriate purposes.

It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with Southwest's terms and conditions before you buy, give, or transfer points.

FAQs

It's difficult to determine exactly how much 10,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth, as the value of points can vary significantly depending on how you redeem them.

However, Southwest states that the average value of a Rapid Rewards point is about 1.4 cents, so you could estimate that 10,000 points are worth about $140.

You’ll typically need good to excellent credit to qualify for any of the Southwest credit cards. However, you can still get a Southwest card with fair credit, depending on additional parameters such as history with Chase cards and annual income.

You can buy points, but no purchased points will not count toward your elite status.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offer the most benefits and best for frequent Southwest flyers

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Andrew O'Malley

Andrew O'Malley

Andrew O’Malley has a BSc in Economics and Finance. He has worked in the finance industry as a risk analyst and is now pursuing a career in writing. In recent years, he has written for a number of leading publications. He studied Economics and Finance and has been fascinated with the financial markets since his teens.
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