• January 9, 2020

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Southwest Airlines is the world’s largest low-cost carrier, transporting more than 150 million passengers in recent years. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Southwest is a consumer favorite for its low prices, no cancellation fees, and free checked baggage. 

With its frequent flyer program, Rapid Rewards, Southwest Airlines is awarding passengers with even more discounts.  

Unlike typical frequent flyer memberships, Rapid Rewards allows members to operate on points system versus miles earned. Passengers who frequent Southwest Airlines can take advantage of Rapid Rewards points by using them for free airfare, discounts on travel, and more. Rapid Rewards is completely free to join, so if you fly Southwest a lot, you’ve got little to lose. 

How to earn Rapid Rewards points

After joining the Rapid Rewards program, Southwest flyers can start earning points by purchasing airfare through Southwest, doing business with specific travel partners, and purchasing items with a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card.

Earning Rapid Rewards points by flying

The easiest way to start accumulating Rapid Rewards points is booking flights with Southwest. The number of points earned per ticket is based on the price of the ticket, the type of class you’re flying, as well as your status within the program.

There are three types of class you can fly on Southwest: Wanna Get Away, Anytime, and Business Select. Depending on which class you fly, more points will be added to your Rapid Rewards membership.

  • Wanna Get Away: This type of fare is the cheapest and offers six Rapid Rewards points for every $1 spent on tickets.
  • Anytime: With Anytime fare, trips can be canceled and refunded to the original form of payment or used toward another flight for up to 12 months. Rapid Rewards members earn 10 points for every $1 spent on tickets.
  • Business Select: While Business Select is the most expensive type of fare offered through Southwest, it’s also the fare with the most perks. Business Select passengers take advantage of priority security lanes at participating airports, priority boarding, and a complimentary premium beverage. This fare earns the most Rapid Rewards points with 12 points per $1 spent on tickets. It’s easier to rake in more points with Business Select, as well, because the ticket prices are higher than other fares. 

Extra rapid rewards points may also be earned with elite status levels, which we will discuss later on.

Earning Rapid Rewards points by using a Southwest affiliated credit card

Like most frequent flyer programs, Rapid Rewards points can be earned by using credit cards affiliated with Southwest Airlines.

With the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, members can earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest and Rapid Reward hotel and car rental purchases and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Cardholders are also awarded 3,000 anniversary points each year.

The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card offers 2 points per $1 spend on partner hotel and car rental purchases, 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases, and 7,500 anniversary points. This card comes with other perks such as a $75 Southwest annual travel credit, upgraded boardings, 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi, and more. 

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is similar to the other two, and it allows your points to go toward a Companion Pass. This offering, if achieved, lets members travel with a guest for free on all flights for 12 months.

Earning Rapid Rewards points by shopping with partners

Rapid Rewards members can earn additional points by shopping with Southwest partners. These include hotels, car rentals, shopping, dining, certain gas stations, and more. To find a comprehensive list of all Rapid Rewards partners and their points value, check out the Rapid Rewards website.

Purchasing Rapid Rewards points

Points are also available for purchase, although this is not a great return on investment. Rapid Rewards members can purchase points for 2.75 cents per point, while the actual value of the point is 1.7 cents. Due to the hiked rate on points for purchase, it’s always a better idea to earn points by flying, using a Rapid Rewards credit card, or shopping with partners. 

Rapid Rewards points will stay active as long as members make a qualifying purchase through Southwest or a partner every two years. In addition, points earned on Southwest credit cards remain active as long as the account remains open.

How to redeem Rapid Rewards points 

After you start accumulating Rapid Rewards points, you can use them on a variety of options which include flights, hotel stays, car rentals, gift cards, and more. However, not all redemption points are created equal. 

Redeeming Rapid Rewards points for flights

To book a flight with points, members enter their travel information and choose the option to see the price of the fare in points rather than dollars. It’s important to remember the number of points for each flight differs based on the destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare type, and the current point redemption rate. Typically, the price of the fare in points is directly tied to the cash value of the ticket. Once you’ve found your desired fare, just check out like you normally would. As an added bonus, there are no blackout dates for travel booked with Rapid Rewards points.

Rapid Rewards points can also be redeemed for specific international flights, even to destinations Southwest doesn’t fly to. Southwest partners with more than 50 global carriers and you can find a list of international destinations on the Southwest Rapid Rewards website. Although, use caution. Points are generally valued at less for international flights than domestic travel. For example, Rapid Rewards are valued at about 1.7 cents per point. For international flights, that value is lowered to 1 cent per point. Similarly, flights to Hawaii can be booked with Rapid Rewards points just like international flights, but these points are valued at 0.8 cents, less than half the original value of the Rapid Rewards points.

In general, the best way to spend Rapid Rewards points is for Wanna Get Away fare purchases. Using your points for Wanna Get Away tickets will give you the highest return on investment.

Other Rapid Rewards point redemption options

The Southwest Rapid Rewards program also allows members to redeem points for other travel options such as hotels and rental cars, as well as merchandise and gift cards.

For hotels, Rapid Rewards points can be used to book a hotel through the Southwest’s travel portal. The number of points needed per stay will vary on the hotel, location, proximity to attractions, quality, and the dates you would like to stay. Southwest partners with more than 70,000 hotels across the United States, so it’s safe to say you’ll be able to use your points for hotel stays in most desired destinations.

Points may also be redeemed on rental cars. Similar to booking hotels with points, you’ll need to go to the Southwest travel portal to book a rental car with Rapid Rewards points. Location, the cash price of the rental car, and demand will all dictate how far your points will go with rental car agencies.

Merchandise and gift cards may also be purchased with Rapid Rewards points. However, this would be your lowest return on investment, as regular points are valued at around 1.7 cents per point and points for merchandise and gift cards are valued at 0.6 cents per point.

Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card members may also use their points for exclusive experiences such as cruises, spa packages, golf trips, wine tastings and more. However, these rewards vary even more with just how far your points may go.

Rapid Rewards program status levels

There are three levels to Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program: standard, A-List, and A-List Preferred.

The standard option is completely free. The A-List and A-List Preferred options are earned by members who fly qualifying number of one-way flights or earn a specific number of tier qualifying points in one calendar year.

One-way flights are calculated as a trip from origin to destination, regardless of any connecting flights. Tier qualifying points, which are different from Rapid Rewards points, are accumulated by purchasing tickets for Southwest flights and using the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. Cardholders earn 1,500 tier qualifying points for each $10,000 spent capped at 15,000 points annually. Here’s the difference between the two elite statuses.

A-List status

To qualify for A-List, members must either fly 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points. A-Listers are awarded a points bonus of 25% more points on each flight, priority check-in, priority boarding, access to “Fly By” expedited security lanes at participating airports, free same-day standby through airport customer service agents and a dedicated A-List customer service phone line.

A-List Preferred status

In order to achieve this premiere status, members must fly 50 qualifying one-way flights or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points during a calendar year. Benefits of A-List Preferred include all of the A-List offerings while achieving 100% more points on each flight and free in-flight WiFi.

The Companion Pass

Perhaps the most coveted perk of the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is the Companion Pass. With this pass, members can take a guest to fly with them for practically free on every flight through the next calendar year. It’s practically free because some taxes and security fees do apply, starting at $5.60. To earn the Companion Pass, members must fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. Members can earn points to go toward the Companion pass by buying Southwest tickets, earning points through Southwest credit cards, and points earned from certain Southwest partners.

Airline Partners 

Unlike other airlines, Southwest does not partner with an airline alliance for the Rapid Rewards Program. This means you can’t earn Rapid Rewards points by flying on another carrier. In addition, points can only be redeemed for very specific non-Southwest flights. These flights include trips to Hawaii and international flights through more than 50 airlines. 

Although Southwest doesn’t have airline partners, the airline does partner with a wide array of hotels rental cars, and more for earning and redeeming Rapid Rewards points. 

To learn more about the additional rewards the Rapid Rewards program offers, you can visit the More Rewards page on Southwest’s website. 

Credit cards that earn Rapid Rewards points 

There are multiple credit cards that earn Rapid Rewards points including the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines purchases
  • 2 points per $1 spent on purchases with Southwest partners
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 3,000 bonus anniversary points
  • Does not offer tier qualifying points for elite status
  • $69 annual fee

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

  • All previously mentioned points-earning bonuses
  • $99 annual fee

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

  • All previously mentioned points-earning bonuses
  • 6,000 bonus anniversary points
  • 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 spent capped at 15,000 per year
  • $99 annual fee

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

  • All previously mentioned points-earning bonuses
  • 7,500 bonus anniversary points each year
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit
  • Up to four upgraded boardings annually
  • 20% cashback on in-flight purchases
  • 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 spent capped at 15,000 per year
  • $149 annual fee

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