Guide to Earning Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Points

Elina GellerJune 30, 2020

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Southwest has long been a traveler favorite for its fare sales, lack of change and cancellation fees, and two free checked bags policy. Although Southwest does not participate in an alliance, it has a significant domestic presence and is generally considered the largest “low-cost” carrier in the U.S.

During peak travel season, the airline operates more than 4,000 weekday flights to over 100 destinations in the United States and to 10 other countries. The airline’s loyalty program is called Southwest Rapid Rewards, and you can sign up for an account here.

Earning Rapid Rewards points is fairly easy and the airline offers plenty of opportunities to do so. Below, we have included 23 ways to earn Southwest points broken into five categories:

Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points with credit cards

Sign up for Southwest credit cards

The fastest way to rack up lots of Rapid Rewards points is by earning the welcome offer on Southwest credit cards. It is worth noting that all Southwest credit cards are issued by Chase and are thus subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule.

Although welcome offers typically begin at 40,000 points, they can be as high as 100,000 points, with the higher offers usually available for a short period of time. So, if you see an offer you’d like to jump on, it's better to apply sooner than later. Current card offers are provided below:

Personal Cards

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card (annual fee: $69): Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Cardholders earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. Every year, on your cardmember anniversary, you’ll receive 3,000 bonus points.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card (annual fee: $99): Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

You'll get the same earning rate as above (2x Southwest, 1x everything else), but with a 6,000-point anniversary bonus.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card (annual fee: $149): Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Again, you'll find the same earning rate here (2x Southwest, 1x everything else), but with 7,500 points every year on your card anniversary.

More importantly, this card comes with travel perks, such as four upgraded boardings per year, a $75 Southwest travel credit and a 20% rebate on in-flight drinks and Wi-Fi purchased with this card. Considering the extra perks and that the $75 Southwest travel credit brings the annual fee down to $74, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card holds great value if you fly Southwest at least once per year.

Business Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card (annual fee: $199): Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months. You'll also earn a 9,000-point bonus each year on your card anniversary.

If you can manage to spend $25,000 on the card within six months of opening, you will get the full 100,000-point welcome offer and earn the Companion Pass, which is received after accumulating 125,000 qualifying points (credit card welcome offers count). This is an important consideration if you fly Southwest a lot, as it essentially allows you to bring a companion along with you for just the price of taxes.

Analysis

If you’re new to Rapid Rewards points, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card usually offers the largest sign-up bonus. Don’t let the fact that it's a business card discourage you. Think through your lifestyle and any forms of income you have that don’t come from an employer. If you sell goods or provide services, you may be approved for a business card. Enter your Social Security number in the section that requests your business tax ID and add your home address as your business address. Even if your hobby-turned-business income is low, don’t let that deter you. The application asks for your annual income, which includes any money you earn from investments or your full-time job. Banks look at your overall profile, not just what you input as your business income.

Apply for credit cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® and transfer them to Southwest Airlines

A great way to earn Rapid Rewards points is by transferring them from Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Points transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio, and the process is fairly straightforward. You will need a credit card from Chase that earns Ultimate Rewards® points and allows transfers to travel partners, such as these cards:

Personal credit cards

Chase Sapphire Reserve® (annual fee: $550): Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® .

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (annual fee: $95): Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Business credit cards

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (annual fee: $95): New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Transferring from Chase Ultimate Rewards® to Southwest

When you’re ready to transfer points from Chase to Southwest, log into your Chase account and head over to the Chase Ultimate Rewards® page. From the menu at the top, select Transfer to Travel Partners.

Then, select Southwest and type in your Rapid Rewards number. This step will link your Southwest and Chase accounts to allow for future transfers. Once your accounts are linked, you are ready to complete the points transfer. Points are transferred at a 1-to-1 ratio and must be transferred in increments of 1,000. Most transfers are instantaneous.

Sign up for Marriott credit cards and transfer Bonvoy points to Southwest

Although many hotel programs allow you to convert hotel points to airline miles, the conversion ratios are usually weak and not worth it. In most situations, you’d be better off keeping hotel points in your account and using them for a future stay.

That said, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Southwest at a 3-to-1 ratio. In addition, for every 60,000 Bonvoy points transferred, you receive a 5,000-point Rapid Rewards bonus. So, if you transfer 60,000 Bonvoy points to Rapid Rewards, you will receive 25,000 Rapid Rewards points.

There are several Marriott Bonvoy credit cards to choose from depending on your travel and spending preferences:

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card (annual fee: $0): Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card (annual fee: $95): Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (annual fee: $450): Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (annual fee: $125): Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Regardless of which card you chose, aim to transfer Bonvoy points in increments of 60,000 so you can take advantage of the 5,000-point bonus.

Sign up for a Hyatt credit card and transfer points to Southwest

Hyatt is another hotel that offers a transfer option to Southwest. You can convert 5,000 Hyatt points into 2,400 Rapid Rewards points, which is almost a 2-to-1 ratio. When you exchange 50,000 Hyatt points, you will receive a bonus of 6,000 Rapid Rewards points, for a total of 30,000 Rapid Rewards points.

There is currently one Hyatt credit card available to consumers:

The World Of Hyatt Credit Card (annual fee: $95): Earn 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 total within 6 months of account opening.

You can earn 9 points per $1 for Hyatt stays and 2 points per $1 at restaurants as well as on plane tickets purchased directly from airlines, local transit and commuting, and gym memberships. All other purchases earn 1 point per $1.

Nerd tip: Based on our valuation, 50,000 Hyatt points are worth $950 (1.9 cents each). We value Southwest points at 1.4 cents each, making 30,000 points worth $420. Taking into account both valuations, converting your Hyatt points into Southwest points isn’t advisable.

Refer a friend to a Southwest credit card

If you love your Southwest card, you can take advantage of Chase’s refer-a-friend promotion. Currently, you can earn 10,000 Rapid Rewards points per referral when you refer a friend to apply for a Southwest credit card that you already hold. After your friend is approved, the bonus points should post to your account within eight weeks. The maximum number of points you can earn this way each year is capped at 50,000.

Earn with credit card bonus categories

In addition to earning Southwest points when you swipe your Southwest credit card, you can also pick up bonus points on purchases in specific categories.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card earns 3 points per $1 on Southwest purchases and 2 points per $1 on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable and phone services.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card each earn 2 points per $1 on Southwest purchases, hotels and car rentals.

The best choice in terms of most bonus categories is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. However, if the extra bonus categories aren’t relevant to you, the other four cards all provide a solid 2x earning rate on travel bonus categories.

Nerd tip: Save a note in your phone showing which credit cards earn bonus points in specific categories, so that you can maximize the number of points you earn from everyday purchases. And only spend what you can afford to pay back each month.

Earn points while traveling

Earn Southwest points for Southwest flights

Ahh … earning points for actually flying! Not surprisingly, you can earn Rapid Rewards points on flights you take on Southwest. Points earned depend on the fare type and the flight cost (taxes do not earn points):

  • Wanna Get Away fares: 6 points per $1 spent.

  • Anytime fares: 10 points per $1 spent.

  • Business Select fares: 12 points per $1 spent.

These earn rates increase as you achieve elite status with Southwest. A-List members will earn a 25% bonus, while A-List Preferred elites earn a 100% bonus. Below is a breakdown of Southwest Rapid Rewards point earnings by fare and elite level:

Base

A-List

A-List Preferred

Wanna Get Away Fare

6 points per $1

7.5 points per $1

12 points per $1

Anytime Fare

10 points per $1

12.5 points per $1

20 points per $1

Business Select Fare

12 points per $1

15 points per $1

24 points per $1

Transfer points from other hotels to Southwest

Although not as lucrative as the ratios from Marriott or Hyatt, there are other hotel partners that allow you to convert their points into Rapid Rewards points. If you have some extra hotel points lying around that aren’t enough for a free night award, consider converting them to Southwest points.

To transfer points, head over to the Southwest hotel partner page and select the hotel you’re looking to transfer the points from to confirm details and procedures. Then log into your account on the hotel’s website and look for the option to convert your hotel points to Rapid Rewards points.

Hotel chain

Conversion rate

Best Western

5,000 Best Western points to 1,200 Rapid Rewards points.

Choice

6,000 Choice points to 1,800 Rapid Rewards points.

Radisson

10:1 ratio at three levels including:

  • 2,000 Radisson points to 200 Rapid Rewards points.

  • 50,000 to 5,000.

  • 100,000 to 10,000.

Various ways to earn Rapid Rewards by staying at hotels

Southwest’s hotel partners

You can earn Rapid Rewards points instead of hotel points for your stays. You usually can't earn both hotel points and Rapid Rewards points with these partners, so you will need to make a choice.

Hotel chain

Rapid Rewards points earned

Best Western

600 points per stay

Hyatt

600 points per stay (must book directly with Hyatt)

Marriott

600 points per stay

M life (MGM Resorts)

600 points per stay

Radisson

20 points per $1 spent

Southwest Hotels Portal

You can also earn Rapid Rewards points when you book a hotel through Southwest’s hotel portal, which lets you earn 1 point per $1 spent.

There are a few situations when booking your hotel through the Southwest hotel page is a good idea:

  • You’d like to earn Southwest points and hotel points for your stay.

  • The hotel you’d like to stay at isn’t a hotel partner from the list in the previous section.

  • The hotel you’d like to stay at is a hotel partner, but the points earned from your stay when booked through Southwest hotels exceed the points you would earn based on the hotel partner chart above.

Southwest also offers bonus points at some properties that it designates as Rapid Rewards Points Plus Properties. You can do a sample search to see if the hotel you’re considering offers a better rate through Southwest hotels.

Rocketmiles

You can also earn Rapid Rewards points by booking hotels with Rocketmiles. This booking site allows you to earn up to 10,000 points per night depending on the hotel. Typically, the pricier the hotel, the more points you can earn for your stay. Occasionally, the price of a stay on Rocketmiles can be more expensive than with other online travel agencies. This is possibly due to the premium you’re gaining for picking up a lot of points. Make sure to shop around when you book a hotel so you get the best balance of points earned and money spent.

Book car rentals

If you’ve got a road trip coming up, you may want to check out Southwest’s car rental partners that allow you to earn Rapid Rewards points on rental cars.

On Southwest's portal, select the company you’d like to book with to see the earn rate. When making a reservation, make sure to include any relevant discount codes.

Nerd tip: Review your printed rental agreement to ensure your Rapid Rewards number is included so you can earn points.

Earn points with Southwest Experiences

Southwest Experiences lets you earn Rapid Rewards points when booking tours, sightseeing activities and travel adventures through PlacePass. If you’ve got a vacation coming up and are looking for sightseeing ideas, see if Southwest Experiences is offering any activities at your destination. If you often buy tickets or excursions, this can be a good way to collect some extra Southwest points.

Buy gas at Marathon gas stations

Earn Southwest points when you refill your gas tank. You will need to sign up for the Marathon loyalty program, MakeItCount Rewards. The first time you get gas at Marathon, you will get 40 cents off per gallon up to 20 gallons. Thereafter, each $1 spent on gas will earn 1 Rapid Rewards point, and you will get a 5-cent discount on each gallon.

Sign up with Emergency Assistance Plus (EA+)

Emergency Assistance Plus (EA+) provides 24-hour emergency medical care when you're traveling. This program’s coverage can go beyond typical travel insurance and includes medical assistance, medical evacuation, transportation home and assistance for companions. Prices start at $169 annually. Upon signing up, you can earn 1,200 Rapid Rewards points.

Nerd tip: If you’re considering signing up for this service, check to see if your credit card already provides similar protections. Certain premium credit cards such as the The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve® offer a lot of travel insurance benefits that can overlap with what EA+ provides. Terms apply.

» Learn more:

Earn points while eating and drinking

Transfer points from Diners Club

Diners Club cardholders who don’t have a need for their Club Rewards points can transfer them to Southwest. For every 1,500 Club Rewards points transferred, you will receive 1,200 Rapid Rewards points. Keep in mind that this isn’t the best transfer ratio, so you may want to consider other potential uses of Diners Club points prior to doing a transfer.

Visit restaurants through Rapid Rewards dining

Foodies will love earning points through Rapid Rewards Dining, which allows you to earn Rapid Rewards points for dining at participating bars, restaurants or clubs. To start earning points, sign up for a Rapid Rewards Dining account and add a debit or credit card to your profile. Even if you don’t have a Southwest co-branded credit card, you could use the card you have now.

Whenever you visit a participating bar, club or restaurant, use the card in your profile and the points will post to your account automatically. If you’ve never participated in the program, you can usually earn a bonus for signing up.

Buy wine with Laithwaites

Want to purchase wine online and earn points while you’re at it? Southwest makes it easy to do that through its partnership with Laithwaites. Earn up to 2,000 Rapid Rewards points when you purchase an introductory case of wine. Each future purchase of a case will net you 1,000 Rapid Rewards points.

Order gourmet gifts from Harry & David

Each order of $29.99 or more from this supplier of premium food and gifts will earn 1,000 Rapid Rewards points. Include promo code SW44 when placing an order so the points post to your account.

Earn points while shopping

Use the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping site

Earn Southwest points when you make purchases online via the airline’s Rapid Rewards Shopping site.

First, you will need to log in with your Rapid Rewards username and password that you use to sign in to your Southwest account.

Upon logging in, you will see a list of participating stores along with their earn rates. Click on the store you’d like to shop at. Once you finish your purchase, the transaction will be recorded and the points should post within 15 days.

Get the Southwest browser button add-on

The Rapid Rewards shopping portal also offers the option to install a shopping button if you have the Google Chrome browser.

Once the button is installed, each time you visit an online merchant that participates in Rapid Rewards Shopping, you will get a notification in the top right of your browser informing you of the earn rate. The button eliminates the need to visit the shopping portal each time you want to buy something online.

Nerd tip: Rapid Rewards shopping frequently offers bonuses for spending over a specified amount (usually about $200), so check the portal periodically or install the button to see if you could earn extra points.

Order flowers

Need to buy flowers for a special occasion? 1-800-Flowers is offering 1,000 Rapid Rewards points for any order of $29.99 or more. Use promo code RR22 when placing an order.

Use energy suppliers

You can earn Rapid Rewards points when you sign up with one of their three energy supplier partners (NRG Home, Reliant or Energy Plus). Although the offers may sound appealing, read the fine print of each policy. These independent energy suppliers often offer electricity at variable rates, which can introduce unwanted volatility into your monthly bill.

Miscellaneous earning options

Take online surveys with e-Rewards and Rewards for Opinions

If you like taking surveys, Southwest has teamed up with e-Rewards and Rewards for Opinions, both of which provide Rapid Rewards points for filling out surveys.

Purchase Rapid Rewards points

This method ought to be your last resort given how expensive point purchases usually are. With Southwest, it really only makes sense to buy points if you need to top off your account to book an award seat — but you should consider all the other point-earning options first.

The bottom line

Southwest is a largely domestic airline that offers many great redemptions to over 100 destinations across the U.S., as well as to 10 countries in Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. There are a lot of easy ways to earn Rapid Rewards points, and if you integrate some of those mentioned above into your everyday spending patterns, you could be on your way to an award ticket faster than you think.

Do you have a favorite way of earning Rapid Rewards points? Let us know in the comments below.

All information about The Platinum Card® from American Express and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Platinum Card® from American Express and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet’s official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.