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Southwest has long been a traveler favorite for its fare sales, lack of change and cancellation fees, and two free checked bags policy. In fact, Southwest is generally considered the largest low-cost carrier in the U.S. And while its airfares are usually more affordable than the competition, booking Southwest flights for free on points is even better. But to book flights on points, you'll need to earn them.
Happily, earning Southwest points is fairly easy and the airline offers plenty of opportunities to do so through tactics including spending on Southwest credit cards, traveling with Southwest partners, dining, shopping and more.
The one downfall: Southwest does not participate in an airline alliance, so you won't be able to mix points for bookings on airlines. Though, it has a significant domestic presence (you'll also find Southwest flights to Hawaii) and it even flies to destinations internationally, with a significant offering of Southwest flights to the Caribbean).
So with that, here are more than a dozen ways to earn Southwest points for its Rapid Rewards loyalty program, sorted by best to worst.
18 ways to earn Southwest points quickly
1. Fly Southwest
Unsurprisingly, the most straightforward way to earn Southwest points is by actually flying! Unsurprisingly, you can earn Rapid Rewards points on flights you take on Southwest. Points earned depend on the fare type and the flight cost (taxes don't earn points):
Wanna Get Away fares: 6 points per $1 spent.
Wanna Get Away Plus fares: 8 points per $1 spent.
Anytime fares: 10 points per $1 spent.
Business Select fares: 12 points per $1 spent.
2. Hold Southwest elite status
Holding Southwest elite status is about more than just priority boarding (though boarding early to ensure you have first pick of your seat is always a win). Your points earning 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.
Wanna Get Away Fare
6 points per $1.
12 points per $1.
Wanna Get Away Plus
8 points per $1.
15 points per $1.
10 points per $1.
20 points per $1.
Business Select Fare
12 points per $1.
24 points per $1.
3. Spend on Southwest credit cards
The fastest way to rack up lots of Rapid Rewards points in a short amount of time is by earning the welcome offer on Southwest credit cards.
Although welcome offers typically begin at 30,000 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.
Here are the current offers on Southwest consumer credit cards:
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card (annual fee: $69): Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Cardholders earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines, local transit and commuting, internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming, 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 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
You'll get a higher earning rate on Southwest purchases (3x), but the same rates on everything else as noted above and a 6,000-point anniversary bonus.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card (annual fee: $149): Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
You'll find the same earning rate as the Premier, but with 7,500 points every year on your card anniversary.
This card comes with travel perks, such as four upgraded boardings per year, a $75 Southwest travel credit and a 25% 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.
Note that all Southwest credit cards are issued by Chase and are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, which is an unwritten rule where Chase limits the number of credit cards you can be approved for within a two-year period to five.
Here are the current offers on Southwest business credit cards:
If you own a business, you may qualify for one of Southwest's business credit cards — and these can sometimes be even more rewarding. Those cards are:
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card (annual fee: $99): Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. You’ll also earn a 6,000-point bonus each year on your card anniversary.
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card (annual fee: $199): Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also earn a 9,000-point bonus each year on your card anniversary.
Earning that bonus puts you well on your way to getting the Companion Pass, which you'll get after accumulating 135,000 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 and fees (which are typically just $5.60 each way for flights within the U.S.).
» Learn more: Can you have 2 Southwest credit cards?
4. Refer a friend to a Southwest credit card
And if you've got a Southwest card, perhaps you can convince a friend to get one. Chase’s refer-a-friend promotion can earn you up to 50,000 points per calendar year. You'll earn 10,000 Rapid Rewards points per referral (that's a value of about $140) when you refer a friend to apply for a Southwest credit card that you already hold. After your friend is approved, the bonus points will post to your account within eight weeks.
» Learn more: How to Refer-a-Friend and get more Southwest points
5. Direct spending toward Southwest credit card bonus categories
Okay, last point on the Southwest credit cards, we promise.
In addition to earning Southwest points when you swipe your credit card on Southwest purchases, 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.
Save a note in your phone showing which credit cards earn bonus points in specific categories, so you can maximize the number of points you earn from everyday purchases. And spend only what you can afford to pay back each month.
6. Transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards®
A great way to earn Rapid Rewards points is by transferring them from Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Points transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio where one Chase point equals one Southwest point, 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:
Chase Sapphire Reserve® (annual fee: $550): Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 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®.
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (annual fee: $95): Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest is particular valuable for cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. That's because Chase points are otherwise worth just 1.25 cents each when redeemed for travel on those two cards. But since NerdWalllet values one Southwest point at 1.5 cents each, you can squeeze a few more cents of value out of transferring Chase points to Southwest, versus using your Chase points to book a Southwest flight directly on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal — as many do.
Note that since Chase points are worth a more valuable 1.5 cents each for Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, this isn't always the best move if you hold that card.
How to transfer points from Chase to Southwest
When you’re ready to transfer points from Chase to Southwest (and you hold one of the above cards), 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.
7. Rent cars with Southwest car rental partners
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.
Points earning varies by company, and some throw in additional discounts. 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.
Review your printed rental agreement to ensure your Rapid Rewards number is included so you can earn points.
8. 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 can still earn rewards.
Whenever you visit a participating bar, club or restaurant, use the card in your profile and the points will post to your account automatically — no need to check-in or register (aside from the initial sign-up for the program). And if you haven't signed up yet, do it now. Southwest dining also offers a bonus for signing up.
9. Earn Southwest points while eating and drinking
Southwest Dining is the best way to earn points for eating — but it's not the only way. Southwest has a few other food and beverage partners. And considering you have to eat, you might as well earn Southwest points while doing it. Here are a few of Southwest's other food and beverage partners:
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.
Buy wine with Laithwaites
Want to purchase wine online and earn points while you’re at it? Southwest makes it easy to do 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.
Get meal kits delivered from Home Chef
Southwest Rapid Rewards members can earn 1,200 bonus points on each of their first five boxes. Plus take 10% off your first Home Chef order.
10. Shop online through Rapid Rewards Shopping
Many airlines offer online shopping portals — and they're an easy way to earn extra points or miles by online purchases you'd be making anyway.
Popular online retailers including Apple, Kohl’s, Gap, Harry & David, AutoZone, Staples, Walgreens and countless others tend to show up on these portals — and you'll still make the purchase on the merchant's actual website when using them.
There's just one extra step: You’ll navigate to that site only after logging in to the Southwest shopping portal and clicking a link that sends you to the retailer. That click enables the retailer to talk to Southwest and ensure you get your point. Here's how it works:
Use the Southwest 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.
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.
11. Spend money with Southwest's other retail partners
Outside of the shopping portal, Southwest has a few other partners who you might find yourself buying stuff from. They include:
1-800-Flowers: 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. Considering 1,000 Southwest points are worth about $14, you could get roughly half the value of your purchase back in the form of Rapid Rewards points.
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.
12. Take online surveys with e-Rewards and Rewards for Opinions
We're not going to pretend like this is a fast way to earn points for free flights, but it's mindless and easy. 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.
13. Book vacations 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.
14. 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. The annual cost starts at $169. Upon signing up, you can earn 1,200 Rapid Rewards points.
If you’re considering signing up for this service, check to see if your credit card already provides similar protections. Certain premium cards such as 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.
15. Move your Marriott 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, so we don't really recommend what we're about to tell you. But it is certainly one way to earn Southwest points, so we'll tell you anyway.
The Marriott Bonvoy program allows you to transfer your 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 (which NerdWallet values at about $420) to Rapid Rewards, you will receive 25,000 Rapid Rewards points (which NerdWallet values at only about $350). Your Bonvoys lose value in the conversion, so we don't usually recommend this option, unless you're certain you have no plans to stay at a Marriott property anytime soon, or you just need a few more points to top off a Southwest flight booking.
If you're seeking a quick way to earn Bonvoys, consider one of the following Marriott Bonvoy credit cards:
Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card (annual fee: $0): Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card (annual fee: $95): Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card (annual fee: $650): Earn two 85K Free Night Awards after you spend $6,000 in purchases on the Card in your first 6 months. Each award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy. Card Members could enjoy a value of up to $1,200 when redeeming each reward. Certain hotels have resort fees. Offer ends 11/1/2023. Terms Apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card (annual fee: $125): Earn 125,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after you use your new Card to make $8,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 11/1/23. Terms Apply.
» Learn more: Which Marriott Bonvoy credit card should I choose?
16. Sign up for a Hyatt credit card and transfer points to Southwest
Hyatt is another hotel that offers a transfer option to Southwest — and it's another means of earning Southwest points that we don't actually encourage (you can tell you're getting toward the end of the listing, can't you?).
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:
World of Hyatt Credit Card (annual fee: $95): Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.
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.
Based on our valuation, 50,000 Hyatt points are worth about $1,150 (2.3 cents each). We value Southwest points at 1.5 cents each, making 30,000 points worth $450. Taking into account both valuations, converting your Hyatt points into Southwest points isn’t advisable.
17. Leverage other hotel partnerships
There are various other ways to earn Rapid Rewards by staying at hotels. Although not as lucrative as the ratios from Marriott or Hyatt, there are additional 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.
Transfer hotel 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 in to your account on the hotel’s website and look for the option to convert your hotel points to Rapid Rewards points.
5,000 Best Western points to 1,200 Rapid Rewards points.
6,000 Choice points to 1,800 Rapid Rewards points.
10:1 ratio at three levels including:
Earn Southwest points for stays
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.
Rapid Rewards points earned
600 points per stay.
600 points per stay (must book directly with Hyatt).
600 points per stay.
M Life (MGM Resorts)
600 points per stay.
20 points per $1 spent.
Book accommodations in the 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 portal could be 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.
Book stays via 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.
18. Purchase Rapid Rewards points
This method ought to be your last resort given how expensive point purchases usually are. With Southwest, it only makes sense to purchase Rapid Rewards points if you need to top off your account to book an award seat — but you'll want to consider all the other points-earning options first.
» Learn more: When a miles or points purchase makes sense
There are many easy ways to earn Southwest points
Southwest offers many 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.
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 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card