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While Southwest Airlines doesn't have as many routes or partnerships as the legacy carriers, the airline’s Rapid Rewards loyalty program is worth considering if you find yourself taking advantage of its cheap fares to over 100 destinations in the U.S. and 10 other countries.
Plus, if you already have status with another domestic airline, Southwest will match it. This will let you take advantage of the airline’s elite status perks, including:
Dedicated phone line.
Priority check-in and security lane access, where available.
Free same-day standby for alternate flights.
25% earning bonus.
To get the status match, you need to sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards program and email proof of your status with another airline. Once the airline verifies the information, you’ll get matching A-List status. You can extend your new status another 12 months by taking three round-trip flights (or six one-ways) within 90 days of enrollment.
» Learn more: Southwest Rapid Rewards program: The complete guide
How to get elite status by flying and spending
To get A-List status, you need to take 25 one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points per year. If you fly 50 qualifying segments or earn 70,000 qualifying points per year, you will earn A-List Preferred status. If you fly 100 one-way flights or earn 125,000 points, you can earn the airline’s coveted Companion Pass, which allows you to designate a companion who can travel with you for just the cost of taxes and fees.
In addition to flying to earn tier points, you can also earn them through with the Southwest Rapid Reward credit cards. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card carry a $99 and $149 annual fee respectively.
Even though these cards don’t come with automatic status, they let you earn 1,500 tier qualifying points toward A-List and A-List Preferred status for every $10,000 spent, up to $100,000. The airline’s Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card offer the same tier-point earning benefit.
Elite status perks
Both A-List and A-List Preferred status will get you priority check-in and boarding. The airline has Fly-By priority check-in lines to get you to the counter quicker, and Southwest will automatically assign you a boarding position 36 hours before your flight.
If you want to change your flight on the same day to an earlier flight, both tiers get free same-day standby through the end of 2020. After that, Southwest elites get the same benefit, but will have to pay taxes and fees associated with itinerary changes.
Keep in mind that elite status benefits are not available to Companion Pass travelers, unless that person also has status.
Top-tier A-List Preferred elites receive free inflight Wi-Fi and a 100% point earning bonus, whereas A-List elites only get a 25% bonus.
» Learn more: How to get airline perks without elite status
What you can do with your points and status
Elite status will help you earn reward points faster with bonuses of up to 100%. When it comes time to redeem Rapid Rewards points, consider using them for a tropical vacation. Island destinations that Southwest flies to include Grand Cayman, Honolulu and Montego Bay. The airline also serves the Mexican destinations of Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Cozumel and Puerto Vallarta.
» Learn more:
If you manage to earn elite status or get it matched, your vacation will be off to a great start.
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:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card