The Guide to Southwest A-List Status

Southwest A-List status offers benefits like free same-day standby, priority boarding and a rewards earning bonus.

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. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Southwest Airlines offers two levels of elite status: A-List and A-List Preferred. However, its elite status is a bit unlike most major airlines. There are no upgrades to first class (that’s because Southwest first class isn’t a thing), and there’s no access to premium airport lounges (Southwest doesn’t have any).

However, Southwest’s elite status is worth pursuing if you find yourself taking advantage of its cheap fares to over 100 destinations in the U.S. and 10 other countries. With it, you get benefits like a dedicated customer service phone line, bonus points earning and same-day standby benefits.

And even though the Southwest boarding process is quite unconventional, elite status holders get one of the best benefits you could possibly ask for while flying the airline: priority boarding. With it, Southwest automatically reserves your boarding position for you early, all but guaranteeing an A boarding group — and maybe even that coveted window seat in the emergency exit row.

Whether you’re a Southwest regular or you are new to the airline (or at least its elite status program), here we’ll break down everything you need to know about Southwest A-List and A-List Preferred status, including how to earn it, what benefits come with it, and whether it’s really worth all the hype.

Changes to Southwest status levels for 2022 and limited-time offers

For a limited time, Southwest is running a corporate status match that might get certain business travelers automatic, temporary elite status.

Find out if you’re eligible by entering your name, Rapid Rewards Number and company info on Southwest’s business status match page anytime between now and Dec. 31, 2022. If you’re eligible, you’ll receive Rapid Rewards A-List status for 120 days — but possibly even longer.

If you either:

  1. Book and complete two round trip qualifying flights or four one-way qualifying flights, or

  2. Earn 5,333 Tier qualifying points from qualifying flights booked and flown within the 120-day period after enrolling.

Then, Southwest will extend your A-List status for an additional 12 months.

How to earn A-List status

How do you earn Southwest elite status? In short: Fly frequently, spend a significant amount of money with the airline, or both.

Here’s an overview of Southwest’s status levels, and what's offered.

Status Level

One-way Flights

Tier Qualifying Points

A-List

25.

35,000.

A-List Preferred

50.

70,000.

Tier qualifying points (TQPs) are earned for flights booked on Southwest (the pricier the flight, the more points you earn) and by spending on Southwest’s credit cards.

You earn 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 spent using the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card and the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.

A-List status perks

A-List is the lower of the two tiers of Southwest elite status.

Benefits of A-List status include:

  • Access to Fly By priority check-in and security access lanes (where available).

  • A dedicated A-List phone line.

  • A 25% earning bonus on all eligible revenue Southwest flights.

  • Same-day confirmed changes with no difference in base fare (if there is a seat available on the same calendar day).

  • Same-day standby benefits free of airline charges.

  • All passengers included on your reservation will receive priority boarding (meaning Southwest will automatically reserve a boarding position 36 hours prior to the flight, though you and passengers on your reservation will still need to check in within 24 hours of scheduled departure to retrieve your boarding passes).

About Southwest A-List Preferred status

The biggest difference between A-List and A-List Preferred is with the latter, you earn way more points per flight booked with Southwest, which means you’ll rack up points toward future flights even faster. Additionally, you’ll get free in-flight Wi-Fi.

In addition to all of the above the benefits provided by A-List status, A-List Preferred status includes:

  • Free in-flight Wi-Fi.

  • A dedicated A-List Preferred phone line.

  • A 100% earning bonus on all eligible revenue Southwest flights.

With both A-List and A-List Preferred status, qualification is based on a calendar year, so get started on your mission in January.

Once you’ve earned status, you’ll get it immediately, and you’ll hold it for the entire calendar year immediately following (so status earned in December 2022 would last through December 2023, but status earned in January 2023 would last through December 2024).

Using Southwest credit cards as a shortcut

You don’t necessarily even have to fly Southwest to automatically earn Southwest elite status. Just spend a lot on its credit cards.

Certain Southwest credit cards grant you 1,500 tier qualifying points for each $10,000 spent in purchases annually. So rather than having to earn 35,000 points for A-List status, you could do a combo of earning 33,500 points plus spending $10,000 on an eligible credit card.

Or, with $240,000 worth of credit card spending in a year, you could buy your way to Southwest elite status without taking a single flight. While that kind of spending likely isn’t realistic, it might make sense for business spending. And yes, even both of Southwest’s business cards are eligible for the offer.

The Southwest credit cards that include the benefit of granting you 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 spent are:

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More
  • Annual fee: $99

  • Intro offer: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

  • 6,000 anniversary points per year.

  • Earn 3x points on Southwest purchases.

  • Earn 2x points on local transit and commuting (including rideshare), internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming services.

  • 2 EarlyBird Check-Ins per year.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More
  • Annual fee: $149

  • Intro offer: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

  • 7,500 anniversary points per year.

  • Earn 3x points on Southwest purchases.

  • Earn 2x points on local transit and commuting (including rideshare), internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming services.

  • $75 Southwest travel credit each year.

  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card"
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More
  • Annual fee: $99

  • Intro offer: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • 6,000 anniversary points per year.

  • Earn 3x points on Southwest purchases.

  • Earn 2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners, local transit, and commuting (including rideshare).

  • 2 EarlyBird Check-Ins each year.

New! Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More
  • Annual fee: $199

  • Intro offer: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

  • 9,000 anniversary points per year.

  • Earn 4x points on Southwest purchases.

  • Earn 2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners, local transit, commuting (including rideshare), social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services.

  • Reimbursement of up to four upgraded boardings per year.

How much is Southwest A-List status worth?

Since Southwest offers all passengers two free checked bags anyway, and there’s no such thing as a Southwest first class lounge (heck, there’s no such thing as Southwest first class, period),

Southwest elite status is worth much less than the value of elite status with most other airlines That said, given the unconventional nature of flying with Southwest, its elite status benefits can shape up to be incredibly valuable for certain flyers.

To determine the estimates below, we performed a comprehensive analysis of the value of airline elite status. While this is just an average, by our estimates:

  • Southwest A-List status is worth $122.99.

  • Southwest A-List Preferred status is worth $983.94.

Just remember, the “value” of any elite status depends not only on the benefits it affords, but also how much it costs to earn. By dividing the benefits by the cost, you can determine the “elite earning rate” for each level.

Value of benefits

Cost to earn

Elite earning rate

A-List

$138.

$7,384.

2%.

A-List Preferred

$1,108.

$14,768.

8%.

When you weigh the value of benefits versus the cost to earn, you’re looking at an elite earning rate of just 2% for A-List, and 7% for A-List Preferred. And, of course, this is just an estimate. Someone might need to spend $240,000 on a Southwest credit card to earn Southwest status. Someone else might fly a lot — but it technically didn’t cost them anything at all if their company paid for the trips.

And the value also can vary by type of traveler. If you prefer to be the last to board (after all, it’s less time cramped in a human tube), then you won’t find value in priority boarding. If you spend a lot on Southwest, then the bonus points might be even more valuable to you than someone who doesn’t fly quite as frequently.

Like pretty much any elite status program, the more you fly, the more valuable your status is in earning more Rapid Rewards points toward your next flight.

NerdWallet’s take on the value of Southwest elite status

With an earning rate of just 7% when you factor in the cost to earn, it’s generally not worth the effort to go out of your way to try to earn Southwest elite status. Unless you fly Southwest anyway, don’t go out of the way to get to elite status, as it’s likely not worth the minuscule cost of other benefits like priority boarding that you can just pay for in cash anyway.

The best benefit of Southwest elite status? Bonus points. When it comes time to redeeming Rapid Rewards points, consider using them for a tropical vacation. Southwest flights to the Caribbean provide among the best value for budget travelers looking for a beach getaway. Southwest flights to Hawaii continue to expand on the West Coast as the airline adds more routes beyond California, where service initially launched.

With that said, Southwest’s most valuable type of elite status for most people isn't elite status at all — it’s the Southwest Companion Pass. In most cases (assuming you frequently fly with a friend), that’s a benefit worth having.

What about the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most coveted perks in the budget air travel world. It’s essentially a buy-one-get-one-free deal, where you buy a ticket for yourself, and you can buy a ticket for your designated companion for only the cost of taxes and fees (which is typically just $5.60 each way for flights within the U.S.).

Earning it is a similar process to what you undergo on your quest to earn Southwest elite status:

How to earn a Southwest Companion Pass

To qualify for a traditional Companion Pass, you'll need to either:

  • Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year, or;

  • Earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. Qualifying points can be earned through spending on Southwest airfare, spending on Southwest credit cards, and by earning points through Rapid Rewards partners.

Upon meeting either of those criteria, you'll earn the Companion Pass for the rest of the year in which you qualified and the following calendar year. So if you earn the Companion Pass in, say, February 2023, it will be valid through the end of December 2024. You'll need to re-qualify every year after to hold on to your status.

Frequently asked questions

Southwest elite status can be earned by flying on Southwest and spending on Southwest’s four annual fee credit cards. There are two elite status levels: A-List and A-List Preferred. A-List is earned by taking 25 one-way flights or earning 35,000 tier-qualifying points. A-List Preferred is earned by flying 50 one-way flights or earning 70,000 tier-qualifying points.

Southwest’s A-List status is achieved by taking 25 one-way flights or earning 35,000 tier-qualifying points (TQPs).

Tier qualifying points (TQPs) aren't the same as points that are redeemable for flight award tickets. TQPs are points that you need to earn to achieve Southwest elite status. These points are earned from Southwest revenue flights or by spending on Southwest’s four annual fee credit cards.

Tier qualifying points post to your account within 72 hours after completion of your entire trip.

No, point transfers don't count toward A-List and A-List Preferred status. While it is possible to transfer points from partner programs, including the Chase Ultimate Rewards, to use toward booking free flights, those points won't count toward earning elite status.


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 2022, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.