The Complete Guide to Southwest Rapid Rewards

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For people who like low fares and hate fees, Southwest Airlines is one of the best airlines out there — and the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is one of the best airline loyalty programs to take advantage of all of its benefits. It's free to join — and you should, as it's the only way for you to earn points every time you fly Southwest (which you can turn around and use for future flights).

And since points don't expire, even if you fly Southwest every few years only, you'll still eventually rack up enough points for the total to be worth something.

Southwest Airlines is considered the biggest low-cost carrier in the U.S. in terms of passengers served. It flies to about 100 destinations in the U.S. and Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. With a huge footprint, it's relatively easy to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points and redeem those Southwest rewards for future travel.

Southwest’s customer-friendly policies is one main feature that sets it apart from Delta, American Airlines and United. The airline allows two free checked bags up to 50 pounds each on every flight and group boarding. Southwest is our favorite loyalty program for families.

Southwest also offers the Companion Pass, which allows you to bring a friend with you for free (aside from taxes and fees). In addition, the airline has no change fees, which allow for last-minute flexibility.

Here's everything you need to know about Southwest Rapids Rewards.

Southwest Rapid Rewards sign-up

Before you can start earning points with Southwest, you’ll need to sign up for a Rapid Rewards frequent flyer account. It’s free to join, and you can register here.

How much Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth

Based on our most recent analysis of actual award flight redemptions, NerdWallet values Southwest Rapid Rewards points at 1.4 cents apiece. Read more about how we arrived at these figures.

This is a baseline value for Southwest points, based on real-world data collected from hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 1.4 cents or more in value from your Southwest points.

Unlike some other airlines, the value of Southwest points doesn’t really change from flight to flight, as the airline offers no award chart. If the cost of a plane ticket goes up, so does the number of points needed to book the flight. Because of this, Southwest doesn’t really have “sweet spots” for award bookings. For most people, this makes it easy to decide to book flights with points because you'll generally get the same value for your points every time.

To determine the value of your miles for specific flights, divide the cash value of the ticket (less any applicable taxes/fees if you redeem miles) by the number of points required for the flight. So if the ticket would cost either $100, or 15,000 points + $10 in taxes/fees, the math would be as follows:

($100 – $10) / 15,000 = 0.006, or 0.6 cent per point.

Southwest Airlines vs. competitors: How it stacks in 2022

Southwest came in third place out of nine airlines in our most recent analysis on the best airline loyalty programs.

Here's a closer look at how Rapid Rewards competed across categories to earn its rank:

How to earn Rapid Rewards points

You can earn Rapid Rewards points several ways: by flying on Southwest, by shopping and dining with partners, or by spending on a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card. Southwest is also a transfer partner of the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program.

Earning Rapid Rewards points when you fly

The number of points you earn for a flight depends on the price of the ticket, the type of fare you’re buying, and your status level within the Rapid Rewards program. All fares include two free checked bags up to 50 pounds each, no change fees and reusable funds for up to 12 months if you cancel your flight or fully refundable flights depending on the type of fare booked.

Southwest sells four different types of fares, and each earn a different number of Rapid Rewards points.

  • Wanna Get Away: The cheapest fares are aptly named “Wanna Get Away.” These fares have no additional benefits from those listed above and earn 6 Rapid Rewards points for every $1 spent in base airfare.

  • Wanna Get Away Plus: This elevated fare level gets you 8x on airfare spending and a few additional perks like transferable flight credits, same-day confirmed changes nd access to the same-day standby list.

  • Anytime: Anytime fares are a little more flexible than Wanna Get Away and Wanna Get Away Plus fares because canceled trips can be refunded to the original form of payment or used toward another flight for up to 12 months. Flyers also earn 10 Rapid Rewards points for every $1 spent on base airfare.

  • Business Select: For travelers who want the Southwest luxury experience, Business Select fares are the most expensive but offer the most benefits. In addition to the above perks, Business Select passengers can use the priority security lane at the airport (where available) after checking in. At the gate, Business Select flyers are guaranteed to be among the first 15 people to board. And in the air, these passengers also get one free complimentary premium drink of their choice. Business Select customers also earn the most Rapid Rewards, earning 12 points per $1 spent on base airfare.

Earning Rapid Rewards points with a credit card

Southwest offers five co-branded credit cards through Chase: three consumer credit cards and two business cards.

We discuss the credit cards above that earn Rapid Rewards points in-depth later in this article.

Earning Rapid Rewards points through partners

Southwest has a robust list of non-airline partnerships, allowing you to earn points for your spending on rental cars, hotels or a box of fancy pears from Harry & David.

  • Hotels: You can earn Rapid Rewards points at some hotel chains. At most hotels, you earn 1 point per $1 spent, but it’s possible to earn more depending on where you stay. See partner hotels here.

  • Car rentals: The earn rate at car rental companies varies. For example, Alamo is currently offering 600 Rapid Rewards points for a rental. See partner car rental agencies here.

  • Shopping and dining: Earn points at more than 800 retailers when you shop through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping portal. Meanwhile, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program allows you to earn up to 3 points per $1 spent at participating restaurants, plus bonus points for submitting restaurant reviews. Both are excellent ways to earn (and double-dip) points earning, especially if that's spending you're doing anyway.

  • Gas at Marathon gas stations: Rapid Rewards members can earn 1 point for every gallon of Marathon fuel they purchase, plus additional points on select in-store purchases and other specified achievements through the MakeItCount program. To earn, members must sign up ahead of time and select Rapid Rewards as their earning partner.

  • Switching electricity providers: Members in some states can also earn a sign-up bonus and ongoing bonuses when they switch their power service to NRG Home or Reliant. Check the Rapid Rewards website to see if your home is eligible.

  • Taking surveys: Participate in market research and earn points when you share your opinion via the e-Rewards and Rewards For Opinions platforms.

Unfortunately, Southwest doesn’t have any airline partners and isn’t a member of an airline alliance, so you can’t earn Rapid Rewards points by flying on other airlines.

Transferring other points to Rapid Rewards

Two credit card rewards programs offer the opportunity to transfer points to Rapid Rewards: Diners Club and Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Diners Club cardholders can convert Diners Club Rewards points to Rapid Rewards points at a rate of 1,500 Diners Club points to 1,200 Rapid Rewards points.

If you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® from a Chase Sapphire® Card, you can also convert those points to Rapid Rewards at a one-to-one rate. You must transfer a minimum of 1,000 points.

You can also transfer points from rental car and hotel programs to Rapid Rewards, though — unless you don't anticipate using those points in their original form — the exchange rate is pretty bad, so we don't typically recommend this.

Buying Rapid Rewards points

Generally, you can buy Rapid Rewards points at a rate of 2.75 to 3 cents each, but it’s not advisable. Since we value Rapid Rewards points at an average of 1.4 cents each, buying points at these prices is a almost always a bad deal.

One exception to the rule is if you have a specific redemption in mind and need to top off your account.

Do Southwest points expire?

Southwest Rapid Rewards points don't expire. However, if you opt to close your account, the points in your account will be terminated.

How to redeem Rapid Rewards points

Anyone who is a Rapid Rewards member can redeem points on Southwest’s website for flights.

To book flights on Southwest, go to the booking tool on Southwest's website and login to your Rapid Rewards account. Then, enter your travel information and choose the option to see the fare in points rather than dollars. If any fare classes are sold out for a given flight, that will be indicated in the results.

While all fare options are available, prices in points are directly tied to their cash price.

Good redemption options

Here are some of the highest value ways to redeem Southwest points.

  • Southwest Wanna Get Away flights: The best way to use Rapid Rewards points is toward Wanna Get Away fares aboard Southwest, which is the lowest of the Southwest fare classes.

  • International flights: Southwest is primarily known for its flights within the contiguous U.S. and Hawaii. But don't overlook its international flights to destinations in Central America and the Caribbean.

Bad redemption options

Avoid spending your points in the airline’s More Rewards portal, which you have access to if you have a Rapid Rewards credit card. Here, you can purchase non-Southwest operated international flights, hotels, rental cars, merchandise and gift cards.

However, these tend to be a terrible deal. When we searched for gift card rewards, values were as low as 0.6 cent per point — less than half of the value of using points for the average flight. This makes getting gift cards and other items from a merchandise store a bad use of points.

Southwest A-List status

You can sign up for the Rapid Rewards loyalty program for free, which allows you to earn points toward Southwest elite status — otherwise known as A-List — and award flights. At the A-List and A-List Preferred tiers, you earn more points and enjoy some additional perks.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Southwest has made it easier for loyalists to earn elite status for 2022. Read all about Southwest’s elite status requirements for 2022.

Southwest A-List benefits

Having A-List status on Southwest can sweeten the deal for your next flight. Benefits include:

A-List

A-List Preferred

Points bonus

25% more points on each flight.

100% more points on each flight.

Airport benefits

  • Priority check-in.

  • Priority boarding.

  • Access to "Fly By" expedited security lanes at select airports.

  • Free same-day standby through airport customer service agents.

  • Priority check-in.

  • Priority boarding.

  • Access to "Fly By" expedited security lanes at select airports.

  • Free same-day standby through airport customer service agents.

Additional perks

  • Dedicated A-List customer service phone line.

  • Free in-flight WiFi.

  • Dedicated A-List customer service phone line.

How to earn A-List on Southwest

To attain A-List or A-List Preferred status, you must fly a certain number of “qualifying one-way flights” or earn a certain number of “tier qualifying points” in a calendar year. You gain elite status as soon as you earn it, and it's good through the next calendar year.

To earn A-List status, you must fly 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points. A List Preferred's requirements are doubled: Fly 50 qualifying one-way flights or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points.

A qualifying one-way flight is defined as a trip from origin to destination, including any connections. So if you’re flying from Los Angeles to Chicago Midway Airport, it counts as a single one-way flight regardless if it's nonstop or you have to change planes.

Tier qualifying points are different from Rapid Rewards points. Although you can obtain Rapid Rewards points in all sorts of ways (as described above), there are only two ways to earn tier qualifying points:

  • Purchasing tickets for Southwest flights.

  • Spending on a Southwest credit card, including the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card or the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card. With all cards, you earn 1,500 tier qualifying points for each $10,000 spent, up to 15,000 tier qualifying points per year.

How much is A-List status worth?

NerdWallet did a comprehensive analysis of airline elite status programs to determine the dollar value of each tier, including Southwest’s A-List and A-List Preferred status.

NerdWallet estimates that the perks of Southwest A-List status are worth $123, and A-List Preferred status perks are worth $984.

To arrive at these dollar figures, we made many assumptions about how each status was used. Check the methodology in the link above for a more detailed breakdown.

Southwest deals and when to pay cash

Southwest often runs fare sales and allows you to search flight deals by specific destination. In addition, the airline also sends out emails advertising flight deals for as low as $59 each way.

If you have Southwest points and you see that there’s a fare sale going on, it’s a good opportunity to redeem your points.

Since the value of Southwest points remains constant and there is no award chart, using points for a flight will never result in an outstanding redemption. That’s why it’s smart to keep your eyes out for these flash sales (typically found in your inbox).

If you don’t have enough points to book the award ticket, paying cash — especially if you’re getting a flight deal — could still be a good value since you’ll also earn points on that flight.

The Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is a valuable and sought-after perk of the Rapid Rewards program. The pass allows a guest to fly with you nearly for free (you'll both have to pay taxes and security fees starting from $5.60 one way) from the time you earn it through the next calendar year.

To earn the pass, you must either fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. Qualifying points for Companion Pass include points earned from buying Southwest tickets, points earned with Southwest credit cards and points earned from select Rapid Rewards partners.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you apply for a Southwest credit card when there is a high sign-up offer, you can earn the Companion Pass even faster.

Note that, currently, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card are also offering a Companion Pass in their welcome bonus.

Credit cards that earn Rapid Rewards points

Southwest offers three personal and two business cards from Chase.

Southwest personal credit cards

All of the airline’s personal credit cards are similar in that they each earn the following:

  • 2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshares, Internet, cable, phone services and select streaming, and with Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners.

  • 25% back on in-flight purchases.

  • 1x point on all other purchases.

However, the cards differ in their ability to earn extra bonus points based on spend in specific categories. Here’s how these shake out.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card (annual fee: $149): New Offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

  • 7,500 anniversary points each year.

  • 3x points on Southwest purchases.

  • 2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshares.

  • 2x points on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming.

  • $75 Southwest travel credit each year.

  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.

  • 1,500 TQPs toward A-List status for every $10,000 you spend up to 15,000 TQPs per year.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card (annual fee: $99): New Offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

  • 6,000 anniversary points each year.

  • 3x points on Southwest purchases.

  • 2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshares.

  • 2x points on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming.

  • 1,500 TQPs toward A-List status for every $10,000 you spend up to 15,000 TQPs per year.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card (annual fee: $69): New Offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

  • 3,000 anniversary points each year.

  • 2x points on Southwest purchases.

  • 2 Early Bird Check-Ins each year.

  • 2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshares.

  • 2x points on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming.

Southwest business credit cards

Southwest’s business credit cards share the following points earning structures:

  • 2x points on local transit and commuting.

  • 1x point on all other purchases.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

In addition, the cards earn additional points in these categories:

New! Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
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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.

  • 9,000 anniversary points each year.

  • 4x points spent on Southwest Airlines purchases.

  • 3x points spent on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners.

  • 2x points spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services.

  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.

  • In-flight Wi-Fi credits.

  • 1,500 TQPs toward A-List status for every $10,000 you spend. There is no earnings maximum.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card"
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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.

  • 3x points spent on Southwest purchases.

  • 2x points spent on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.

  • Two Early Bird Check-Ins each year.

  • 25% back on in-flight purchases.

  • 1,500 TQPs toward A-List status for every $10,000 you spend up to 15,000 TQPs per year.

Find out if a Southwest credit card is worth it (Spoiler: Getting one can be a wise choice for people who love flying Southwest). If you’re struggling to choose, we’ve got advice to help you figure out which Southwest credit card is right for you — but if you’re still having a hard time making up your mind, know that it is possible to have more than one.

Before you jump in, here are the things to know before getting a Southwest card.

Frequently asked questions

There are plenty of ways to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points including from flights, hotels, car rentals, shopping and dining. You can also earn Rapid Rewards points by using a Southwest credit card.

Yes, if you have a Southwest credit card, you could redeem your points for hotels through the More Rewards portal. However, this isn't a good use of your points. We ran the data on many hotel redemptions through More Rewards and found that you’d be paying 80% above what you would pay if you booked directly from the hotel. In addition, you’d be getting below our baseline estimated value from your points.

For the most part, purchasing points is a bad idea. You can buy Southwest points for 2.75 to 3 cents each, but NerdWallet values Southwest points at 1.4 cents each. So if you’re purchasing points, you’re overpaying. One of the only times it makes sense to buy points is if you need to top up a specific redemption and there is no other way to quickly earn those points.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards program enables members to earn Rapid Rewards points by flying with Southwest Airlines, spending money on partner brands — which include World of Hyatt, Alamo, Avis and Hertz — or spending money on a Southwest credit card. Then, you can redeem those rewards for hotel stays, rental cars, exclusive experiences, international flights and gift cards. It’s free to enroll in the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.

Generally, the best way to use Southwest Rapid Rewards points is for Southwest flights. To book airfare on points, search for your flight as usual on Southwest’s site, but select the button to search in points rather than dollars. Then, select the flight you want, go through the usual checkout process and points will be deducted from your online account.

Southwest Rapid Rewards points don't expire; however, if you close your account, you’ll also lose the points tied to that account.

Generally speaking, you need about 3,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points to book a flight that otherwise has a $49 cash fare. NerdWallet values one point at 1.4 cents, so that figure can help you estimate how many points you might need for a free flight. Divide the cost of your ticket in cash by that figure to get a ballpark estimate of how many points you would need for a free flight.

Based on NerdWallet’s valuation of one point at 1.4 cents, 15,000 Southwest points is worth about $210. However, remember that points are made-up currencies and their value can vary based on how you redeem them (flights tend to be a good value, while physical goods like magazines tend to be a terrible value).

It’s free to enroll in Southwest Rapid Rewards (you’ll just need to hand over your email address). As long as you intend to fly on Southwest a few times in your life, it’s usually worth signing up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards. You’ll collect points for your flights that you can then use to book free flights in the future. Throw in Southwest’s best-in-class 1.4 cents point valuation (plus the fact that points don’t expire) and the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is one of the best airline rewards programs out there.


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:

partner programs

IHG® One Rewards
Get exclusive benefits and earn points faster
World of Hyatt
Enjoy free nights, member rates and more
Alaska Mileage Plan
Join Mileage Plan and Save $25 on your next flight
IHG® Rewards Program

IHG® One Rewards

Wherever you go, however you stay, IHG One Rewards offers rewards for every one.

on IHG One Rewards’ website

Highlights:
  1. Cheers to new tiers: New tiers allow members to earn points faster.
  2. Piling on the perks: New members benefits that enhance every stay
  3. Milestone Rewards: Allows members to choose their rewards.
  1. Cheers to new tiers: New tiers allow members to earn points faster.
  2. Piling on the perks: New members benefits that enhance every stay
  3. Milestone Rewards: Allows members to choose their rewards.

on IHG One Rewards’ website

World of Hyatt

World of Hyatt

With the World of Hyatt loyalty program, enjoy a world of rewards designed to revolve around you.

on Hyatt's website

Highlights:
  1. Earn points for things you already enjoy with Hyatt
  2. Use your points for free nights at more than 1,100 hotels around the world
  3. Three elite tiers to unlock exceptional benefits - room upgrades and more.
  1. Earn points for things you already enjoy with Hyatt
  2. Use your points for free nights at more than 1,100 hotels around the world
  3. Three elite tiers to unlock exceptional benefits - room upgrades and more.

on Hyatt's website

logo image

Alaska Mileage Plan

Mileage Plan is Alaska's loyalty program for anyone who loves to travel and is free to join!

on Alaska's website

Highlights:
  1. Join Mileage Plan and Save $25 on your next flight
  2. Our members earn 30% more miles on average than other airlines
  3. You earn based on how far you fly, not how much you spend
  1. Join Mileage Plan and Save $25 on your next flight
  2. Our members earn 30% more miles on average than other airlines
  3. You earn based on how far you fly, not how much you spend

on Alaska's website

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