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Want an easy way to work your way toward free Southwest flights — without even having to take a flight? The Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program is one of the easiest ways to earn Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points for spending you're probably already doing anyway.
You don’t even need a Southwest Airlines credit card; you can link any credit (or even debit) card you have. What's more, you can double dip on your earnings, so every time you eat out you can earn Southwest points by paying with a card linked to your Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining account and you can earn the usual bonus rewards you'd earn from charging your dining purchases to a credit card.
And the points you'll earn are decently hefty, as you unlock potential earnings of 3 points per $1 spent at participating restaurants if you opt in to receive their emails, otherwise 1 point per $2 spent. We value one Southwest point at about 1.4 cents each.
Assuming you opt in to the emails, that’s roughly 4% back from your restaurant bill in the form of Southwest points. Plus, don’t forget that you can stack this with your usual credit card earnings to rack up even more points — and potentially a far higher return than even 4% back.
Here’s what you need to know about earning extra points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program.
How to register for Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining
The Rapid Rewards Dining program is a little tricky, but once you get it set up, you unlock potential earnings of 3 points per $1 spent at participating restaurants.
First, visit rapidrewardsdining.com to find participating restaurants in your area. Assuming you find at least one that you’d eat at anyway, it’s worth signing up. After that, select the Join Now button on the homepage, and then enter your name, zip code, email and your Southwest Rapid Rewards number.
You’ll need your wallet handy because you need to link your credit or debit card (or cards, as you can link up to 12) to your Rapid Rewards dining account. Once your cards are linked, just use it to pay at a restaurant in the dining program network, and you’ll get Rapid Rewards points added automatically to your Southwest account. You don’t need to do anything special with the receipt afterward — this is an easy “set it and forget it” way to rack up extra Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
Once your Rapid Rewards Dining account has been set up, you’ll typically earn up to 3 points per dollar at your local restaurants in the network.In most cases, the only way to earn the full 3 points per $1 spent is if you remain opted in to Rapid Rewards Dining emails. If you opt out, you’ll earn 1 point per $2 spent.
Search for your city or zip code, and when you click on the restaurant, you’ll see how many points per dollar you’ll earn.
Before you make plans to head out to the restaurant and earn points, take a quick look at the benefits calendar and details further down on that restaurant’s page.
Some restaurants have no restrictions, and you’ll earn dining points at any time. Other restaurants have blackout dates that you’ll want to be aware of. In this example, you won’t earn any Rapid Rewards Dining points if you order on Friday, Saturday or Sunday:
Each restaurant has limits on how many times you’ll be able to earn points each month, and up to what dollar amount. And considering earning 3 points per dollar amounts to roughly 4% back from your restaurant bill in the form of Southwest points, you might as well go for it.
Earn extra bonus points
Beyond the standard points you’ll earn at participating restaurants when you eat out, the Rapid Rewards Dining program also offers several ways to earn even more points.
When you first join the program, you’ll have the opportunity to earn 1,000 bonus points. Just dine at a participating restaurant and spend at least $25 within 30 days of joining and complete an online review.
Additionally, once you’ve earned 1,500 dining reward points, you’ll get an extra bonus of 500 points. After that, you’ll earn an extra 300 bonus points for every 1,000 Rapid Rewards Dining points you earn.
Finally, each time you complete a short review of a restaurant after you dine, you’ll earn an additional 10 points.
» Learn more: Best dining rewards programs
Can you stack rewards?
“Stacking” is the practice of earning multiple rewards or applying multiple coupons or cash back earnings on your purchases. Savvy shoppers can pick up extra points or save extra dollars by taking a few minutes to shop through a travel portal or look for special offers.
Earning points from multiple dining programs
Unfortunately, you usually can't earn points from multiple airline or hotel dining programs at the same time. Though different dining programs can earn different kinds of points, most of the programs are all managed by the same company called Rewards Network. That means that they can recognize the credit or debit card number that you link to your Rapid Rewards Dining program. So if you register a credit card in the Rapid Rewards Dining program that you already have registered in the Hilton Honors Dining program, for example, your card will be removed from Hilton. The new program you register for will replace the older account.
Earning credit card points
But now for the good news: You will still earn credit card points on your dining purchases, in addition to the dining rewards points. If you use your American Express® Gold Card to pay your bill at a restaurant in the Rapid Rewards Dining network, you’ll earn 4x Membership Rewards points plus up to 3x Rapid Rewards points from the dining program. Terms apply.
If you have a coupon or savings offer for your favorite restaurant, you’ll be able to use that, too, for extra savings on your bill.
The bottom line
The average American household spends close to $3,500 each year on dining out. Assuming you spent that much and always dined at restaurants through the Rapid Rewards Dining program, you’re looking at more than 10,000 Rapid Rewards points per year.
Joining makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider that you can “set it and forget it” to earn easy extra points.
Make sure you look at any restricted days for the restaurant of your choice. And while you can’t earn dining rewards from multiple programs at the same time, it’s easy to change your program of choice if you’d rather earn something else instead of Southwest Rapid Rewards down the line.
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 2021, 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