4 Things the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program Gets Right

Christy LynchNov 8, 2018

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 has a reputation for putting its customers first. Its good-humored staff, no-fuss offerings and affordable fares make it easy for people to get where they’re going.

This commitment — connecting people to what’s important in their lives — extends to its rewards program, too. Here are four ways Southwest’s Rapid Rewards soars above the competition by putting travelers first.

1. You earn points quickly

Southwest provides multiple avenues for earning points. With so many options, Rapid Rewards members will find themselves racking up the rewards, well, rapidly. Members can:

The Rapid Rewards Shopping online store is a good place to start. By browsing Rapid Rewards Shopping, you can find more than 800 participating brands, deals and products, and earn points in the process.

For a more hands-off approach, there’s also the Rapid Rewards Shopping Button. Just install it in your browser, and it will automatically alert you when you’re about to make an online purchase that qualifies for points.

NerdWallet values Southwest Rapid Rewards points at 1.4 cents each, so just make sure you're getting at least that much value no matter how you use them.

» Learn more: Find the best travel credit card for you

2. You get more for your points

Rapid Rewards is a revenue-based rewards program. This means that the number of points required to book a particular flight is based on the price of that flight.

Southwest, of course, is famous for its low-priced fares. In a revenue-based rewards program, low-priced fares mean getting to your destination for fewer points than competing rewards programs require. Ultimately, this means your points have the power to take you farther (more frequently) when you redeem them for flights.

» Learn more:

You can also redeem your points for gift cards. You won’t get as much bang for your buck as you would using those points for flights, though.

3. You can make or break plans easily

No one can predict the future, though many of us have wished we’d had that ability before we booked a nonrefundable plane ticket. Fortunately, you don’t need to consult a crystal ball before booking a Southwest flight with points. This program is as flexible as they come.

First, there are no blackout dates. So if you need to travel at a specific time (like the holidays) or for a specific purpose (like a family emergency), Southwest will always let you use your points to get there.

And if your plans suddenly shift, there’s no fee to change your reservation. You only need to cover any difference in the fare price with additional Rapid Rewards points from your account.

Even if you miss your point-purchased flight, Southwest will refund those points to your account automatically.

4. You can bring a friend for free

The Southwest Companion Pass is among the most coveted airline perks of all time.

A Rapid Rewards member reaches Companion Pass status after taking 100 qualifying one-way flights or earning 110,000 qualifying points in one calendar year (this requirement is increasing to 125,000 in 2020). After that, you get to bring one designated person for free (except for taxes and security fees) on all of your Southwest flights until the end of the following calendar year.

This is ideal if you have a go-to travel partner. However, if you need a little more flexibility, you can change your designated companion up to three times a year.

Just add this to the list of ways Southwest is connecting its customers to the things, and people, that are most important.

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:

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.