Southwest is one of the biggest and, to some, the best budget carriers in the United States. With its plentiful variety of routes, Companion Pass and new budget-friendly flights to Hawai’i, it gets a lot of love from a lot of a lot of people.
However, Southwest is somewhat limited geographically. If you live in the Northeast or the American South, you may find that you’re able to more easily find routes from other budget airlines, like JetBlue.
If, however, you’re lucky enough to live somewhere Southwest is prominent, you can easily take advantage of its loyalty program, Southwest Rapid Rewards, to not only enjoy great budget flying experiences, but also earn your way toward free flights and more perks (including that coveted Companion Pass!).
Southwest Rapid Rewards Status Tiers
As with all airline reward programs, Southwest Rapid Rewards offers its members the ability to climb above its basic membership and into the elite status tiers.
Southwest Rapid Rewards offers two tiers of status, A-List and A-List Preferred:
- To earn A-List status you must either fly 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points.
- To earn A-List Preferred status, you must either fly 50 qualifying one-way flights or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points.
Do note that, unlike other airlines that use qualifying segments to help you earn preferred status, Rapid Rewards just counts your one-way flights, not the segments, so regardless of if a flight is non-stop or you have a layover, it’s only counted as one qualifying flight.
Additionally, tier qualifying points are not the same as Rapid Rewards points, which allow you to earn free flights and other goodies. There are only two ways to earn tier qualifying points: purchasing Southwest flight tickets or using either the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Both will allow you to earn up to 15,000 tier qualifying points per year.
With A-List status, you enjoy:
- 25 percent more points earned on each flight
- Priority check-in
- Priority boarding
- Access to expedited security lanes
- Free same-day standby
- Dedicated help service line
With A-List Preferred status, you enjoy all of the above, plus:
- 100 percent more points earned on each flight
- Free in-flight WiFi
The Southwest Companion Pass
Southwest Airlines has probably the most popular companion pass, and for good reason. It’s not that difficult to earn if you’re already a frequent flyer, and it’s really the only true companion pass that lets someone fly with you for free, repeatedly.
All you have to do is earn 110,000 qualifying points or make 100 one-way flights within a year, and then you get the pass to use for the year you earn it in, as well as the following calendar year.
Companion Pass qualifying points can be earned via Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards.
Earning Rapid Rewards Points
There are several different ways you can go about earning Rapid Rewards points, but some of the primary ways are, of course, by flying Southwest and by using the various Southwest co-branded credit cards.
Points Earned from Flying
The number of points you can earn from flying Southwest depends on a few factors — how much you paid for your ticket, your ticket fare and your Rapid Rewards status level.
- Basic members earn 12 points per $1 spent on Business Select fares, 10 points per $1 spent on Anytime fares and 6 points per $1 spent on Wanna Get Away fares
- A-List members earn a 25 percent status bonus, so 15 points per $1 spent on Business Select fares, 12.5 points per $1 spent on Anytime fares and 7.5 points per $1 spent on Wanna Get Away fares
- A-List Preferred members earn a 100 percent status bonus, so 24 points per $1 spent on Business Select fares, 20 points per $1 spent on Anytime fares and 12 points per $1 spent on Wanna Get Away fares
Miles Earned Via Credit Cards
Southwest offers three different consumer co-branded credit cards. All of them give you 2x points on Southwest purchases and rental car and hotel purchases (with select partners). All other purchases give you 1x points.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card
Relatively new, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card comes with a $149 annual fee, offset by a $75 travel credit toward Southwest flights. You receive four upgraded boarding passes per year, as well as 20 percent back on in-flight purchases and a 7,500-point bonus on your account anniversary.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card comes with a $99 annual fee and you receive a slightly smaller anniversary point bonus — 6,000 points. This is the program’s middle-grade card and it comes with the opportunity to earn tier qualifying points. You earn 1,500 tier points each time you spend $10,000, up to $100,000.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card comes with a $69 annual fee (starting the first year) and 3,000 points on your anniversary.
Points Earned Via Partner Brands
You can earn points with a variety of different hotels and other travel brands. One big difference between Southwest Rapid Rewards and perhaps some of the other loyalty programs out there is that there’s no ability to earn Rapid Rewards points on partner airlines, which could be a downside to some travelers who aren’t able to consistently travel one airline every single time they fly.
Southwest’s partner hotels include…
- Best Western Hotels & Resorts
- Choice Hotels
- LaQuinta Inns & Suites
- MGM Resorts International
Most give you 600 points per stay booked at the hotel, but occasionally special promotions allow you to earn more. You can also earn the same on hotel stays booked via RocketMiles and the Southwest Hotels portal, plus 150 bonus points at the latter.
Car rental and ground transportation partners include…
- SuperShuttle ExecuCar
Rapid Rewards Dining
Rapid Rewards Dining is a separate program from Rapid Rewards, so you’ll have to sign up separately, but once you do, you have a lot of great earning opportunities.
For example, if you sign up now, you’ll receive 1,000 points after you spend $75 combined at three restaurants within 30 days. Then, just complete an online review of each restaurant within 30 days and the points are yours.
Otherwise, you’ll earn 1 point per $2 spent at participating restaurants, or 3 points per $1 spent when you sign up to receive email notifications from Rapid Rewards Dining. You’ll receive an extra 10 points when you review the restaurant online afterwards. There are also extra bonus miles you can receive by reaching certain miles-earning goals.
Rapid Rewards Shopping
Similar to most loyalty program shopping portals, Rapid Rewards Shopping allows you to make purchases with your favorite brands online, and then earn extra bonus points when you’re rerouted to that vendor’s site via the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal.
There are more than 800 brands to shop with, and Rapid Rewards Shopping also gives you access to coupons for stores you shop with frequently.
Redeeming Your Points
You can redeem your Rapid Rewards points in a variety of ways. Rapid Rewards points are good for…
- Award flights
- Award flights with carrier partners
- Hotel nights
- Car Rentals
- Experiences such as cruises, spa trips, wine tastings, etc.
You get your best value when you redeem your miles for flights, particularly the Wanna Get Away fares. When you do so, you’ll get about 1.7 cents of value per point.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards program is an easy, simple-to-use loyalty program that’s well-suited to those that live in an area frequently serviced by Southwest routes. The miles-earning potential is pretty good, even if the redemption options are slimmer than what you may find with other airline loyalty programs. Additionally, Rapid Rewards comes with opportunities you won’t find elsewhere, such as the ability to earn one of the few “true” Companion Passes available.