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Guide to Southwest Rapid Rewards program

Strong credit card earnings make for a generous reward program.

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Whether you’re out on business or family trips, Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards program offers great value for a wide variety of travelers. Just by signing up for the program and making eligible purchases, you can earn points that you can redeem for flights, hotel stays or car rentals. And if you decide to get a cobranded Southwest Airlines credit card, you’ll get to earn reward points faster.

How much are Southwest points worth?

Southwest points are worth between 0.5 and 1.7 cents per point according to our valuation at the time of writing. The exact value depends on what you redeem them for.

Do Southwest points expire?

No, provided you maintain an active account by earning or redeeming points at least once every two years.

How do you earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points?

There are many ways to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points. For example, you can earn if you:

  • Fly with Southwest Airlines. Depending on your status tier within the rewards program and the airfare you buy, you can earn anywhere between 6 points and 24 points per dollar spent.
  • Use a Southwest Airlines credit card. Depending on the Southwest credit card, you can earn an additional 2x or 3x points on your Southwest Airlines purchases and 1x points on all other purchases. Also, you get anniversary points each year from 3,000 to 9,000 depending on the card, and you get to earn a batch of points as a welcome offer.
  • Use Southwest Airlines partner credit cards. Chase’s Sapphire cards let you transfer your Chase points to Rapid rewards points in a 1:1 ratio. This means, you can earn 3x points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve on all travel purchases (including Southwest flights) and you can transfer your points to the Southwest reward program and redeem your points for flights.
  • Book with partner hotels. Staying at partner hotels can help you earn additional Southwest Rapid points. Some of the hotels where you can earn points include Best Western, Radisson, World of Hyatt, Marriott, MGM, Starwood and more.
  • Car rentals with partner companies. Earn Southwest points by renting cars from Alamo, Avis, Hertz, Budget, Dollar, National and more.
  • Dine at participating restaurants. If you often dine out, you can earn Southwest points at some restaurants at the rate of 3x or 1x points.
  • Shop at partner stores. This is another way to earn Southwest points — by shopping online at partner retailers.
  • Use Marathon gas stations. Sign up for Marathon’s MakeItCount program and select Rapid Rewards. After that, earn 1 point for every gallon at participating Marathon gas stations.

What can Southwest Rapid Rewards points be redeemed for?

Once you earn enough points, you can redeem them for:

  • Southwest Airlines flights
  • Gift cards
  • Merchandise
  • Hotel stays
  • Car rentals

Our pick for a Southwest credit card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • Signup bonus: 40,000 points after you make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account.
  • 2x points on Southwest purchases, and with hotel and car rental partners.
  • $75 in Southwest travel credits every card year.
  • 7,500 bonus points after each cardmember anniversary.
  • Get reimbursed for up to four A1-A15 boarding passes each card year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
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Compare Southwest Airlines credit cards

Southwest’s cobranded credit cards not only improve your regular point earnings, but help you build tier qualifying points toward A-List and A-List Preferred status. Earning a status improves your baseline Rapid Rewards point rate, making a cobranded card a great choice if Southwest is your preferred airline.

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
2x points on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rentals and 1x points on all other purchases
$149
Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
2x points on Southwest Airlines and 1x points on all other purchases
$99
Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
2x points on Southwest Airlines and 1x points on all other purchases
$69
Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
70,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months, plus 30,000 points after spending $25,000 in the first 6 months
3x points on Southwest Airlines, 2x points on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable, and phone services and 1x points on all other purchases
$199
Earn 70,000 points when you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.
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Typical features of a Southwest Airlines credit card

If you opt in for a Southwest credit card, here’s what you can get:

  • Earn rewards. Whichever Southwest Airlines card you get, you earn reward points on your purchases, which you can redeem for flights, hotel stays, car rentals and more. Also, once you meet the spend criteria, you get to earn a generous signup bonus.
  • Earn a companion certificate. Make 100 one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year and get a Southwest companion pass. You can earn it without a Southwest Airlines credit card, but if you have one, you’ll accrue the required points faster.
  • Lost luggage reimbursement. Your checked or carry-on bags are covered up to $3,000 per passenger in case of loss or damage by the carrier.
  • Baggage delay insurance. If your bags are delayed for more than six hours by your carrier, you can get reimbursement of up to $100 a day for three days to cover for toiletries and clothing purchases.

Loyalty program elite levels

Rapid Rewards members can earn two status levels: A-List and A-List Preferred. Earning either offers a great earning bonus on your points, along with a few handy travel perks.

Upgrading your status

To earn an A-List or A-List Preferred status, you’ll need to meet certain requirements on flights or tier qualifying points (TQP).

StatusRequirements
A-List25 one-way qualifying flights
OR
35,000 TQP
A-List Preferred250 one-way qualifying flights
OR
70,000 TQP

Data obtained March 2019. Values are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

Companion Pass

Though not a status level, flying 100 qualifying one-way flights or earning 110,000 TQPs will earn you a Companion Pass.

Choose one person to fly with you for just the cost of taxes and fees when you purchase or redeem points for a flight for the remainder of the year you earned the Companion Pass, and the following full calendar year.

Elite member benefits

A-List or A-List Preferred members get several new benefits on their Rapid Rewards account.

Bonus mile rates

A-ListA-List Preferred
Point earning bonus25% earning bonus100% earning bonus

Data obtained March 2019. Values are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

Flight benefits

A-List Preferred members get access to free inflight Wi-Fi.

Airport benefits

A-List and A-List preferred members have access to a few perks to help make the boarding process more enjoyable.

Priority boarding, priority check-in and free same-day standby can all make your trip a little easier. A-List Preferred members also get access to a dedicated phone line connected to customer service. For more information on Southwest Airlines priority boarding, check out our full guide.

Other cards that can earn Southwest Airlines points

The Chase Ultimate Rewards series allow you to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to your Rapid Rewards account at a 1:1 ratio. Since they’re not specifically designed for travel, these cards can open up your earning options.

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
This popular travel card's signup bonus is worth up to $750. Get even more value out of your travel, dining, and Lyft rewards by transferring them to miles.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
$200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
3.5% on Lyft and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
$0
Earn a $200 signup bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months from account opening.
Chase Freedom®
$200 cash back after spending $500 in the first 3 months

5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 4% on Lyft and 1% on all other purchases
$0
Earn $200 cash back after spending $500 in the first 3 months from account opening.
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Bottom line

With a good selection of credit cards for earning points and solid redemption options, Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program can fit the needs of everyone from die-hard Southwest fliers to those who just want to cash in on a great flight opportunity. Choose the credit card that best fits your travel and spending styles for the best value.

Frequently asked questions

Images: Shutterstock

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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