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If you’re assuming that you won’t be able to earn Southwest elite status — either A-List or A-List Preferred — this year thanks to the current travel slowdown, things may be starting to look a little brighter. For the rest of 2020, Southwest and Chase are making it significantly easier for new and existing credit card holders to earn status without flying.

From now through Dec. 31, the airline is doubling the number of Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) you earn with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card. Normally you’d earn 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend on these cards, but you’ll now earn 3,000 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend on them.

These Southwest credit cards are also typically capped at earning a total of 15,000 TQPs per year, but for 2020, Southwest and Chase are also doing away with the cap and allowing card holders to earn an unlimited number of TQPs.

The news comes on top of the airline’s previous announcement that those who had a Southwest Rapid Rewards account open as of April 1 of this year will receive a 15,000 TQP boost. So instead of the traditional 35,000 TQPs needed to earn A-List status and 70,000 TQPs to earn A-List Preferred status, you only need to earn 20,000 TQPs and 55,000 TQPs, respectively.

Related: Fly your companion for free through 2021 with these Southwest credit cards.

If you combine these two promotions, you can theoretically earn A-List or A-List Preferred status without actually stepping on a Southwest plane for the entire year. As long as you received the 15,000-point boost, you’d need $70,000 in purchases during the next eight months for A-List status, and $190,000 in spending for A-List Preferred status.

There are two important caveats to keep in mind. First, this is only for purchases made on your Southwest credit card between the first day of your billing cycle ending in May 2020 and the last day of your billing cycle ending in December 2020 — purchases earlier in 2020 don’t count for double TQPs. Second, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card doesn’t award TQPs at all and is not part of this promotion.

What are the benefits of Southwest elite status?

You can use some Southwest credit cards to earn elite status in 2020 without flying.
You can use some Southwest credit cards to earn elite status in 2020 without flying.
PHOTO: iStock

Southwest has two tiered status levels: A List and A-List Preferred. All Southwest planes are economy seating only, so elite status won’t get you upgraded to business or first class. But there are some benefits that can make your flying experience more desirable, and if you earn either status level in 2020, you’ll keep it through Dec. 31, 2021, when travel is likely to be less restricted.

A-List elite status benefits include:

  • Priority boarding
  • Priority check-in and security lane access
  • Same-day standby
  • 25% earning bonus
  • Dedicated customer support

A-List Preferred elite status benefits include:

  • Priority boarding
  • Priority check-in and security lane access
  • Same-day standby
  • 100% earning bonus
  • Dedicated customer support
  • Free in-flight Wi-Fi

You’ll notice that the A-List and A-List Preferred benefits lists aren’t all that different. Yes, you’ll receive complimentary Wi-Fi with A-List Preferred, but you can get almost the same perk with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, which offers up to 365 $8 Wi-Fi credits per year, each of which covers one flight with Wi-Fi for one person.

A-List Preferred elite members also get a 100% bonus on all points earned with paid Southwest flights versus a 25% bonus, but if you tend to use your credit card points to fly on Southwest instead of cash fares, you won’t earn points on those flights anyway.

Related: Earn up to 100,000 bonus points with this highest-ever Southwest credit card offer.

Both statuses offer priority boarding and free same-day standby, which are the best benefits. Since Southwest doesn’t offer assigned seats in advance, you get a boarding position based on your flight check-in time. During the check-in process, all passengers are assigned into groups A, B and C, and then are assigned a number between 1 and 60 within each group.

Those with A-List and A-List Preferred status are automatically checked in for their flight 36 hours prior to the flight’s departure time — all other passengers can’t check-in until 24 hours before the flight. Being checked in before those without status significantly increases your chances of securing an “A” boarding position.

Additionally, everyone on your reservation inherits the priority boarding benefit — even if they don’t have status — and will automatically be checked in 36 hours in advance. The only bad news is that this benefit doesn’t extend to companions booked with the Southwest Companion Pass.

Same-day standby is another useful perk of both A-List and A-List Preferred. Since Southwest doesn’t charge change fees, passengers can always switch to another flight, even on the same day you’re traveling. But if you’re booked on a “Wanna Get Away” fare — which are the carrier’s lowest fares — you’ll be charged the full fare difference, which could be significant.

However, if you have A-List or A-List Preferred status, the fare difference is waived, and you can fly standby on an earlier flight for no cost. For those who fly Southwest often and find themselves in a position where an earlier flight would ultimately be a better option, this can save you a lot of money.

For instance, if your business meeting ends early, you can potentially hop on an earlier flight and not have to pay the fare difference (though unlike some other airlines, you can only go on standby at the airport — there’s no option for confirming a standby flight over the phone).

Unfortunately, for those flying with other passengers on the same reservation, the same-day standby perk isn’t extended to your companions unless they also have A-List or A-List Preferred status. The same holds true for a companion flying with you on a Southwest Companion Pass. This makes the benefit slightly less valuable if you’re typically flying with other passengers who don’t have status.

Is it worth earning Southwest elite status?

Southwest
Southwest's A-List and A-List Preferred elite statuses have perks, but you probably shouldn't go out of your way to earn them.
PHOTO: Southwest

It’s probably not worth going out of your way to use your Southwest credit card solely to earn A-List or A-List Preferred elite status. But if you combine some actual Southwest flying later in 2020 with TQPs earned via credit cards, it could make the difference. Or if you already spend that much annually on your Southwest card, you’ll have an extra perk to enjoy for the rest of 2020 and all of 2021.

Keep in mind that Southwest credit cards generally don’t provide as much value on the points earned as some other credit cards, even ones from Chase, although the issuer did recently add a limited-time bonus category for groceries on many of their cards, including the three personal Southwest cards.

Related: Earn bonus points on your Chase credit cards for grocery purchases.

One other option to consider is, if you decide to put all your personal or business purchases onto a Southwest credit card, it could help you earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. So if you’re slightly shy of earning both the pass and elite status — and both can be valuable for you for this year and next — then shifting your spending habits could be a good idea.

Learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card.
Learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best travel credit cards of 2020.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.