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The Southwest Rapid Rewards program is one of the most flexible airline loyalty programs out there. Earning Rapid Rewards points is incredibly easy and redeeming them is extremely simple. With the program, you never have to worry about blackout dates or award availability — as long as there’s a seat available for sale, you can use your Rapid Rewards points to book yourself a free flight.

Aside from the easy-to-use program, there’s also another huge benefit: You can cancel a flight booked on points for absolutely no fee. As long as you cancel 10 minutes prior to the flight’s departure time, all points redeemed will go back into your account, and all taxes and fees will be refunded back to the credit card used.

Additionally, points never expire, all passengers can check two bags for no fee and with the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, another passenger can fly with you an unlimited number of times for almost free.

Emily McNutt

How to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points

Fortunately, there are many ways to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points — even if you aren’t flying Southwest flights very often. Between Rapid Rewards partners and the Southwest co-branded credit cards, you can earn points before you even step foot on a Southwest airplane.

First and foremost, you’ll need to enroll in the program, which is free and simple to do.

Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points for flying

When flying Southwest Airlines on a paid fare, you’ll earn points based on three components: the ticket price, your fare class and your elite status.

Southwest offers three fare classes: Business Select, Anytime and Wanna Get Away. There are a few extra perks if you purchase a Business Select or Anytime ticket, but most Southwest flyers will want to purchase a Wanna Get Away ticket, which is the lowest price on offer. Note that you will only earn points on the pre-tax cost of a ticket at the following rates:

  • Business Select Fare: 12 Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent
  • Anytime Fare: 10 Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent
  • Wanna Get Away Fare: 6 Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent

If you have elite status with Southwest, you’ll earn bonus points. A-List members will earn an additional 25% Rapid Rewards points, while A-List Preferred members will earn an additional 100% Rapid Rewards points.

For example, if you purchase a $97 ticket ($119 post-tax) from Baltimore (BWI) to Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) on a Wanna Get Away ticket, you’ll earn 584 Rapid Rewards points.

Southwest

Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points with partners

You can also earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points for purchases you’re already making in your day-to-day life. With many Southwest partnerships, you can earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points for purchases outside of flying — from shopping online to renting cars.

One of the easiest opportunities to earn bonus points is by using the Southwest Rapid Rewards online shopping portal. For most online purchases you make, especially those at large retailers, you can earn bonus points for each dollar you spend. All you have to do is start at the shopping portal, select your merchant and then you’ll be directed to that merchant’s website and can complete your shopping as you normally would.

For example, if you’re looking to shop at Macy’s, instead of going straight to the Macy’s website, you’ll want to start at Southwest’s shopping portal and search for Macy’s. The portal will tell you the exact number of points you’ll earn, which can fluctuate throughout the year, and you’ll then be taken directly to Macys.com. After you place your order, you’ll receive the points earned within the next 12 weeks — some merchants post quicker than others.

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Similar to shopping online, you can also earn bonus points by participating in Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Dining program. By linking your credit card, you’ll automatically earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points at participating restaurants.

Make sure to opt in for email communications, as you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent. If you aren’t enrolled to receive emails, you’ll earn a much inferior 1 point per 2 dollars spent. There are also many bonus opportunities throughout the year, such as new member bonuses, meeting certain spend thresholds and writing reviews for restaurants.

Southwest

You can also earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points by crediting your hotel stays and car rentals to Southwest. With all eight car rental partners — Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National, Payless and Thrifty — you’ll earn 600 Rapid Rewards points per qualifying rental. However, we don’t recommend crediting your hotel stays to Southwest, as you’ll typically forgo earning any points with the hotel chain itself.

But, if you’re looking to make a reservation at a boutique hotel that doesn’t have its own loyalty program, you can make a reservation with Southwest Hotels or Rocketmiles.com. With both third-party hotel sites, you can earn up to 10,000 Rapid Rewards points per reservation — although it’s typically a lot less.

Many other popular Southwest Rapid Rewards partners include booking travel activities through Southwest Airlines Experiences, ordering flowers from 1-800-Flowers and filling out surveys with e-Rewards.

Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points with a co-branded credit card

Within the Southwest suite of co-branded credit cards, there are three personal and two business cards, which all earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points. With all five cards, you’ll earn points with every purchase you make on the card.

You’ll also notice that some cards have different category bonuses, which means you’ll earn an increased number of points on certain purchases, such as Southwest flights, telecommunication services, local transit and commuting expenses.

New card holders can earn a bulk number of points with the co-branded cards’ respective sign-up bonuses:

Now, if you want a more flexible card that allows you to redeem points on Southwest along with many other hotel and airline partners, you might prefer either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Both cards are part of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program where points transfer to 14 different loyalty programs at a 1-to-1 ratio, including Southwest. This means all points earned on the two cards can immediately be transferred to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account.

How to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points

Southwest has one of the simplest programs when it comes to redeeming your points. There’s no worrying about blackout dates or award availability. Instead, as long as there’s a seat available to purchase, you can use your Rapid Rewards points to book any award flight. The number of points you need is directly tied to the ticket cost.

While Southwest doesn’t have an exact redemption rate, points are typically redeemed for around 1.4 cents apiece for a Wanna Get Away Fare. However, based on the route and whether you’re flying during an off-peak or peak period, it might require slightly more or fewer points. You can also redeem points for Anytime or Business Select fares, but you’ll have to spend more points — and the benefits aren’t typically worth it.

To redeem your points, once you’re on the Southwest website, enter your desired city pair and dates. You can then toggle between a paid fare and points redemption. And if your travel dates are flexible, you can also easily look at a calendar view to book on a date where fewer points are required.

Southwest

If you’re a Southwest Rapid Rewards card member, there are also a few other non-airline partnership opportunities to redeem your points, but the redemption value is incredibly low. While we don’t recommend these alternative redemptions, if you’re looking to deplete your account, you do have options. Through the exclusive More Rewards portal, you can redeem your points for car rentals, products, events, gift cards and travel experiences.

How to earn Southwest Airlines elite status

There are two different Southwest elite status levels: A-List and A-List Preferred. While these two elite levels won’t extend to a seat in first class — since all Southwest planes offer just one seat type — there are some perks you’ll receive to make your experience that much better.

For A-List status you’ll need to fly 25 one-way qualifying flights on Southwest or earn 35,000 tier-qualifying points in a calendar year. Benefits include priority boarding, priority check-in and security lane access, same-day standby, dedicated phone line and 25% bonus points earned on all qualifying flights.

The requirements for A-List Preferred status are double, where you’ll need to fly 50 one-way qualifying flights on Southwest or earn 70,000 tier-qualifying points in a calendar year. In addition to the A-List benefits, you’ll also receive a 100% bonus on all qualifying flights and complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi.

You can earn tier-qualifying points by flying Southwest Airlines on eligible paid flights or through credit card spend with most of the Southwest co-branded credit cards.

How to earn the Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass allows a friend or family member to fly with you for free (plus taxes and fees) throughout the life of the pass. To earn the pass, you need to earn 125,000 qualifying points within a calendar year. Points can be earned from flying eligible fares on Southwest, credit card spend on your Southwest co-branded credit card or from Southwest Rapid Rewards partner activity.

Once you earn the pass, it’s yours for the remainder of the year, plus the entire following year. For example, if you earn the pass in April 2022, the pass doesn’t expire until Dec. 31, 2023. With the pass, your companion can fly with you an unlimited number of times with no blackout dates or any other restrictions.

While there are many ways to earn the pass, one of the easiest methods is through Southwest credit cards because the points earned from the sign-up bonus and regular credit card spend count as qualifying points. And with the current offer where you can earn up to 100,000 points, that can get you incredibly close to securing the pass.

Ultimately, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is one of the simplest airline loyalty programs out there with many ways to earn points, as well as a straightforward redemption process.

Check out CNN Underscored’s guide to the best credit cards of 2021.