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Lyn writes about how to fly free on Southwest and has written a free guide that walks you step-by-step through how to easily earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. The pass lets 1 person fly nearly free with you for up to 2 years. The Million Mile Secrets team agrees it’s THE best deal in travel.
While it’s hard to believe, many families are getting kids ready to head back to school and we’ve asked Lyn how to earn Southwest points on all that spending you have to do anyway!
Lyn: My family had a great summer with my husband and I enjoying our first trip to Rome and then a family trip with our 2 boys, one in middle school and one in high school, to one of our favorite places in the world, Colorado (check out my post on THE most gorgeous Colorado town: Telluride!) for lots of hiking and outdoor adventures. 🙂
But, alas, we have spent this week getting everyone’s school schedules, organizing back-to-school supplies, and getting ready for that good ol’ school routine. I feel like I’m constantly paying someone for sports fees, school supplies, team uniforms, and new clothes for a teenager who seems to grow 2 inches a week. So I figure I might as well earn some points for my favorite airline while I’m at it!
5 Ways to Earn Southwest Points on Back-to-School Expenses
Here are my top tips for scoring Southwest points on your back-to-school expenses:
1. Online Shopping
The top way to earn Southwest points on back-to-school purchases is by starting your shopping at the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal. This portal lets you earn between 0.5 and up to 20 points per $1 on any expenditures, as long as you start your online purchase at the portal.
Here are some great options for back-to-school shopping in the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal. Keep in mind that the points per $1 price changes frequently, so may be different from what you see below:
- The Container Store – 4 points per $1 (up from 2 points)
- Dell – 1 point per $1
- JCPenney – 4 points per $1 (up from 2 points)
- HP.com – 4 points per $1 (up from 1 point)
- Textbooks.com – 3 points per $1
- TextbookUnderground.com – 3 points per $1
- Kohl’s – 2 points per $1
- Bed, Bath and Beyond – 2 points per $1
- Eastbay – 2 points per $1
- eCampus.com – 2 points per $1
- Finish Line – 2 points per $1
- Macys.com – 2 points per $1
- OfficeDepot.com – 2 points per $1
- Overstock.com – 2 points per $1 (up from 1 point)
- Sam’s Club – 2 points per $1
- Sears.com – 2 points per $1
- ShoeCarnival.com – 2 points per $1
- Staples.com – 2 points per $1
- The Scholastic Store – 2 points per $1
- Dillard’s – 1 point per $1
- Dick’s Sporting Goods – 1 point per $1
- Old Navy – 1 point per $1
- Oriental Trading Company – 1 point per $1
- Walmart.com – 1 point per $1
- BestBuy.com – .5 points per $1
- Target.com – .5 points per $1
These points DO qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass.
2. Rapid Rewards Shopping Bonus
Through August 19, 2018, you can earn up to 2,000 BONUS (that means the points DON’T qualify for the Companion Pass, but can be used to book free flights) points on spending in the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal as part of their back-to-school promotion. These points are in addition to what you’re already earning for your spending.
Here’s what you can earn:
- Spend up to $125, earn 250 bonus Southwest points
- Spend up to $300, earn 900 bonus Southwest points
- Spend up to $550, earn 2,000 bonus Southwest points
3. Rapid Rewards Shopping Button
To help you REMEMBER to start your shopping IN the shopping portal (always a problem for me!), you can:
- Install the Rapid Rewards Shopping button in your browser if you use Chrome. This will pop up when you’re shopping on a participating store’s site and allows you to activate the bonus right then and there.
- “Favorite” stores within the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal. Simply click the “heart” next to the store and then you will get email reminders when the points per $1 price increases for that retailer.
4. Spending on Southwest Credit Cards
While I don’t usually advocate using a Southwest card to pay for expenses that could earn MORE points with another card (for example, travel or dining for which you can earn DOUBLE or TRIPLE points with a Chase Sapphire card), you SHOULD use it for any expense where you can’t earn more points by using another card. School expenses often fall into this category!
Not only will using your Southwest card earn you 1 point per $1, but those points also QUALIFY for the 110,000 points you need to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. If you need to meet a minimum spend on a Southwest card, these purchases could help you reach that threshold, too.
There are a LOT of expenses that you may not even think of paying with a credit card. For example, my high school son runs cross country, so he needs a new pair of quality running shoes, which are NOT cheap, before each season. Might as well earn some points if I have to buy these anyway, right?
Just BE SURE to pay the balance on your cards AT LEAST every 30 days, if not every day or so, so you don’t incur debt and end up paying interest that will negate any rewards you earn.
Other expenses to consider paying with a Southwest card:
- Sports team uniforms
- Karate, dance, gymnastics classes and more!
- Textbook fees
- PTO membership fees
- Athletic passes (tickets to middle school and high school games)
- Athletic fees
- Before- and after-school programs
- Back-to-school supplies, including backpacks and lunch boxes
- New clothes and shoes
- School lunches
- Religious education classes
- College tuition!!
If there’s anything that can’t be paid with a credit card (most schools have some way to accept credit cards these days), you can use Plastiq, a service which charges a small fee to pay bills with a credit card that can’t ordinarily be paid with a credit card.
5. Use Your Chase Freedom at Walgreens
Here’s a real “hack” you’re going to love, especially you advanced miles and points collectors — it combines some couponing, as well!
If you hold the Chase Freedom card, they are currently offering 5% cash back (5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on spending up to $1,500 at Walgreens (combined with other categories) through the 3rd quarter, ending September 30, 2018.
Get your school supplies at Walgreens, which as a longtime couponer I have done for many years, and earn 5X points on that expenditure.
You’ll want to be sure to get the Walgreens weekly ad, which is usually sitting at the front of the store, and use the in-ad coupons for your school supplies. They offer a handful of good deals each week. One week it might be folders and erasers, and the next week it might be highlighters and notebooks!
Also, check the Walgreens app for even MORE coupons. And there’s a separate MONTHLY Walgreens coupon book that is also usually sitting with the weekly ad at the front of the store. Check that, too!
AND, Walgreens will let you earn points for every purchase as long as you are a rewards member. If you can accumulate 40,000 points (equal to $40), they kick in an additional 10,000 points, giving you 50,000 points, or $50, to spend on a future purchase.
You can score LOTS of Southwest points with a little pre-planning as we head into buy-lots-of-stuff-for-school season! Don’t forget to:
- Use the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal
- Install the Rapid Rewards Shopping button
- Take advantage of the Back-to-School Bonus
- Pay for items with your Southwest card
- Use Chase Freedom for purchases at Walgreens for even more savings