Southwest Rapid Rewards review: Perfect for travelers of all types

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Southwest is the biggest low-cost airline in the U.S. and is widely known for great policies like no cancellation fees and free checked bags.

If you’re wondering if it’s worth joining their frequent flyer program, Southwest Rapid Rewards, you should know that there are a number of airline credit cards that can put you on the fast track to the program’s amazing perks. The welcome bonuses on the best Southwest credit cards count toward the points requirement to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, one of the best deals in travel.

These three personal credit cards come with 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

There are also two small business credit cards:

We’ll go over how you can earn and redeem Southwest points and what perks you can look forward to. Here’s our Southwest Rapid Rewards review.

 

If you earn enough Southwest points in a calendar year, you could qualify for one of the best deals in travel – the Southwest Companion Pass. (Photo courtesy of Sotnikov Misha/Shutterstock.)

Southwest Rapid Rewards review

Southwest points value generally can be found around 1.5 cents each toward Southwest flights. Depending on the specific route you’re looking to fly, you could get slightly more or less value. There is no Southwest award chart – the price of a Southwest award flight is directly related to the cash price of the ticket, so it’s easier than most airlines to estimate the value of Southwest points. Plus, if Southwest is having a sale, both the cash price and the award price will decrease.

To figure out the value of Southwest points on your particular flight, use the following formula: Cash price of ticket – taxes and fees you’d pay on the award ticket / number of points required for an award ticket.

How to use Southwest points

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Southwest has temporarily suspended some non-travel redemptions that were available through the Southwest More Rewards portal. However, if you have a Southwest travel credit card, you can still redeem your points for non-travel rewards.

Award flights on Southwest and booking international flights

The most straightforward way to use Southwest points is to book an award flight on Southwest.

You can also book international flights (you can find this option through the Southwest travel portal), but to get the most value out of your points, you’ll likely be better off sticking with domestic flights.

Hotels and rental cars

Although Southwest points can’t be transferred to hotels or car rental agencies, you can redeem your points for car rentals and hotel stays through the Southwest travel portal. However, these bookings are generally not the best way to use Southwest points.

Gift cards and other merchandise

You can redeem your Southwest points for merchandise and gift cards via their website. Again, however, this is not the best way to spend your points because you generally will only get a value of ~0.6 cents per point.

You can do a lot better when you spend your points on flights.

How to earn Southwest points

You can earn Southwest points in a number of different ways:

  • Swiping credit cards
  • Making purchases through the Southwest shopping portal
  • Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • Buying points directly from Southwest
  • Flying Southwest

Here are the details:

Credit cards

Southwest offers five different rewards credit cards that earn Southwest points. All of these cards are issued by Chase, so they are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule.

Perhaps the best part is that points you earn from the welcome bonuses on these cards currently still count toward the point requirement for the Southwest Companion Pass. With the Southwest Companion Pass, you can bring your companion with you for just the cost of taxes whenever you travel on Southwest. It doesn’t matter if your flight is booked with points or paid for with cash – your companion can comes along for next to nothing.

You’ll need to earn 125,000 Southwest points in a calendar year to qualify. Read this full guide to the Southwest Companion Pass for every detail you could possibly want to know.

Make purchases through partners

Southwest partners with a number of hotels, car rental agencies and has an online shopping portal and a dining rewards program. Making a purchase at any of these partners earns you more Southwest points.

A full list of their partners is here, but a few examples include:

  • World of Hyatt
  • Choice Hotels
  • Hertz
  • Avis
  • National
  • Supershuttle

Transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards programs

If you have a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer them to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account.

Here are the most popular Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points:

Card NameWelcome BonusOur Review
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardEarn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account openingRead our review of the #1 card for beginners
Chase Sapphire ReserveEarn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account openingRead our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve
Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit CardEarn $500 bonus cash back (50,000 Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three monthsRead our review of the Ink Business Unlimited
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit CardEarn $500 cash back bonus (50,000 Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening your accountRead our review of the Ink Business Cash
Ink Business Preferred® Credit CardEarn 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account openingRead our review of the top card pick for small business owners

Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio.

Buy Southwest points 

If you’re shy just a few points to book a hotel or flight, buying Southwest points is another option. This generally isn’t the best way to stock up on points though, since you won’t be able to redeem them for anywhere near the amount you paid.

You can buy points in varying amounts and, depending on how many points you purchase, you’ll spend ~2.5 to 3 cents per point. Ouch.

Buying Southwest points can be pretty expensive at around three cents per point. Considering you can typically redeem them for a value of 1.5 cents a point, this isn’t exactly the best way to stock up on Southwest points. (Photo by alfexe/iStock)

Fly Southwest Airlines

You will, of course, also be able to earn Southwest points when you fly with the airline. The number of points you can earn are based on two things:

  • Your status with Southwest
  • The fare type you’ve purchased
Status LevelPoints Earned Per $1 Spent
Base• Wanna Get Away: 6 points
• Anytime: 10
• Business Select: 12
A-List• Wanna Get Away: 7.5
• Anytime: 12.5
• Business Select: 15
A-List Preferred• Wanna Get Away: 12
• Anytime: 20
• Business Select: 24

To attain Southwest A-List status, you’ll need to complete 25 one-way qualifying flights or earn 35,000 qualifying tier points in a calendar year. You’ll earn A-List Preferred status by flying 50 one-way qualifying flights or earning 70,000 qualifying tier points in a calendar year.

Do Southwest points expire?

No, Southwest points used to expire after 24 months of inactivity, but now Southwest points never expire.

Bottom line

If the thought of flying for less appeals to you, Southwest is a great option. If you’re paying cash, they’re the largest domestic low-cost carrier.

If you want to pay for flights with points, there are a number of ways to earn them with Southwest, such as using credit cards and making purchases through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal. And if you earn enough points, you could qualify for one of the best deals in travel: the Southwest Companion Pass. Let us know your experiences with the Southwest program and what you think about it.

For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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