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Southwest Rapid Rewards review: Perfect for travelers of all types

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Southwest Rapid Rewards review: Perfect for travelers of all types

Andrew WanSouthwest Rapid Rewards review: Perfect for travelers of all typesMillion Mile Secrets Team

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

INSIDER SECRET: In general, each Southwest point is worth 1.5 cents toward Southwest flights.

Southwest is the biggest low-cost airline in the US 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 credit cards that can put you on the fast track to the program’s amazing perks. In addition, the welcome bonuses on the following cards (three of which are offering increased 60,000-point bonuses at the moment) currently still count toward the points required to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, one of the best deals in travel.

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

What are Southwest points worth?

Southwest points are generally worth around 1.5 cents per point toward Southwest flights. Depending on the specific route you’re looking to fly, you could get slightly more or less value.

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

1.  Award flights on Southwest and booking international flights

The most straightforward way to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards 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 points, you’ll likely be better off sticking with domestic flights.

2.  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 a good deal.

3.  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.

You can buy gift cards and other merchandise with your Southwest points, but you can get a lot more value elsewhere. (Photo by TARIK KIZILKAYA/iStock)

How to earn Southwest points

You can earn 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:

1.  Credit cards

Southwest offers the following five versions of the Rapid Rewards card for earning points with their loyalty program:

[

Card NameWelcome BonusOur Review
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit CardEarn up to 60,000 points: 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 20,000 points after spending $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months your account is open.Our Review of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit CardEarn up to 60,000 points: 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 20,000 points after spending $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months your account is open.Our Review of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit CardEarn up to 60,000 points: 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 20,000 points after spending $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months your account is open.Our Review of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit CardEarn 60,000 Southwest points after spending $3,000 within the first 3 monthsOur Review of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit CardEarn 80,000 Southwest points after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months

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 a friend or family member with you for free whenever you travel on Southwest. It doesn’t matter if your flight is booked with points or paid for with cash – your companion flies free.

You’ll need to earn 110,000 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.

2.  Make purchases through partners

Southwest partners with a number of hotels, car rental agencies, restaurants, etc. Making a purchase at any of these partners earns 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

3.  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 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 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 3 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 3 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 3 months of opening your accountRead our review of the Ink Business Cash
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit CardEarn 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 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.

4.  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 3 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)

5.  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 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?

Yes, Southwest points do expire after 24 months of inactivity. Here are nine things you can do to keep your points from expiring.

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 their shopping portal.

If you earn enough points, you could qualify for one of the best deals in travel: the Southwest Companion Pass.

Check out our guides for using Southwest Airlines miles:

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.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • Earn up to 60,000 points. Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months your account is open.
  • 7,500 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • $75 Southwest® travel credit each year.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

More Info

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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