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2019 Guide to Southwest Rapid Rewards

2019 Guide to Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest is known for its low fares, constant sales, and cheerful flight attendants, but the airlines frequent flyer program — known as Southwest Rapid Rewards — is where it really shines. This dynamic program, which is insanely easy to use and understand, offers fare-based redemptions, an overly flexible cancellation policy, and points you can redeem in more than one way. Add in the fact that Southwest offers two free checked bags for each flyer no matter how much they pay, and you have a recipe for savings that has many consumers hooked.

Also keep in mind that Southwest isn’t just a domestic airline. Sure, they fly to almost 100 domestic destinations such as Denver, Washington D.C., Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, and Boston, but they also offer an array of international itineraries in the Caribbean and Mexico. This means that you can redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points to fly to Cancun, Los Cabos, and Mexico City, but also destinations like Turks and Caicos, Grand Cayman, Aruba, and the Dominican Republic. Southwest Airlines also has flights to Hawaii on the docket, although the exact itineraries and launch date are yet to be announced.

Generally speaking, Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth around 1.7 cents each when redeemed for flights. This valuation can vary depending on various factors and the type of Southwest fare you book. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

Also remember that points are normally worth less (and sometimes a lot less) if you redeem them for other types of travel through Southwest or for gift cards offered through the program.

How to Earn Points with Southwest Rapid Rewards

There are many ways to earn points in the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, some of which don’t require you to fly at all. Still, the most popular way to earn points is by actually booking flights with the airline. How many points will you earn? Well, that depends.

Because of the way the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is set up, you’ll earn more points if you have status with the airline or you book anything other than a Wanna Get Away fare. The chart below highlights how many points you’ll earn with each level of status:

Bonus Percentage Points earned per $1 for each fare class on Southwest
Basic none
  • Wanna Get Away: 6
  • Anytime: 10
  • Business Select: 12
A-List 25%
  • Wanna Get Away: 7.5
  • Anytime: 12.5
  • Business Select: 15
A-List Preferred 100%
  • Wanna Get Away: 12
  • Anytime: 20
  • Business Select: 24

As you can see, Southwest flyers with elite status can earn considerably more points when they fly with the airline. This is especially true if they book one of upper tier flight options. But, what is the difference between and Wanna Get Away fare and Business Select? On Southwest Airlines, not that much. Here are the main details to be aware of with each fare class:

Details Main Benefits
Wanna Get Away
  • Flights are refundable and changeable in the form of future travel credit on Southwest
  • No Standby
  • Not Available on all flights on some dates
  • Prices can be significantly lower when you book this fare class
Anytime
  • Flights are refundable and changeable in the form of future travel credit on Southwest
  • Cancelled flights may be able to be refundable to the original form of payment
  • Standby available on original city pairs on same date of travel
  • Same day standby available
  • Prices lower than Business Select
  • Earn more Southwest points when you fly
Business Select
  • Comes with boarding in the A1-A15 group
  • Receive a premium drink on day of travel
  • Flights are refundable and changeable in the form of future travel credit on Southwest
  • Standby available on original city pairs on same date of travel
  • Included priority boarding and premium drink
  • Earn even more Southwest points when you fly

Booking Other Types of Travel with Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

The Southwest Rapid Rewards portal offers a wide range of travel opportunities that can help you earn more points including hotels, car rentals, and vacation packages. Southwest seems especially proud of its partnerships with hotels, constantly boasting that you can earn 10,000 points per night when you book through the portal. Keep in mind, however, that most hotels don’t offer that many points per night; the average is more like 750 to 2,000.

Southwest Airlines also offers vacation packages that let you pair Southwest flights with a hotel stay in some of the best vacation destinations in the U.S. and the Caribbean. These offers change frequently and also feature special sales to specific resorts.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

Southwest Airlines also offers a dining club that awards consumers with points any time they meet a minimum spending requirement at a participating restaurant. You can even earn an initial sign-up bonus of 1,000 points after you spend at least $25 at three participating restaurants (or three times at the same restaurant) within the first 30 days.

Shop through Southwest

Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping offers an insanely easy way to earn more Southwest points all year long. This portal lets you rack up miles every time you make a purchase at a participating retailer. All you have to do to take advantage is sign into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account and click through the portal before you shop. It’s as simple as that.

Plenty of popular stores are represented in the portal, including The Container Store, Kohl’s, H&R Block, Macy’s, and Bass Pro Shops. If you’re going to shop online anyway, this portal offers an easy way to earn points for all your regular purchases.

Take Surveys

If you’re eager to earn even more points this year, Southwest lets you sign up to complete surveys. Their current lineup lets you rack up points through Rewards for Opinions and e-Rewards, two consumer research companies. Completing surveys won’t net you a ton of points at a time, but this strategy is free to pursue and surveys are fairly easy. If you have some time to kill and want to earn more points, why not?

Sign Up for Special deals

In addition to online shopping, Southwest also rewards consumers for signing up for special deals and promotions. This can include actions like purchasing a new mattress, signing up for new cell phone service, or enrolling in a new dental plan. These deals change all the time and new ones are added frequently, so make sure to check the Southwest portal every time you buy something online.

Earning Southwest Rapid Rewards Points with Credit Cards

While the earning strategies above can help you accrue points in a hurry, there’s still one more way to rack up a ton of Southwest Rapid Rewards points. You can sign up for co-branded credit cards that accrue points with the airline, and you can even pair credit card points with some of the additional strategies above (i.e. you can use a Southwest credit card to shop through Southwest Shopping and double up on rewards).

The promotions change with Southwest credit cards all the time, but they normally offer 50,000 to 60,000 miles after you meet a minimum spending requirement within three months. Make sure to check back frequently to find out about signup bonuses and ongoing promotions.

Main Benefits Annual Fee
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
  • Earn 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Not Available on all flights on some dates
$69
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
$99
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
  • Earn 7,500 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Receive a $75 Southwest® travel credit each year
  • Get 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi
$149

In addition to these credit card options, also remember that Southwest is a transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards. This means that cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card let you rack up points you can transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio.

Also remember that you don’t have to choose between getting a co-branded Southwest credit card or a Chase Ultimate Rewards card. You can get both provided you can qualify then pair them together to double up on signup bonuses and earn more points over time.

How to Redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards Points for Flights

When it comes to redeeming Southwest Rapid Rewards points you earn via flying, credit card spending, or an alternative strategy, the most lucrative option is booking flights. Since Southwest offers fare-based redemptions, your points can go an especially long way during a sale. We have frequently seen one-way domestic flights come in at least than 5,000 points one way as well as international flights that run less than 10,000 points one-way.

Searching for Southwest flights on their website is a piece of cake. Simply enter your departure airport, your desired destination, and your dates to begin your search. If you plan to pay in points, you’ll also want to select the “points” button on the right hand side of the screen.

Fortunately, Southwest makes it easy to search for the lowest fares. Not only can you do separate searches for more than one destination, but they offer a low fare calendar that lets you see how many points you can save by altering your travel dates.

As you’ll notice, you are required to pay government-mandated taxes and fees any time you book an award flight. These fees work out to $5.60 per leg for domestic flights and up to $100 per leg for international flights to Mexico or the Caribbean. Southwest goes the extra mile to display these fees prominently on their website so they don’t catch you by surprise.

As you gear up to redeem your points for flights, remember that Southwest flies all over the United States as well as to select destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. Southwest Airlines is also slated to offer flights to Hawaii starting in 2019, although the exact dates these flights will become available is still in the air. If you’re eager to go to Hawaii without having to pay the huge prices other airlines charge (and with two free checked bags!), keep your eye out for an announcement on Hawaii flights from Southwest.

Other Ways to Redeem Southwest Points

In addition to redeeming points for flights, Southwest lets you cash in points for hotels and car rentals. These options won’t offer more than one cent per point in most cases, but they can help you travel for free or use up miles you cannot use for flights.

The Southwest portal also has options that let you redeem points for merchandise from retailers like Samsung, Elizabeth Arden, and North Face. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll usually only get around .6 cents per point if you go this route.

Finally, Southwest does let you redeem points for gift cards with numerous retailers and entertainment venues. While some gift cards can be purchased for one cent per point (e.g. a $50 gift card costs 5,000 points), others offer lower redemption rates. Companies offering gift cards through Southwest run the gamut and include movies theaters, clothing stores, car rental companies, cruise lines and more.

Southwest Elite Status Tiers

Now that you know how to earn and redeem Southwest points, it’s important to understand their elite status tiers, what they mean, and how you can score elite status yourself. The chart below highlights the major details of each tier of status and what you can expect to earn once you achieve them:

Elite Status Points Bonus Benefits and Perks How to Earn It
A-List 25%
  • Priority boarding
  • Free same-day standby
  • Dedicated phone line
  • Priority check-in and security access
  • Complete 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points with the airline within a calendar year
A-List Preferred 100%
  • Priority boarding
  • Free same-day standby
  • Dedicated phone line
  • Priority check-in and security access
  • Free in-flight wifi
  • Complete 50 qualifying one-way flights or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points with the airline within a calendar year

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