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Everything to Know About Southwest's Rapid Rewards Program — Including How to Earn the Elusive Companion Pass

Here’s a complete guide to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.

<p>Courtesy of Southwest Airlines</p>

Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Southwest’s frequent flier program, Rapid Rewards, is a straightforward way for Southwest enthusiasts to gain status and earn miles for future travel. I spoke with Tiffany Valdez from the Southwest public relations team, Dave Grossman, CEO and founder of MilesTalk and Your Best Credit Cards, and Anton Radchenko, CEO at AirAdvisor, to develop this comprehensive guide to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.

“Everyone loves a good loyalty program, one that makes earning reward flights faster and easier,” says Valdez. “With Rapid Rewards, every seat is a reward seat, there are no blackout dates, and points don't expire.” Ready to earn free flights and even obtain a sought-after Southwest Companion Pass? Here’s everything you need to know about the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.

<p>Courtesy of Southwest Airlines</p>

Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

How to Sign Up for the Rapid Rewards Program

You can sign up for Rapid Rewards by visiting the enrollment page on the Southwest website. You will need to fill out information, like your name, date of birth, address, email address, and phone number, and select a username and password. Once you accept the terms and conditions, you will receive an email with your Rapid Rewards number, and you’re ready to start earning on flights. Remember to include your number when you book your next flight to earn miles.

How to Earn Miles

Flights

The amount you spend on your flight, the type of fare, and your tier status (more on those below) will all impact the amount of points you earn. Here’s a breakdown of how many points you earn per fare by tier level:

Base Tier

  • Wanna Get Away: six points per dollar spent

  • Wanna Get Away Plus: eight points per dollar spent

  • Anytime: 10 points per dollar spent

  • Business Select: 12 points per dollar spent

A-List

  • Wanna Get Away: 7.5 points per dollar spent

  • Wanna Get Away Plus: 10 points per dollar spent

  • Anytime: 12.5 points per dollar spent

  • Business Select: 15 points per dollar spent

A-List Preferred

  • Wanna Get Away: 12 points per dollar spent

  • Wanna Get Away Plus: 16 points per dollar spent

  • Anytime: 20 points per dollar spent

  • Business Select: 24 points per dollar spent

Related: Everything to Know About Southwest Airlines Fare Types 

<p>Courtesy of Southwest Airlines</p>

Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Credit Cards

“Cardmembers can take their membership to new heights with everyday purchases; hotels and car rentals; local transit and commuting, including rideshare; internet, cable phone services, and select streaming; and inflight purchases,” says Valdez. “Cardmembers also get exclusive access to Southwest Access Events, like concerts or multi-day excursions.”

Southwest offers three credit cards that are all issued by Chase:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: A $69 annual fee gets cardholders two points per dollar on Southwest purchases and 3,000 anniversary points each year.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: The mid-tier card with a $99 annual fee offers three points per dollar on Southwest purchases and 6,000 anniversary points each year.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: For a $149 annual fee, cardholders will earn three points per dollar on Southwest purchases, a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, and 7,500 anniversary points each year.

“The best thing is that the introductory bonus offers count [toward earning Companion Pass] and holding any Southwest card will give you 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points automatically each year,” says Grossman.

Other Ways to Earn

  • Transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards: Your Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio.

  • Travel: You can earn Rapid Rewards points when making hotel purchases at Southwest Hotels, Best Western, Choice Hotels, World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, MGM Rewards, and Rocketmiles. Similarly, earn Rapid Rewards points when booking rental cars at Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National, Payless, and Thrifty. All you need to do is enroll.

  • Shopping and Dining: You can earn on shopping and dining purchases through Rapid Rewards Shopping, Rapid Rewards Dining, 1-800 Flowers.com, Laithwaites, Harry & David, and Home Chef. 

<p>Courtesy of Southwest Airlines</p>

Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Southwest Rapid Rewards Status Tiers

The Rapid Rewards program recently underwent some changes, with more set to take effect in 2024. “A-List Preferred members can now receive up to two complimentary premium drinks per flight, added directly to their mobile boarding passes,” explains Valdez. “We’re also lowering the [number] of flights needed to earn A-List and A-List Preferred status, lowering credit card spend to earn tier qualifying points, and in Spring 2024, allowing customers to book using cash and points.”

Southwest has two main status tiers: A-List and A-List Preferred. To reach each status, you need to either fly a certain number of times or earn a certain number of tier qualifying points in a calendar year. A tier qualifying point is any Rapid Rewards point that will count towards status. Some things will earn a Rapid Rewards point but not a tier qualifying point, like purchasing points, reward travel, transferred/gifted points, etc.

A-List

Requirements: 20 one-way qualifying flights or 35,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.

Benefits:

  • Priority boarding

  • Priority lane at check-in and express lane at security

  • Dedicated A-List member phone line

  • 25 percent earning bonus

  • Same-day changes and standby with no difference in fare

A-List Preferred

Requirements: 40 one-way qualifying flights or 70,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.

Benefits:

  • Priority boarding

  • Priority lane and express lane access

  • Dedicated A-List Preferred member phone line

  • 100 percent earning bonus

  • Same-day change and standby with no difference in fare

  • Free in-flight internet

  • Up to two premium drinks on flights 176 miles or longer

<p>Courtesy of Southwest Airlines</p>

Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Companion Pass

Requirements: 100 one-way qualifying flights or 135,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.

Benefits: Although the Companion Pass is not technically a status tier, it is something many Southwest enthusiasts strive to reach. If you have a Companion Pass, you designate one person to fly with you, free of airline charges, every time you purchase a flight or redeem points for a flight. That person will just need to pay any applicable taxes and fees. Once you earn a Companion Pass, it remains active for the rest of the calendar year and the entire calendar year after. For example, if you reach 100 one-way flights in October 2024, your Companion Pass will remain active through the end of December 2025.

Related: How to Score Companion Passes to Get Free Flights — and Which Airlines Offer Them

Redeeming Miles

Flights

To book a flight with your Rapid Rewards points, log in to your account, find your desired itinerary, and book the flight. Southwest offers unlimited rewards seats and no blackout dates, which makes it easier than ever to book an award flight. Unlike other major U.S. airlines, Southwest does not have any airline partners that you can redeem points with.

Other Ways to Redeem Points

Apart from flights, you can redeem Rapid Rewards points for gift cards, merchandise, hotels, experiences, and Rapid Rewards Access Events. To redeem for these, you can browse the available options at the Rapid Rewards website. The point value will vary with these alternate redemption methods, but they will likely provide less value than booking a flight. For example, at the time of writing, a $114 flight from New York City (LGA) to Miami (MIA) costs 6,933 points, while a $50 Panera Bread gift card costs 9,400 points.

<p>Courtesy of Southwest Airlines</p>

Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

How to Get the Most Out of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program

“Southwest uses a revenue-based redemption program, meaning that the value you can get for a Rapid Rewards flight is fixed,” explains Grossman. “You will get [a value] between 1.25 and 1.5 cents per point, on average.” Southwest serves 121 destinations in 11 countries, so there are plenty of opportunities to book award travel with your Rapid Rewards points. “If you really want to maximize, simply redeem when you are getting near the upper end of the range.”

As mentioned earlier, for many, the shining star of the Rapid Rewards program isn’t the valuation of the points but earning the Companion Pass. “With a Companion Pass, you can bring someone along with you and pay only taxes and fees…on unlimited flights for the entire year in which you earn the Companion Pass and the entire following year,” says Grossman. “Think about how many flights that can be!”

The quickest way to reach status and earn more points per dollar is by booking a higher fare class, like Business Select. You should be flexible on your travel days and compare ticket prices at various airports to get the most value out of your points. Award tickets start as low as 4,000 points, so with a little bit of research, you can take a substantial number of award flights off of one credit card sign-up bonus or after purchasing a few flights yourself. Southwest also offers a low-fare calendar to help you find the best deals.

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