How to maximize Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®

Image:
Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® program is Southwest’s loyalty program that offers rewards for flights, hotel stays, dining and more.

With unlimited rewards seats and no blackout dates, Rapid Rewards members can redeem points for flights across the U.S., Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Or they can be traded in for things like hotel stays, car rentals and gift cards.

Points never expire. Plus, if you’re part of Southwest’s A-List you could have access to perks like priority boarding and same-day standby, all while earning points towards the Southwest Companion Pass.


How to earn Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points

The best way to earn Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points is with a Southwest Airlines credit card. You can rack up points quickly using one of the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Best for budget travelers looking to save on fees

From our partner

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

4.3 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

See details, rates & fees

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is the airline’s entry-level card and has the lowest annual fee of the Southwest cards at $69. It comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 bonus points that you’ll earn if you spend at least 1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening.

You’ll get two points for every $1 spent on Southwest purchases. Plus, you’ll earn two points per $1 spent in select categories, including transit, commuting and rideshare along with internet, cable, phone services and some streaming services. All other purchases earn one point for every $1 spent.

Other card perks include 3,000 bonus anniversary points each year, 25% back on in-flight purchases and two free EarlyBird Check-Ins® annually. Plus, the points you earn will count toward earning Southwest’s Companion Pass.

Read our Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card review to learn more.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: Best for getting to A-List status

From our partner

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

4.4 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

See details, rates & fees

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has an annual fee of $99. It comes with a 50,000 point sign-up bonus, which you can earn by spending at least 1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

With this card, you’ll earn three points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases. Plus, you’ll get two points per $1 spent on purchases at participating Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners and on select transit and commuting expenses, like rideshares. You’ll also earn two points per $1 spent on internet, cable, phone service and select streaming purchases. All other purchases earn one point for every $1 spent.

And if you’re trying to qualify for A-List elite status, there’s good news: You’ll earn 1,500 tier-qualifying points for every $10,000 you spend with the card. And there’s no limit on the amount of TQPs you can earn.

You’ll also get 6,000 anniversary points every year, plus extras like two EarlyBird Check-Ins® each year and 25% back on purchases made in flight.

Want to know more? Check out our Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card review.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Best for upgrades

From our partner

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

2.7 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

See details, rates & fees

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is Southwest’s most valuable card, but it also comes with a $149 annual fee. It offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 bonus points when you spend at least 1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening.

With this card, you can earn a $75 Southwest travel credit every year. Plus, you’ll get four upgraded boardings every year and 25% back on in-flight purchases. And you get 7,500 bonus points on your anniversary.

You’ll earn three points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases, along with two points per $1 spent on transit and internet, cable, and phone services and some streaming services. You’ll also earn two points per $1 spent on purchases at participating Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners. All other purchases will earn you one point per $1 spent.

All of the points you earn count toward Southwest’s Companion Pass — plus, you can get to A-List status faster by earning 1,500 tier-qualifying points for every $10,000 spent.

See if this card will work for you by reading our Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card review.

How to redeem Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points

On average, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points are worth 1.35 cents apiece, according to Credit Karma’s valuation. Of course, point values depend on how you choose to redeem your points, as some redemptions hold more value than others.

Here are some of the best ways to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

1. Book Southwest Airlines award flights

The best use of points is to redeem them for Southwest flights. Southwest Airlines award flights are tied to the cash price of flights, not an award chart, so how many points you need depends on the ticket cost.

Points can be used to book flights to nearly 100 domestic and international destinations.

2. Use rewards with partners

The airline doesn’t offer flights to Europe, Asia and other popular international destinations. But through the Southwest More Rewards program you can redeem your points to book international flights on other airlines.

3. Redeem points for hotels, dining and shopping

Have points you don’t want or need to use for flights? Points can be used for hotel stays and rental cars, along with other experiences for card members. You can also cash in your points when you shop at select retailers or use them to buy gift cards.


About the author: Kevin Payne is a freelance writer and the family travel and budget expert behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com. He writes regularly for Club Thrifty, FinanceBuzz, Millennial Money, PT Money and Student Loan Planner. Kevin … Read more.