Southwest Rapid Rewards Rewards Program: Your Complete Guide

A Southwest passenger plane prepares for takeoff.
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Ashlee D. Smith / Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards program can help you earn points you can put toward award flights. Learn the multiple ways you can earn Rapid Rewards points and how to get the most value out of redeeming them. 

What Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program?

The Rapid Rewards program is Southwest Airlines’ frequent flyer program and has been around since 1987. Each time you fly or buy things from its partners, you’ll earn Rapid Rewards points that you can redeem for flights. Southwest Airlines is the third-largest airline in the United States, with more than 4,000 daily flights during peak times to 103 destinations in the U.S. and 10 neighboring countries.

How Can You Enroll in the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program?

There are three main ways you can enroll in the Southwest Rapid Rewards program:

  • Online: Click on “Enroll” on the Rapid Rewards section of the Southwest.com website.
  • Mobile: Sign up through Southwest’s mobile app. 
  • By phone: Call the reservations counter at 1-800-248-4377 to get live help.

Make sure you write down your membership number and keep it somewhere safe,or screenshot it and save it somewhere secure on your phone. That way, you have it ready when it comes time to make a reservation. 

What Are the Southwest Airlines Hubs?

Southwest Airlines’ headquarters are in Dallas, Texas. The airline doesn’t have a list of official hubs but it does have a large number of flights to and from the following major airports:

  • ATL: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; Atlanta, Georgia
  • MDW: Chicago Midway International Airport; Chicago, Illinois
  • DAL: Dallas Love Field Airport; Dallas, Texas
  • DEN: Denver International Airport; Denver, Colorado
  • HOU: William P. Hobby Airport; Houston, Texas
  • LAS: McCarran International Airport; Las Vegas, Nevada
  • LAX: Los Angeles International Airport; Los Angeles, California
  • MCO: Orlando International Airport; Orlando, Florida
  • PHX: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport; Phoenix, Arizona
Pros
  • No blackout dates

  • Points go far on certain fares because flights are cheap

  • Companion pass for super frequent fliers

Cons
  • Can’t earn points by flying on other airlines

  • Can currently only redeem points for flights

  • Only flies within the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean

How to Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

One of the nicest things about this program is that there are a lot of ways to earn points, even without having to fly.

Fly Southwest Airlines

The best way to earn Rapid Rewards points is by flying with Southwest Airlines. The airline offers three fare types: Business Select (comes with priority boarding and other perks), Anytime (cancelable for a refund), and Wanna Get Away (cancelable for a flight credit). The number of points you earn depends on how much your base fare costs for each class:

  • Business Select: 12 points per dollar
  • Anytime: 10 points per dollar
  • Wanna Get Away: 6 points per dollar

You can earn more points on your base fare if you’re an elite member or have one of Southwest Airlines’ credit cards. We’ll discuss these more below in the “Benefits of A-List and A-List Preferred” and “Use Southwest Airlines Credit Cards” sections.

For example, a $550 ticket for Business Select class will earn you 6,600 points. However, you won’t earn any points on any government-imposed fees or extra airline fees such as extra/heavy baggage or pet shipment fees. 

You also won’t earn any points on rewards flights that you book with Rapid Rewards points, companion pass travel, or on any flights that don’t directly have your name on the ticket. For instance, if you’re purchasing tickets for your friends or family, you can’t earn points from their flights. They’ll need their own Rapid Rewards accounts to claim those points.  

Use Southwest Airlines Credit Cards

Southwest Airlines offers three credit cards that accrue points for purchases you make with them. Each card has the same rewards rates: 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines tickets and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. However, they each offer extra layers of perks on top of the rewards rates:

Through March 31, 2021, all three Rapid Rewards credit cards will earn 5 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases rather than the usual 2 points per $1.

Stay at Marriott, Hyatt, or Other Partner Hotels

Southwest Airlines partners with a few major hotel brands, including Marriott, Hyatt, Best Western, MGM Resorts, and Radisson. You’ll earn 600 points for each stay at one of these properties regardless of how long you stay, except for Radisson properties, where you’ll earn 20 Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent on your booking. 

Southwest Airlines also allows you to earn points on hotel stays through online booking sites Rocketmiles and Southwest Hotels. You’ll earn up to 10,000 Rapid Rewards points by booking through Rocketmiles, and 1 point for every dollar you spend with Southwest Hotels. 

To earn points on your hotel purchases, make sure you provide your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards account number when you book.

Other Ways to Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

  • Rent a car through Avis, Thrifty, or another partner agency: Earn 600 Rapid Rewards points on a car rental through eight major agencies.
  • Book tours and activities: Use the Southwest Airlines Experiences portal to book local adventures in your area and earn 1 point per dollar spent. 
  • Send gifts to someone else: Earn 1,000 Rapid Rewards points by making a purchase of $29.99 or more through the end of 2020 with 1-800-Flowers.com or Harry & David. 
  • Get meal delivery service: Earn 1,200 Rapid Rewards points per box on your first five boxes purchased from Home Chef. 
  • Get wine delivered: Earn discounts and Rapid Rewards points by ordering wine through Laithwaite’s. 
  • Participate in the Rapid Rewards Dining Program: Earn points in many different ways at restaurants around the world, such as by writing reviews and paying for meals and/or drinks. 
  • Shop online through the Rapid Rewards Shopping Partners portal: Rack up points and savings on online purchases at more than 800 stores through this portal.
  • Buy gas at participating Marathon gas stations: Earn 1 Rapid Rewards point and a 5 cent discount per gallon of gas you purchase.
  • Pay your electric bill in certain states: If you live in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Texas, you may be able to earn a sign-up bonus and ongoing points by paying your Reliant Energy or NRG Energy bill.
  • Purchase a medical emergency assistance plan: Earn 1,200 Rapid Rewards points for each year that you’re enrolled in a plan through Emergency Assistance Plus. 
  • Sign up for opinion panels and surveys: You can earn points through a couple of different programs that ask for your opinions.

Do Southwest Rapid Rewards Points Expire?

No. Your Rapid Rewards points will never expire. 

How to Use Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

The most valuable way to redeem your points is to book flights on Southwest Airlines. 

Book Southwest Airlines Flights

The number of points you need to book an award flight depends on how much the flight costs in dollars. The cost varies by the demand, the destination and length of the flight when you book, and other factors. 

Award flights aren’t totally cost-free because you’ll still need to pay for government taxes and fees in cash. This generally starts at around $5.60 for a one-way fare, and goes up from there. 


On average, you can expect your Rapid Rewards points to be worth about 1.45 cents each, according to our calculations. You can increase that value by booking a Wanna Get Away fare, which gives your points a value of 1.53 cents each. On the other hand, the points you use to book Business Select fares are worth 1.37 cents each. 

Southwest really shines when it comes to domestic economy fares. Not only are your points  worth 1.48 cents on average when redeemed for those types of tickets, but because those tickets tend to be cheaper than competitors’ flights, you can buy more with your points. With 50,000 points, for example, you could book up to six domestic coach flights, two more than any of Southwest Airlines’ closest competitors such as American Airlines. 

During the pandemic, Southwest is limiting redemption options to Southwest flights only. However, before the pandemic, you could redeem your Rapid Rewards points for international flights on other carriers, car rentals, gift cards, and hotel stays. 

Southwest Rapid Rewards Elite Status

Southwest Airlines offers two different tiers of elite status: A-List, and A-List Preferred. Aside from small creature comforts like a priority check-in lane, the biggest benefit is that you’ll multiply the number of Rapid Rewards points you earn on each flight.  

How to Earn A-List or A-List Preferred Status

Southwest tracks your progress toward elite status in one of two ways for each tier level:

 Tier Level Qualifying One-Way Flights Tier Qualifying Points
 A-List  25 35,000
 A-List Preferred  50 70,000

A flight from an origin city to a destination city, including any connecting cities, counts as a one-way flight. So, if you make a connection in Chicago while on your way to Atlanta from San Francisco, that counts as a single one-way flight, even though you flew on two separate planes. If you book a round-trip flight, that’ll count as two separate one-way trips. 

Tier qualifying points are a bit trickier. While you earn them primarily by purchasing Southwest airfare, they’re only used to track progress toward one of the elite statuses; you can’t redeem them or use them in any other way. 

Your progress toward elite status is reset each calendar year. But once you reach either A-List or A-List Preferred status, you’ll enjoy those benefits for the remainder of the calendar year plus the next full calendar year, too.

Due to the pandemic, Southwest Airlines will roll the tier qualifying points you earn in 2020 into 2021, instead of having them reset like normal on Jan. 1. This will make it easier to reach elite status next year. 

If flying 50 one-way flights (or even 25, for that matter) sounds like a daunting task to you, the good news is that you can reach elite level faster with the help of either the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. For every $10,000 you spend on either card during the year, you’ll get 1,500 tier-qualifying points. You can earn up to 15,000 extra tier qualifying points per year this way.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Companion Pass

Another of Southwest’s best features is its companion pass that lets you designate a companion to fly with you free of airline charges whenever you book a flight (government taxes and other fees will still apply). In other words, it’s not limited to just one flight—as long as your companion pass is active, the companion you designate will fly with you without airline charges, no matter how often you fly. 

To earn the companion pass, you’ll need to pass a high bar: at least 100 one-way flights or 125,000 tier qualifying points in a year. A Southwest credit card can help you earn the latter, especially if you apply for a new card and earn a welcome bonus. Once you have enough points for the companion pass, though, you’ll have it for the rest of the year and the following year, too, just as with elite status.

Benefits of A-List or A-List Preferred Status

A-List status offers four ways to make your flight time a bit easier:

  • Priority boarding
  • Same-day standby flight options
  • Priority check-in and security lane access
  • Dedicated A-List customer service phone line
  • 25% points bonus for flights

A-List Preferred status offers all of the perks of A-List status, plus free in-flight Wi-Fi and a 100% points bonus instead of 25%. So, instead of earning 12 points per dollar on a Business Select fare, your automatic bonus will earn you 24 points. 

Key Takeaways

If you’re interested in flying mostly within the U.S. and don’t want to spend too much to do it, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is a great option . The companion pass is a standout feature, though you’ll need to rack up a lot of points to earn one. That said, the program offers lots of little ways you can earn points without flying. But if you’re serious about maximizing your value, the Southwest Airlines credit cards can help you get there faster.