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HomeCredit CardsSouthwest Rapid Rewards Program Review: Big Value on a Budget

Southwest Rapid Rewards Program 2021 Review: Big Value on a Budget

Southwest Rapid Rewards Program review: Big value on a budget.

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With affordable fares, two free checked bags and no change or cancellation fees, Southwest Airlines is still one of the cheapest airlines to fly in the U.S. But with the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, cheap isn’t a bad thing.

The program’s rewards currency, Rapid Rewards points, are among the most valuable airline rewards you can get, and you can score roundtrip flights for as little as 4,210 points. But the airline’s domestic focus makes it a better fit for people who do most of their travel within the U.S., the Caribbean and Central America.

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Southwest Rapid Rewards Program

Unlike many airline rewards programs, Southwest calls its currency points instead of miles. The rewards program has no blackout dates or award restrictions, so you don’t have to worry about finding the right flight for your next trip. Also, Rapid Rewards points never expire, so you can take your time to build up your rewards balance.

Pros

  • Low fares and few fees
  • No blackout dates
  • The Southwest Companion Pass is unmatched
  • Points don’t expire

Cons

  • International flights are limited
  • No first-class cabin
  • Business Select and Anytime fares are usually unaffordable

No Blackout Dates

This is one less thing to worry about when booking flights or redeeming points. You can decide when you want to fly, without being held to a certain schedule.

Points Don’t Expire

Your points will remain intact unless you terminate your account. You must also have flight-earning or partner-earning points once every 24 months to remain active. There are several ways you can earn and redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points, which we’ll cover in this review.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Status Tiers

Southwest has two status tiers for its rewards program members: A-List and A-List Preferred.

A-List

You can earn A-List status when you earn 35,000 tier-qualifying points or take 25 one-way qualifying flights in a calendar year. Once you achieve it, you’ll receive:

  • Priority boarding
  • 25% more points on qualifying flights
  • Same-day standby
  • Priority check-in and security lane access
  • Dedicated A-List member phone line

A-List Preferred

A-List Preferred status requires 70,000 tier-qualifying points or 50 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year. For those who qualify, you’ll get:

  • Priority boarding
  • 100% more points on qualifying flights
  • Same-day standby
  • Priority check-in and security lane access
  • Dedicated A-List Preferred member phone line
  • Free in-flight WiFi

For both status tiers, tier-qualifying points include points earned on flights you pay for with cash, as well as points you earn with one of the airline’s co-branded credit cards.

How Much Are Southwest Rapid Rewards Points Worth?

Most airline miles have a dynamic pricing structure, which means that the value of your rewards can vary based on several different factors. Southwest Rapid Rewards points are similar, but their value is tied more directly to the cash price of the fare than other airlines.

This means that if there’s a fare sale, you’ll see drops in how much a flight costs with both cash and points. According to our points and miles valuation guide, Rapid Rewards points are worth 1.4 cents apiece on average, which is more than what many other popular airlines offer, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue Airways.

Redeeming Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

The best way to redeem your Southwest points is for award flights with the airline. You can maximize your points by taking advantage of Southwest Click ‘N Save fare deals. Sign up to get emails from the airline whenever tickets go on sale.

The only drawback is that you need enough points to cover the full cost of the flight — some other airlines allow you to purchase tickets with a mix of rewards and cash.

Other ways to redeem your points include:

Gift cards from popular brands
Merchandise
International flights
Hotel stays
Rental cars
Experiences (must have a Southwest credit card)

One thing to note with international flights is that Southwest Airlines only services flights within the U.S. and to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. If you want to book a flight to somewhere else, you can use your points to book with one of the airline’s partners, but you typically won’t get as much value as you would booking directly with Southwest.

Rapid Rewards Point Redemption Tips

Your points will go further when booking Business Select flight over Wanna Get Away flights, though.

When it comes time to redeem your points, do some quick math to ensure you’re getting a great deal. For example, if you see a Wanna Get Away flight for $75 or 7,500 points, then you’re only redeeming your points for one cent per mile — not the best deal.

How to Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

The primary way you can earn Rapid Rewards points is to fly with the airline. You’ll earn 12 points per dollar on Business Select tickets, 10 points per dollar on Anytime tickets and 6 points per dollar on Wanna Get Away tickets. Other ways to earn points with the airline include:

  • Using a Southwest Airlines credit card
  • Booking travel with one of the airline’s partners, which include hotels, rental cars and ground transportation
  • Shopping online through Rapid Rewards shopping portal
  • Dining at participating restaurants with Rapid Rewards Dining
  • Taking surveys
  • Spending with the airline’s home, lifestyle and specialty partners

Southwest Credit Cards That Earn Rapid Rewards Points

Not only are Southwest credit cards co-branded with Chase, it’s among the card issuers multiple travel transfer partners. Points earned from Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred can be transferred directly to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account to pay for flights.

However, if you’re a Southwest loyalist who enjoys benefits like upgraded boardings, discounts on in-flight services and other airline perks, then opening one of Southwest’s consumer or business credit cards to earn Rapid Rewards points for everyday spending may be a compelling value for you.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $69
Bonus: 100,000 Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-2X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $69

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: Earn 2X points on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders can earn up to 100,000 bonus points. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who fly Southwest several times a year.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

This is the entry level card for aspiring Rapid Rewards point earners, and new cardholders can earn a 100,000-point sign-up bonus, which can go a long way toward booking flights for your next travel destination. Above all, for a modest $69 annual fee, the Rapid Rewards Plus credit card helps you rack up points as cheaply as possible.

Our favorite Rapid Rewards Plus perk is the 3,000 bonus points that are awarded to cardholders on the anniversary of your account opening. It’s an added incentive to retain the card after you’ve earned the introductory sign-up bonus.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is the entry level card for aspiring Rapid Rewards point earners. This airline credit card earns 2X points per dollar spent with Southwest and on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners. It also earns 2X points per dollar spent on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing services. Finally, the credit card earns 1X points on all other purchases.

Above all, for a modest $69 annual fee, the Rapid Rewards Plus credit card helps you rack up points as cheaply as possible. Our favorite Rapid Rewards Plus perk is the 3,000 bonus points that are awarded to cardholders on every anniversary year of your account opening. It’s an added incentive to retain the card after you’ve earned the initial sign-up bonus.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $99
Bonus: 100,000 Points
APR:Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-3X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $99

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: Earn 3X points on Southwest purchases. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders earn up to 100,000 bonus points. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who fly Southwest a couple times a year.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

In addition to perks like no foreign transaction fees and being able to earn A-list flight status, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier also offers a generous 6,000 bonus points every cardholder anniversary. It’s these types of benefits that help round out the value of the $99 annual fee.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card also offers two EarlyBird Check-Ins each year, and all points earned with this card get you closer to a Southwest Companion Pass.

In addition to perks like no foreign transaction fees, two complimentary EarlyBird Check-In vouchers each year and being able to earn A-list flight status, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card also offers a generous 6,000 bonus points every cardholder anniversary, which can often be enough to cover the cost of a one-way domestic flight. It’s these types of benefits that help round out the value of the $99 annual fee.

This airline credit card also earns 3X points per dollar on Southwest purchases and 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car-rental partners. It also earns 2X points per dollar on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing services. Additionally, this Southwest card rewards 2X points per dollar spent on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. It earns 1X points on all other purchases.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $149
Bonus: 100,000 Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-3X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $149

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: Earn 3X points on Southwest purchases. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders earn up to 100,000 bonus points. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Southwest loyalists and frequent flyers.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

When you look at benefits like a $75 annual travel credit, four upgraded boardings each year, free checked bags and discounts on in-flight purchases, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority is probably the most affordable of all the Southwest credit cards. Similarly, the 7,500 bonus points each cardmember anniversary really pack on the value and offset this card’s $149 annual fee.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is as close to a premium credit card that Southwest Airlines offers non-business account holders. While its rewards-points earnings are the same as the Premier, the $149 annual fee does reward cardholders with a generous 7,500 bonus points on their account anniversary, as well as a $75 annual travel credit.

When you look at benefits like a $75 annual travel credit, four upgraded boardings each year, free checked bags and discounts on in-flight purchases, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority is probably the most affordable of all the Southwest credit cards. Similarly, the 7,500 bonus points each cardmember anniversary really pack on the value and offset this card’s $149 annual fee.

This airline credit card also earns 3X points per dollar on Southwest purchases and 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car-rental partners. It also earns 2X points per dollar on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing services. Additionally, this Southwest card rewards 2X points per dollar spent on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. It earns 1X points on all other purchases.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $99
Bonus: 60,000 Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-3X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $99

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: Earn 3 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases. Earn 2 points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car-rental partners. Earn 2 points on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing. Earn 1 point on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New account holders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 during the first three months from account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Small business owners and freelancers who enjoy flying with Southwest.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest’s entry-level business card is a great option for business owners who want to maximize company spending to earn free Southwest flights. Like most business credit cards, there’s an annual fee to pay, but the signing bonus and travel and purchase perks provide enough value to negate the fee. The card offers employee cards at no additional cost and bonus points earned count towards earning a Southwest companion pass and also towards earning A-List and A-List Preferred status.

This card’s annual fee is expensive, but the perks you get outweigh its cost. We like that points earned can qualify towards Southwest’s A-List status, the airline’s rewards program. Let’s not forget the sign-up bonus, two free EarlyBird Check-Ins each year, and the 6,000 cardmember anniversary points you can receive. Plus, travel-related perks like no fees for first and second checked bags, no change fees and no blackout dates on rewards flights.

Southwest’s entry-level business card is a great option for business owners who want to maximize company spending to earn free Southwest flights. Like most business credit cards, there’s an annual fee to pay, but the signing bonus, two free EarlyBird Check Ins each year, and travel and purchase perks provide enough value to negate the fee.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card earns 3X points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car-rental partners. It also earns 2X points per dollar spent on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing and 1X point on all other purchases.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $199
Bonus: 80,000 Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-4X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $199

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: Earn 4 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases. Earn 3 points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners. Earn 2 points on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing. Earn 2 points on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services. Earn 1 point on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New account holders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 during the first three months.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Small business owners and freelancers who enjoy flying with Southwest.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

It’s perfect for small business owners who have employees who travel. This Southwest business card offers employee cards at no additional cost and provides perks like inflight WiFi credits, a TSA Pre✓® fee credit and complimentary upgraded boardings. The business airline credit card also offers the most generous point rewards structure of any of the Southwest cards: 4x points per dollar spent with Southwest.

This credit card’s annual fee is expensive, but the perks you get outweigh its cost. We like that points earned can qualify towards Southwest’s A-List status, the airline’s rewards program. Let’s not forget the sign-up bonus and the 9,000 cardmember anniversary points you can receive. Plus, you’ll get other benefits like four upgraded boardings per year, free inflight WiFi credits and credit toward a Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application. In other words, these can help you have a much smoother flight, which is helpful if you’re on an important business trip.

If you’re looking for an airline business card packed with travel benefits, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card is a great deal. Not only does it earn 4X points per dollar for Southwest purchases, but it also features elevated rewards for select business expenses, local transit and spending with Rapid Rewards hotel and car-rental partners.

What we really love about this Chase co-branded card is the added travel perks like inflight WiFi credits, upgraded boarding passes annually and the Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit. Frequent business travelers will find more than enough value with the Performance Business card.


Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best benefits you can receive from a frequent flyer program. If you have it, you can choose one person to fly with you almost for free — you will have to pay taxes and fees, which typically cost just $5.60 each way. You can change your companion up to three times per calendar year, so you don’t have to worry if you don’t have a consistent travel companion.

To qualify, you need to earn 125,000 tier-qualifying points or complete 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year. Once you earn it, you’ll have the pass for the remainder of the current calendar year plus the following calendar year. So if you time it right — remember, you can qualify with points earned on Southwest credit cards, including sign-up bonuses — you could get mostly free flights for your companion for close to two full years.

If you get one or more Southwest credit cards in a short period and earn their sign-up bonuses, you may be able to earn enough points to qualify for the Companion Pass, or at least get most of the way.

Bottom Line

Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards program worth it? It depends on your travel needs. If you already prefer to fly Southwest or hope to fly with it more frequently, the Rapid Rewards Program is definitely worth joining. It’s free to sign up and you can start earning points right away.

However, if you really want to get the most out of Southwest Rapid Rewards, you’ll want to aim to earn the highest tier of the program — Companion Pass. Once you can bring a partner or friend on your flight for free, the savings really start adding up.

Read More Southwest Airlines Credit Card Articles

While we work hard on our research, we do not always provide a complete listing of all available offers from credit-card companies and banks. And because offers can change, we cannot guarantee that our information will always be up to date, so we encourage you to verify all the terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply.

Ben Luthi
Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer and credit card expert. He has a degree in finance from Brigham Young University and worked in financial planning, banking and auto finance before writing full-time for NerdWallet and Student Loan Hero. Ben is now a full-time freelance writer and enjoys traveling and spending time with his two kids. His work has appeared in several publications, including U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Money, Success and Slickdeals.