How to Earn Points With the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program
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Southwest Airlines is a favorite amongst many domestic US flyers. The airline offers free checked bags, operates a ton of obscure US routes and makes the travel process easier for families with complimentary priority boarding. Of course, the airline has its own points program too: Rapid Rewards. You can use these points to redeem for free flights on any Southwest route with zero blackout dates, so you can travel on the flights you want, when you want. It also has the Companion Pass, one of the most lucrative perks in the frequent flyer world (and currently available for several months by simply opening a new credit card).
But how do you earn Rapid Rewards points? Well, that’s what we’re going to answer in this article. We’ll dive deep into the program and show you all of the different ways you can earn Southwest points by flying, using cobranded credit cards and leveraging your everyday purchases.
Earn by Flying on Southwest Airlines
As you’d expect, you can earn Rapid Rewards points by flying on Southwest Airlines. The amount of points you earn per flight depends on three things: how much you paid for your ticket, the fare class you booked (Wanna Get Away, Anytime or Business Select) and your elite status. Thankfully, determining how many points you’ll earn for each flight is easy. Here’s how many points per dollar spent each Southwest Airlines booking class earns before tax:
- Business Select – 12 points per dollar
- Anytime – 10 points per dollar
- Wanna Get Away – 6 points per dollar
Additionally, Southwest A-List and A-List Preferred elite members earn additional points on their flights:
- A-List — 25% additional Rapid Rewards points
- A-List Preferred— 100% additional Rapid Rewards points
So if you book a one-way Wanna Get Away flight from Chicago-Midway (MDW) to New York-LaGuardia (LGA) for $100 before taxes with no elite status, you’d earn 600 Rapid Rewards points. Note that distance is not a factor when earning Rapid Rewards points, so if you paid that same amount for a flight from Chicago-Midway to St. Louis (STL) or one from Newark (EWR) to Oakland (OAK), you’d still earn the same 600 points.
Southwest also makes it very clear how many points you’ll earn for each leg of your trip during the booking process. From the search results page, hover over the flight you’re considering and it’ll display the number of points you’d earn:
If you’re noticing that the math doesn’t add up based on the numbers above, you’re right. The base fare of this ticket is actually $185.75. When you multiply that by six (since it’s a Wanna Get Away fare), you get 1,114.5, which Southwest generously rounds up to 1,115 points.
At this time, Southwest does not have any partner airlines. This means that you can only earn Rapid Rewards points by flying on Southwest Airlines-operated flights.
Earn With Credit Cards
Southwest Airlines has a large cobranded credit card portfolio, with a business card and three different personal credit cards. Each of these cards has its own welcome bonus and other benefits, so it’s easy to build a large Rapid Rewards balance at once.
Here’s a look at each card in Southwest’s cobranded credit card suite with its respective welcome bonus:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card ($99 annual fee) — 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Earn 2x points on Southwest purchases and on purchases with Rapid Rewards’ hotel and car rental partners plus 6,000 points every year on your cardmember anniversary.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card ($149 annual fee) — 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn 2x points on Southwest purchases and on purchases with Rapid Rewards’ hotel and car rental partners plus 7,500 points every year on your cardmember anniversary.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card ($99 annual fee) — 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn 2x points on Southwest purchases and on purchases with Rapid Rewards’ hotel and car rental partners plus 6,000 points every year on your cardmember anniversary.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card ($69 annual fee) — 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn 2x points on Southwest purchases and on purchases with Rapid Rewards’ hotel and car rental partners plus 3,000 points every year on your cardmember anniversary.
For additional details on these cards, be sure to read Ethan Steinberg’s article Comparing the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority, Premier and Plus Credit Cards.
Earn With Partners
But we’re not done yet! Beyond flying and using credit cards, you can earn Rapid Rewards points through many of your everyday purchases, by filling out surveys and even through transferring points in from other loyalty programs. Here’s a run-down of additional ways to earn bonus Rapid Rewards points through Southwest’s assorted partners:
Rapid Rewards Dining
Most airline loyalty programs have their own dining rewards program, and Southwest Rapid Rewards is no exception. You can use Rapid Rewards Dining to earn extra miles when you dine out at partner restaurants (available for viewing on the Rapid Rewards Dining’s site). To do this, all you have to do is sign up for an account and link your favorite credit card(s) that you use for restaurant purchases. Whenever those cards are swiped at a participating restaurant, you’ll earn extra Rapid Rewards points. These are in addition to regular miles you earn with your credit card, so make sure to use a card that earns bonuses on dining purchases for the best return on your purchases.
If you do utilize the Rapid Rewards Dining program, you’ll definitely want to sign-up for email notifications. This will give you “online member” status and will earn you 3x points per $1 spent at participating restaurants. If you opt out of receiving emails, your earning rate is cut by a factor of six (1x point per $2 spent). While privacy is important, agreeing to receive a few emails a week is a small price to pay for some serious additional points, especially if you often charge client dinners or other reimbursable dining.
Rapid Rewards Shopping
Additionally, Southwest has an online shopping portal under the name Rapid Rewards Shopping. You can use this website to earn extra points on your online purchases, and just like Rapid Rewards dining, these bonuses are on top of the points earned by your credit card. Just sign up for a Rapid Rewards Shopping account, find your merchant on Rapid Rewards shopping and click through its link before making a purchase. You’ll earn bonus points on your purchase automatically just by starting at the portal instead of going to the merchant’s website directly.
Each merchant awards a different number of points per dollar spent, and these rates fluctuate frequently, so check Rapid Rewards Shopping frequently. You also may come across promos and other deals that may give you extra points, especially around the holidays, though bear in mind that Southwest isn’t the only airline with a shopping portal. You can easily compare earning rates with other airline, hotel, credit card and cash-back portals by using a shopping portal aggregator like CashBackMonitor.com. We recommend doing this to ensure you’re always getting the best return on your online purchases.
Transfer From Chase Ultimate Rewards
Southwest has one credit card transfer partner: Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Rapid Rewards at a 1:1 ratio, and transfers typically process instantly. Should you execute these transfers, however, is a different story. TPG currently values Rapid Rewards points at 1.5 cents per point, while he pegs Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece. As a result, if you transfer your points to Southwest, you may sacrifice some value from points that could be put towards redemptions like top-tier Hyatt properties or Singapore Airlines first class.
Quick note: Chase Sapphire Reserve cardmembers can redeem their Ultimate Rewards points at 1.5 cents per point through the Chase travel portal to book flights. However, Southwest Airlines itineraries are unfortunately not bookable in this way, as the portal is powered by Expedia, and Southwest doesn’t allow its tickets to be booked using OTAs.
Transfer Points From Hotel Programs
You can also transfer hotel points from a variety of programs to Southwest Rapid Rewards. Most of these offer a relatively poor value proposition, but there is one exception to this rule: Marriott Bonvoy. Marriott points transfer to Southwest Rapid Rewards at a ratio of 3:1, and when you transfer 60,000 Marriott points to an airline partner, you get a 5,000-mile bonus. As a result, 60,000 Marriott points will get you 25,000 Southwest points, lowering the effective transfer ratio to 2.4:1 (when you transfer in 60,000-point increments).
Have a hotel stay coming up? Book through Southwest’s hotel booking portal and you can earn extra points on each stay. The amount of points varies by the price of your stay, so generally the more expensive a room is, the more points you’ll earn. Southwest states that rooms can earn up to a whopping 10,000 points per night but unfortunately usually earn much less.
For example, we did a test search for a one-night stay at the Grand Hotel Inglés in Madrid. The room costs $412 for a night in February and awards 374 Rapid Rewards points per night. So while this is certainly better than nothing, it’s a small amount of miles.
You will, however, earn more points on “Southwest Airlines preferred hotels” through the portal. The Residence Inn by Marriott New York Manhattan/Times Square is one such hotel and costs $386 for a one-night stay in February. This stay yields 8,000 Rapid Rewards points, a haul that’s worth $120 based on TPG’s valuations — a much better return.
Do note that you’ll likely not earn traditional hotel points on these bookings, nor will you earn credits towards elite status qualification. Even if you already have elite status with the hotel in question, you may not enjoy the standard on-property perks, since you booked through a third-party website. You’ll thus need to decide whether you value your hotel points and elite status benefits higher than the bonus Rapid Rewards points you could earn.
Earn Through Surveys
Finally, you can earn Rapid Rewards points by filling out quick surveys through Southwest partner Rewards for Opinions. Each survey earns a different amount of points, and the length varies, so this can be a good way to kill time while earning extra points. Just keep in mind that points can take up to six weeks to post to your account.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points are easy to earn. You can do so by flying, by opening and then allocating your everyday spending to the proper credit cards, or by shopping and dining with select merchants. Using a combination of all of these methods may get you a stockpile of Rapid Rewards points relatively quickly, giving you more opportunities to fly around the US for free.
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