One of America’s favorite airlines, Southwest offers a lot to love for the airline traveller.
As the last airline in the U.S. to offer 2 free checked bags on all flights, while also operating the most flights within the United States…it’s not hard to see why.
Want free flights on Southwest? Earning Rapid Rewards points will get you that – and more.
They’re flexible, easy to use, and (as you’ll see) not just for flights.
We’ll dive into everything the Southwest Rapid Rewards program has to offer, and get you flying for free in no time at all.
Southwest Rapid Rewards at a glance
|Value of a Rapid Rewards point:||High: $0.015 for Southwest flights
Low: $0.0053 for merchandise
|Ways to redeem Rapid Rewards points:||* Flights on Southwest – 1.5 cents per point (CPP)
* Flights on other airlines – 0.9 CPP
* Car rentals – 0.75 CPP
* Hotels – 0.64 CPP
* Gift cards – 0.7 CPP
* Merchandise – 0.53 CPP
|How to earn Rapid Rewards points:||* Southwest flights
* Car rentals
* 3 credit cards
|Who these rewards are good for:||* U.S Travellers|
|Frequently Asked Questions:||* Level of flexibility? Medium
* Blackout dates? No
* Do rewards expire? No
* Rewards cover taxes and fees? No
* Can these rewards be transferred? Yes
* Is there a way to earn rewards faster? Yes
* How to access Southwest login
* Southwest customer service contact
Calculating the value of a Southwest Rapid Rewards point
While redeeming for Southwest flights will no doubt be the first choice for many, there are many other ways to use your points as well.
Redeem for flights on Southwest Airlines – 1.5 CPP
On top of it being the rewards redemption of choice, redeeming for flights on Southwest also provides the best value as well.
We surveyed many flights of varying length within the continental U.S., to Hawaii, and to some Mexican and Carribean destinations as well.
Some ground rules for our example flights:
- We looked at trips departing 3 months in advance,
- had a set trip length of 5 days, centred around a weekend, and,
- were direct flights that needed the fewest points.
To see our results, this PDF has the details.
Almost every flight came out to a value of 1.5 cents per point, with a handful that were either slightly above or below that average.
By in large, it wasn’t hard to find seats or flights that required few points. It was only just over 25,000 points for our most expensive flight, which was our longest one between Baltimore and Seattle.
One flight needed less than 8,000 points to book.
Overall, as long as the actual price of the flights was low, the amount of points you need to book goes down as well.
Flights on other airlines – 0.9 CPP
One of Southwest’s glaring holes is its inability to fly you outside the U.S., Mexico, or the Caribbean. They don’t operate any other flights, nor do they have any airline partners.
Luckily, you can use your points to book flights that travel outside the United States on any airline – but you’ll lose point value.
It’s not easy to find, but to access this, login to your account, and under the Rapid Rewards tab click “Redeem for More Rewards” (shown below):
Then under “Travel,” click on “Airfare” and you’ll be able to book any flight, as long as it leaves the U.S.
With that said, you’ve lost a lot of value in your points. We surveyed some flights to Canada, Europe, and Asia, and only got a point value of 0.9 cents each (see our results here).
It’s definitely best to book flights with Southwest wherever possible, but should you want to venture beyond where they fly, the option exists for you to do so with Rapid Rewards points.
Rental Cars – 0.75 CPP
Of course, there’s more ways to redeem your points for travel than just flights. If you need a rental car at your destination your Rapid Rewards points can be used to book a rental car.
We test booked mid size cards at various airports around the U.S. and got a value of 0.75 cents per point. Our results can be found here.
Hotel stays – 0.64 CPP
Hotels are the last way you can use points to redeem for free travel. We looked at various hotels around the U.S. for 2 night weekend stays.
Of your travel options, hotels provide the least value at 0.64 cents per point – but that’s still better than the rest of your (non-travel) options. You can see the full hotel details here.
Gift cards – 0.7 CPP
For the simple day to day saver, you can redeem your points towards gift cards at various retailers.
You can redeem for gift cards in $25, $50, and $100 denominations.
With a few exceptions, each denomination has the same value:
|Gift Card Value||Points Required||Point Value (cents)|
Merchandise – 0.53 CPP
For goods you can get right away, the Rapid Rewards merchandise catalogue is quite extensive.
But like most programs, merchandise doesn’t yield a great value for your points – only 0.53 cents for this program.
Here’s what we surveyed for merchandise, with the real price coming from Amazon:
|Sony Portable Bluetooth Wireless Speaker||16,722||$74||0.44|
|Nikon Coolpix A1000 Digital Camera||77,903||$510||0.66|
|Apple iPad 9.7″ 32GB Wi-Fi + Cellular for Apple SIM||76,706||$352||0.46|
|Apple Watch Nike+ Series 4 (GPS + Cellular) 40mm||85,371||$480||0.56|
|Bose Home Smart Speaker 300||40,194||$277||0.69|
|Google Home Max||66,234||$320||0.48|
|Samsung 40″ NU7100 Smart 4K UHD TV||72,823||$375||0.51|
|Microsoft Xbox One X 1TB||86,187||$388||0.45|
|Beats Solo3 Wireless On Ear Headphones||43,930||$171||0.39|
* Price includes an average sales tax of 8%.
Lastly, you can use your points to redeem for experiences.
These will get you things like entrance to museums, bus tours, local cruises, food tastings, and much more. These are available in locations all across the U.S.
Many of these items are hard to put a price on, so whether or not you want to use your points depends on how much the activity is worth to you.
To see what’s available, head to the “More rewards” section and click on the “Experiences” tab.
Earning Southwest Rapid Rewards
There’s a few ways to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards:
- You can earn points when you fly,
- stay at a hotel, or
- use an affiliated credit card.
Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards by flying
You earn points every time you fly with Southwest.
How many you earn depends on the fare type and amount.
Here’s the breakdown, with an example for each of the 3 fare classes Southwest offers:
Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards at hotels
When you stay at select hotels chains, you can choose to earn Rapid Rewards points instead of collecting the hotel chain’s currency.
Here are the hotel chains that can earn you Rapid Rewards points, keeping in mind how many you can earn varies by the chain. You can find out more by going here.
Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards on car rentals
To cover your entire journey, earn Southwest Rapid Reward points on rental cars.
Here are their partners, and again how many points you earn varies by the who you go with.
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards
If you want to earn Rapid Rewards points on your every purchase, Chase offers 3 credit cards that will get you exactly that.
Each one comes with the same welcome bonus and earn rates. The welcome bonuses are always changing so it’s best to check the website directly, but here are the earn rates for all 3 cards:
- 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases,
- 2 points per $1 spent on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, and
- 1 point per $1 on everything else.
What really separates these cards are the perks. How much of an annual fee you want to pay will vary by how much you value the provided perks.
And since Southwest gives every passenger 2 free checked bags, that’s one perk these cards won’t be able to dish out.
Related: Best Travel Credit Cards For 2019
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Visa
The top offering of the group is the
- 7,500 anniversary points every year,
- $75 annual Southwest travel credit,
- 4 upgraded boardings per year, and
- no foreign transaction fees.
Related: Best Airline Credit Cards For 2019
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa
The mid level offering is the
- 6,000 anniversary points every year and
- no foreign transaction fees.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Visa
The base level card, the
Southwest Rapid Rewards questions and answers
How flexible are these rewards?
All in all, these are fairly flexible rewards.
You can use your points to book any available seat on Southwest, and use your points for hotels, car rentals, as well as cash-like items like gift cards.
Are there blackout dates?
No, provided there are available seats on Southwest, you can use your Rapid Rewards points any time.
Do these rewards expire?
No, provided there’s at least one transaction on your account every 2 years.
Can you use points to cover taxes & fees?
Points don’t cover taxes and fees when redeeming for Southwest flights. But they’re covered when you redeem for flights from other airlines, as well as hotels and car rentals.
Can these rewards be transferred?
No, these rewards cannot be transferred to other partners.
Is there a way to earn rewards faster?
Yes, by using both your Rapid Rewards number and credit card on Southwest flights, hotel stays, and car rentals.
How to access your Rapid Rewards login
To access your Rapid Rewards login, go to southwest.com and click log in at the top right corner.
Southwest customer service contact info
To contact Southwest customer service, call 1-800-435-9792.
For the Southwest fan, the Rapid Rewards program is a great way to fly for (almost) free anywhere Southwest flies.
And with no blackout dates and lots of rewards seats – you have a lot of flexibility within Southwest.
Plus, you can also use points to pay for other parts of travelling, like hotels and car rentals.
What are your thoughts on the Rapid Rewards program?
Do you love or hate it?
Let us know in the comments below.