6 Reasons Southwest Rapid Rewards is the Easiest Airline Loyalty Program

AwardWallet receives compensation from advertising partners for links on the blog. The opinions expressed here are our own and have not been reviewed, provided, or approved by any bank advertiser. Here's our complete list of Advertisers.

Offers for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card are not available through this site. All information has been independently collected by AwardWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. Please see our card marketplace for available offers.

Deciding which frequent flyer program offers the most value is a highly subjective exercise. The best choice depends on your home airport, travel habits, and how much complexity you’re willing to put up with.

However, there is a clear winner when you ask, “Which program is easiest to use?

  • Is it simple to find and book flights with your points?
  • Can you accumulate points quickly and easily?
  • Can you avoid fees without a three-ring binder to keep track of the rules?

Southwest Rapid Rewards has made “keeping it simple” a core value. The program blows the competition away for all three of the criteria above, making it our top pick for the easiest frequent flyer program.

Southwest Airlines 737
photo credit: airlines470 N401WN LAX via photopin (license)

Why Southwest Deserves a Closer Look

If you’re looking for rewards that can take you to the opposite side of the world, Southwest isn’t going to be a good choice. But, if you’re like most U.S. flyers (and AwardWallet members), the majority of your travel is within Southwest’s route network. In 2018, U.S. travelers took roughly 41 million international flights outside of North America, with less than 5% of the U.S. population going overseas. On the other hand, domestic travel accounted for roughly 20 times as many flights.

And can you guess which airline carried the most passengers in 2018? That's right, Southwest.

If Southwest serves your home airport, the Rapid Rewards program can offer excellent value. Here are our top six reasons why Southwest is the easiest program for U.S. flyers.

1. Easy to Earn Points via Credit Cards, Transfer Partners, Flying, and Portals

Not only is Rapid Rewards an easy program to navigate, it's also a great program for accumulating a ton of rewards points quickly. In addition to points earned from flying, members can take advantage of a full lineup of co-brand credit cards issued by Chase or transfer points from Ultimate Rewards. You can also earn extra points on hotels, car rentals, dining, and online shopping through Southwest’s travel, dining, and shopping portals.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards

New! Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
New! Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
Annual Fee$199
Welcome Bonus Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
The latest card to join the Southwest lineup of rewards cards, the Southwest Performance Business Card offers the highest Rapid Rewards signup bonus, earns more points than it's Southwest counterparts, receives a massive 9,000 point anniversary bonus, plus offers plenty of perks and benefits for Southwest fans. One of the best co-brand business cards on the market.
  • Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available
  • Inflight WiFi Credits
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® Fee Credit
  • Employee cards at no additional cost, earn points on employee spending.
  • 3X points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases
  • 2X points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services
  • 1X point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Chase issues five Southwest co-brand credit cards, three personal cards, and two business cards.

All Southwest cards fall under Chase's 5/24 policy, plus the personal Southwest cards feature an additional restriction preventing you from holding more than one personal card at a time, or receiving a signup offer on a personal card if you’ve earned one on a Southwest card in the previous 24 months (doesn’t apply to the business cards). All points earned via the Southwest credit cards, including the signup bonus, count towards the Southwest Companion Pass, but more on that later.

Transfer Points from Ultimate Rewards Earning Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Bonus Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Our #1 recommended beginners rewards card featuring a 60,000 point signup bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases

Ultimate Rewards is the only flexible rewards program that transfers to Southwest Rapid Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. This means you can take advantage of lucrative bonus categories on cards like the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® to earn Southwest points at a much faster rate than using the Rapid Rewards cards.

As long as you have at least one card with the power to transfer Chase points, you can also leverage no-annual fee Ultimate Rewards cards like the Chase Freedom®Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card.

Receive Bonus Points via Southwest Hotel, Rental Car, and Shopping Portals

You can also rack up a ton of Southwest points via the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal, Rapid Rewards Hotel Portal, and Rapid Rewards Dining program. These points are in addition to those earned on your credit card. You need to sign in to each portal/program to take advantage of the additional rewards, but the payoff can be huge, with Southwest hotels regularly paying out up to 10,000 bonus points on hotel reservations booked through the Southwest Hotel Portal.

Earn Rapid Rewards Points Flying Southwest

As Southwest is an independent airline, you can’t earn Rapid Rewards points flying partners, only on Southwest flights. Thankfully, Southwest has one of the easiest to understand earning structures of any frequent flyer program, issuing points based on the class of flight and your A-List status.

  • Wanna Get Away – 6 points per $1
  • Anytime – 10 points per $1
  • Business Select – 12 points per $1

If you are an A-List or A-List Preferred elite member, you can earn additional points for each flight.

  • A-List – 25% extra points
  • A-List Preferred – 100% extra points

For example, purchase a $300 Business Select fare as an A-List Preferred member, and receive 7,200 points. A great return on your airline spending.

2. Easy to Redeem Points With No Blackout Dates

One of the most frustrating aspects of traditional frequent flyer programs is the restricted award availability. If you have a limited amount of time to travel or need to depart/return on specific dates, securing award availability can be rough. When you fly Southwest, there are no blackout dates. If there's a seat available to purchase with cash, you can book it with Rapid Rewards points.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Oakland to Hawaii for 10,527 Points
Southwest Rapid Rewards is a revenue-based rewards program, with award prices mirroring the cash price of the ticket.

This makes award travel so much more accessible, particularly for the majority of folks who travel just a few times a year and don’t have time to deep-dive the intricacies of other airline rewards programs. The downside to Southwest’s revenue-based award pricing? During peak travel seasons when tickets are typically more expensive, the number of Rapid Rewards points required also goes up.

3. Southwest Makes It Easy to Get a Consistent Redemption Value for Your Points

Because the cost of an award is directly tied to the cash price of the ticket, you can rest easy knowing the value of your points is relatively static. Where the value of your miles on other carriers varies widely depending on your ticket, Southwest redemptions will consistently deliver a value of between 1.4-1.6¢ per point, without the need to perform advanced mental arithmetic to determine if you are getting the best deal.

4. Friends or Family Can Fly Free With the Companion Pass

The Companion Pass is possibly the most sought after perk in award travel. It allows a companion to fly with you on any flight, for up to two years, paying just the fees and taxes for their seat (typically ~$10). You can earn the Companion Pass by flying at least 100 segments or earning 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. Fortunately, points earned through the Southwest shopping portals or from spending on co-brand credit cards count towards the Companion Pass, making it far more achievable for infrequent flyers. Points transferred from hotel and bank partners (like Ultimate Rewards) do not count towards the Companion Pass.

You can find out more by checking out our Easy Guide to the Companion Pass.

Hawaii Beaches Skyline
You can now use Rapid Rewards points and the Companion Pass to get to Hawaii, adding huge value for Southwest members.

5. Your Bags Fly Free

Most airlines in the U.S. have restrictive baggage policies that can cost you hundreds of dollars to transport your luggage. On Southwest, your first two checked bags fly free! For a family of four, three round trips per year with Southwest could mean close to $1,000 in savings on baggage fees.

This also means you can skip the agonizing logistics of sharing a checked bag with a companion or trying to cram everything that doesn't fit in your first checked bag into a regulation carryon. Even better, you won't have to lug all that unneeded gear through the airport.

Although there are ways to avoid paying for luggage with other airlines, like earning elite status or paying for your flight with the right credit card, Southwest won't make you jump through any hoops.

6. The Best Award Change and Cancelation Policy

Have you ever booked a flight far in advance, only to have your plans change? With most airlines, it can cost more than $100 per ticket to alter your reservation, in some cases eclipsing the cost of the original fare. Southwest has taken the other route with change fees, offering the most generous change, cancelation, and redeposit policies of any airline.

It costs nothing to change or cancel an award ticket. With cancellations, the points go back to your account instantly. If you're making a change, you’ll only pay the difference in price—and that includes paying fewer points when the price of the ticket goes down.

Southwest also does not charge a close-in booking fee for awards. If you book a ticket less than 21 days before departure with American or United, you'll pay $75 extra. Delta pretends not to have a close-in-booking fee, but SkyMiles award prices go up a minimum of 5,000 points inside 22 days.

With Southwest, you get the freedom to book far in advance, knowing that you can change or cancel up to a few hours before departure. If you find a great last-minute fare, you won't pay a penny (or point) extra.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a simple, easy-to-understand airline rewards program that offers great value and a top return on your everyday spend, it’s hard to look past Southwest. If you hold a Companion Pass, which gives you two-for-one flights for up to two years, your points will take you twice as far.

You can pick up a massive balance of Rapid Rewards points to kick off your award travel  by applying for the latest co-brand card from Chase, the Southwest Performance Business Card, which launched with a 80,000-point signup bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

6 Reasons Southwest Rapid Rewards is the Easiest Airline Loyalty Program
5 (100%) 5 votes
AwardWallet Tip of The Day
Did you know that any loyalty account can be marked as Disabled? Once disabled, AwardWallet will not attempt to update the account. If desired, you can manually mark any account as disabled. Additionally, if you provide us with an account that has invalid credentials, we will automatically mark it as disabled after we realize this account cannot be updated. We do this to help prevent your loyalty account from locking you out.
Show me how

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  • Tim Cathcart says:

    SW deals are my next up card!! But my 5/24 is in question…

  • Definitely worth it for us travelers

  • Thank you for providing this valuable information on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program. For me the best deal is to be able to cancel award ticket without any fees when my plans change.

  • I think they just lost Newark as a hub for their 737’s . That changes this equation for the millions that live here.

  • There is no doubt that Southwest offers great value for many travelers, but if you mostly travel alone (or with a variety of different people), internationally, never check a bag and in premium cabins, Southwest is not so appealing. But it is always worthwhile to know all the options.

  • Daniel Alliati says:

    Thanks for sharing. Really very useful information in order to decide which airline to pick to be your partner. Don’t know how many international flights Southwest has tho.

  • The only issue is that since the CCs are Chase only if you are over 5/24 you are locked out.

  • companion pass is super valuable if you are near a southwest hub

  • I wish Southwest airlines would form some sort of partnerships with other airlines so the value of their miles can be stretched further.

  • But the consistent value per point makes it hard to get really great bargains by playing with the dates, cabins, airports, etc

  • Definitely agree that Southwest miles are easy to use, but some of the comments bring up great points that should be taken into consideration as well.

  • It’s just not good for international travel though

  • Southwest is great for domestic travel. The ability to cancel an award ticket without a fee is my favorite perk of the program.

  • Might be able to get the companion pass with the bonus from the business card

  • The only thing I would add is that Southwest fares tend to be very expensive with the exception of the Wanna Get Away fares more than 2 weeks out

  • Love the flexibility of this airline!

  • SW has the best policies on unnecessary fees like bags and awards.
    I wish other legacy airlines get rid of the stupid fees.

  • This is very helpful. Thanks!

  • I find it easier to obtain awards via UR transfers compared to actually earning them on SW.

  • Thanks for sharing.

  • Definitely my favourite frequent flyer program!

  • sometimes southwest flights don’t offer the best CPP but I really value the cancellation policy and free bags. I book a lot of ski trips in advance and if the snow is not good, I cancel. Plus my skis travel free.

    The only reason I use UR cards instead of moving all my spend to TYP cards is that I can transfer my UR to WN.

    I do wish they improved their search interface. You cannot select multiple cities which is so annoying.

  • Southwest is great for domestic and other flights within the Americas but no transatlantic or transpacific flights.

  • I haven’t seen anything about the expiration policy.

  • I like Southwest for their reward policies and the fact that they don’t charge baggage fees. However, they haven’t been close to being the least-expensive option for most routes I check from SEA for quite a while, even compared with airlines like Alaska, United, Delta.

  • Love Rapid Rewards! The ability to cancel award flights with no penalty sets them apart – all the rest is gravy! Appreciate the tips on earning more points.

  • The best part is you are able to cancel flights up to 10 minutes before departure time. You can get the refund back as SW flight credit (like a giftcard) if you paid in cash, or as points back to your SW account if you paid in points.

  • I’ve been taking a closer look at Southwest this year and have split my travel up about evenly between Southwest and American from being mostly all American last year,

  • Anytime availability and flexibility make Southwest a no-brained, particularly if you are based in a hub.

  • So many SW itineraries require 1-2 stops, with the associated hour+ extra time, luggage risk, potential missed connections, and (for me) another round of ear pain, that it’s worth it to book non-stops, usually with anyone but SW. I still think the companion pass is a great deal–an insane deal if you live near a hub city and can cut most trips to 0-1 stop.

  • I feel like their rewards program is significantly better now because of Hawaii redemptions.

  • jeff moyer says:

    I am interested in applying for this card but I’m concerned about the 5/24. I think I am outside the time limit where it is a concern but I read so many posts about all Chase accounts being closed down for presumed churning that I’m afraid to try again.

  • I still haven’t flown Southwest. With the Max issues I wonder what will happen with fares and their loyalty program. Usually the fare is higher for them than American which I get a free bag anyway. I don’t change my flights so I don’t have to worry about fees there. Maybe one day I will use them.

  • A nice thing about SW points is that they are especially useful for cheap (cash) fares, whereas most plans represent a lousy redemption value when the cash fare is cheap.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

**You may receive 5 bonus AAdvantage miles for leaving a comment (Details/FAQ)