6 Reasons Southwest Rapid Rewards is the Easiest Airline Loyalty Program

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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 2019, U.S. travelers took roughly 45 million international flights outside of North America, with less than 4% of the U.S. population going overseas. On the other hand, domestic travel surpassed 811 million passengers in 2019.

And can you guess which airline carried the most passengers? 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

The Rapid Rewards program is easy to navigate. But, it's also a great program for accumulating a ton of reward 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

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
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.
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.
  • 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. There are three personal cards:

And two business cards:

All Southwest cards fall under Chase's 5/24 policy. In addition, the personal Southwest cards have an additional restriction preventing you from holding more than one personal card at a time. Plus, you can't receive 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. 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 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Our #1 recommended beginners rewards card featuring an 100,000-point signup bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. This card comes with great benefits and earns valuable Ultimate Rewards points.
  • Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 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, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
  • 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022
  • 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 Flex℠, 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. Hotels booked through Southwest's hotel portal regularly pay out up to 10,000 bonus points.

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 of base fare
  • Anytime — 10 points per $1 of base fare
  • Business Select — 12 points per $1 of base fare

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, if you purchase a $300 Business Select fare as an A-List Preferred member, you'll receive 7,200 points. That's 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 5,848 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 paying just the fees and taxes for their seat (typically ~$5.60 each way).

You can earn the Companion Pass by flying at least 100 segments or earning 125,000 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. That makes it far more achievable for infrequent flyers. But unfortunately, 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 Southwest Companion Pass Strategy Guide.

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 carry on. 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 doesn'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? While many U.S.-based airlines have relaxed change fees, Southwest still offers the best change and cancelation policy.

Every other airline has some strings attached to their change fee waiver. Did you book a basic economy award on Delta? Well, you're not eligible for free changes. Booked a Europe trip as two one-way award flights? Many airlines only allow free changes on awards originating in North America. Or maybe your United flight decreased in price. Too bad, you won't get any refund for the price difference.

With Southwest, it always 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 if the price went down, you can get points deposited back into your account.

With Southwest, you get the freedom to book far in advance. You can change or cancel up to 10 minutes before scheduled departure — even if you already checked in for the flight. 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 one of the latest co-brand cards from Chase, the Southwest Performance Business Card, which features a signup bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

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Comments

  • I find several things Southwest has overlap now with other carriers. Usually when I am looking to book a flight they are the most expensive. I am earning SW miles to fly them one day. Then I’ll see what everyone is talking about. I have different preferences and therefore like Alaska the most. I think with changes that have come to some loyalty programs have made them better. I don’t know if even after trying SW I will really seek them out for travel.

  • Easy and also my favourite hands down!

  • Love the free checked bags and the extremely flexible cancellation policies on Southwest….they are a really handy airline to have points with, esp when I need to fly out to the West Coast.

  • Unfortunately Southwest flights are no longer as economical as they once were. Unless you book well in advance, the points price you will pay, which is fixed to the dollar value, may be substantial. I wouldn’t transfer UR points to do that, since I can get far more value per point from Hyatt or other partners.

  • Southwest is a great rewards program.

  • Big fan of southwests cancellation policy and the travel bank idea. Wish more airlines would be like southwest!

  • Agree that it’s a fantastic program for US-based flyers. I do wish SW would have some international partners for long-haul redemption.

  • Southwest airlines definitely does not have any outsized rewards but it is one of the easiest ones to book rewards tickets on since every seat is available.

  • angelo fonseca says:

    the key to success: simplicity. frequent flyer programs are too complicated and full of rules.

  • The flight change flexibility for SW has been fantastic lately!!! I don’t have a card yet, due to 5/24 issues; But have been on the rewards program for several months and earning just from flying!!

  • Indeed, the program is the easiest if you live in the US and restrict travels within the US.

  • For those of us for whom premium travel (First Class and extra legroom seating) and premium international travel (First and Business Class) are the award and points goal (making Southwest a non-starter), then maybe the 2nd easiest airline loyalty program would be . . . JetBlue True Blue?
    Why? Same earning and redemption structure as Southwest, with rules simpler than the other airlines, though not quite as simple as Southwest, but with premium travel options and global airline tie-ins.

    • Ooh, that’s a good conversation starter! JetBlue is definitely easy, and it’s great to be able to book cheap JetBlue Mint flights with TrueBlue points. And yes, there are some global tie-ins.

      I could also make an argument for American Airlines. Delta and United have ditched award charts, and AA has done dynamic for its own flights. But AA still has an award chart for its partners. So, you can reliably pay 80k AA miles for Japan Airlines First Class to Japan (or Korea). Plus, you can book premium economy awards on AA and many partner airlines.

  • There’s no doubt that this program is the easiest and gives good value And may be the perfect goal for the majority of travelers (as it says in the article). However, I am definitely not among the majority of travelers so I will continue to avoid flying on Southwest.

  • SW mileage program is really user friendly as described.