Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest information.
Southwest Airlines is known for its generous policies on ticket changes and cancellations, complimentary checked bags and unique boarding process. However, Southwest Rapid Rewards is yet another enticing feature for frequent travelers.
One notable advantage is the program’s lack of blackout dates for award redemptions. Moreover, it offers an incredible Companion Pass benefit, allowing you to bring a companion on paid and award flights for just the cost of taxes and fees.
If you are new to Southwest or want to learn more about using points on Southwest, this guide will take you through what you need to know about redeeming your Rapid Rewards points. Fortunately, it is relatively straightforward, but there are a few peculiarities you should be aware of.
You can also redeem your Southwest points for gift cards, merchandise, hotels, experiences and Rapid Rewards Events, but Southwest flights almost always provide the best return on your hard-earned points.
Redeem points on Southwest flights
Redeeming Southwest Rapid Rewards points on Southwest flights is simple. The program pegs the number of points required to the cost of paid airfares. The more a paid seat costs, the more points you must redeem. Southwest promises no blackout dates on any redemptions, so you can use your Rapid Rewards points to book any Southwest Airlines ticket for sale. If the flight has one open seat, you should be able to book it with points (but be prepared to pay up).
TPG values Southwest points at 1.4 cents each, and it’s easy to consistently get that value whether you’re booking domestic or international flights. Unfortunately, Southwest has shared plans to devalue Rapid Rewards points by 4% on Jan. 1, 2024, so now is the time to book award travel.
The booking process is simple. Fire up southwest.com and enter your flight search parameters. Be sure to check the “Points” button at the top right to see the results for award flights.
The results page will then display all of the available flights using points. Select the one you want, log in to your account (if you haven’t already) and follow the on-screen steps to complete your award.
You can also reserve Wanna Get Away Plus, Anytime and Business Select fares using Rapid Rewards points, but your redemption value tends to be lower for limited benefits. Business Select fares, for example, include priority boarding and security, a free premium drink on flights over 176 miles and more flexible same-day changes. As a result, we recommend sticking to redeeming for Wanna Get Away fares whenever possible.
Free award ticket changes and cancellations
Another thing that makes Rapid Rewards points so popular is Southwest’s flexible change and cancellation policies.
You can change your Southwest flights for free and are only responsible for paying the difference between your original and new flights. If the cost of an award flight you’ve booked goes down, you can rebook your trip at the lower rate, and you’ll receive a refund (in the form of travel credit for Wanna Get Away and Wanna Get Away Plus fares).
If your plans change and you cannot make a flight, you can cancel your flight for free. Your points will be refunded to your account without penalty (even on Wanna Get Away fares). You can even opt for the taxes paid to go back to the credit card you used to book the reservation.
There’s one thing to remember: You can’t no-show for the flight and get your points back. You must cancel at least 10 minutes before the scheduled departure, which is still pretty lenient.
The Companion Pass doubles the value of your Southwest points
One of the ways to maximize the value of your Rapid Rewards points is by earning the Southwest Companion Pass. With this perk, you can choose a companion to fly with you on all your Southwest flights while your pass is valid. Your companion will only need to pay the taxes and fees for their ticket, regardless of whether you used cash or points for your ticket. As long as the flight has available seats, you can use your pass. This essentially doubles the value of your Rapid Rewards flights when traveling with your designated companion.
To earn the Companion Pass, you must earn either 135,000 qualifying points or complete 100 qualifying flights on Southwest within a calendar year. Once achieved, you will have the Companion Pass for the remainder of the current year and the entire following year.
Qualifying points for the Companion Pass can be earned by flying paid Southwest flights, spending on a Southwest credit card, shopping through the Southwest shopping portal and utilizing Southwest’s partnerships. However, points transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy do not count toward the Companion Pass.
You can earn 75,000 bonus points with any of the Chase Southwest personal cards and 80,000 bonus points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card.
Here’s a look at some of the current Southwest card offers:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Offer ends Dec. 11.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Offer ends Dec. 11.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Offer ends Dec. 11.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
With these generous welcome offers, earning the Companion Pass becomes relatively easy. By meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Performance Business Card, you can earn at least 85,000 points, leaving you with only 50,000 points to earn the pass. You can achieve this by spending more on your new card, flying with Southwest, earning points through partners or combining these methods.
Southwest Rapid Rewards FAQ
Have questions about Southwest Rapid Rewards? Let’s address them.
How do I join Southwest Rapid Rewards?
You can join the Southwest Rapid Rewards program for free on Southwest’s website. Look at the top of the page and click the “Create account” link.
Now, fill out the requested information and click the yellow “Create account” button at the bottom of the screen. Your account will be created immediately, and you can earn and redeem Rapid Rewards points.
When do Southwest Rapid Rewards points expire?
Southwest Rapid Rewards points don’t expire so long as your account is open.
Can I transfer points to Southwest?
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest Rapid Rewards at a 1:1 transfer ratio. This means that 10,000 Chase points are equal to 10,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. These transfers generally process instantly.
For example, you may want to book Southwest flights through Chase if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve. You can redeem Ultimate Rewards points from this card at 1.5 cents per point through the Chase travel portal and still earn Rapid Rewards points on your flight. And now, Southwest flights appear directly on the Chase travel portal.
Further, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Southwest Rapid Rewards at a 3:1 transfer ratio. Five thousand bonus Rapid Rewards are awarded for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred, so 60,000 Marriott points are worth 25,000 Southwest points.
Southwest Rapid Rewards points are an excellent choice if you are a traveler seeking flexibility in booking flights within a wide domestic network. With the added benefit of fee-free changes and cancellations, along with the inclusion of two free checked bags for every passenger, Southwest is a preferred option for many travelers. Moreover, the Companion Pass allows you to double the value of your points when traveling with a friend or family member.