While it might be low-cost, Southwest Rapid Rewards comes with a host of perks.
If you don’t live or frequent the US often, you’d be forgiven for not knowing much about Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards program. The budget carrier, with a fleet of nearly 800 aircraft, is not part of the major alliances and only allows redemption on its own metal. Despite this, the program offers great value for those who fly often and live in the US.
Southwest measures miles earned by the dollar amount spent and the fare class, meaning it’s easy to know how to earn elite status and save for the next big trip. As with all American carriers, the budget giant has partnered with several banks to offer co-brand credit cards, which come with sizeable bonuses and extra benefits.
The pros and cons
Before deep dive into the program, here’s a short list of pros and cons, starting with the former:
- Quick path to elite status : Unlike complex tier calculations needed at the big three airlines, Southwest’s formula of dollar spend times fare class makes it easy to know how to get to the top. Additionally, flying as little as 25 times a year can get you on the A-List and higher.
- Plenty of reward availability: While Southwest uses a dynamic-pricing model for its rewards booking, this allows for plenty of availability as well. I was able to grab some reward seats during the 2023 Super Bowl weekend (albeit at a high price). At just over 7,700 miles for a redemption (per Value Penguin), Rapid Rewards is among the cheapest to get a free flight.
- Earning opportunities: With abundant credit card partnerships, it’s easy to secure as many as 70,000 Rapid Rewards points as a sign-up bonus. This will easily jumpstart your redemption flying and if used wisely can squeeze out a few roundtrips around the US.
Photo: Joe Kunzler | Simple Flying
However, there are some notable cons with Rapid Rewards too, namely,
- No airline partners or alliance membership: Perhaps the Achilles heel for the program is its lack of partners. This means any points you earn have to go toward flying on Southwest, no other carrier. While the airline has an impressive US schedule, it doesn’t fly too far internationally, meaning you won’t get to use your perks on long-haul routes.
- No premium product : One major advantage of earning miles and elite status is being able to fly business class or higher globally. However, with only one cabin on Southwest planes, you won’t have the chance for more space except by getting a higher boarding group so you can get the emergency exit rows.
Overall, Rapid Rewards is a great program if your travel is largely domestic and you enjoy Southwest’s great service. Go further afield and you might quickly yearn for the elite status guaranteed by the big three airlines, which have their own alliances. However, be sure to read how to earn and spend miles as well as elite status and hidden perks with Southwest in our detailed articles below!
Southwest Airlines canceled some 900 flights over the weekend. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Airline Type:
- Low-Cost Carrier
- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Dallas Love Field, Denver International Airport, Harry Reid International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Houston Hobby Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Midway International Airport, Oakland International Airport, Orlando International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
- Year Founded:
- Robert Jordan
- United States