Earning and Redeeming Southwest Rapid Reward Points

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This is post #2 in a series discussing the Southwest Rapid Rewards program:

This series contains:

  1. Southwest Credit Card Offer
  2. Earning and Redeeming Southwest Rapid Reward Points
  3. Earning Status with Southwest and the Benefits
  4. Changing and Canceling a Southwest Ticket
  5. Earning the Southwest Companion Pass
  6. Converting Southwest Credits to Free Flights
  7. Transferring Points to Southwest
  8. Transferring Points/Credits between AirTran and Southwest
  9. Extending the Life of Free Flights from Rapid Reward 1.0 Program
  10. Booking Southwest Flights with Chase Ultimate Reward Points
  11. Canceling a Flight Booked with Points
  12. Changing a Flight if Booked as a Roundtrip
  13. Getting Money Back if the Flight Goes Down in Price

Overview of the Southwest Program:

Earning and redeeming points with Southwest is as simple as the math you learned in elementary school. It is a fixed earning program, both on the earning and redemption side, and there is little strategy to maximize your points. Southwest is not for the person who is interested in flying business class to Europe (since they do not have business class seats and do not fly internationally – although they are starting to add on more flights to the Caribbean and Mexico). It is for the person who is not interested in gaming the system, wants a simplistic program, wants to fly domestically, and wants flexibility with changing/canceling tickets.

Earning Southwest Rapid Reward Points:
When you fly with Southwest, you will earn a number of points based on the price of your ticket and ticket type. The number of segments and miles flown do not matter, it all boils down to the ticket price.
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Per the chart above, you will earn anywhere between 6 and 12 points per dollar spent. The prices are typically most expensive for Business Select fares and least expensive for Wanna Get Away fares.

  • Business Select Fare: 12 points per dollar spent (for example, a $400 fare will earn you 4,800 points)
  • Anytime Fare: 10 points per dollar spent (for example, a $250 fare will earn you 2,500 points)
  • Wanna Get Away Fare: 6 points per dollar spent (for example, a $150 fare will earn you 900 points)

Now, this is for the regular flyer. This does NOT take into consideration any bonuses at the time or if you have status. I’ll discuss earning status and the benefits in a future post, but here are the bonuses for earning points:

  • A-List Status: 25% bonus on points earned (for example, with a $150 Wanna Get Away fare, you will earn a total of 1,1,25 points)
  • A-List Preferred Status: 100% bonus on points earned (for example, with a $150 Wanna Get Away fare, you will earn a total of 1,800 points)

Redeeming Southwest Rapid Reward Points:

Redeeming points with Southwest is also very cut and dry. Again, it is a fixed program and is all based on the ticket price and the fare type you desire.
You will redeem between 70-120 points per dollar. Again, the Business Select fares will typically require the most points (since more expensive flights), while the Wanna Get Away fares will require the least points (since are the least expensive flights)

  • Business Select Fare: 120 points per dollar spent (for example, a $400 fare will cost you 48,000 points)
  • Anytime Fare: 100 points per dollar spent (for example, a $250 fare will cost you 25,000 points)
  • Wanna Get Away Fare: 70 points per dollar spent (for example, a $150 fare will cost you 10,500 points)

The only benefit to redeem for a Business Select or Anytime Fare is the ability to standby for another flight that same day free of charge. With a Wanna Get Away fare you’ll need to pay the fare difference. If you aren’t 100% of your ideal flight, go ahead and book two flights (assuming you have enough points) and cancel the one you end up not needing. To pay double or almost double the amount of points needed for very little benefit is just crazy to me (with Business Select you’ll also get an “A” boarding pass to board the plane early and a complimentary drink, definitely very little extra value to redeem more points).

With all three fare types you can cancel your ticket at any time and get the points redeposited back into your account for FREE!

Strategy to “Gaming” the System:
With Southwest there really is no system. The only thing I’d suggest is if you are purchasing a ticket for someone else who doesn’t really partake in the program, use your points for them, and pay for a ticket for you. This way you earn points on your paid ticket.

Additionally, if you plan on earning points on all three fare types, but only redeeming on a Wanna Get Away fare, you can think of your return back in points as the following:

  • Business Select Fare: 20% return on your purchased ticket to then redeem on a Wanna Get Away fare
  • Anytime Fare Ticket: 16.66% return on your purchased ticket to then redeem on a Wanna Get Away fare
  • Wanna Get Away: 8.5% return on your purchased ticket to then redeem on a Wanna Get Away fare

Typically, the percentage difference on your return will not make purchasing a more expensive fare type a better value. As a rule of thumb, purchasing a Wanna Get Away ticket and redeeming your points on a Wanna Get Away ticket is best (unless of course an employer is footing the bill and you have that flexibility).

Southwest Credit Card to help earn the companion pass: You can apply for the Southwest card here. There are four cards in total, two personal and two business versions, with the main differences being that the cards have different annual fees and bonus points after each year. ALL of them have the same bonus offer after meeting the minimum spend requirements. You can view all four cards and the differences in this prior blog post.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As always I’ll list the best offer available as my goal is for you to travel on a deal!

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Comments

  1. Might want to mention that there is a double RR pts and TQP promo going on right now. Effectively giving you %40 return on your business class tickets. This also allows you to get to A list faster. I would also look into any old emails for card offers. I just applied for one I was offered a while ago for 50K with 1st purchase. I have another for 50K with 1,000 spent within 3 months

  2. There may not be ways to “game” the system, but if you’re vigilant, you can get ridiculous bang for your buck if you follow these steps:

    1. If you live in a state that has multiple Southwest destinations (for example, Florida and Texas), and you travel to those destinations for business, fly business select – it is cheap enough that employers don’t mind, and the benefits you get in terms of points accrual are phenomenal. I live near Ft. Lauderdale airport and often travel for 1-5 days to Tampa, Jacksonville or Orlando (note, Southwest just cancelled its FLL-MCO route). If I fly business select, I’m looking at earning more than 4,000 points, which is amazing for such a low mileage flight.

    2. Make sure you check southwest.com for promotions. They often run DOUBLE POINTS promotions. So that 4,000, could be 8,000!

    3. Consider booking your car through southwest.com. I often add in a Hertz rental for a day and get another 600 points tagged on. Rental companies often run specials with Southwest as well.

    4. Be vigilant with your redemptions and ONLY redeem for wanna get away fares. Here’s what I mean by vigilant: I booked FLL to Vegas for just over 24,000 points about 3 months before the trip. Southwest’s fares often randomly drop on any given day and flight changes with points are FREE. In those 3 months, the flight fares dropped several times during which I would always pick up the new fare and get my points redeposited. By the time I went on the trip, I was spending around 14,000 points to go to Vegas, which is incredible! Also, since the points needed to book a Southwest flight directly correlate to the price of a ticket, and since Southwest often runs specials as low as $49 for one-ways, you can get insanely good deals if you check out their site often.

    I had a companion pass when I booked that 14,000 point trip to Vegas, so that means I flew me and my wife to Vegas for 14,000 points COMBINED. During a double points promotion, I could fly FLL – TPA roundtrip twice in business select, and be able to book this fare with 2,000 points leftover! If you get past the no frills, no first class, and a simple meal of peanuts and a beverage, the rapid rewards system can provide incredible value for your redemptions.

  3. @Tim2: FYI, the double points promo is fantastic, but the double points DO NOT count toward A-list. For example, if you are earning 8,000 points for a business select fare as a result of double points, only 4,000 of those points will count toward A-list. But those extra 4,000 points will still very much come in handy (see above).

  4. @Eric, they actually do count towards A-list. They Don’t however count towards the companion pass. I have already flown and received double TQP credit and now am %68 toward A-list after 2 round trip flights.

  5. Fly with the Southwest all the time I like to know if I have any point. I want to know if I have any points for the last two months that I can have it

  6. How in the world do you use your Rapid Rewards point to purchase a ticket??? I’ve selected flights for my trip via your reservation system but there is no option to apply my points!!! The only option is to use a credit card!!!! Earning the points is easy – spend money on tickets. Using the points is obtuse at best, ridiculous to say the least. Why not add it as a payment option???? Who designs these incredibly unintuitive systems???

    • On the page where you pick your departure and return dates and the cities there is a place to choose dollars or points if you choose points it will show how many points it costs instead of how many dollars it cost and then you can pay with your point make sure you are signed in

  7. So if I have enough points to purchase a ticket one way to LAS, how do I pay cash for the return trip? Or do I just book two one flights and use the points on one leg and cash on the other?

    Thanks

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