Best Ways to Use Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

Southwest Rapid Rewards is a good points program for people who want to easily use their points for economy flights.

The number of points needed for a flight is directly connected to the cash price of a ticket. The cheaper the ticket, the fewer points are required.

Using Points for Southwest Flights

Redeeming points for Southwest flights is really easy. Just check the points box on flight search on Southwest’s home page.

Southwest booking

You are then given flight search results. Remember the cheaper the flight, the less points are required. 

You can generally get the best flight deals booking Southwest flights far in advance. Flights within two weeks of departure are typically quite expensive.

Southwest Flights Using Points
Southwest Flights Using Points

In this flight search, the $103 cash ticket only costs 6,863 points, whereas the flight that cost almost twice as much $197 costs about twice as many points (14,196 points). 

Southwest flights using cash
Southwest Flights Using Cash

Domestic Flights on Southwest

We looked at the prices of ten different domestic flights to find the average value of one point. 

We found that one Southwest point is worth about 1.38 cents, but the cheapest flights have the highest points value.

You can calculate the cents per point with a simple formula of (Cash price – taxes and fees) divided by the number of points. 

Taxes and fees for domestic flights are $5.60 each way or $11.20 round-trip.

Route Points Cash Cents Per Point
STL-LAX 13,650 $186 1.32
FLL-HOU 14,040 $191 1.32
BWI-MDW 11,700 $161 1.38
LAX-SEA 3,744 $63 1.53
DAL-MSP 6,084 $89 1.37
FLL-ATL 6,084 $89 1.37
OAK-LAS 5,148 $87 1.58
OAK-HNL 12,012 $165 1.33
MDW-MSY 6,153 $89 1.36
HOU-ABQ 15,522 $210 1.32

International Flights on Southwest

We also looked at the prices of ten international flight to see if there was a big difference in the points values.

Taxes and fees are higher for international flights and can be between $5 to $49 each way.

We found that Southwest points are slightly lower on average than domestic flights with an average value of 1.34 cents per point.

Route Points Cash Cents Per Point
STL-CUN 16,926 $258 1.34
LAX-CUN 18,486 $278 1.33
DAL-AUA 22,620 $315 1.32
MDW-PUJ 16,302 $265 1.34
BWI-NAS 13,104 $179 1.32
HOU-MBJ 13,026 $222 1.32
SMF-SJD 12,012 $195 1.36
DEN-BZE 13,962 $194 1.35
HOU-BZE 12,402 $170 1.33
FLL-SJO 7,722 $126 1.34

Taxes and Fees One-Way: Cancun-CUN ($31.77), Aruba-AUA ($15.60), Punta Cana-PUJ ($46.90), Nassau, Bahamas-NAS ($5.60), Montego Bay, Jamaica- MBJ ($49.60), Cabo San Lucas- SJD ($31.77), Belize- BZE ($5.60), and Costa Rica-SJO ($22.15).

More Rewards Store

If you are a Southwest credit cardholder, you can also redeem Southwest points via the “More Rewards” store for gift cards, merchandise, hotels, rental cars, other airlines, and special experiences.

Redeeming points this way is not a good value. Most items are around 0.5 to 0.7 cents per point. Whereas, you could redeem points for flights at almost double the rate!

Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best deals in travel. It allows someone to fly with you for free! 

All you have to do is pay the taxes, which are $5.60 each way for domestic travel.

It is essentially a buy one get one free ticket you can use an unlimited amount of times in the calendar year you earn the pass, plus the following calendar year.

If you travel several times per year, it could save you thousands in travel costs.

There are two ways to earn the Companion Pass:

  • Earn 125,000 Southwest points in a calendar year to qualify, OR
  • Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights on Southwest.

Those numbers seem like a lot at first, but it is not as hard as it looks.

Most people earn the Companion Pass from opening-up up two Southwest credit cards.

For example, if you opened up a Southwest personal and business card each with 60,000 point sign-up bonuses, you would earn the Companion Pass when you hit the minimum spend requirement on both cards.

You can track your progress towards the Companion Pass by signing into your Rapid Rewards account. 

Southwest Companion Pass Tracker

How to Maximize the Time of Your Companion Pass

This section is very important and many people make this simple mistake. 

To maximize the time your companion gets to fly free, you want to earn the 125,000 points early in the calendar year.

If you earn the 125,000 points in January, you get 23 months of the Pass. However, if you earn the 125,000 points in December, you only get the Pass for 13 months!

We recommend you:

  1. Open up a business and personal Southwest credit card in November, December, or January when the bonus is close to 60,000 points for each.
  2. Complete most of your spending towards the bonus before the new year.
  3. Finish the spend requirement shortly after the new year.

You want to be very careful to not complete the minimum spend requirement in December. It happens to lots of people all of the time. Be smart and track your spending.

In the end, you will get about $3,400 in free flights from signing up for two credit cards:

  • $1,725 in free flights from the 125,000 points.
  • $1,675 in free companion flights when you use your 125,000 points. (Plus, many other additional free companion flights with a cash booking).

What Points Count Towards Companion Pass

What Points Do Not Count Towards Companion Pass

  • Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards, hotel, or rental car loyalty programs.
  • Points you bought from Southwest.
  • Points you transfer from another Rapid Rewards member.
  • Points earned from e-Rewards or Rewards for Opinions.
  • Tier bonus points (extra points from elite status).
  • Flight bonus points if there is a promotion.

Tips for Flying On Southwest Airlines

Below are a few of my top tips when flying on Southwest Airlines.

No Change or Cancellation Fees– You can change or cancel a flight for free. This is a great way to save you points if the price of your flight decreases.  

Check-In 24 Hours Beforehand– Southwest flights don’t have assigned seats, but you are given a boarding group (A, B, or C) and a boarding position (1-60).

The earlier you check-in, the better your boarding number. If you want to avoid a middle seat, be sure to set an alarm so you can be ready to check-in exactly 24 hours before your flight.

The best boarding positions A1-A15 are typically assigned to elite members, business select fares, or customers who purchased the EarlyBird check-in.

 

Best Seats on Southwest- The best seats on Southwest that you should try to get are:

  • Window Seat on the Second Exit Row– These two seats don’t have a seat in front of them, which allows you to fully stretch out. 
  • Bulkhead Seats– The first row is a good place to sit if you have a tight connection on Southwest, but you won’t be able to put your personal item in front of you.
  • Rows Behind the Exit Row– If you don’t manage to snag one of the seats above, the rows behind the exit row are likely to give you the best chance of having an empty seat next to you if the flight isn’t full.

2 Free Checked Bags– Unlike other airlines who charge for everything, Southwest gives you two free checked bags and a carry-on bag. This is a very nice benefit, especially when traveling with skis, golf equipment, moving, or for a long vacation.

All Boeing 737 Planes- Southwest flies one plane type, the Boeing 737, which is great because you don’t have to worry about flying on a cramped regional jet. The average seat pitch (space in between seats) is 31 to 33 inches, which is generally better than most United or American Airlines flights.

Free Alcohol on Holidays– Southwest gives you one free alcoholic drink on certain holidays, which you can find by reviewing the drink menu on the flight. Historically, these have been: January 1st, Valentines’ Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Southwest’s Birthday (June 17th), July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.

  • There is also an unwritten rule that if your Southwest flight is delayed by more than one hour, you can get a free alcoholic drink. Your experience may vary, but I’ve been successful at this 3 out of 3 times. (I always have my credit card ready just in case I need to pay for it.)

The Verdict

Southwest Rapid Rewards program is pretty straight-forward compared to other airline programs. 

The main disadvantage of the Rapid Rewards is that there is no way to fly business class with Southwest and you can’t fly Southwest to Europe, Asia, or South America.

However, the Companion Pass is an amazing benefit that you should consider opening two credit cards to achieve. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Our research showed that one Southwest Rapid Rewards point is worth about 1.38 cents.

Southwest points do not expire. Southwest points previously expired after 24 months of inactivity, but Southwest changed its policy in 2019. 

No. You either have to use Southwest points for Southwest flights, or you can redeem the points for gift cards and merchandise if you have a Southwest credit card.

No. Southwest points are somewhat unique in that you can only use their points for Southwest flights.

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