Southwest Rapid Rewards Program Introduction and Overview

Today, we’re continuing a series where I’ll be featuring some of the basic, introductory material about different award programs.  Today we’re featuring the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program.  That way if you’re new to the ‘game’, you can just read this cheat sheet rather than trying to compile all the information by yourself.  If you’re new at this you can get all the information at the Southwest website, but I try to put it all in one easy to access place in this post.

Previously reviewed:

Southwest Rapid Rewards Program Details

Published December 2011.  Changes after this date may not be accurate in this summary.

Southwest Partnerships:

Southwest is a whole different kind of animal, and as such, doesn’t have any formal partnerships with other airlines (though they did buy AirTran).  However, you can use your miles for some international travels, but it is not an airline alliance like the One World, Star Alliance, or Sky Team.

Award Booking Chart:

Once again, the Rapids Rewards program doesn’t have an award booking chart like other airlines.  Instead, it allows you to use your miles to purchase tickets.  The miles required is dependent on the cost of your ticket.

  • Business Select tickets cost 120 points per dollar sale price.
  • Anytime tickets cost 100 points per dollar sale price.
  • Wanna Get Away tickets cost 60 points per dollar sale price.

To help be sure this is clear, let me illustrate.

If you want to buy $400 worth of tickets, you’d use the following Rapid Rewards miles:

  • A Business Select ticket for $400 would require you to redeem 48,000 miles (400*120).
  • An Anytime ticket that costs $400 would require you to redeem 40,000 miles (400 * 100).
  • A Wanna Get Away ticket that costs $400 would require you to redeem 24,000 miles (400 * 60).

Southwest Award Chart and Program Highlights:

Worth noting is that if you’re a savvy airline shopper or if you live in a city with cheap flight options, you can really get a lot of ‘mileage’ out of your miles.  I illustrate how to earn 5 free round trips with 50,000 Southwest points.

However, if you are traveling at a peak season to an expensive destination, you’ll probably be redeeming extra miles.

No Blackout Dates: if you can find a seat for sale, you can redeem your miles.

No Change Fees: This is an amazing benefit of the Rapid Rewards program.  Let’s say you change your plans with an award ticket.  You can cancel the flights or change the flights, and the only requirement is that those miles need to be used within one year of your original booking.  Compare that to an airline like American that charges $125 to cancel an award ticket.

No Baggage Fees: You don’t pay for bags.  These days, that’s an extremely valuable perk.  It easily saves my family a few hundred dollars every time we fly.

Companion Pass: if you earn 100,000 miles in a calendar year, you’ll earn a companion pass for the remainder of that year through the end of the next year.  Whoever you designate as your companion will be able to fly with you for free during that entire time period.

Award Booking Policies, Facts, and Possible Fees:

You’ll pay no booking fees.  You’ll pay no cancelation fees, but you will lose your miles if not redeemed within a year of your original booking date.

One Way and Open-Jaw Policy:

Southwest allows one-way booking. Southwest basically allows open-jaw bookings.  Simply book your itinerary in groups of one way tickets – to and from any city you wish.

Stop Over Policy: You cannot book a stopover with Southwest tickets.  Your only option is to buy a ticket to the city you wish to stop and then another ticket to your destination city.

Hold Award Ticket Policy: You cannot hold award tickets.

Fuel Surcharge Policy: None.

Award Ticket Availability: Since you use awards to buy cash value tickets, you should always be able to find an open seat, as long as the flight is not sold out.  However, the closer it is to your departure, the more expensive the ticket will be, and the more likely it is that you’ll be required to buy a more expensive fare class.

Major Southwest Rapid Rewards Earning Opportunities

The Chase Southwest credit card is the best earning opportunity for the Southwest miles.  There is still a 50,000 sign up bonus available.

They do also have a recently released shopping portal. 

Overall Rating: Poor – below average – average – above average – strong

For domestic US travel, the Southwest program is strong.  However, the value greatly depends on your travel habits.

For international travel, the Southwest program is poor (with the exception of a few destinations in Mexico and Caribbean).

What are your thoughts about the Southwest Rapid Rewards program?

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