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Top 10: Reasons To Like Southwest Rapid Rewards

by on July 9, 2013 · 48 comments

in Southwest, Top 10

Update: This offer is no longer available. View the current offer for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card here.

I generally use frequent flyer miles for international and business/first class flights. I use my hotel points for hotel stays that would have otherwise cost me an arm and a leg. To me- that’s the magic of miles and points. However, I’m 100% aware that not everyone can or wants to fly around the globe in first class. Traditional domestic travel can be a huge burden on your budget, especially for families.

Southwest

Southwest Airlines

Enter Southwest. They’re a no-nonsense airline that has a pretty extensive route network in the US and now in some international markets thanks to their 2010 acquisition of AirTran. While they don’t have a first class cabin or routes to Europe or Asia, their frequent flyer program and consumer-friendly policies can be extremely valuable. Here are 10 reasons why Southwest may make sense for you.

Wanna Get Away deals make Southwest Rapid Rewards flights even more appealing.

Wanna Get Away deals make Southwest Rapid Rewards flights even more appealing.

1. Wanna Get Away Fare Redemptions: Although I often talk of the value of transferable points thanks to the flexibility they give you to top up accounts and book premium international tickets on a whim, Rapid Rewards represents the flip side of award tickets where you know you are getting a great (semi) fixed value on award tickets of about 1.8-2 cents each on Wanna Get Away (leisure) fares and you can redeem them for any open seat on a flight, just as if you were buying it. It makes a lot of sense for people who want to use their miles to fly domestically, those who don’t have much flexibility on their travel dates, or travelers looking to book more than a single ticket at a time.

2. Great for Positioning Flights: Sometimes the hardest part of getting to the jumping-off point for an amazing award itinerary or a mileage run that will help you rack up the miles for elite status (or an award) quickly like the current one from Los Angeles to Singapore (LAX-SIN)  is getting to the actual gateway you have to fly out of. That’s where Southwest Rapid Rewards can come in very handy since Southwest has a very prolific domestic route map, and any seat that’s open you can book with Rapid Rewards since it’s a fixed-value points program. It makes getting that short domestic hop that much easier so you can reap the benefits of those long-hauls.

3. Companion Pass: The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most valuable frequent flyer benefits out there since it allows you to bring a companion with you for free on every trip, space permitting. To earn it, you have to hit the 110,000-point threshold in a calendar year, and your pass is good not only for the rest of the calendar year, but also for the following one, meaning if you scored those points right now, you could have a companion pass for a year and a half rather than just a single year. Even better, the sign-up bonuses on the Chase Southwest cards count towards your Companion Pass qualification. The other great thing about the companion pass is that it allows your companion to fly for free (only pay taxes) whether you pay for yours with cash or points, giving flyers extra flexibility.

Bags fly free on Southwest.

Bags fly free on Southwest.

4. Bags Fly Free: Southwest is the only US airline that gives everyone two free checked bags of up to 50 pounds each per passenger on all their flights. For travelers without elite status on other airlines or a co-branded credit card, this can save you a bunch of money since checking two bags roundtrip could cost $120 per person. Southwest allows two free bags up to 50 pounds to be checked.

5. No Change or Cancellation Fees: Most airlines now charge a whopping $200 fee per ticket to change or cancel your itinerary – which can be more than the cost of the ticket itself! However, Southwest doesn’t charge any change or cancellation fees – though you won’t get your money back, you’ll have to use it on a future flight, and if you are changing your ticket you will have to pay the fare difference. Still, that’s a far cry from paying a $200 fee and a fare difference, and can make a lot of sense if your plans are up in the air.

Redeem Rapid Rewards points for AirTran flights.

Redeem Rapid Rewards points for AirTran flights.

6. Ability to Redeem on AirTran Flights: Though the merger of Southwest with AirTran is still underway, there are more and more codeshares and the ability to use Rapid Rewards points to fly on AirTran’s international route network including to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean that Southwest does not service. Several of AirTran’s flights can be booked through Southwest such as the example above. If it’s not able to be booked through Southwest, you can also transfer Rapid Rewards points to AirTran A+Rewards by logging into your account and choosing the option “Transfer Between A+ Rewards and Rapid Rewards” button on the left side of the page under the My Rapid Rewards section.

7. Instant Transferability From Chase Ultimate Rewards: If you carry one of Chase’s premium cards like the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest instantly and top up your account (or fund it completely) for the award you want. It makes getting the award you want when you want it that much easier.

The Southwest air crews are some of the friendliest in the skies - or on the tarmac.

The Southwest air crews are some of the friendliest in the skies – or on the tarmac.

8. Friendly Crews: I’ve flown Southwest a number of times, and every time I’ve been on them, they generally have friendly crews. I can’t say the same about flying American or United. I think part of the reason is with the friendly and laid back culture at Southwest. Flight attendants are allowed to wear tennis shoes and shorts. The airline doesn’t operate any red-eye flights and from the flight attendants that I’ve talked to, they generally enjoy working for the company.

Southwest A List Preferred

Southwest A-List Preferred members now get complimentary in-flight WiFi where available.

9. Complimentary WiFi for A-List Preferred Members: As you know, I am a huge fan of in-flight WiFi, and now loyal Southwest fliers who reach the higher elite level can get that added benefit for free when available on enabled flights, allowing you to surf the Internet or send e-mails without the usual charge of $8 by simply inputting your Rapid Rewards username or account number and password in the A-List Preferred popup window. To qualify for A-list Preferred, you will need to fly 50 Southwest Airlines one-way qualifying flights or earn 70,000 Tier Qualifying points per calendar year. Tier Qualifying points are earned from revenue flights or through the Rapid Rewards Premier Card from Chase. Southwest currently offers satellite-enabled WiFi in-flight on its 737-800 aircraft and most of their 737-700 fleet.

10. Lucrative Credit Card Offers: Especially with sporadic limited-time offers of 50,000 points for spending $2,000 in 3 months per card, and that there are 4 possible cards to get, the Chase Southwest Visa cards are some of the best and most lucrative offers on the market. Not only that, but though they come with annual fees of $69 (for the Plus cards) to $99 (for the Premier cards), the annual fee is negated by the sign-up bonuses, which are each worth $900 in Wanna Get Away fares, as well as anniversary bonuses. The Premier cards earn a 6,000-point anniversary bonus (worth about $108 in Wanna Get Away fares) and the Plus cards earn a 3,000-point anniversary bonus (worth about $59 in Wanna Get Away fares). Plus, the cards come with Visa Signature’s complete roster of benefits and no foreign transaction fees - a boon to any international traveler. With four options out there totaling 200,000 points from sign-up bonuses – that’s almost enough to earn two Companion Passes so you can take the whole family along for half-price for years to come if you play your cards right.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • James K.

    Thank you for posting this. For some asinine reason, the frequent flier community loves to scorn Southwest. Even Gary, who I think is normally terrific, proudly boasts that he hasn’t flown them since 1993. But they’re valuable and useful, so I appreciate you posting this

  • Johanna

    Southwest is a very good airline and I use them for my short haul flights whenever I can. Only issue is that they don’t have hubs in some of the major airports especially NYC and DC area. Also as far as WiFi I haven’t been on a southwest flight that has had it although I only fly the short hauls so maybe its available on the 2+ hr flights.

  • SAM

    Would you have a link for Business card as well?
    thanks

  • SAM

    Nevermind, I found it at a previous thread.

  • thepointsguy

    I flew SNA- Sacramento recently and the flight had wifi. I guess it’s just the luck of the draw!

  • MJM

    SWA is implementing wi-fi across its fleet. Until it is all in, you can check on the website 24 hours in advance whether your flight has wi-fi. I fly SWA many times every month and have done both long and short-haul and have had wi-fi on every flight for a long time though I don’t even try it on something really short like BWI-ISP (Long Island) or LAS-BUR. They do fly into LGA and EWR for NYC. For DC, they go into BWI and IAD and now they are back at DCA. Just depends where you are flying in from and looking at the schedule to get what’s best schedule and price-wise.

  • vortix

    fyi Chase also has an Airtran credit card that offers 32 credits + 2 business class upgrades (I assume they will simply give you 40 credits).

  • milesforfamily.wordpress.com

    I think for family, who needs to travel domestically, it is tough to beat Southwest and its award program. You will not get a spectacular redemption, but you are guaranteed to get seats for everyone.Don’t forget free checked bags and free changes, an invaluable benefit for a family. Another plus , you can convert to Amazon gift card 1:1, that is almost as good as cash in my house.

  • Amar

    I currently have the personal Visa Signature Southwest card. Do I still qualify for the non-signature personal version of the card with sign-up bonus?

  • CuriousOne

    I dropped 120,000 Marriott reward points into my SW account last December (= to 120,000 SWA points), not knowing about the Companion fare. Suddenly I effectively had 240,000 SWA points available! My wife and I are doing a whole lot of air travel this year that we had not originally planned. In July 2014 I will put in another 120,000 MR points so I can get the 1 1/2 year benefit.

  • Martin

    Does the Chase points when transferred to the Southwest account count towards the 110,000 point requirement?

  • thepointsguy

    Chase points do not count, unfortunately

  • thepointsguy

    120k Marriott = 120k Southwest?! How’d you do that?

  • thepointsguy

    You can get the Plus if you have the Premier and vice versa. You can’t get the sign-up bonus if you get another one of the same card

  • HikerT

    11. New affiliate links

  • Kate

    I love Southwest. They have great flights out of FLL and I fly them whenever possible. I never fly for work, so for a leisure traveler they are superb. I fly FLL-MSY about twice a month to visit daughter and it is easy, cheap and fast. SWA excels at short hops. Total no-brainer for me and allows me to save money for other stuff, like great meals once I’m on Nola. And I do think the FAs have a great attitude, on the whole.

    Oh, and no “class struggle”, like this refers to- http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/06/class-struggle-in-the-sky/?emc=eta1

  • CuriousOne

    Marriott Travel Package: A 7 (or 5) night hotel stay and a bunch of airline points. The airline points all come across as 1:1. Probably the best remaining Marriott deal.

  • LaiVietDung

    How are you transferring 120,000 MR points to SW points?

  • Pat O

    Is there a list somewhere that indicates which AirTran routes are now bookable using Southwest points? Even a timeline of when we can expect these routes? (aka: Aruba, Cancun, etc..)

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  • http://travelwithgrant.com/ Grant

    You can now book SWA flights through Feb 12 :)

  • Name

    Nope, you get upgrade vouchers — not 8 additional credits.

  • Anne

    I like that SW is getting some credit here. As far as redeeming miles, it’s the most user friendly and best bang for your point. And you’re spot on with how valuable the no change fee is. About 10 months ago, I saw your post about transferring my AirTran rewards to SW and did that immediately. I think I booked 2 previous flights and changed plans each time before finally using them last weekend. Any other airline and that would have cost me an additional $400-$800. The important thing to note, however, is that Early Bird boarding does NOT transfer if you cancel your ticket and do not book the same route.

  • Billyvb

    Car seats fly free too. I checked two of them and they didn’t count against luggage allowance. Family boarding is helpful as well. When traveling with small children, they allow boarding after group A.

  • hutch

    Would a retention bonus of 3000 pts count towards a CP ticket?

  • Patrick P

    The credit card plan to get the companion pass won’t work for those existing SWA account members. I just read the fine print and found this:

    To be eligible for this bonus offer, account must be open and not in default at the time of fulfillment. This one-time bonus offer is valid only for first-time Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®Credit Card cardmembers with new accounts. Previous and existing Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card cardmembers/accounts are not eligible for this bonus offer. Note: the bonus may be earned on one first-time personal and one first-time business Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card new account.

  • Rob

    Random “related” question about SW. If I did not previously have Rapid Rewards account and obtained a SW RR credit card, how can I find out my rapid rewards number? Thank you in advance

  • Ryan

    If you do not currently have a Rapid Rewards account but are interested in applying for the credit card, simply leave the “Rapid Rewards Number” field blank on the application. If you are approved, a Rapid Rewards account will be created for you and the account number should be printed on the front of your card.

    Also, you can sign up for Rapid Rewards at southwest.com before you apply for the card. Then simply input your Rapid Rewards number on the application and you should be good to go.

  • Rob

    Appreciate the reply. Looking at the front of the card it has the usual cc number, exp, my name, and under my name just says RR.

  • Jeff Meyer

    If I already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, if I sign up for the Chase Southwest Card will I still get the 50k sign-up miles?

  • thepointsguy

    Yes

  • Jeff Meyer

    Thank you!! Also, what’s a good rule of thumb for how often I should apply for new cards so that it doesn’t really hurt my credit score?

  • leo

    Airtran has very limited international routes, nothing to Asia, Europe.. also wonder if i can use companion pass on Airtran booking?

  • UAPhil

    Patrick P, even though the T&C’s say otherwise, the Southwest Chase bonus points do currently count towards Companion Pass. (Ultimate Rewards point transfers do not.)

    Some clarifications on “no change fee”/reuse of ticketless travel funds.

    -Point bookings are truly refundable (when you cancel, points get redeposited back in your account with no penalty).
    -There is no change fee for revenue bookings, but when a booking is cancelled all “ticketless travel” funds must be used for travel within 1 year of original booking for the same passenger.
    -NASTY GOTCHA: If you pay for a revenue booking with “ticketless travel” funds, all funds in the reservation (even those paid by credit card) expire on the same date as the ticketless travel funds. For example:

    *On January 1, pay $200 for a ticket.
    *On January 30, cancel the ticket.
    *On February 15, use part of the funds to buy a $175 ticket. The $175 expires on January 1 of the next year. $25 in funds remains for another purchase.
    *On December 1, buy a $400 ticket, using the remaining $25 in funds, plus $375 charged to credit card. SURPRISE!! All $400 now expires in just a month – on January 1.

  • Rob

    Contacted Chase Customer support and it turns out the number is supposed to be on the card. They are reissuing and linking the accounts.

  • James

    In the application form for the Plus card a 3% foreign fee is listed, so that one doesn’t come without a foreign fee like discribed above.

    Can someone confirm, or am I wrong?

    Thanks

  • thepointsguy

    The Southwest cards unfortunately have foreign transaction fees

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  • JM
  • krista

    I already own a personal SW Visa and love it. I’m self-employed and considering switching my not-as-awesome business credit card to a SW credit card. How do the personal & business cards work together, if at all?

  • Alwyn Schoeman

    Can my wife and I, each with our own cards in our own names, share the same Rapid Rewards Number?

  • PaulW

    I’d like to share my experience, This can help you save money upon enrolling in Rapid Rewards. http://rapidrewardsenrollmentpromotioncode.org/rapid-rewards-enrollment-promotion-code/

  • Ashley W.

    I’ve always flown SW and feel that they give you not only the most bang for your buck; but their crew is incredibly friendly as well. Wanna Get Away flights are perfect because you are able to get a really good flight fare that is extremely comparable to those “cheap tickets” you get from other travel sites. I wish redeeming the points for flights was a little simpler – but as a newbie to frequent flyer points, I’m sure once I figure it out it will be simple.

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