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TPG reader Adam has earned a Southwest Companion Pass, but now wants to reach the A-List level.

@thepointsguy I’ve knocked out the Southwest Companion Pass for the next 18 months, but do you have any advice for working on A-List, or is that pure bum-in-seat?” 

Last year Southwest really revamped its A-List elite program and added some great perks for their frequent flyers such as:

  • Priority boarding
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security screening
  • Priority standby
  • Complimentary WiFi (for A-List Preferred)
  • 25% earning bonus.

There are two ways to earn elite status, either A-List and A-List Preferred, with Southwest. The first option is to fly 25 one-way flights for the base A-List status or 50 one-way flights for A-List Preferred status.

Southwest offers A-List and A-List Preferred Status.
Southwest offers A-List and A-List Preferred Status.

The second option is to accrue tier-qualifying points. Southwest awards different levels of tier-qualifying points for every fare that you purchase. For a Business Select fare, you will earn 12 tier-qualifying points per dollar spent. For an Anytime fare you will earn 10 points per dollar spent, and lastly, for a Wanna Get Away fare you will earn 6 points per dollar spent. In order to get status, you need 35,000 tier qualifying points for A-List and 70,000 for A-List Preferred.

If you have either the personal or business Southwest Premier Rewards credit card, you will earn 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 you spend on the card, with a maximum of 15,000 tier qualifying points per year. That would mean you would be spending $100,000 on your Southwest card in one year – even after that you still won’t have enough points for base elite qualification, although it will help.  If you’re buying Southwest fares, especially Business Select fares, it will make it easier to accrue status if you’re spending on the credit card as well.

Southwest A-List perks include
Southwest A-List perks include priority boarding and 25% earning bonus.

One thing to keep in mind is by putting so many expenses on your Southwest card there’s an opportunity cost. The Southwest card isn’t the best card out there in terms of earning multiple points per dollar in different categories. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 points per dollar on all dining and travel (including public transit) along with a 7% points dividend at the end of the year. The Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards earn 5x on office supplies, while the Premier Rewards Gold card from American Express earns 3 points per dollar on airfare and 2 points per dollar on gas and groceries.

Basically every dollar you put on your Southwest card, you are foregoing these bonus categories and valuable points in other areas.

Southwest A List Preferred
Southwest A-List Preferred fliers get free WiFi.

What I would suggest is to look at those A-List benefits and see how valuable they are to you. While it is nice to have free WiFi and Priority Boarding – is it worth missing out on the valuable points you would earn with other credit cards?

It takes a little bit of time to understand Southwest’s system but the main thing to understand is that the two ways to qualify for elite status are either by flying or spending on fares and the Southwest credit card, you cannot mix and match the two options.

I hope this answers your questions. Good luck and enjoy all that Southwest flying!

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More Things to Know
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Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
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Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
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