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Not everyone can travel frequently enough to rack up healthy balances in their frequent flyer accounts. Luckily, though, there are lots of other ways to earn Southwest points — and TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen will walk you through them below.
One of the most common refrains I hear from friends and family members hesitant to get into the points and miles hobby is something like this: “Oh, I don’t travel nearly as much as you, so I could never earn enough points or miles to do anything worthwhile with them.” This actually prevents them from even signing up for hotel and airline loyalty programs! It’s no surprise, then, that this earned the top spot in my list of 7 points and miles mistakes.
It’s true that traveling for business can be a big boost to your account balances, but last November I took a job that has me traveling just a handful of times every year. Even without extensive travel for work, I still manage to rack up hundreds of thousands of miles every year, as does my wife. I recently kicked off a new series by examining the myriad ways to earn American miles, United miles and Delta miles without actually hitting the road, and today I’ll continue with a detailed look at the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.
Credit and Debit Cards
The first (and most lucrative) way to earn Rapid Rewards points without flying is through credit cards. Southwest currently has three credit cards issued by Chase, and all of them offer a sign-up bonus to new applicants:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
All these cards offer a variety of benefits beyond the sign-up bonuses, such as 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and bonus points on your card membership anniversary.
However, the most compelling aspect of these cards (in my opinion) is the fact that the sign-up bonuses count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. This benefit can be incredibly lucrative, as you can bring a designated companion (which can be changed up to three times in a calendar year) along on all Southwest flights you take, including award trips! Plus if you apply for both the Premier and Premier Business cards now, you can plan out your spending to earn the Companion Pass for almost two years.
For more information on these credit cards and the Companion Pass, check out the following posts:
- One Year of Earning and Burning with the Southwest Premier Visa
- Maximize the Southwest Card’s 50,000-Point Bonus on Flights to the Caribbean
- Southwest Companion Pass: Travel Rewards Winner
In addition to these Southwest-specific cards, the Rapid Rewards program is also a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, giving you the opportunity to convert points earned on cards like the Ink Plus Business Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to Southwest points. Just be aware that these transfers do not count toward the Companion Pass.
Online Shopping Portals
Another easy way to earn Southwest Points without flying is through the Rapid Rewards Shopping site. Airline shopping portals allow you to earn miles (or points) with a specific carrier when you make online purchases with hundreds of retailers. These points or miles are in addition to those you’d earn on the credit card for making the purchase, and you can use any card you want for the transaction.
For example, at the time of writing, Staples was offering 2 miles per dollar spent through the SkyMiles Shopping site:
By clicking the Shop Now link and completing a purchase, I’d earn 2 Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent. Of course, I love using my Ink Plus Business Card for purchases at office supply stores to take advantage of the 5x Ultimate Rewards points it offers, so if I spend a total of $100, I’d earn the following:
- 500 Ultimate Rewards points (valued at $10.50, based on TPG’s most recent valuations)
- 200 Southwest points (valued at $2.60)
I’ve thus boosted my overall return by 2.6% to a total of 13.1%, just by clicking through the shopping portal!
Keep in mind that there are several restrictions for utilizing these portals. You typically can’t use coupon codes that aren’t listed on Rapid Rewards shopping, and your shopping cart must be empty before accessing the retailer’s site. In addition, you generally can’t earn bonus points for purchasing gift cards through the portal. However, I’ve been able to earn bonus points or miles with all of these activities in the past, so you never know!
Another easy way to earn bonus Southwest points is by signing up for the Rapid Rewards Dining program. This site partners with more than 11,000 restaurants, bars and clubs and allows you to earn Southwest points every time you dine at one of these locations. All you have to do is set up an account, add your credit card(s) and then make a purchase with a registered credit card at a participating establishment.
The standard earning rate is three points for every dollar you spend, but you can also earn an extra 10 points for every online review of a participating restaurant that you complete. Just as with other dining sites, you can use any credit card to pay for the actual bill, and these points would be in addition to the rewards you earn on the card. I personally love to use my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card when dining out, and it’s a TPG favorite as well. Earning 2x Ultimate Rewards points plus a bunch of Southwest points is a win in my book.
The program is currently offering 500 bonus points to new members who sign up and complete eligible dines within the first 30 days of membership. You need to spend at least $25, and you’ll also need to complete a review within 30 days of the dine. In addition, the site offers two additional ways to earn bonus points, neither of which requires separate registration:
- First Step Bonus: If you earn 1,500 points from the site by dining (3 points per dollar) and completing reviews (10 points per dine), you’ll earn a one-time bonus of 500 points.
- Thank You Bonus: For every 1,000 points you earn from the site (again by dining and completing reviews), you’ll earn an extra 300 bonus points. You can earn this bonus an unlimited number of times.
If you haven’t signed up, now is a great time to do so! Unlike with shopping portals, you can utilize other discounts and bonuses at these restaurants, so be sure to check out my post on quadruple-dipping at restaurants for more information.
Going through online shopping portals is one way to earn bonus Rapid Rewards points with retailers, and another is by taking advantage of various partners that offer bonus points for purchases. Here’s a sample of how you can earn additional points with these retailers:
- Flowers: Southwest partners with 1-800-Flowers.com and is currently offering 1,000 points for every order of $29.99 or higher.
- Wine: Another Southwest partner is Laithwaite’s Wine, which allows you to earn 2,000 points on an introductory case of 12 wines from the 4 Seasons wine club. You’ll also receive 3 extra bottles of Zinfandel with your first shipment, and you’ll earn 1,000 points on each subsequent club shipment (every three months).
Making purchases online and earning Southwest points isn’t limited to the Rapid Rewards Shopping site and the retailers mentioned above. You can also boost your account balance while enjoying tickets to live events like professional sports and theater performances using ScoreBig. You’ll earn up to 22 points per $1 spent on these tickets, and you can also earn an additional 2,000 points for your first purchase with the site.
Southwest has a wide variety of transportation partners, including numerous rental car companies and airport transfer providers. Unlike the three legacy carriers I’ve already covered, the Rapids Rewards program awards the same number of points (600) for qualifying rentals with all partner car rental agencies:
However, be sure to check the program’s Promotions page for limited-time offers, like the current bonus with Avis. Many of these offers will also give you access to discounted rates as well. Remember that you can pay for these rentals with any credit card, including those that offer primary rental car coverage.
In addition to these companies, Southwest also partners with SuperShuttle and ExecuCar, allowing you to earn 150 Rapid Rewards points for each one-way airport transfer.
The final way to earn bonus Southwest points is one that I’ve utilized frequently in the past: sharing your opinions. There are three different ways to do this:
In each program, you’ll have a chance to respond to surveys and other marketing messages to earn currency that can then be redeemed for Rapid Rewards points. It does take some time to respond and some diligence in checking each site regularly, but if you’re just shy of a desired redemption, it could be worth it!
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to boost your Rapid Rewards account balance without even setting foot on a Southwest plane. You don’t need to be traveling every week — or even every month — to take advantage of valuable rewards. You just need the knowledge to make the most of every mileage earning opportunity!
What are your favorite ways to earn Southwest points without flying?
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards