How to earn 1,000 Southwest points the next time you dine out (or order in)

Mar 7, 2021

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With so much of our daily lives changing due to the pandemic, one thing has stayed consistent: We all gotta eat. There is only so much home-made pasta and banana bread you can make before you need a break from the constant cooking disasters (guilty). While your favorite local restaurant may not be offering dine-in options, you can probably take your meal to go and earn a nice stash of Southwest points in the process. I’m not talking about using a credit card that earns bonus points on dining – I’m talking about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program. 

This is hands down one of the easiest ways to earn Southwest points, especially during the pandemic. While every major airline offers a dining rewards program, Southwest’s happens to be one of the best. That’s mainly because earning enough points for an award ticket is so easy with Southwest.

Short-haul flights between San Francisco and Los Angeles, for example, start at just 3,033 points each way. That means $1,033 worth of dining rewards spending gets you enough points for one of these long-haul flights. Considering the average American family spends well over $3,000 per year dining out, you may be leaving many points on the table by not participating in a dining rewards program.

Factor in the various spending bonuses and you’re on your way to a free Southwest flight even faster. 

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In This Post

How to join Rapid Rewards Dining

(Photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash)
(Photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash)

Joining Rapid Rewards Dining is quick and easy. Simply sign up by providing your name, address, Rapid Rewards number, email and creating a password. After confirming your account, you can log in and register your rewards credit cards. The next time you dine out using that card, you’ll earn bonus points through the program.

Why you shouldn’t link more than one card

While you can register as many credit cards with Rapid Rewards Dining as you want, you shouldn’t do that in the long-run. Instead, you’ll want to register one of your credit cards with each dining rewards program. 

Why join multiple programs? Because each program offers a first-dine bonus, allowing you to earn the maximum return on your restaurant spending. All dining rewards programs all part of the same network and you can’t register the same card with multiple programs. 

For example, let’s say you register your Chase Sapphire Reserve with Rapid Rewards Dining and then decide to add it to your Alaska Mileage Plan Dining profile. The card will automatically be removed from your Rapid Rewards Dining account, so you’ll no longer earn points through Southwest Dining Rewards. 

If you have multiple rewards credit cards, go ahead and register each one with a different dining rewards program. In the long-run, you’ll also never miss out on bonus points when dining at participating restaurants.

Related: Make the most of your food delivery orders with these 7 credit cards

Which cards to use with Rapid Rewards Dining

Close up couple with credit card paying bill calculating tip with smart phone in brewery restaurant.
(Photo Hero Images/Getty Images)

Since the restaurant itself is processing your charges, you should use a credit card that earns bonus points on dining. My personal favorite is the Citi Prestige® Card, which earns 5x points at restaurants. Citi ThankYou points are incredibly valuable, so I try to maximize my card’s category bonuses when I can.

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Other great cards for restaurant spending include the American Express® Gold Card, which earns 4x Membership Rewards. It also offers up to $10 in monthly credits valid at select restaurants, including Cheesecake Factory and Ruth’s Chris Steak House. While neither of these establishments is part of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program in my area, it’s certainly worth checking yours.

I’d be remiss to leave out the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points on dining. You’re also able to redeem points towards dining purchases at a rate of 1.5 cents each through the Pay Yourself Back feature.

How to earn points with Southwest Dining Rewards

With Rapid Rewards Dining, you will earn points every time you dine at a participating restaurant. All you have to do is use the credit card you registered to pay your bill. You’ll get an email confirmation within minutes, letting you know your purchase qualified for bonus points through Rapid Rewards Dining. Here’s a breakdown of how many points you can earn with Rapid Rewards Dining:

  • If you opt-in to receive email notifications: 3 Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent, plus 10 points for each completed dining review.
  • If you opt-out of email notifications: 1 point per $2 spent, plus 10 points for each completed dining review.

In addition to points earned for every dollar spent, Rapid Rewards Dining members can earn the following bonuses:

  • New Member Bonus: Earn 1,000 bonus points when you spend $25 within the first 30 days of joining and completing a review.
  • First-Step Bonus: Earn 500 bonus points after you earn 1,500 points from dining and completing reviews.
  • Thank You Bonus: Earn 300 bonus points after you earn 1,000 points from dining and completing reviews.

Related: 9 premium travel rewards credit card perks amid the coronavirus pandemic


Do points earned through Southwest dining rewards count towards the Companion Pass?

The new terminal D at Nashville International Airport. // Stephen M. Keller, 2020
The new terminal D at Nashville International Airport. // Stephen M. Keller, 2020

The points you earn through the Southwest dining rewards program do count towards the Companion Pass. Southwest recently made earning the Companion Pass even easier by giving all Rapid Rewards members a boost in qualifying flights and points. So if you’re dining out a lot these days, Rapid Rewards Dining Rewards can help you get even closer to the Companion Pass.

Does authorized user spending earn points through Southwest dining?

Authorized user credit card numbers are identical to the ones issued to main cardholders. Let’s say your spouse is an authorized user on a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card you’ve registered to your Southwest dining rewards account. If your spouse uses their authorized user card at a participating restaurant, you will earn dining rewards points. 

Can you earn points on takeout? 

With many cities restricting dine-in options at restaurants, more and more people are ordering takeout during the pandemic. This is a great way to support local businesses and get a rest from cooking your own meals. Luckily, you’ll still earn points on takeout with Southwest Rapid Rewards dining,

Either provide your card number over the phone or pay in-store and you’ll earn points as if you’re dining in. If you use a third-party booking platform or food delivery app, you won’t earn points through Southwest dining rewards.

Is there a limit on the number of points I can earn with Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining?

Some restaurants impose a monthly limit on the number of points you can earn with the Southwest dining rewards program. Others restrict the days of the week when you can earn points. Be sure to check the individual restaurant page ahead of time if earning rewards factors into your restaurant-picking decision. 

Is Southwest’s dining program worth it? 

Joining the Southwest dining rewards program is absolutely worth it. If you opt-in to receive email notifications, you’ll essentially earn a 4.5% return on your restaurant spending. I’m basing that on TPG’s valuation of Southwest points at 1.5 cents each.

Since joining is free and you don’t have to do anything beyond registering your credit card, it’s absolutely worth doing. I signed up for various dining rewards programs eight years ago. To this day, I’ll occasionally get an unexpected email notifying me I earned points dining out. It’s a great way to earn points on autopilot.

Related: 14 food delivery promo codes to help you save money on your next meal

Bottom line

Joining a dining rewards program is a great way to maximize a big spending category without much effort. Thanks to Southwest’s low fares and the various bonuses offered to new members, earning free flights is easier than with other airlines. So when you’re finally able to travel again, all the dining out you did in quarantine can help pay for your next vacation.

Featured photo by Oscar Wong/Getty Images

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