No flying required: Here’s how to earn Southwest elite status by spending on a credit card

Feb 24, 2021

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Over the past year, all the major U.S. airlines announced elite status extensions or reduced status requirements to the relief of frequent flyers everywhere.

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Southwest is one such airline, extending elite status through the end of 2021 and extending companion pass benefits — twice.

In May 2020, Southwest announced that it would extend existing Companion Pass benefits through June 30, 2021. And earlier this year, that was extended through Dec. 31, 2021, a full year after they were originally scheduled to expire.

Additionally, Southwest announced a boost for all Rapid Rewards members making it easier to qualify for status and hit companion pass requirements.

For active Rapid Rewards accounts as of Dec. 31, 2020, all members received 15,000 tier qualifying points (TQPs) and 10 flight credits towards A-List and A-List Preferred status. All active members also received 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points (CPQPs) and 25 qualifying one-way flights towards Companion Pass.

This effectively drops the requirements for status and Companion Passes to the following thresholds:

Status Normal requirements 2021 Boost Net effective 2021 requirements
A-List 35,000 TQPs or 25 flights 15,000 TQPs and 10 flights 20,000 TQPs or 15 flights
A-List Preferred 70,000 TQPs or 50 flights 15,000 TQPs and 10 flights 55,000 TQPs or 40 flights
Companion Pass 125,000 CPQPs or 100 flights 25,000 CPQPs and 25 flights 100,000 CPQPs or 75 flights

Related: What is Southwest elite status worth?

Southwest new elite status offer

This year, Southwest will also allow you to earn all of your TQPs through spending on select Southwest cobranded credit cards.

You’ll earn the same 1,500 TPQs for every $10,000 in spending, but unlike before, there’s no cap on tier qualifying points earned with the Southwest cards.

This offer is eligible for existing Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card cardmembers and applies for any credit card spend between the first day of your billing cycle ending in January 2021 and the last day of your billing cycle ending in December 2021.

Related: Current bonus offers on Southwest credit cards

If you wanted to earn Southwest status completely from credit card spending (without a single flight), you would need to spend over $130,000 for A-List status or over $360,000 to hit A-List Preferred Status. That’s a ton of money to spend for status. It’s doable, but not really the most recommended option. 

Combine card spending with flying

What makes more sense is mixing and matching flying and cobranded card spend. Together, it should be easier than ever to earn TQPs this year.

You earn TQPs from flying at the following rates:

  • Wanna Get Away fares: 6 TQPs per dollar spent on base fares (excluding taxes and fees)
  • Anytime fares: 10 TQPs per dollar spent
  • Business Select fares: 12 TQPs per dollar spent

As mentioned, eligible cobranded cards that can earn TPQs (at a rate of 1,500 TPQs for every $10,000 spent) include the:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Best for frequent Southwest flyers
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Best for casual Southwest flyers
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: Best for small-business owners
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Best for businesses that need a lower annual fee

Currently, the personal Southwest credit cards are offering new cardholders 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Additionally, sign-up bonus points and the points earned from everyday spending on all five Southwest cobranded credit cards count toward earning the Southwest Companion Pass.

Bottom line

Get priority boarding with Southwest A-List status (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

This TQP promotion from Southwest is valid through the rest of 2021, whether you fly or not. Southwest is joining other airlines like United and American in making it easier to earn elite status through cobranded credit card spending.

If you’ve considered applying for a Southwest credit card and think a Companion Pass would make a great addition to your wallet this year, now is a great time to apply. Plus, for 2021, you can earn elite status through credit card spending alone.

Related: Who should (and who shouldn’t) get the Southwest Companion Pass?

Featured photo by Robert Alexander / Getty Images

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