Southwest Airlines is a popular low-cost airline, and its rewards program is also well-regarded. The Southwest Rapid Rewards has three tiers of elite status, and is known for its ease of redemption and access to inexpensive flights throughout the US. Frequent fliers also receive other perks like priority boarding and bonus earnings. 

If you’re a fan of the airline, you can rack up a bunch of points through purchases using one of their co-branded cards. Many offer welcome bonuses and points that can count toward qualifying for A-List, A-List Preferred, and the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. 

>>Read CardCruncher’s Guide to the Best Airline Credit Cards

Overview of the Rapid Rewards Program

The Rapid Rewards program offers you the opportunity to earn points through either Southwest purchases or through any qualifying partners to redeem for rewards. These can include Southwest flights, partner airlines, hotel stays, merchandise, gift cards and rental cars. 

If you own any of several Southwest co-branded credit cards, you can earn Rapid Rewards points and also enjoy exclusive experiences available only to cardholders. Points you earn don’t expire, and you can book reward flights and hotel stays without blackout date restrictions. 

Southwest Rapid Rewards Elite Status Tiers

The Southwest Rapid Rewards elite status tiers are: A-List, A-List Preferred and Companion Pass. Each one offers different benefits for its members.

A-List 

Members can achieve A-List status by earning 35,000 tier-qualifying points, or flying on 25 one-way qualifying flights with Southwest within a calendar year. Qualifying points are earned by purchasing Southwest flights, or by using Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority, Business Performance, or Premier Credit Cards. Things that do not count toward earning A-List status include purchased points and points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and partner points.

The benefits of achieving A-List status include:

  • Priority boarding and check-in
  • Priority security lane access
  • Free same-day standby (in case you want to fly earlier than your scheduled flight)
  • A dedicated member hotline
  • A 25 percent bonus on points earned per eligible flight. 

A-List Preferred

Southwest A-List Preferred Status offers the same perks as the base A-List Status, with a few extras thrown in. To qualify, you need to fly on 50 one-way qualifying Southwest flights or earn 70,000 tier-qualifying points within one calendar year. Rules for earning points are the same as A-List Status: Buying Southwest flights, or using Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority, Business Performance, or Premier Credit Cards all earn qualifying points. Purchased points and points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and partner points do not.

The benefits of achieving A-List Preferred Status include:

  • Double bonus points earned per eligible flight
  • Free in-flight WiFi.
  • Priority boarding and check-in
  • Priority security lane access
  • Free same-day standby (in case you want to fly earlier than your scheduled flight)
  • A dedicated member hotline
  • A 25 percent bonus on points earned per eligible flight. 

Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass essentially gives you a free ticket (minus taxes and fees) for the person of your choice to fly with you every time you purchase a Southwest flight or redeem points to purchase a Southwest flight. There are two ways to earn the Companion Pass:

  • Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year.
  • Earn 125,000 tier-qualifying points (that is the new, higher threshold beginning Jan. 1, 2020)

Frequently asked questions about the Rapid Rewards tiers

What does A-List get you on Southwest?

Here are the following benefits you’ll get with the A-List tier:

  • 25% earning bonus: Earn an extra 25% in bonus points on all qualifying flights
  • Priority boarding: Receive the best available boarding pass so you’re the first one to board
  • Free same-day standby: Ask customer service at the airport to see if you can catch an earlier flight.
  • Priority access: Get Fly By access to breeze through security and priority check-in
  • Phone support: Access to a dedicated A-List hotline to speak with customer representatives

How do I get Rapid Rewards A-List Status?

To be eligible for A-List status, you’ll need to fly on 25 qualifying one-way with Southwest or earn 35,00 qualifying tier points within a calendar year. Buying points, bonus points, transfer point and partner points don’t count towards the total.

How do you get A-List Preferred on Southwest?

Rapid Rewards members need to earn 70,000 qualifying tier points or fly on 50 one-way eligible Southwest flights to be receive A-List Preferred status. You can’t use bonus points, partner points or purchased points towards this status.

How does Southwest A-List priority boarding work?

If you qualify for priority boarding, you’ll be assigned a position 36 hours before your flight’s departure time. A-List Preferred members will have priority over A-List members, though you’ll be behind Business Select ticket holders.

Does Southwest A-List automatically check you in?

Yes, A-List and A-List Preferred members will automatically be checked in 24 hours before a  flight.

Does Southwest have a lounge?

Unfortunately, because it’s a low-cost carrier, Southwest doesn’t have its own lounges. There are also no benefits like complimentary for premium ticket holders. However, Southwest customers can purchase access to several other airlines’ lounges via one-time purchases, including American Airlines’ Admirals Clubs Airspace lounges, Delta Sky Clubs, and more.

How do you get a companion pass on Southwest Airlines?

Southwest’s companion pass lets you choose one person to fly with you for free for the remainder of the calendar year whenever you earn your status, plus an additional calendar year. That’s the same whether you purchase a flight or redeeming one through points. You will need to still pay for taxes and fees for the free flight.

To be able to receive the Companion Pass status, you’ll need to fly on 100 one-way qualifying Southwest flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points within a calendar year. 

Is A-List Status Worth It?

Southwest’s first status tier offers some decent benefits even for occasional Southwest travelers. You’re getting more convenience like priority boarding, complimentary same-day standby and priority check-in. It can help make your flight much more pleasant. 

What’s the difference between getting Southwest Elite status vs. using credit cards?

Getting a Southwest elite status gives you many of the benefits mentioned above — priority boarding, priority check-in, free in-flight WiFi and the Companion Pass (if you qualify). You’ll need to earn points to be able to qualify.

Using Southwest’s co-branded credit cards doesn’t automatically offer you A-List status, but cards such as the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card do let you earn tier-qualifying points. They also offers other perks, like 20 percent off in-flight drinks, annual travel credits and upgraded boarding priority. 

You can also earn points towards Southwest rewards with everyday purchases — plus there are bonus points if you spend a certain amount within the first three months of account opening. For those with other types of travel rewards credit cards, you can transfer points for Southwest Rapid Rewards points for free flights —  but you won’t be able to use those points towards tier-qualifying status.