Note: Read the primer on Earning Miles if you have not already.
Before getting into how to earn Rapid Rewards points, we should discuss Southwest Airlines’ best benefit, the companion pass.
The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass allows you to designate one person to fly with you an unlimited number of times for free for up to two years (when you earn the pass, it is valid until December 31st of the following year). A companion pass earned in January 2016, for example, remains valid until December 31, 2017. You do still have to pay taxes and fees for the companion ticket, but they are only $5.60 each way for domestic flights. For international flights, a range of $20 to $70 each way is common. The companion ticket is available any time the companion pass holder is flying Southwest, even if someone else pays for the ticket (with money or points).
To receive a companion pass, you need to earn 125,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. The companion pass does not need to be “paid for” with the points – thus after earning the pass, you will still have 125,000 RR points to spend in your account. Most points you earn with Southwest are qualifying points, but with one huge exception: points transfers to Southwest from other programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, hotels, and other partners do NOT count. A second exception is transfers of RR points from one person to another, but there’s very little reason to do this anyway.
The three Southwest cards below are the best for earning points with Rapid Rewards. Earning two signup bonuses ($2,000 in spend x 2) and completing another $6,000 in spend (i.e. $10,000 in total spend across two cards) will earn you a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. You can view the current best offers for all of these cards at Credit Cards.
|Credit Card||Minimum Signup Bonus / Spend / Time|
|Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card||50,000 points / $2,000 / 3 months|
|Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card||50,000 points / $2,000 / 3 months|
|Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card||50,000 points / $2,000 / 3 months|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||40,000 UR / $4,000 / 3 months|
|Chase Ink Plus Business Card||50,000 UR / $5,000 / 3 months|
Chase Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to Southwest Rapid Rewards at a 1:1 ratio, but I don’t recommend doing this unless you need to top off your account for a specific redemption. As mentioned above, UR transfers to Southwest do not count toward earning a companion pass.
Credit CArd Churning
The Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards cards can be churned. The other two Chase cards (Sapphire and Ink) can be churned as well, but this may be difficult to do in practice. For more information, see How To Earn A Signup Bonus Multiple Times.
Bonus Category Spending
Chase Sapphire Preferred: 2x points on Travel and Dining
Chase Ink Plus: 5x points on Office Supplies, Cell Phone, and Cable; 2x points on Gas and Hotels
The Chase Ink Plus can be very useful for manufactured spending. For more information, see How To Manufacture Spend.
Rapid Rewards points expire after 24 months without any earning activity. Note that unlike many other airline mileage programs, redeeming miles will not extend your mileage expiration date.