Southwest Unveils Exciting Enhancements to Rapid Rewards Loyalty Program for 2024
Southwest has recently introduced significant enhancements to its loyalty program, Rapid Rewards, which will come into effect in 2024. Unlike the usual apprehension that accompanies loyalty program changes, these alterations are set to benefit frequent fliers.
Rapid Rewards distinguishes itself from other frequent flier programs by allowing members to accumulate qualifying flight segments for elite status (referred to as A-List) and the coveted Companion Pass, which provides a free ticket for a travel companion on every flight.
In 2024, earning A-List and A-List Preferred elite status will become more accessible due to new qualifications and credit card bonuses. Furthermore, Rapid Rewards members will have the flexibility to pay for their flights using a combination of cash and points. Additionally, Southwest will continue offering a new perk, introduced quietly earlier this year for its cobranded credit cardholders: an automatic annual boost of 10,000 points towards the Companion Pass.
Here, we provide an overview of the recent modifications to Southwest's Rapid Rewards program.
Paying for Flights with Cash and Points
Starting in spring 2024 (with the exact date yet to be disclosed), Rapid Rewards members will have the option to pay for their tickets, including those for others, using a combination of cash and points, beginning with as few as 1,000 points. Currently, members can pay for flights with either points or money, but not a combination of both. When using points as the sole method of payment, each point is typically valued at 1.3 to 1.45 cents when redeemed for Southwest's most economical "Wanna Get Away" fares. While it remains uncertain if this valuation will apply to combo points and miles fares, there are no indications that it won't.
It's important to note that cash and points bookings will not earn Rapid Rewards points, tier qualifying points for A-List or A-List Preferred status, or Companion Pass qualifying points. However, these bookings will count towards the flight segment requirements for A-List, A-List Preferred, or Companion Pass status.
Earning Elite Status with Fewer Flight Segments
Starting on January 1, 2024, achieving Southwest's two elite statuses, A-List and A-List Preferred, will become more attainable. Currently, reaching A-List status necessitates 25 one-way qualifying flights or earning 35,000 Tier Qualifying Points (TQP), which are determined by the price and fare type. In the upcoming year, the number of one-way qualifying flights required for A-List status will be reduced to 20. Similarly, top-tier A-List Preferred will require 40 one-way qualifying flights, down from the current 50 flights. (A-List Preferred can also be achieved by accumulating 70,000 TQP, the same requirement as in 2023.)
The key perks of A-List and A-List Preferred Status are as follows:
- Priority boarding
- 25 percent earning bonus on qualifying flights
- Same-day change
- Same-day standby
- Priority check-in and security lane access
- Dedicated member phone line
- Two complimentary premium drinks per flight (starting 11/6/23)
- A-List Preferred:
- All the benefits of A-List
- 100 percent earning bonus on qualifying flights
- Free in-flight internet
Earning TQP Bonuses from Credit Card Spending
Elite status can be attained by accumulating flight segments or earning Tier Qualifying Points (TQP). TQP is typically earned through flying, with one exception: TQP boosts from spending on specific Southwest cobranded credit cards, including Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business, Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority, or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card. As of January 1, 2024, these cards will offer 1,500 TQP towards A-List and A-List Preferred for every $5,000 spent, which is a substantial improvement over the previous rule of 1,500 TQP per $10,000 spent.
In-Flight Beverage Enhancements
Effective November 6, 2023, members with A-List Preferred status will enjoy an additional perk included in their elite benefits: up to two complimentary premium drinks per flight, in addition to their existing privileges.
Companion Pass Boost
Southwest's Companion Pass allows pass holders to travel with a companion for free (excluding mandatory taxes). In the summer of 2023, Southwest discreetly introduced a significant benefit to its range of cobranded consumer cards. Holders of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, or Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will receive an annual boost of 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points each calendar year, a benefit that will continue into 2024. This cardholder benefit reduces the threshold for Companion Pass qualifying points from 135,000 to 125,000 points.
It's important to note that Companion Pass qualifying points may differ from Tier Qualifying Points required for elite status. Points earned from actual flights count towards both, while bonus points from credit card welcome offers contribute to the Companion Pass but not TQP. This means it's possible to attain a Companion Pass through credit card welcome offers and then work towards elite status through paid flights, award flights, and credit card spending.