Does Southwest Have the Best Airlines Rewards Program in the U.S.?

Accumulating reward miles doesn’t do much good if you can’t actually use them. Southwest Airlines earned the top spot in a recent Consumer Reports rewards programs comparison in part because they have more rewards travelers than any other airline.



Southwest flew 103.1 million passengers in the United States in 2014. A whopping 11.9 million (11.5%) of these seats were booked using Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. Frequent flyers often complain that it’s difficult to redeem rewards on many airlines, but that isn’t a problem with Southwest, which considers every seat is an award seat. That means travelers don’t have to hunt down eligible seats or book flights at undesirable times.

By comparison, Jet Blue flyers only book 4.5% of their seats using rewards miles. Delta Air Lines, a much larger airlines, had 5.6 million of its domestic seats booked with rewards. United Airlines ranked just behind Delta with 5 million domestic award tickets.

While some travelers aren’t fond of certain aspects of traveling on Southwest Airlines, there’s no denying that its rewards policies are generous. Southwest rewards tickets don’t require any booking fees and rewards travelers are never caught off guard by last-minute booking fees.

Rather than counting how many miles travelers fly, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program focuses on dollars spent to calculate rewards. The Southwest Rapid Rewards program offers six to 12 points per dollar spent on Southwest tickets. That means passengers earn 1,200 rewards miles on a discounted $200 Wanna Get Away fare. Standard tickets earn 10 points per dollar spent, which means a $200 fare would net 2,000 rewards miles. Business Select fares earn 12 points per dollar spent on trips.

Flying isn’t the only way to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points. The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Card allows flyers to rack up points fast. New card customers are granted 25,000 points just for signing up. Card members are given 3,000 or 6,000 points on each anniversary of activating their cards.

Unlike with many airline rewards programs, Southwest Rapid Rewards points never expire. That means you don’t have to worry about traveling on Southwest every year or signing up for the airline’s credit card to keep earned miles.