HomeAirline LoyaltySouthwest Rapid RewardsThe four changes to Southwest Rapid Rewards for 2024

The four changes to Southwest Rapid Rewards for 2024

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Back in October 2023, Southwest announced three ways in which it would be changing the elite status experience for its flyers in 2024 and one new option that it’s introducing for all Rapid Rewards members, so before we get any further into the new year, here’s a look at what those four changes are.

Fewer segments needed to earn Southwest A-List status

Historically, if Southwest Rapid Rewards members wanted to qualify for elite status based on the number of segments they flew, they were expected to fly 25 segments for A-List status and 50 segments for A-List preferred status.

For 2024, however, those targets have been reduced with 20% fewer segments now needed:

  • A-List elite status – 20 segments (one-way flights)
  • A-List Preferred elite status – 40 segments (one-way flights)

Nothing changes for Rapid Rewards members who prefer to earn their elite status through tier qualifying points with A-List status still requiring 35,000 tier qualifying points and A-List Preferred status still requiring 70,000 tier qualifying points.

Note: Only revenue flights earn credits towards elite status.

Southwest’s co-branded credit cards now earn tier points quicker

Southwest has allowed Rapid Rewards members to earn credits towards elite status through spending on co-branded credit cards for longer than most domestic carriers, and from 2024, this will be easier than ever.

As of 1 January 2024, most holders of Southwest’s co-branded credit cards will earn tier qualifying points at the rate of 1,500 points per $5,000 of eligible spending where in previous years, $10,000 of spending was required to earn the same number of tier qualifying points.

The following co-branded cards allow their holders to earn tier qualifying points:

The entry-level card_name does not give cardholders the option to earn tier qualifying points.

A-List Preferred members get a complimentary drinks benefit

Note: Technically, this isn’t a new benefit for 2024 as this was first introduced towards the end of last year, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway as it’s still a reasonably new change.

At the time of writing, Southwest charges between $6 and $7 for ‘premium drinks’ onboard all flights over 176 miles (on shorter flights, only water is served) and since 6 November 2023, A-List Preferred Members now receive up to two complimentary premium drinks per leg.

Eligible flyers will find that the coupons for these complimentary drinks can be added directly to their mobile boarding passes.

Cash + points bookings coming in spring 2024

At some point in ‘spring 2024’ (which should mean that we see this introduced before June), Southwest will introduce a cash + points redemption option to its Rapid Rewards program.

At the time of writing, Southwest has provided next to no information about this new payment option except to say that at least 1,000 points will be required to book a flight with cash + points, so we have no real idea how good or bad this will be for flyers.

As things stand, the value that flyers can get out of Rapid Rewards points through a 100% point booking (a regular award booking) is tied directly to the cash cost of whatever fare is being purchased so, presumably, the same will apply to the points being used in a cash + points booking.

It looks like we will have to wait a little longer before we know for sure.

Quick thoughts

Some the changes that we’re seeing won’t make much difference to a lot of flyers – if you qualify for elite status through tier qualifying points and don’t usually drink alcoholic beverages when you fly, two of the changes will mean nothing to you – but the enhancement to the co-branded credit cards should be good news for a large number of Rapid Rewards members and as it’s always nice to have more options, I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of value the cash + points payment option offers.

In fact, assuming Southwest doesn’t do anything silly, the cash + points option may turn out to be a good benefit for members who don’t fly with Southwest particularly often (and so take a long time to earn enough redeemable points for an award booking) and for anyone with an orphaned Southwest points balance.

Overall, it’s nice to be able to write an article about changes to a loyalty program that doesn’t have to include the world ‘devaluation’ and that doesn’t have to discuss benefits being taken away, so, for that, Southwest should get a pat on the back.

Bottom line

Southwest has made some positive changes to its Rapid Rewards program for 2024 with members who earn elite status based on segments now having to fly fewer segments to earn that status, with select co-branded credit cards now earning tier qualifying points at twice the historic rate, with A-List Preferred members now able to enjoy two complimentary premium drinks on most Southwest flights and with the introduction of cash + points redemptions later in the year.

What do you make of these changes?

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