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Southwest Will Make it Easier to Earn Status, Introduce Cash + Points Booking

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From the two free checked bags you get with each ticket to the first-come, first-served boarding process, Southwest Airlines just does things differently. So go figure that when other carriers are in the headlines for making it far more expensive to earn elite status, Southwest is going to make it easier.

The Texas-based airline unveiled a slew of changes this week that would help flyers reach the airline's two tiers of A-List status faster: Slashing how many flights you need to take each year to climb each status rung while also speeding up how travelers can spend their way to Southwest status on a co-branded airline credit card.

By the time those changes take effect next year, top-tier A-List Preferred members will already be drinking down a new perk. Oh, and a brand new – and potentially useful – way to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points is coming next year, too.

Those additions probably aren't enough to put Southwest status on the map for most travelers. The airline's bread-and-butter is everyday travelers – not the corporate flyers focused on earning status for free upgrades and other perks with other airlines that seem to just make it harder. While Delta has been the poster child lately for its proposed changes to earning Medallion Status, both United and American have also raised requirements to earn elite status in recent years.

That alone makes Southwest's latest moves noteworthy. At a time when competitors are trying to make the elite status club more exclusive, Southwest is opening the doors wider.

Here's a closer look at what's on tap at Southwest in the months to come.

 


 

Redeem Cash + Points on Southwest Soon

Got just a few thousand Southwest Rapid Rewards points? Sometime next year, you might be able to put them to use.

Southwest says it'll introduce a new “Cash + Points” booking option in spring 2024, allowing flyers to use a mix of their points and cash to book a flight.

Details are still scarce – most importantly, it's unclear how much your points will be worth booking this way. Other airlines like Delta and United currently allow members to book with a mix of cash and miles, typically making miles worth 1 cent apiece on those transactions. That means you could cover $50 of a ticket price with 5,000 miles, then pay the rest of the cash balance.

Booking a normal award ticket with Southwest points today, you'll typically get somewhere between 1.2 cents and 1.4 cents in value for each point you redeem. For example, you can book a $184 one-way fare from Oakland (OAK) to Honolulu (HNL) for just over 13,000 points and $5.60 in taxes and fees.
 

southwest flight to hawaii 

But if you've only got 1,000 or 3,000 points with Southwest, that won't do you much good. They might not get you quite as much bang for your buck, but these Cash + Points redemptions will at least give travelers more options to redeem their points and save some cash.

Southwest says they'll give members up to five pre-set options with these Cash + Points redemptions, starting as low as 1,000 points. Members with points can even book these tickets for friends, family members, or complete strangers.

There's one weird hitch, though. If you earn status (or a vaunted Southwest Companion Pass) through segments flown with Southwest, these Cash + Points bookings will count toward your progress. But if you earn status or a Companion Pass by racking up points, these bookings will not add to your total.

On the plus side, you'll need fewer flights with Southwest to earn status starting next year.

 

Get A-List Status with Fewer Flights

Southwest's first of two elite status tiers is called Southwest A-List. It's about to get easier to earn.

Starting in 2024, you can make your way to A-List status with just 20 one-way flights on Southwest, or 10 roundtrip journeys – down from the previous 25-segment requirement. You can also earn A-List status by racking up 35,000 tier-qualifying points, which isn't changing.

You've got a full calendar year to put up those numbers to earn status – and if you do, you'll enjoy that status for the rest of the calendar year and the entire following year, too. So if you make it to A-List with 20 one-way flights in 2024, you'll keep A-List through at least Dec. 31, 2025.

The perks of Southwest status pale in comparison to other big airlines, but they can still add up. Here's a look at what you get with Southwest's A-List status:
 

southwest status

 

Get A-List Preferred Quicker, Too

Even the top tier of Southwest status – A-List Preferred – is getting easier to earn, too.

Starting in 2024, you can make it to A-List Preferred Status with just 40 one-way flights on Southwest or 20 roundtrip fares – down from the previous 50-segment threshold. You can still also earn A-List status by racking up 70,000 tier-qualifying points, which also isn't changing.

With A-List Preferred status, you get even more perks than those A-List members, including a 100% bonus earning points and free inflight Wi-Fi.

 

southwest a list preferred benefits

 

But before those new requirements kick in, current A-List Preferred flyers will enjoy a brand-new (and boozy) benefit.

 

Serving Soon: 2 Free Drinks for Top Elites

Bottoms up, A-List Preferred flyers!

Starting in just a few weeks on Nov. 6, A-List Preferred members will get two free premium drinks on each and every Southwest flight – well, the ones that are longer than 176 miles, anyway. Those free drinks will be loaded as digital coupons into eligible members' accounts, allowing you to grab a glass of beer, wine, or liquor (or two) on most Southwest flights.

Alcoholic drinks typically cost just $6 or $7 on Southwest.

 

Spend Your Way to Status Faster, Too

Putting tens of thousands of dollars on a Southwest credit card like the *southwest premier* or the *southwest priority*? You'll make your way to A-List (or A-List Preferred) status in half the time soon.

Starting Jan. 1, cardholders will earn 1,500 tier-qualifying points for every $5,000 charged to a Rapid Rewards card – half the previous $10,000 spending requirement. That means you could make your way to A-List status by spending about $116,000 and change each year on a Southwest card.

That's … not cheap. Not by any means. But combined with the points toward status you'll earn by flying Southwest, it could drastically speed up your path to Southwest status.

Just take note: The entry-level *southwest plus card* does not earn status-qualifying points.

 

Bottom Line

When other airlines zig, Southwest zags. And they're doing it again.

Starting next year, Southwest is making it easier for many travelers to earn A-List status by reducing the annual flying requirements and speeding up how quickly you can climb toward status simply by spending on a Southwest credit card. But the biggest news for many travelers – and the biggest question mark – is Southwest's plan to introduce a new Cash + Points booking option sometime in spring 2024.
 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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