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Getting Southwest Elite Status: Is It Worth it?

Southwest offers three elite status tiers - A-List, A-List Preferred, and Companion Pass. Which of them is best for you, and is it worth it?
Author: Lorraine Smithills
Lorraine Smithills

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024
The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.
Author: Lorraine Smithills
Lorraine Smithills

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024

The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.

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Table Of Content

If you enjoy flying Southwest, you may have wondered about getting elite status and if it would be worth it. So, here we’ll delve into this topic in more detail.

How Southwest Elite Status Works

One of the reasons why you may wonder whether Southwest Elite status is worth it for you, is that the program can be a little complicated. There are three tiers of elite status. The A-List and A-List Preferred are “traditional” elite status levels, offering airline and travel benefits, while the Companion Pass acts as its own entity.

The program works on TQPs or Tier Qualifying Points. You’ll earn these on Southwest flights and by spending on your Southwest co-branded credit card. To qualify, you’ll need to fly frequently, spending significant sums of money with the airline or frequently using your airline-co-branded credit card.

You’ll need at least 35,000 TQPs to enter the program and to put this into some perspective, you’ll receive 1,500 TPQs for each $10,000 that you spend using your Southwest branded credit card.

So, while the program is available to anyone, only frequent flyers or high spenders will be able to access the elite status levels.

Southwest book flights to earn miles TQPs
(Photo by Markus Mainka/Shutterstock)

How To Earn Southwest Qualifying Points (TQPs)?

You can earn these points in a number of ways including:

What Are Southwest Qualifying Points (TQPs)?

In simple terms, qualifying points are a rewards currency for the program. Just as you can earn miles with other programs, Southwest uses TQPs or Tier Qualifying Points.

Southwest Elite Status 2024
One-Way Qualifying Flights
Tier Qualifying Points
A-List
25
35,000
A-List Preferred
50
70,000

What is Southwest A-List Status?

A-List status is the entry-level to the Elite Status program. It is designed to make getting to your destination easier and faster.

It offers some nice perks, which we’ll get into later, but all are designed to take your travel experience to the next level. This includes benefits such as priority treatment at the airport, bonus points when you fly and freebies.

You’ll need at least 35,000 TQPs in any calendar year or 50 Southwest flights to qualify.

What is Southwest A-List Preferred Status?

As its name suggests, the A-List Preferred status is the higher tier option. The biggest difference between the tiers is that you can earn more points, making accumulating points easier. There are also more freebies and a dedicated phone line.

Since you’re getting more perks, you need to earn more TQPs in a calendar year to qualify. You’ll need at least 70,000 TQPs or 50 flights in this case.

What is Southwest Companion Pass Status?

While the Companion Pass is considered a Southwest elite status, it is not related to A-List or A-List Preferred. It is a stand-alone benefit that doesn’t build on the other statuses.

However, the Companion Pass status is the hardest to achieve. You’ll need at least 125,000 TQPs or 100 Southwest flights, which is an increase from previous years when you needed to earn 110,000.

The points that count towards your Companion Pass include the points you earn on flights booked using Southwest.com, points from Rapid Rewards credit cards, and points earned via Southwest partners.

Unfortunately, you can’t use transferred or gifted points, purchased points, points from program enrollment, bonus points or promotional points to help you achieve this elite status.

Southwest a progress towards Companion pass and A-List Status
Southwest a progress towards Companion pass and A-List Status (screenshot from Southwest app)

1. Qualifying Flights

These are flights that you paid for and using rewards or tranferring rewards from another program to purchase a flight will not earn you any TQPs.

A one flight refers to your itinerary, so extra travel legs from layovers will not count. So, if you fly Seattle to Dallas, with a layover in Phoenix, it will still count as one, one way flight, even though you flew on two flights.

Your points from qualifying flights should be posted on your account within 72 hours of completing your entire trip. The specific number of points you can earn will depend on the type of ticket that you purchase.

You can earn the most points with Business Select fares, while Wanna Get Away tickets provide the least number of points. Currently, Wanna Get Away tickets will earn you 6 points per dollar, while Business Select offers 12 points per dollar

Redeem Southwest points for flights - Wanne Get Away, Anytime, Business Select
Redeem Southwest points for flights - Wanne Get Away, Anytime, Business Select (screenshot from Southwest app)

2. Using Southwest Credit Cards

The great thing about using Southwest credit cards is that you can use the bonus TQPs to supplement your eligible points. 

So, you can combine your points for spending on your Rapid Rewards credit card with the points you earn with qualifying flights or even rely solely on your credit card to buy your way to elite status.

Card
How Much You Earn

southwest_rapid_rewards_premier_art

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 you spend

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 you spend

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 you spend

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business
1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 you spend

You can earn Southwest TQPs if you carry a Southwest credit card:

This co-branded card has a modest annual fee and allows you to earn points on Southwest purchases with additional points for commuting, phone services, and select streaming subscriptions.

The card is considered as one of the top cards for frequent flyers due to its generous welcome bonus with a modest spending requirement within the first three months, and you’ll get anniversary points each year.

In addition to these perks, you’ll receive 1,500 TQPs for each $10,00 spent.

This card has a slightly higher annual fee, but this is reflected in the card perks. The card has a similar reward structure, but you’ll get a larger anniversary point bonus and a larger welcome bonus with the same spending requirement for the first three months. The Rapid Rewards Priority also offers travel credit per year and up to four upgraded boardings each year, where available.

As with the Rapid Rewards Premier, you’ll also receive 1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 you spend with your card, with the same cap. 

Book flights with Southwest Priority card points
Book flights with Southwest Priority card points (screenshot from Southwest app)

If you need a business credit card, it could also help you to achieve Southwest Elite status. This card is almost identical to the Rapid Rewards Premier, offering the same anniversary bonus, rewards and introductory offer, with the same annual fee.

Like the Rapid Rewards Premier, you’ll get 1,500 TQPs per $10,000 spent on the card.

This business card has a higher annual fee, but the welcome bonus and anniversary points are more generous. It still has a tiered reward structure, but it offers more points for Southwest purchases. You can also enjoy reimbursement for up to four boarding upgrades per year.

Despite being a more perk-heavy card, the Performance Business still offers the same rate of 1,500 TQPs per $10,000 spent.

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How to Check Your Progress Toward Elite Status

The points calendar runs from January 1 and it follows a standard calendar schedule. So, if you’re starting to use the program in winter, you may struggle to qualify for the following year. However, if you can qualify for elite status early, you will enjoy status benefits for the rest of the current year and all of the following year.

As we’ve discussed you can earn points towards your elite status when you purchase Southwest fares. The number of points you’ll earn will depend on the type of fare you’re booking. However, the exact number of TQPs will be displayed when you book your flight online. You will also get a note of how many TQPs you’ve earned with your credit card.

Fortunately, you don’t need to keep track of all these numbers yourself. At any point, you can log into your account and check your TQPs balance. Bear in mind that points are typically posted within 72 of completing your Southwest journey.

However, this can give you a good idea of how close you are to achieving elite status. So, if Christmas is approaching and you’re getting close to Elite status, you’ll need to act quickly to ensure that you qualify before January 1, when the points balance will reset.

Southwest A-List Status
A-List Status balance (screenshot from Southwest app)

How Does Southwest Status Match Work?

In addition to accumulating sufficient TQPs to qualify for elite status, Southwest also has a Status Match program. Essentially, Southwest will grant you A-List elite status if you request a status match via another program.

If you have elite status with one of a number of airline elite status programs, Southwest will use it for the Status Match. The list of participating airlines includes:

  • American Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Delta
  • JetBlue
  • Spirit Airlines
  • United
  • Frontier

You will need to use the dedicated matching page and already be a member of Rapid Rewards. Southwest will require proof of your elite status with the other airline.

After you submit your request and the match has been approved, you’ll receive A-List status for 90 days. This process takes up to 12 days to complete, but upon approval, you can access all of the A-List status benefits. You can then continue your elite status for a full 12 months by completing six one way flights during your 90 day status match.

Southwest allows you to Status Match every 12 months.

What Do You Get With A-List Status?

While A-List status is the lowest Elite status tier, it offers some great perks. These include:

  • Priority Boarding: Southwest will automatically check you in and this is an invaluable perk. Since Southwest doesn’t assign seats, priority boarding means that you can choose your preferred seat for the flight and not end up stuck in a middle seat.
  • Priority Check In: You’ll have access to dedicated lanes at both the check in counter and at airport security.
  • Free Same Day Standby: If no seats are available for you to have a same day change, you can enjoy same day standby for free.
  • Dedicated Phone Line: You’ll have access to a dedicated A-List elite member phone line should you have any queries or issues.
  • Bonus Points: You’ll earn 25% more bonus points on your Southwest flights making it easier to maintain or upgrade your status.

What Do You Get With The A-List Preferred Status?

A-List Preferred is an upgrade on the basic A-List elite status. In addition to all the perks you’ll receive at A-List, you can also receive:

  • Free WiFi: You can enjoy free WiFi on your Southwest flights.
  • Dedicated Phone Line: You’ll also have your own dedicated A-List Preferred helpline.
  • Higher Points Bonus: As an A-List Preferred member, you can receive a 100% point earning bonus with every qualifying flight.
Southwest compare elite tier benefits
Compare Southwest elite tier benefits (Screenshot from southwest.com)

What Do You Get With The Companion Pass Status?

The Companion Pass status is considered one of the best travel benefits in the industry today. With this elite status, you can bring a companion on any of your Southwest flights for just the costs of fees and taxes for the second ticket. This can be less than $10 for domestic flights and up to $100 for international itineraries.

This elite status benefit lasts for the remainder of your qualifying calendar year and the full following year, so you could access this perk for almost two full years. The number of times that you bring a companion is not limited and you can bring a companion on flights you purchase using your Rapid Rewards points.

Restrictions and Limitations You Should Know

It is important to note what is classified as a qualified flight, so you can ensure that you earn the maximum number of points.While you can earn points when you purchase flights via Southwest.com or book car rentals or hotels via Southwest partners, there are some limitations.

For example, you won’t earn points if you book travel using reward points or points transferred from a partner program.

If you’re using a Rapid Rewards credit card, you will need to check carefully what points will and will not help you achieve elite status. The points you earn with your card, including the welcome bonus, will count but transferred or gifted points, promotional bonus points, partner bonus points, or program enrollment points will not help you towards your elite status.

Is Southwest Elite Status Worth It?

The potential value of elite status will depend on your circumstances, travel habits and spending patterns.

The main perk of A-List statuses is priority boarding, so you can board after A groups, even if you are in a B or C boarding position. This can make a massive perk as you can find a comfortable seat rather than being left with a cramped middle seat or stuck at the back of the plane.

The A-List statuses status perk means that you won’t need to purchase an EarlyBird check-in to find a good seat. Since EarlyBird can cost up to $50 for a round trip, this could add up to significant financial savings.

A-List Preferred Will Make It Easier To Maintain Your Elite Status

This will be a sufficient benefit for many people, but qualifying for A-List Preferred will make it easier to maintain your elite status, as you’ll receive 100% bonus points for your flights.

If you’re a frequent flyer, you’re also likely to appreciate the free inflight WiFi. This typically costs $8 to 10 per day, so if you fly regularly, it could add up to hundreds of dollars per year.

The Companion Pass status has the potential to save you thousands of dollars. If you fly once a month with a ticket cost of $400, you would only need to pay the fees and taxes on the second flight. This could save you almost $4,800 in a full year. The fact that you can use the companion pass on reward flights also means that your travel companion need never pay full fares to travel with you.

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FAQs

Although not related to the A-List statuses, the Companion Pass status is considered the highest Southwest elite status.

You’ll have elite status for a full year, plus the remainder of the year that you qualify. However, if you fail to qualify in the second year, you’ll lose your elite status.

Technically, yes, as you could qualify simply by using your Rapid Rewards credit cards and earning the bonus points offered. But, you cannot simply pay a fee and receive elite status.

Yes, you’ll get 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend on your card.

No, but hotels and rental cars booked through partner programs will earn you TQPs.

No, your A-List status is not printed on your boarding pass.

There is no minimum time frame to qualify, so if you fly very frequently or you are a big spender on your Rapid Rewards credit card, you can quickly achieve A-List status.

Yes, by spending on your Rapid Rewards credit card. You’ll earn 1,500 points for every $10,000 you spend on the card.

Picture of Lorraine Smithills

Lorraine Smithills

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
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Welcome Bonus:
80,000 points 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership

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The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.
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Welcome Bonus:
80,000 points 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership

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