Southwest Makes Elite Status Easier To Earn, Introduces New Benefits

Southwest Airlines has announced changes to make earning status easier from flying and from credit card spend, a new benefit to top tier status, and greater flexibility for all members in redeeming their points.

  • Fewer segments to earn status: Starting next year, instead of flying 25 segments or earning 35,000 qualifying points, A-List status will require 20 segments (or still 35,000 points). A-List Preferred will require 40 segments, down from 50, or the same 70,000 qualifying points.

  • Earn credit towards status twice as fast with card spend: Starting next year, the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier, Premier Business, Priority, and Performance Business Credit Cards will earn 1,500 qualifying points per $5,000 spend, which is double the previous rate of 1,500 per $10,000 spent. Those who spend towards a Companion Pass are going to earn status along the way more easily.

  • Free drinks: A-List Preferred members will receive 2 complimentary drink coupons with their mobile boarding passes on flights of 176 miles or longer starting Nov. 6, 2023.

  • New cash and points redemptions: Southwest’s redemptions are revenue-based, but you need all the points in your account to cover a redemption – which leads to breakage (accounts that don’t redeem all their points) and is really the only reason to transfer points from a program like Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest (since you may not be getting more value than redeeming points directly for paid travel). This changes in spring 2024 with the ability to combine points and cash for redemptions.

These are all positive changes to the program. It also tells me that Southwest is seeing fewer frequent business travelers than they did pre-pandemic, racking up flight segments, and that as a result their tiers may not have as many members in them as before. They’re also making the logical move to follow American and Delta (and the O.G. Frontier) in having credit cards count aggressively towards status-earning. That’ll be a reason to spend on their cards, in addition to companion pass-earning, when the value of the rewards earned for card spend are lower than you’d get elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Southwest’s top ‘A-List Preferred’ status isn’t significantly differentiated from their entry level A-List. Adding free drinks for their top tier is a move towards improving on that, and it’s very much on-brand. It also matches the top tier benefit at competing large airlines, and something carriers frequently offer to those who are in extra legroom seats (who are often elite) anyway.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Status on Southwest. Isn’t that sort of like having the newest house in the projects? But I guess it’s still better than Delta. (Yes, I have status on both).

  2. I still wish they would count segments as actual segments, instead of amount of booked one-ways

  3. That said their business status program has gotta be the easiest in the industry – no match, 2 RTs or 4 oneways to get A-List for a year. Repeatable every 12 months. Wild lmao

  4. No matter how easy SW makes it, I still won’t fly SW. Their points can only go “so far”. I can’t use the points to go Asia or Australia which I’ve done a lot of times on award miles. SW really needs to codeshare with an airline that flies true international.

  5. I really like the ability to pay with both cash and points. A BIG plus.

    But here’s my question… in order for a flight to qualify to earn you status it has to be a paid ticket. I wonder how that is going to work for a “half and half” ticket?

  6. I had already made the decision to switch all my work travel from Delta to Southwest, this just makes me even more confident in that decision!

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