Thanks to its generous rewards program, Southwest Airlines is making it easier than ever for families to earn free flights to destinations in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Not only does Southwest make earning free flights easy, but it offers free checked bags, family boarding, and additional perks that make it ideal for family travel.
In just the last year alone, my family has used the Southwest Rapid Rewards program to fly to Mexico, Jamaica, Denver, Raleigh, Orlando, and Las Vegas. Because of its unique redemption policies – and how easy it is to rack up airline miles – we focus most of our spending on the best airline rewards credit card that allows us to rack up these miles quickly.
If you want to take your family on a trip anywhere in the country but want to avoid the crushing cost of airfare, you’ll want to read this. In the meantime, you should also check out our guide on the other airline credit cards on the market:
Credit Cards that Let You Earn Miles on Southwest Airlines
While you can earn Southwest points by signing up through their program and spending money on Southwest and through their affiliates, the easiest way to rack up points quickly is with a credit card that lets you earn this valuable point currency. Here are the two cards you should consider signing up for today:
Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier card – For a limited time, you’ll earn 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points after you spend just $2,000 within 90 days. That’s enough miles for at least one round-trip flight within the continental United States, and maybe two if you’re judicious in how you use your miles. Plus, you’ll earn 2x points per dollar spent at Southwest Airlines and 1x points on all other purchases. As an added bonus, you’ll get 6,000 points on your account anniversary and no foreign transaction fees. The $99 annual fee is not waived.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® card – With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, you’ll earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend just $4,000 on your card within the first 90 days. The cool thing is, these points transfer to Southwest Airlines at a 1:1 ratio. And with 50,000 points in your account, you should have enough for at least two round-trip flights within the continental United States or to the Caribbean. The $95 annual fee on this card is waived as well, meaning you can try out the card’s benefits for a full 12 months without a commitment and with a nice 0 APR credit card offer.
Why Southwest is the Best Airline for Families
While lots of airlines try to cater to families, Southwest Airlines does it better than anyone else. In addition to their rewards program, they have thought of almost everything a family who travels together might need during their journey. Here are a few of the reasons Southwest is ideal for families:
Reason #1: The Southwest credit card lets you earn free flights.
With both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card and the Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier card, you can earn free flights for your family. All you have to do is sign up, use your card for regular spending, and meet the minimum spending requirement to earn the signup bonus. Once you meet those requirements, your miles will be deposited into your account within 30 days (but usually sooner).
Reason #2: Your bags fly free.
Unlike other airlines that charge $25 or more per checked bag, Southwest Airlines lets your first two checked bags fly free. For my family of four, that is a huge savings! On our recent trip to Jamaica on Southwest, we checked five separate bags. If we had flown with another airline, that would have cost us at least $125.
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Reason #3: You can get unlimited award flights with no worry over blackout dates or capacity controls.
Southwest Airlines is adamant about the fact that they don’t limit award seats on single flights, and this is crucial if you have a family in tow. Each time I fly my family using Southwest Rapid Rewards, I can rest assured there will be at least four award seats waiting for me – as long as the flight isn’t sold out! If you have ever dealt with award availability on another airline before, you know what a huge deal this is.
Reason #4: SUPER CHEAP Flights
Because Southwest awards are fare-based, you can score some super cheap flights any time Southwest has a sale. For our upcoming trip to Raleigh, for example, my husband and I paid just 3,500 miles per leg to get there and back. And for our family trip to Orlando this summer, our flights cost just 5,500 miles each way, per person!
Reason #5: Family boarding lets you sit with your kids.
Since Southwest doesn’t offer assigned seating, it can be tricky to sit with your family if you don’t check in for your flight exactly 24 hours ahead of time. But if you have kids under the age of six, you qualify for family boarding after the “A group” boards the plane.
Reason #6: Redeem your points for gift cards as a last resort.
A lot of people worry they'll get stuck with airline miles they can't use, and I don't really blame them. Fortunately, Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be turned in for gift cards if your travel plans fall through. Someone I know lost their job but still had 50,000 Southwest miles from a recent promotion. Because she decided not to fly anywhere, she redeemed her 50,000 Rapid Rewards points for $500 in gift cards and spent them on Christmas presents last year. While that isn't the ideal redemption, earning $500 in gift cards isn't half bad, either.
How to Get the Most Out of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program
Since joining the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is easy and free, it’s a no-brainer. However, there are several ways to maximize your experience – and the number of free flights you earn. Consider these tips:
- Pair several travel rewards credit cards for the signup bonuses and earning potential. If you want to rack up a bunch of points quickly, signup bonuses are the way to go. And if you want to earn even more miles, consider getting both cards.
- Shop through each card’s shopping portal to earn extra points. Both cards that earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points have shopping portals that can let you earn points even faster. By clicking through these portals to do your online shopping, you can usually earn another 3-5 points for every dollar you spend.
- Use your card for all of your regular bills, then pay it off each month. It’s easy to rack up points quickly if you use your card for all of your regular spending. Just remember to pay it off every month and never, ever pay interest on your purchases.
- Try earning the Southwest Companion Pass. The Southwest Companion pass is a benefit that allows your “companion” to travel for free for the year you earn it and the following year. To earn it, you’ll need to earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points during a single calendar year. It’s important to note, however, that points transferred to Southwest from your Chase account do not count towards the Companion Pass.
The Bottom Line
With free checked bags, plenty of ways to earn free flights, and unlimited award availability, Southwest Airlines is the ideal airline for families. And with hubs all over the United States and the Caribbean, you can count on using your miles to take your family somewhere exciting.
For my family, that means a mix of everything – from warm weather trips in Florida and the Caribbean to vacations in the mountains, concert trips, and adult getaways as well. With so many ways to use our points, I always say “why not?”
Have you ever used Southwest Rapid Rewards points before? What is your favorite redemption so far?