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Southwest points work like many other frequent flyer points or airline miles. You fly Southwest and earn points, then you redeem accumulated points for an awards travel. Everything is easy on the surface but there can be pitfalls.

How to get Southwest points

There are many ways you can use to get Southwest points: buy Southwest tickets, rent a car with the airline partner, also you can transfer points or buy them. But before you will be able to use any of those ways, you should first of all be registered in the Southwest loyalty program - Rapid Rewards®. The program is free to join and once you are a member, you will earn points on every dollar spent to fly Southwest. The program has three tiers and the higher your status, the more you earn.

When you do not fly, you can earn Southwest points with the partners. And if you want to earn even more points, you can take advantage of the Southwest credit cards. Southwest cards allow earning points on flights and on everyday purchases, also they come with additional benefits and perks.

However, if you do not like the idea of having an airline credit card or being a loyalty program member, you can apply for a regular travel rewards credit card. Such cards are not tied to any airline but allow earning rewards and redeeming them for travel purchases.The Discover it® Miles card is a good example of the travel rewards credit card.

How to use Southwest points

While it is quite easy to earn Southwest points, it may not be that easy to redeem them. The good thing is that there are no blackout dates or other redemption limits. But you will never know or will be able to calculate how many points you need for a reward flight because the number of points needed for a rewards flight depends on the air fare. And since fares vary, the reward pricing can vary as well based on destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare class, point redemption rate, and other factors.

Southwest points can be redeemed for Southwest tickets only, you won't be able to redeem them with any other airline. If you want to redeem for something other than airline ticket, Southwest has some partners. You can redeem Southwest points for a hotel stay or a rental car.

As you can see, it is not difficult to earn Southwest points and redeem them as long as you fly Southwest Airlines often. Just one last thing to note: Southwest points can expire after 24 months of account inactivity, when you redeem your points for an award ticket, you may need to pay fees and taxes.