Southwest A-List & A-List Preferred: (Benefits, Status Matches) [2020]

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Are you trying to figure out the requirements for earning elite status (aka “A-List”) with Southwest Airlines? Are you also wondering what the elite status benefits are for Southwest?

Well, if so, this article has you covered.

In this comprehensive article, I’m going to cover everything you need to know about Southwest Airlines A-List and A-List Preferred. I’ll go into detail about how to earn the status, all of the perks, and other things like status matches. 

Be sure to check out the infographic at the bottom of the article as well!


What is Southwest A-List?

A-List is the elite status program of Southwest Airlines and consists of two separate tiers: the standard A-List level and then the higher level of A-List Preferred.

I will be talking about both of these in detail below.

Right off the bat I think it is worth noting that elite status with Southwest is different from other major airlines like United, American, and Delta. 

Here are some things that Southwest elite status will be lacking: 

  • No free checked baggage (Southwest offers two free checked bags to everybody).
  • No upgrades to business class or economy plus cabins (Southwest does not have multiple cabins in its aircraft)
  • No lounge access (there are also no lounges or special alliance partner benefits to take advantage of)

So the benefits for Southwest A-List are not going to hold the same type of value that you would find with elite status for a legacy carrier, and A-List is more similar to what you’d get with JetBlue Mosaic

That’s not to say that A-List perks can’t be valuable, however. Many people who frequently fly Southwest will find some of the benefits below very valuable.


How to earn Southwest A-List

There are quite a few ways that you can earn Southwest A-List status and I will discuss them below.

Flying (the old-fashioned way)

You can earn Southwest A-List if you meet the following requirements in a calendar year:

  • 25 one-way qualifying flights OR
  • 35,000 tier qualifying points (TQPs)

So you can take at least 25 flights or you can earn 35,000 tier qualifying points. Tier qualifying points are basically just points earned from revenue flights (bonus tier points don’t count and flights booked with Rapid Rewards don’t count). The amount of tier qualifying points that you earn will depend on the type of fare that you purchase. 

You’ll earn tier qualifying points (TQPs) at the following rates:

  • 6X per dollar for Wanna Get Away fares
  • 10X per dollar for Anytime fares
  • 12X per dollar for Business Select 

How many flights are needed for A-List via TQPs? 

If you are flying Business Select, you can achieve A-List with just a handful of flights and I will illustrate how below.

To get an idea of how many flights are needed for A-List I will use a sample booking. Let’s say there is a flight usually going for $200 for a Wanna Get Away fare and $500 for Business Select. (Business Select fares will almost always be a lot more expensive than Wanna Get Away fares.) 

For each flight this is how many points you would earn:

  • Wanna Get Away: $200 X 6 = 1,200
  • Business Select:  $500 X 12 = 6,000

At that rate it would take you ~30 flights to reach A-List with Wanna Get Away fares (you would hit the segment requirement at 25 flights). But check this out, it would only take six Business Select flights to reach A-List with Business Select! This is how business travelers often quickly arrive at the A-List level.

Southwest credit cards

You can also shortcut your way to A-List with Southwest credit cards. There are three different Southwest credit cards that you can use for A-List and they are the following: 

With these cards, you can earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for each $10,000 in purchases. You are allowed to earn up to 15,000 TQPs each year which amounts to $100,000 in purchases. So just by putting spend on your card you can get almost halfway to a A-List.

If you are cutting things close you want to make sure that you have the correct understanding of how the timing will work based on your spend. Note that TQPs earned through spending using the credit cards will count toward A-List/A-List Preferred qualification based on when they are posted to your Rapid Rewards account and NOT based on spending date.

Southwest Premier credit card

The first credit card you can use to help you achieve the TQPs is the Southwest Premier credit card. This card will also offer you the following benefits: 

  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 6,000 anniversary points

This is a decent airline card but it is not the card I would recommend if you are flying Southwest a lot.

Southwest Priority card

The Southwest Priority card is the ultimate Southwest credit card. That is because in addition to the TQP benefit, it also comes with some seriously valuable perks which include:

  • Bonus spending:
    • 2X Rapid Rewards on Southwest purchases
    • 2X Rapid Rewards on hotel and car rental partner purchases.
    • 1X Rapid Rewards on all other purchases
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit
  • 7,500 anniversary points each year
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $149 annual fee applied to your first billing statement

This is a great card for people who frequently fly with Southwest since the credits and benefits allow you to easily offset the annual fee each year. You can read my full review of this card here.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card is another beast of a card and comes with the following features: 

  • 70,000 Rapid Rewards after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines purchases.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available
  • Inflight WiFi Credits
  • A-List credits 
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check Fee Credit
  • Employee cards added at no additional cost
  • $199 Annual Fee

The unique feature about this card is that it offers three extra points on Southwest Airlines purchases. It also is the card that offers the highest welcome offer out of any of the Southwest cards and the best anniversary bonus. You can read the full review of this card here.

Each of these cards will offer some great welcome bonuses especially if you catch them when they are at their high points (60,000 points to 80,000 points depending on the card). Just keep in mind that the points earned from the bonuses do not count toward elite status.

These credit cards can also get you close to earning the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows a companion to fly with you for free for up to two calendar years!

That pass now requires 125,000 Rapid Rewards earned in a calendar year and any points you earn from the welcome bonuses for these cards counts. So it is possible to earn enough Rapid Rewards just by getting approved for two of these cards and earning their bonuses. That is a great opportunity to capture a lot of value!

Getting Southwest A-List for free

Southwest has been known to offer special targeted offers where they offer you A-List status for free. Other targeted offers might simply require you to make a handful of Southwest flights in order to get the status.

For example, you may have to make three round trip flights or six one way flights or simply earn a threshold number of tier qualifying points.

Purchasing A-List

In the past, Southwest has offered chances for you to purchase your tier qualifying points. For example, you could purchase up to 15,000 tier-qualifying points (TQPs), in increments of 2,500 Rapid Rewards points to move up to the first tier. Prices ranged from $350 for 2,500 tier-qualifying Rapid Rewards points, and up to $1,199 for 15,000 TQPs.

(These points could not be applied to A-List Preferred or Companion Pass tiers.)


Point that don’t count for A-List

Sometimes when you earn points they will not count towards A-List. Here are several instances of points that will not count:

  • Purchased points
  • Transferred/gifted points
  • Points earned from program enrollment
  • Tier bonus points
  • Flight bonus points
  • Reward travel
  • Charter flights
  • Rapid Rewards partner points except for tier qualifying points earned on the Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards Priority or Premier Credit Cards from Chase
  • Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Partner program transfers
  • Companion Pass travel
  • Bonus Rapid Rewards points, unless specifically designated as such

What are the Southwest A-List Benefits?

So now that you know how to qualify, you might be wondering what all of the A-List perks are. Here are the Southwest A-List benefits.

  • Priority boarding
  • Priority security and check-in lanes
  • 25% bonus earning
  • Free same day standby
  • Dedicated A-List phone number

Priority boarding

With A-List, you will be among the first passengers to board the plane. Also, if you purchase a last minute ticket after boarding pass groups have been issued, you should be allowed to board between Group A and Group B.

That is pretty significant because it means that regardless of when you purchase a ticket you will pretty much always be guaranteed a window or aisle seat and you should not have an issue finding room for your baggage in the overhead bins. For you last minute-travelers, this could be a huge convenience.

Below is the entire order of the Southwest Airlines boarding process.

  • Passengers already on the plane
  • Pre-boarding
  • Business Select
  • A-list Preferred
  • A-list
  • EarlyBird
  • Boarding Group A
  • Boarding Group B
  • Boarding Group C
  • Standbys

Priority security and check-in lanes

With A-List, you’ll be able to get through the check-in lines and the security lines much quicker. This can be an extremely convenient benefit because I have seen some check-in lines for the bags very long at Southwest airport terminals. During those times, I have seen the priority check-in lanes empty or only with a couple of passengers.

The priority security lanes can be quicker too but if you are interested in breezing through security you may also want to look into programs like TSA Pre-Check and CLEAR. Both of those can save you a lot of time going through security and it is not limited to only flying with Southwest.

These security lanes will only be available in select cities. Sometimes there may only be a priority check-in and other times there may only be priority security (or there may be both).

NOTE: You must present your A-List Membership card or a boarding pass indicating you are traveling on a Business Select Fare in order to access the Fly By Security Lane.

25% bonus earning

Typically, you will earn Southwest Rapid Rewards at the following rates:

  • 6X per dollar for Wanna Get Away fares
  • 10X per dollar for Anytime fares
  • 12X per dollar for Business Select 

However, as an A-List member those earnings will be increased by 25%. So here are the earnings for an A-List member:

  • 7.5X per dollar for Wanna Get Away fares
  • 12.5X per dollar for Anytime fares
  • 15X per dollar for Business Select

If you value Rapid Rewards at 1.5 cents per point and this is what your percentage return will look like on your spend:

  • 11.25% for Wanna Get Away fares
  • 18.75% for Anytime fares
  • 22.5% for Business Select

Free same day standby

One of the benefits of being an A-List member is that you can jump on flights that are more convenient. This is known as the same day standby benefit and it’s also available to Business Select and Anytime passengers when there is no change in fare.

It’s a great and convenient benefit, but it does come with some restrictions you should be aware of.

Free same-day standby will be provided for A-List and A-List Preferred Members:

  • Traveling prior to the original scheduled departure
  • Between the same city pairs
  • On the original date of travel
  • Where a seat is available.

If the flight that you are trying to get on does not meet the qualifications you can still get on with a standby ticket but there are some conditions that apply. On flights that do not meet these qualifications, A-List and A-List Preferred Members will receive priority standby and will be required to pay the difference in fare if a seat becomes available.

You should also note that you cannot use this benefit for someone traveling with you who is not in A-List member. Southwest states:

If an A-List or A-List Preferred Member is traveling on a multiple-Passenger reservation, free same-day standby and priority standby will not be provided for non-A-List or non-A-List Preferred Members in the same reservation.

Dedicated A-List phone number

As an A-List member you will have access to the priority phone line. The A-List priority phone number is: 1-888-737-1005. 


A-list Preferred

How to earn A-List Preferred

A-List preferred is the upper tier of elite status with Southwest Airlines and so as you would expect it is a little bit tougher to get.

You can earn A-List Preferred if you meet the following requirements in a calendar year:

  • 50 one-way qualifying flights OR
  • 70,000 tier qualifying points

You can also use the same credit cards that earn tier qualifying points but note that most status challenges and matches will get you the lower tier of A-List.

How many flights are needed for A-List Preferred via TQPs? 

If you are flying Business Select, you can achieve A-List Preferred with just a dozen flights and I will illustrate how below.

To get an idea of how many flights are needed for A-List Preferred I will use the same example booking above. Again, let’s say there is a flight usually going for $200 for a Wanna Get Away fare and $500 for Business Select. 

For each flight this is how many points you would earn:

  • Wanna Get Away: $200 X 6 = 1,200
  • Business Select:  $500 X 12 = 6,000

At that rate it would take you 58 flights to reach A-List with Wanna Get Away fares and 12 Business Select flights to reach A-List with Business Select. So once again, business travelers typically don’t have much trouble achieving the top tier of status with Southwest Airlines.  


A-List Preferred Benefits

The benefits for A-list Preferred are extremely similar to the benefits for A-List.

Here they are below:

  • Priority boarding
  • Priority security and check-in lanes
  • 100% bonus earning
  • Free same day standby
  • Dedicated A-List phone number
  • Free in-flight wifi

Priority boarding

As shown above, the priority boarding is just one group ahead of the standard A-List members.

Priority security and check-in lanes

These will be the same as those for A-List.

100% bonus

One dramatic difference between A-List and A-List Preferred is that the bonus earning rate jumps up from 25% to 100%.

So this is with the earning rates look like:

A-List Preferred

  • 12X per dollar for Wanna Get Away fares
  • 20X per dollar for Anytime fares
  • 24X per dollar for Business Select

That 24X per dollar for Business Select is pretty high so if you are an A-List Preferred member and constantly flying Business Select around the country you will be racking up tons and tons of Rapid Rewards!

If you value Rapid Rewards at 1.5 cents per point and this is what your percentage return will look like on your spend:

  • 18% for Wanna Get Away fares
  • 30% for Anytime fares
  • 36% for Business Select

Getting 36% back for your spend is pretty huge in my opinion. And if you are using a credit card like the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card, you could be getting back over 40%! 

Free same day standby

The same standby benefits apply to A-List Preferred members as above.

Dedicated A-List phone number

A-List Preferred members have a dedicated line as well but their number is different. The A-List Preferred priority phone line is 1-888-737-1006.

Free Wi-Fi

Another unique benefit for A-List Preferred members is that they get free Wi-Fi on flights. Now, not every Southwest flight will have Wi-Fi capabilities but you can check to see which ones do before the flight. Unfortunately, I have not been too impressed with Southwest’s Wi-Fi experience over the past couple of years.


A-List Status matches

Southwest has been known to offer status matches to A-List.

Typically, the way it works is you provide Southwest with proof of your elite status with another domestic airline and they will provide you with A-List status for 90 days.

Then during that 90-day period, You can get your status extended by an additional 12 months by meeting a certain threshold of flights. For example you may need to make three qualifying roundtrips or six one-way flights. You can find the Southwest status match information here. 


A-List upgrades

A-List does not offer complementary upgrades to Southwest Business Select.

Instead, if you are interested in getting upgrades to Business Select then you should look into the Southwest Priority Credit Card which offers four annual upgrades. You should know that you also can pay for an upgrade when you arrive at the airport for a pretty modest price, usually around $30-$40.


Southwest Companion pass

If you are doing a lot of flying to earn A-List then chances are you probably are a contender to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. That is an extremely valuable pass that will allow a companion to fly for free with you for up to two calendar years. Read more about the Companion Pass here


Is A-List worth it?

So is A-List list worth it?

Well, that is going to depend on your personal preferences and flying habits. Below are some questions that you may want to ask yourself to see if the status will be worth it for you.

Do you utilize a standby?

If you are someone who does a lot of traveling for business then you might want to catch those earlier flights whenever meetings end shorter than expected or you get done with your work quicker. Being able to utilize the standby tickets for free is a great benefit for those type of people but you might already get that perk with Business Select.

Do you cut things close?

If you are always on the go and typically arrive at the airport just before departure then being able to breeze through the check in line and even the security line could be a major benefit for yourself. The combination of A-List, TSA Pre-Check, and CLEAR could be a great trifecta to get you through to the boarding area very quickly.

Do you want to earn a lot of Rapid Rewards?

As an A-List member, your Rapid Rewards earnings will greatly increase especially if you are able to achieve A-List Preferred. If you are someone who can earn Rapid Rewards with work travel, then this could be a great way to take advantage of the status.

And you don’t always have to put your Rapid Rewards towards travel. I know a few people who do not travel that often outside of work and they use their Rapid Rewards for gift cards. You might be sacrificing a little bit of value but what good or travel points if you have no goals or intentions to travel?


Final word

Elite status with Southwest may not be about the upgrades but Southwest Airlines A-List offers several perks to make your travel more convenient and rewarding. With expedited check-in, security, same-day standby and other perks this status can be worth it for a lot of people. For more on Southwest, be sure to check out my tips here


Infographic

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2 comments

  1. Excellent in-depth analysis. I learned a number of things. Instead of check in, in several places, you have “chicken“. I It was kind of funny but I imagine you would like to correct it. The first place I saw it was 6.2 and then I also sought in bold somewhere way down the article.

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