Earlier this year, I discovered a special promotion in my account for an upgrade to A-List if I flew a certain amount of times within the next two months.
As it happens, my flights were already booked and I actually discovered the promotion during the last few days it was active! I was a little disappointed at first because I thought I wouldn’t qualify. I didn’t activate the promotion before I booked my flights (many of which already happened) but it turns out Southwest gave it to me anyway.
(always check your Promotions tab!)
For the last few months, and the remainder of this year, I’ve been enjoying the benefits of A-List. I already have TSA PreCheck so the Security Lane Access perk isn’t a game-changer but earning 25% more on flights and Priority Boarding has been nice.
It also pushed me to try to figure out how the A-List program worked and what I could do to simplify earning it (like I do for Southwest Companion Pass).
Table of Contents
🔃 Updated November 2023 with the latest details on how to get A-List and A-List Preferred. We also added a section that discusses the changes to the Rapid Rewards program coming for 2024.
There are two A-List tiers, “regular” A-List and A-List Preferred.
The three big benefits of A-List are:
- 25% earning bonus – You earn 25% more Rapid Reward points on flight purchases
- Priority Boarding – Instead of watching the clock and checking in at exactly 24-hours beforehand, Southwest checks you in automatically and you get a higher boarding position. Usually a low A after the Business Select (1-15).
- Priority Check-in and Security Lane Access – There’s a separate line at the check-in counter for Priority Check-In and, in airports that have it, a special Security Lane for you through TSA similar to TSA Pre-Check.
The benefits of A-List Preferred are a little sexier. It includes everything from A-List plus two premium drinks on each flight (176 miles or more), the earning bonus goes up to 100%, and you get free inflight wi-fi.
Earning A-List & Preferred
If you travel a lot (such as for work), it’s not hard to earn A-List.
If you don’t travel a lot, it’s challenging because the program is based heavily on flights.
A-List requires 25 one-way qualifying flights or 35,000 Tier Qualifying Points. (it drops to 20 qualifying flights after January 2024)
A-List Preferred requires twice as much of both, 50 one-way qualifying flights (40 after January 2024) or 70,000 Tier Qualifying Points!
Much like Companion Pass, you get the benefit once you satisfy the requirements. Once you’ve flown your 25th one-way qualifying flight, you’ll be A-List for the remainder of the year and the following year.
🤔 My feeling is that earning A-List through flying is going to be easier than earning it through TQPs. 25 one-way is one round trip flight a month plus a one-way thrown in. A-List Preferred flying is much harder and those are probably earned by folks who do quite a bit of travel for work.
How to Earn Tier Qualifying Points
Tier Qualifying Points are Rapid Rewards points you’ve earned that also accrue towards A-List and A-List Preferred. The rule of thumb is that all flying based Rapid Reward points you earn will count plus a subset of your credit card earned points. You won’t get it from partners, transfers, or any other means. It’s a far more restrictive rule than the 135,000 points you need to earn Companion Pass.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card gives you 1,500 Tier Qualifying points for every $10,000 you spend, up to 15,000 tier qualifying points. If you were to earn the maximum of 15,000 TQPs, you’re still 20,000 TQP short to reach A-List. It’s the only credit card that will give you TQPs. (we have it and the business card, only the Premier gives us TQPs).
When you first get the card, the Rapid Rewards bonus points aren’t TQPs. You do, however, get 1,500 TQPs from that initial bump.
The only other way to earn TQPs is through flights, earning them on this schedule (same as Rapid Rewards earning rate):
- Wanna Get Away Fares: 6 points per dollar of base
- Wanna Get Away plus Fares: 8 points per dollar of base
- Anytime Fares: 10 points per dollar of base
- Business Select Fares: 12 points per dollar of base
35,000 TQP at 6 points per dollar of base is $5833.33 in fares. $3,500 in fares at Anytime rates and $2,916.66 in fares at Business Select rates.
Optimizing Fare Price vs. TQP Earning
Depending on the flight, sometimes the price between a Wanna Get Away and an Anytime is close enough that you make it back up with points. Sometimes that decision exists between Business Select and Anytime. Sometimes there is no decision.
For example, I checked some flights from BWI (Baltimore) to LAS (Las Vegas) and they looked like this:
The Wanna Get Away fare is obviously the cheapest, so we’d normally opt for that. If, however, there were no Wanna Get Away fares then you might be put to a decision because the difference between some of those flights is relatively small.
On the earlier Anytime fare (Flight #742) you would earn 5730 points and on the Business Select you’d earn 7476, a difference of 1746 for only $50. That values the Rapid Reward points at 2.86 cents each, which is higher than most valuation estimates.
(Business Select also lets you board A1-15 and gives additional perks, icing on the cake)
Why don’t you earn 10x or 12x the fare listed? Southwest shows you the all-in price, including fees and taxes, but you only earn points on the base fare.
A-List & A-List Preferred Changes for 2024
In late 2023, Southwest announced it would be changing some parts of the Rapid Rewards program.
The biggest change for A-List purposes is that you now get 1,500 TQPs towards A-List and A-List Preferred with every $5,000 spent on your credit card. You are now earning TQP at twice the rate.
Next, as mentioned earlier, the flight requirements for both status levels will be decreasing:
- A-List requires just 20 one-way qualifying flights (down from 25)
- A-List Preferred requires just 40 one-way qualifying flights (down from 50)
They also added the two premium drinks to each flight over 176 miles. That was added November 6th, 2023.
How much is A-List and A-List Preferred Worth?
It depends on your flying patterns but I will pay for Priority Boarding on any flights longer than a 2 hours – I take about three of those flights a year. That’s $90 ($15 each way).
On those flights I’ll usually pay for Wi-Fi too, that’s another $48. $138 in benefits each year.
Next, you’ll want to calculate how many miles you estimate you’re flying each year to calculate the benefit of the 25% and 100% bonus. Last year, I earned 18,000 RR points on flights. 25% of that in points valued at 1.6 cents is $72. 100% bonus would be $288 in value.
Personally, A-List would be worth $162 a year and A-List Preferred would be worth $426.
It’s not nearly as valuable as our Companion Pass, which is easily worth thousands of dollars each year depending on how often you fly, but it’s a nice perk.