Last week, I compared the Southwest and Hawaiian experiences. But our experiences with the airlines are only part of the equation. So, let’s compare HawaiianMiles versus Rapid Rewards.
HawaiianMiles versus Rapid Rewards
HawaiianMiles and Rapid Rewards are radically different programs. For one, HawaiianMiles uses, well, miles as a currency, while Rapid Rewards uses points. More important than currency type, though, is the fact that HawaiianMiles is a traditional loyalty program, whereas Rapid Rewards is a revenue-based one. Revenue-based, by the way, means your earnings depends on how much you spend, while redemptions are based on ticket prices.
HawaiianMiles, being one of the few traditional programs left earns miles based on the number of miles flown. That means, a roundtrip flight between Honolulu and Kahului will earn you 200 miles (500 for Pualani Platinum). By the way, that type of flight usually costs anywhere between $100 and $200. Likewise, a roundtrip flight between Honolulu and Oakland will earn 4,819 miles. A random, non-stop flight in February 2020 costs $533, in case you’re wondering.
Because Southwest’s Rapid Rewards is a revenue-based program, flying between Honolulu and Maui won’t earn you only 200 points. That because Rapid Rewards members earn:
- Wanna Get Away?: 6 points per $
- Anytime: 10 points per $
- Business Select: 12 points per $
- Wanna Get Away?: 7.5 points per $
- Anytime: 12 points per $
- Business Select: 15 points per $
- A-List Preferred
- Wanna Get Away?: 12 points per $
- Anytime: 20 points per $
- Business Select: 24 points per $
With a typical flight between Honolulu and Kahului costing around $107, you’ll earn between 492 and 984 points as a standard member. And if you’re an A-List Preferred member, you’ll earn between 984 and 1,968 points. Going to Oakland instead? You’ll earn between 2,490 and 4,980 points as a basic member, and between 4,980 and 9,960 points as an A-List Preferred member.
Clearly, you’ll earn more miles with Southwest on inter-island trips. But on trips between Hawaii and the continental U.S., you’ll earn more with HawaiianMiles. Earnings, though, are only half the equation.
Like its earnings side, HawaiianMiles uses a traditional redemption system. For flights within Hawaii, you’re looking at redemption amounts of 15,000 to 40,000 miles for a roundtrip economy award. Roundtrip first class awards, on the other hand cost between 30,000 and 60,000 miles. YIKES.
For West Coast award flights, HawaiianMiles charges between 40,000 and 180,000 miles for an economy award. For Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard cardholders, those rates are discounted to 35,000 to 170,000 miles. Seriously. First class awards cost between 80,000 and 160,000 miles.
Much like the earning side, redemptions with Rapid Rewards work completely differently too. There isn’t a reward chart for Rapid Rewards as redemption values depend on destination, date, time, demand, etc. as is the case with cash rates. So, the same Honolulu-Kahului flight listed above costs between 6,386 and 23,946 points. The referenced Honolulu-Oakland flight above, likewise, costs between 32,357 and 94,032 points.
As you can see, Wanna Get Away? award fares are cheaper than Hawaiian’s cheapest award fares. But, Business Select award fares aren’t worth it at all. It’s worth noting that all Southwest award flights require an $11.60 taxes and fees payments per roundtrip reward.
Co-Brand Credit Cards
To keep things simple, I’m only going to cover consumer credit cards in this section.
Now, let’s apply the spending assumptions I made in my Hawaii Credit Card Award Travel Guide 2019 post:
- Groceries: $6,000/year
- Gas: $3,840/year (2 cars)
- Dining: $6,000/year
- Travel: $6,000/year
- Entertainment: $1,200/year
- Other: $10,800/year
Clearly, the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard earns more than the Southwest cards. However, remember the redemption rates above? Your points go farther than Hawaiian’s miles. For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority earns you seven inter-island roundtrip awards every year at the lowest available award price. With Hawaiian, though, you earn only three.
Though Hawaiian Airlines co-brands its credit card with Barclays, they’re an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner too. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio in 1,000 points increments.
Rapid Rewards’ co-brand credit card is issued by Chase, so it comes as no surprise that that Chase Ultimate Rewards is the transfer partner for Rapid Rewards. Like Amex and HawaiianMiles, Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1 to Rapid Rewards in 1,000 points increments.
Referencing my Hawaii Credit Card Award Travel Guide 2019 post once again, here’s how many points you can earn:
- Sapphire Preferred + Freedoms: 69,870 points
- Sapphire Reserve + Freedoms: 80,370 points
- Amex Gold: 81,840 points
- Gold + EveryDay Preferred: 98,520
- Amex Gold + Platinum: 99,840
Again, clearly, your potential to earn points is better with Hawaiian’s transfer partner, Amex. But, the Amex combos require WAY more annual fees, and, of course, Rapid Rewards points gets you farther. For example, the Sapphire Reserve combo earns you 12 roundtrip inter-island award flights on Southwest. With Hawaiian, on the other hand, the Gold + Platinum combo earns you only six roundtrip inter-island ward tickets.
Finally, let’s take a look at the different elite statuses of both programs.
Clearly, HawaiianMiles provides better elite benefits than Rapid Rewards, and is much easier to attain. That said, HawaiianMiles isn’t as good as other traditional programs like Alaska MileagePlan or Delta SkyPass (in terms of elite benefits). And, Rapid Rewards Companion Pass is an extremely valuable benefit, even though you give up all other benefits to have it. By the way, Companion Pass works on both cash fares AND point redemption award tickets.
In case you’re wondering, A-List requires you to spend as much as $5,834 in Wanna Get Away? fares or $2,917 in Business Select fares (before taxes and fees) to attain. Pualani Gold, on the other hand, is attainable after four and a half roundtrip flights between Hawaii and California. And, it’s worth noting that, while Rapid Rewards allows points from credit card spend to count towards status qualification, there are limitations. You can only do so with the Priority or Premier cards and you’re only earn 1,500 qualifying points per $10,000 spent up to a maximum of 15,000 points.
HawaiianMiles versus Rapid Rewards, Final Thoughts
Which program works best for you largely depends on your personal preferences. There’s no doubt that Rapid Rewards has the potential to get you more free travel than HawaiianMiles. But, being a no-frills airline, there’s little in the way of elite benefits to enjoy. Well, that is, unless you have Companion Pass and would travel more than one or two times per year with your companion. And that’s if you can even qualify for Companion Pass, as it requires A LOT of flying to reach.
As someone that doesn’t chase airline status, though, I think Rapid Rewards is the better program here. It’s WAY easier for me to get points with the program and the award flight costs, especially on inter-island flights, are potentially much lower too. Heck, I already transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to my and Mrs. Island Miler’s Rapid Rewards accounts to take our most recent inter-island trip!