Changing and Canceling a Southwest Ticket

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This is post #4 in a series discussing the Southwest Rapid Rewards program:

This series contains:

  1. Southwest Credit Card 50,000 Point Offer
  2. Earning and Redeeming Southwest Rapid Reward Points
  3. Earning Status with Southwest and the Benefits
  4. Changing and Canceling a Southwest Ticket
  5. Earning the Southwest Companion Pass
  6. Converting Southwest Credits to Free Flights
  7. Transferring Points to Southwest
  8. Transferring Points/Credits between AirTran and Southwest
  9. Extending the Life of Free Flights from Rapid Reward 1.0 Program
  10. Booking Southwest Flights with Chase Ultimate Reward Points
  11. Canceling a Flight Booked with Points
  12. Changing a Flight if Booked as a Roundtrip
  13. Getting Money Back if the Flight Goes Down in Price

Compared to all the other US airlines, Southwest has the best change/cancelation policy out of them all. While I know many people are anti-Southwest, their flexibility with changing and canceling flights really makes them a winner in my opinion. This flexibility has allowed me to make speculative flights and cancel at any point (even after the flight has taken off!).

The below scenarios are for Southwest’s “Wanna Getaway” fares, which I believe the majority of the people book.

Southwest has no fees for changing or canceling your flight! For changing a flight, however, you will need to pay the fare difference if the price has increased, but other than that there are no additional fees like other airlines charge – some charge up to $150 per passenger!

Here are the four scenarios on how you will get refunded for your reservation:

  • Purchasing a ticket with a credit card: If cancelled, you will receive a credit back in the full amount you paid valid for one year from when the ticket was purchased. Unfortunately, these credits are not transferable.
  • Purchasing a ticket with Southwest credit or a voucher: If cancelled, you will receive a credit back in the full amount you paid, but the expiration date will stick with the original voucher expiration date. This will not extend the date. Again, these credits/vouchers are not transferable.
  • Purchasing a ticket using points: If cancelled, you will receive the full amount of points used back into your account. The points will go back into the account from which they were pulled from even if they were used on another passenger. There is no fee at all!
  • Purchasing a ticket using a free ticket: If cancelled, you will receive the free ticket back into your account. This will not extend the expiration date. If the ticket was used for another passenger, it will still go back into the account from where the free ticket was pulled from. There is no fee at all!

For all four scenarios, you will also receive the full amount of taxes back to your credit card. If you cancel the reservation via the phone, however, many times they will not tell you this and instead give you a credit to be used for future travel for the taxes (ranging from $2.50-$7.50 one way). Make sure to request that the taxes go back to the credit card. When canceling online, you will receive the two options below “Hold for future use” and “Request a refund of the refundable balance”. The “Hold for future use” is automatically selected, so make sure to change that option.

Southwest Travel Funds

Southwest now requires that you cancel or change a ticket prior to the flight departing. This is a new-ish rule for Southwest and you must cancel/change at least 10 minutes prior to take off. If you don’t Southwest will not credit you back the amount/points if you miss your flight. I still think this is a VERY reasonable policy as changes/cancelations can still take place day of departure for no fee!

Now, since there are no fees at all, if the price of your flight goes down you are able to get a credit. Here are the two scenarios on how you will get the fare difference back:

  • Paid flight: If you pay for your flight, you will receive a voucher for the difference to be used one year from the date the flight was purchased. This voucher is non-transferable. The voucher will be tied to the confirmation number of the original flight booked, so make sure to keep this number handy when used for future reservation purposes.
  • Flights booked using points: If you booked your flights using points, the difference in points will go back into your account.

You can follow the exact steps to do this in this prior blog post. After selecting the exact same flight you were originally scheduled for, you’ll see the new and exchanged ticket total at the bottom of the page along with the difference.

If a Flight Goes Down in Price

You will then see the new ticket price listed.

If a Flight Goes Down in Price

Since I have a good amount of Southwest points due to the two Southwest credit cards I applied for in November 2011, I am able to book flights on a whim and not have to worry about canceling them. Sometimes if I am not 100% sure of the exact desired dates, I can book for both dates and cancel the one that doesn’t work. I also do not have to strategically decide when the best flight price will be, because if the price goes down I’ll get the points back! I must admit though, if I have Southwest flights reserved, I do check the prices every morning. For example, I booked a flight for my sister a month ago and the price has already dropped twice $40 less. This flexibility works out great for me and my booking habits for domestic travel.

Current Southwest Credit Card Offer: There are four different Southwest credit cards in total, two personal and two business versions. The main differences is that the cards have different annual fees and bonus points after each year. ALL of them have the same bonus offer. You can view all four cards and the differences in this prior blog post. You can also apply for the Southwest card here. 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As always I’ll list the best offer available as my goal is for you to travel on a deal!

Pingbacks

  1. […] Southwest is having a four day sale for non-stop routes including Chicago, Baltimore, and Orlando (flight must be purchased by April 22 at 11:59pm local time of the originating flight). This is for travel May 3 through June 30, 2013. I looked up some non-flight stops to these three destinations and found some pretty cheap fares, so if you are looking to travel to these destinations it is worth checking it out. OR, if you already have flights booked involving these cities, check to see if your flight went down in price and you can get a credit! You can check how to do this in this prior blog post on “Changing and Canceling a Southwest Ticket.” […]

Comments

  1. I don’t understand. I thought certain fares i.e. Business and Senior fares were fully refundable to your credit card and didn’t have to be used for another Southwest ticket. Please explain further. Thanks

    • @Old Flyer – That is correct. It is the “Wanna Getaway” fares that I’ve outlined. I’ll be comparing the differences between fares and their perks in a future post.

  2. Southwest has their “low fare finder”, covering their lowest fares for any given month, but I’ve not been able to find a comparable feature for AirTran; do you know if there is such? Or, lacking that, how can one go about finding the best AirTran fare over a month, other than checking a day at a time?

    • @Jack – Unfortunately AirTrans interface is not as user friendly. You can used kayak which will pull in three days before and after.

  3. I cancelled a ticket over the phone and tried to get the taxes credited back to my card, but they said they couldn’t do it. It was all tied to the confirmation code and they couldn’t separate the base fare from the taxes.

    • @Kay – Only when you book with points will you get the taxes credited back to the credit card that was used to book the reservation. With a paid reservation both the fare + taxes will be given back in the form of a credit.

  4. I have cancelled many flights using points. After not getting my taxes back the first time I called Southwest. You have to physically right down each confirmation code, one for passenger and companion. The next time you book you use that code and enter under travel funds, then choose the travel funds option. Then that money is put towards your new taxes. I have done it a dozen times because I always booking advance with my points and as you know sometimes life happens and you can’t go.

  5. If I buy a ticket for someone, and they can’t go and tell me this in advance, can I get the credit and use it for myself in the future or does it have to be the original person I bought the ticket for? Thanks!

    • @andrea – if you purchase with credit card and then cancel the credit amount can only be used for the person that the ticket was originally purchased for. If purchased with points then they just go back into your account and can be used again by anyone.

  6. Thanks Dealswelike. That’s interesting that one form of payment can affect who uses it next. Good to know for flaky friends hahaha. Too bad one can’t then just buy points.

  7. I recently purchased two round trip Southwest tickets using my Southwest credit card and charged the tickets. I was just rewarded the 50,000 points and wonder if there is any way to change instead of cancel the charged ticket to points instead?? Thanks!

  8. I’m glad I’m not the only one who obsessively checks southwest prices after booking! I bought my first ticket with this new rewards system and I’m glad I can do the same with my points. Wahoo!

    • @Tammy – You will get back the amount paid in a credit which expires one year from the date you purchased the ticket. The credit is not transferable.

  9. So my husband and I are military and we bought the round trip wanna get away tickets but our leave dates switched. So now we have to change the tickets. There shouldn’t be a problem if it’s just a day or so off. What I’m aasking is what will happen.. thanks!

    • @Krysta – Southwest does not charge any change fees. So if the price is exactly the same then the credit will get applied to the new date. If the price is less than the difference in price will go back as a credit good for one year from the date booked. If the price is more then you will need to pay the difference.

  10. Southwest is slowly becomes like all the others; now you have to cancel your flight 10 min before scheduled takeoff or you don’t get your credit back. Also, some time back they disallowed use of one person’s funds by another person. Still they are better in other ways mentioned here.

  11. Can I book two completely separate trips with just one cancelled trip’s worth of travel funds? My original trip’s fare was pretty expensive, so I would like to use it toward more than one future trip (within the required year). I know the tickets bought need to be directly for me, but I cant seem to find anywhere if its possible to split travel funds between two different future trips.

  12. Hello,
    I could really use some advice. I purchased 2 round trip tickets from Grand Rapids MI to Aruba on AirTran 11/15/13. Yesterday I had to cancel the trip and they gave me a credit minus $300. Here’s my problem, when I went to book a trip that we could take I discovered that AirTran no longer flys from Grand Rapids Mi, now that area is serviced by SWA. I called air tran to ask what I should do and they told me I am out of luck and would need to fly out of Detroit (about 3 hours away). Any thoughts?

    Thank you,
    katy

    • @katy – you can still purchase southwest operated flights via airtrans website. Is the system not allowing you to apply your voucher when a southwest flight is included in the itinerary?

  13. What if I pay with points (for base fare) and gift card (for tax)? I know points will be back to my account, but tax will be refunded to gift card balance or travel fund?

  14. I have a small number of SW rapid rewards points. I also have 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase Preferred card. I need tickets for my friend and myself to Florida.

    For maximum benefit,
    1)should I purchase tickets for my trip out of the Chase travel website or

    2) transfer my UR points to my SW account and then purchase the flights using points?

    What if the price drops….how would that affect either plan?

    thanks ~

    • @jam64 – You will get the best value by transferring your UR points to your SW account and then purchase the flight using your Southwest points. You actually cannot book Southwest flights from the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Regardless, you still get a better value by transferring your UR points to your SW account and then purchasing the flight with your SW points.

      If the price drops the difference in points will be credited to your Southwest account (assuming you actively change your flight for the lower price ticket).

  15. Thanks …. good info.

    If I redeem some of my SW Rapid Rewards points for a car rental for my daughter using the More Rewards link on SW, will those points be re-deposited in my RR account if she cancels the car rental before the rental date?

    Are there any cancellation fees for car rentals purchased with Rapid Rewards?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    • @jam64 – Off the top of my head I actually do not know. I’ve never used my points for a rental car. I’ll look into it and get back to you.

  16. My neighbor who has been just given a terminal diagnosis of cancer has cancelled a reservation for a trip she had thought she’d be taking in March. Clearly, the credit does her no earthly good. How can she:
    A. Get a refund or B. Transfer the credit to someone else?

    • @Meredith – Southwest’s general policy is a voucher in the name of the traveling passenger valid one year from date of purchased. With that said, I suggest calling Southwest and asking to speak to customer service. My assumption is they will make special accommodations as long as you provide documentation (a doctors note). I had a similar situation with the companion pass and they were very accommodating as long as there was proof.

  17. I have made round trip reservations. Can I cancel part of my round trip and still get full credit? Credit is good for one calendar year so if I made my reservation on Feb. 25 do I have to actually travel somewhere by that date or just make another reservation by that date?

  18. I’ve flown the outbound leg of a round trip ticket purchased with points and now find it necessary to cancel the return trip. Do I get full credit for the return trip ticket?

  19. Hi…I’ve read your comments about cancelling a flight and getting a credit for a subseequent flight within one year…is there any possibilites of getting the funds credited back to my credit card? I know for sure I cannot book a another flight within a year’s time.

    Thanks

    • @faz – you can call customer service and ask to speak to a supervisor. Explain your situation and maybe they will allow it. I believe you’d need some sort of doctors note though (just from prior experience)

  20. If I purchase a roundtrip ticket for my wife and I, but then need to change the travel dates of just one leg, and just for me, can I cancel just my one part of the package, leaving my return and her roundtrip intact? Or will I need to cancel both complete round trips?

    I’m trying to figure out if I need to purchase our tickets separately (and purchase mine as two one-ways), to have the flexibility to cancel and apply the funds to a new flight, without risking the entire ticket price going up if we have to repurchase then.

    I know I’m risking having to pay extra if the new date for my flight there is more than the original price, but at least I won’t have to worry about having to pay more for my return flight or her full round trip if the fares have changed!

    • @Fred – The great thing about Southwest is even if you book as a roundtrip, you are actually booking individual one-ways since they price out separately. If you need to cancel one of the one-ways, just call Southwest and they will be able to cancel one of the one-ways for you while keeping the other one-way intact.

    • @Sheryl – Call Southwest’s customer service. If you get the reservations line, ask for the customer service number – they work business hours and many times you’ll get a busy signal, but keep on calling. Many times they will make an exception. Let me know and goodluck!

  21. I canceled a flight November 2013 so my points expire this November 2014. Can I book a flight that is for after November if I book it before November?

  22. My dad cancelled his flight and got a travel fund and he wanted to give it to me but when i booked the ticket it says i have to put the person the travel fund is credited to name on the traveler? Is there a way i can change to my name?

    • @Lily – Unfortunately the credit can only be used for the person who the flight was originally booked for. Credits are non-transferrable.

  23. Can you change a ticket reservation for just one person if there are two people on the reservation?

    My husband and I are both booked for round trip flights from PHX to Kansas. I want to change my ticket so it goes from to SLC to Kansas. Is this possible without him having to change his ticket as well?

    • @Morgan – Yup! When you go into change your reservation online it will ask you which passenger you’d like to change. You can select both your names or just one and change your reservation from there.

  24. I’m returning from a cruise and don’t know if I can make the early flight. Can I book two flights on the same day and cancel if I can’t make the first?

    • @Sue – Yes you can. Just make sure to cancel the flight you do not take at least 10 minutes prior to scheduled departure time.

  25. How many times are you allowed to change a flight on southwest? I originally thought that you could only apply the credit for canceling a flight once.

  26. So I booked tickets on the southwest app and it was being slow and a sign popped up saying error retry so I retried it and It went through so I checked my account and it charged me twice and I got 2 emails saying it went through twice so it did the transaction twice and I got 2 different transaction codes so I cancelled one of the trips not even a minute after I booked it and I called southwest and they said it would go back in my account. But will it ???

    • @summer – did you book with points or pay for the flight? If cancelled within 24 hours on a paid flight the credit card used will be refunded. If you used points the points will go back to the account they came from.

  27. I booked roundtrip tickets for my husband and myself to Denver. He may not be able to go as he has an opportunity to travel to China for his job. Will I be able to either get my money back or will I be offered a travel voucher for a later time?

    • @Debra – as long as you cancel your ticket 10 minutes prior to flight take off you will get a full refund. If you booked with points the points will go back to your account. If a paid ticket then you’ll receive a credit for the total amount of the flight valid one year from when the flight was originally booked.

  28. I purchased tix last year and couldn’t make the trip due to an injury. My tickets are expiring in feb but I won’t be able to travel by then. Can redeem any part of tickets and use it at a laterrible date?

    • @nicole – Call customer service. Sometimes they are really good with extended it or allowing you to pay a fee to extend it.

  29. I purchased/booked 4 round trip tickets on January 8, 2013 in which I had cancelled, leaving me with SW full refund credits— that were good if I used the SW credits, within one year. When the year was up in 2014, I was unable to use the SW credits due to my brother unexpectidely passing away in Feb 2014, and 2-months later in March 2014, my dad passed away on my brothers birthday. I called SW customer relations and they issued a full credit for all 4 tickets, with LUV vouchers, good for one year from original booking date of Jan 8, 2013, which I had to fly and complete my trip by Jan 8, 2015. In October 2014, my grandmother passed away, which was another loss within the same year, and the holidays were approaching. I just couldn’t use the LUV vouchers by Jan 8, 2015, with all the sorrow I was feeling and flying was the last thing I was thinking about. I called customer relations again on Jan 8, 2015 asking to please give me another 45 days, but with no luck, they were unable to issue my credits for all 4 tickets, equalling $511.20. I was very upset and wondered why SW customer relations couldn’t make an exception for me, given my situation was not a typical excuse. Mentally, I couldn’t take off on a plane by Jan 8, 2015, with a smile, right after the sadness I endured during the holidays. Is there any suggestions for getting my credits back? Thanks

    • @Kim – I am so sorry to hear about these unfortunate events. That is horrible. In regards to Southwest extending the credits, I think that was very nice of them to extend it the first time so I do not think they will extend it a second time. Another airline, unfortunately, wouldn’t have even extended it the first time for you and probably would have charged you a change fee to begin with. Again, I am so sorry.

  30. I booked two round trip tickets to FL. Unfurtunately, I can’t make the trip. Can I cancel my ticket and still let the other passenger travel? The tickets were booked in my name… Thank you

  31. I booked two round trip tickets to FL. Unfortunately, I can’t make the trip. Can I cancel my ticket and still let the other passenger travel? The tickets were booked in my name… Thank you

    • @Mike – I am assuming one ticket was booked in your name and one ticket was booked in the other passengers name? You can absolutely call Southwest and have them cancel your ticket and keep the other passengers ticket. Unless is this a companion pass ticket?

  32. Kudos to whoever is running this site as that person answers back to the majority of the posts here even when people are asking the same thing over and over again. Thanks so much! I read most reviews and got my answer from simply reading.

  33. I bought three tickets and now one of the passengers can’t go. Can we switch the name on the ticket to another person who can go? Or do we have to cancel the first ticket, get the voucher and then rebook the new ticket for the new person with new money (since I know we can’t transfer vouchers).

    • @lash – unfortunately you cannot transfer the names on ticket. you’ll need to book the new passenger a new ticket and the voucher you receive for the person who cannot go is valid for a year (from when the flight was booked) and cannot be used for anyone else

  34. If I purchase a southwest ticket for a family member using my credit card. And then decide to cancel it within 24 hours, do I get the full refund back to my credit card?

    thanks

  35. If I cancel a Wanna Get Away flight and receive a credit to use within a year.. what happens to the money if I can’t use the credit within a year? Does SW issue a refund back to my credit card at that time?

    • @Joyce – Unfortunately then you will lose the credit. You can always call customer service and ask for an extension.

  36. My job books a lot of flights for our techs to work on different projects throughout the country. Sometimes a tech will get fired or quit before the flight and southwest gives us a general voucher. I had to cancel a flight last year because my father needed emergency heart surgery. My brother now needs to come up from FL for a family emergency and he has no money. I called to ask if I could use my credit for him and they said no. Why can we get general vouchers for techs but I can’t get one for my brother? We don’t have any type of corporate acct and use my owners credit card so what’s the difference?

  37. I had to cancel a flight last year because my father needed emergency heart surgery. Now my brother needs to come up from FL for a family emergency, when I called to see how I could use my credit for him they told me I couldn’t. Now my company books flights all the time for our techs to work on projects throughout the country. Sometimes a tech will be fired or quits before their flight and southwest gives us a general voucher so we can use at a later time for another employee. We don’t have a corporate acct, We use one of our owners credit cards to book all our flights. Why can my company get general vouchers but I cannot?

  38. This is about a One-Way ticket.. Can I change a paid with dollars flight, to being a paid with points flight, using the original confirmation number? I didn’t have enough points to cover it before, but now the price has dropped, and points are less. I would rather use my points for this, and keep the credit, and keep the Early Bird attached to the original confirmation number.

    • @joyce – you can go ahead and book the flight with points and then cancel your paid ticket. The only issue is that the amount you paid for the original ticket will be credited to a voucher and will need to be used (flight flown by) within a year from
      When the flight was booked.

  39. Thanks for the great summary.

    Is there any condition that you’ve heard under which Southwest might refund to credit card on canceled lowest economy fares that must normally go to credit voucher fund? Sickness, loss of job, anything at all?

    • @Greg – I have not. But some airlines (Southwest possibly included) have protection if you lose a job or doctors note, etc.

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