This is post #4 in a series discussing the Southwest Rapid Rewards program:
This series contains:
- Southwest Credit Card 50,000 Point Offer
- Earning and Redeeming Southwest Rapid Reward Points
- Earning Status with Southwest and the Benefits
- Changing and Canceling a Southwest Ticket
- Earning the Southwest Companion Pass
- Converting Southwest Credits to Free Flights
- Transferring Points to Southwest
- Transferring Points/Credits between AirTran and Southwest
- Extending the Life of Free Flights from Rapid Reward 1.0 Program
- Booking Southwest Flights with Chase Ultimate Reward Points
- Canceling a Flight Booked with Points
- Changing a Flight if Booked as a Roundtrip
- 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.
Additionally, for changing a flight, no advance notice is needed. Even if you forget to cancel your ticket and the flight has already taken off, Southwest will automatically cancel your ticket for you and refund the credit/points within a few days. Again, you will not be charged. Chances are this policy will change, but for now, there are no rules.
Now, since there are no fees at all, if the price of your flight goes down you are able to get a credit. You essentially do this by changing your flight online for the same flight originally selected. 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.
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!
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.