This is post #2 in a series discussing the Southwest Rapid Rewards program:
This series contains:
- Southwest Credit Card 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
Overview of the Southwest Program:
Earning and redeeming points with Southwest is as simple as the math you learned in elementary school. It is a fixed earning program, both on the earning and redemption side, and there is little strategy to maximize your points. Southwest is not for the person who is interested in flying business class to Europe (since they do not have business class seats and do not fly internationally – although they are starting to add on more flights to the Caribbean and Mexico). It is for the person who is not interested in gaming the system, wants a simplistic program, wants to fly domestically, and wants flexibility with changing/canceling tickets.
Earning Southwest Rapid Reward Points:
When you fly with Southwest, you will earn a number of points based on the price of your ticket and ticket type. The number of segments and miles flown do not matter, it all boils down to the ticket price.
Per the chart above, you will earn anywhere between 6 and 12 points per dollar spent. The prices are typically most expensive for Business Select fares and least expensive for Wanna Get Away fares.
- Business Select Fare: 12 points per dollar spent (for example, a $400 fare will earn you 4,800 points)
- Anytime Fare: 10 points per dollar spent (for example, a $250 fare will earn you 2,500 points)
- Wanna Get Away Fare: 6 points per dollar spent (for example, a $150 fare will earn you 900 points)
Now, this is for the regular flyer. This does NOT take into consideration any bonuses at the time or if you have status. I’ll discuss earning status and the benefits in a future post, but here are the bonuses for earning points:
- A-List Status: 25% bonus on points earned (for example, with a $150 Wanna Get Away fare, you will earn a total of 1,1,25 points)
- A-List Preferred Status: 100% bonus on points earned (for example, with a $150 Wanna Get Away fare, you will earn a total of 1,800 points)
Redeeming Southwest Rapid Reward Points:
Redeeming points with Southwest is also very cut and dry. Again, it is a fixed program and is all based on the ticket price and the fare type you desire.
You will redeem between 70-120 points per dollar. Again, the Business Select fares will typically require the most points (since more expensive flights), while the Wanna Get Away fares will require the least points (since are the least expensive flights)
- Business Select Fare: 120 points per dollar spent (for example, a $400 fare will cost you 48,000 points)
- Anytime Fare: 100 points per dollar spent (for example, a $250 fare will cost you 25,000 points)
- Wanna Get Away Fare: 70 points per dollar spent (for example, a $150 fare will cost you 10,500 points)
The only benefit to redeem for a Business Select or Anytime Fare is the ability to standby for another flight that same day free of charge. With a Wanna Get Away fare you’ll need to pay the fare difference. If you aren’t 100% of your ideal flight, go ahead and book two flights (assuming you have enough points) and cancel the one you end up not needing. To pay double or almost double the amount of points needed for very little benefit is just crazy to me (with Business Select you’ll also get an “A” boarding pass to board the plane early and a complimentary drink, definitely very little extra value to redeem more points).
With all three fare types you can cancel your ticket at any time and get the points redeposited back into your account for FREE!
Strategy to “Gaming” the System:
With Southwest there really is no system. The only thing I’d suggest is if you are purchasing a ticket for someone else who doesn’t really partake in the program, use your points for them, and pay for a ticket for you. This way you earn points on your paid ticket.
Additionally, if you plan on earning points on all three fare types, but only redeeming on a Wanna Get Away fare, you can think of your return back in points as the following:
- Business Select Fare: 20% return on your purchased ticket to then redeem on a Wanna Get Away fare
- Anytime Fare Ticket: 16.66% return on your purchased ticket to then redeem on a Wanna Get Away fare
- Wanna Get Away: 8.5% return on your purchased ticket to then redeem on a Wanna Get Away fare
Typically, the percentage difference on your return will not make purchasing a more expensive fare type a better value. As a rule of thumb, purchasing a Wanna Get Away ticket and redeeming your points on a Wanna Get Away ticket is best (unless of course an employer is footing the bill and you have that flexibility).
Credit card to help earn the companion pass: As mentioned previously, there are three different Southwest cards – ALL of them have the same bonus offer after meeting the minimum spend requirements, but different annual fees and annual bonuses. You can view all three cards and the differences in this prior blog post. You can learn more about all Airline credit card offers 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!