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The benefit of Southwest is that you can speculatively book your flights and if you cancel there are no change fees, which I love! Of course, if you pay for your flight with cash and need to cancel you’ll receive the amount paid back in the form of a voucher which is only valid for one year.
But…. if you pay for your flight with points and you need to cancel, all of the points used go right back into the account the came from! And… any taxes/fees paid go straight back onto the credit card that was used! Southwest treats flights with points as a fully refundable fare, so you can book flights and cancel as often as you like and do not have to worry about getting a voucher for the taxes/fees.
UPDATE AS OF 5/9/17: If you change a flight, any flights that were booked as a fully refundable fare will turn non-refundable (this impacts: flights booked with points, business select fares, and anytime fares; this does not impact paid wanna getaway fares). This means if you cancel a flight that was changed, you’ll receive the money back as a travel voucher, not back to your credit card. Learn more here.
When you go to cancel your flight online, just make sure to select the “Request a refund of the refundable balance” radio button. If you cancel your flight over the phone, the representative might not tell you about this option so ensure you specify that you’d like a refund on the taxes/fees paid.
Because of this amazing option, I love having a lot of points in my Southwest account. Southwest points are currently worth about 1.43 cents a piece, so if I can purchase Southwest points for that amount or less I am content doing so. I’d much prefer to use Southwest points to book a flight even if I purchased the points at the same cost as paying for the flight with cash. This is another reason I love the points earned from the Southwest credit card. I am able to make unlimited reservations speculatively! And for those that are able to get the companion pass (the points earned from the credit card sign up bonus do count!), you are able to have a friend/family member fly with you for free an unlimited number of times!!!
Real life application: Yesterday Southwest extended their reservation schedule to allow customers to purchase flights for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years (and any other date from November 1 through January 4, 2015). I immediately went ahead and booked flights from New York to Aruba for a few different dates. As of right now, I ideally would love to go to Aruba, but I am not 100% sure I’ll be able to pull it off and which dates will work best. The taxes/fees for these international flights are much more expensive then domestic flights (about $70ish), and fortunately if I need to cancel the points will be redeposited right back to my account and the taxes paid will be credited back to the credit card used. If I had paid for this flight with cash and then canceled, I would have received the amount paid in the form of a voucher valid one year from the date I purchased the ticket (which means an expiration date of yesterday, NOT the date the ticket was canceled). While it is great there is no cancelation fee, a voucher with a short expiration window that can only be used in my name is not ideal either.
So yesterday I was able to book a flight to Aruba for 28,560 points and $72.50. I then added my husband on as my companion and only had to pay the same $72.50 in taxes/fees. The dollar value of this is equal to $553 total for two tickets!! Additionally, we are contemplating whether or not we should take the little one or leave her home with the Grandparents. To add her on as a lap child will only cost the same $72.50! And we have the benefit of being able to cancel if needed.
You can learn more about Southwest in this series:
- 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
- Transferring Points to Southwest
- 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