Don’t Let your Southwest Free Tickets Expire

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Yesterday I posted on how to ensure you do not let your Southwest Rapid Reward 1.0 credits expire, but you also need to pay attention to your free tickets expiration dates as well.

Free tickets were part of the old Rapid Rewards 1.0 program where after you accumulated 16 credits you earned a free roundtrip ticket on Southwest. Those free tickets are now fading away since you no long earn credits, but instead points and the redemption depends on the cost of the ticket. Points do not expire, however, credits do as I explained in yesterdays post.

So if you still have free tickets from the old program, you should know that they expire 12 months years after they were credited to your account. However, for $50 you have an additional 24 months to extend the expiration date an additional 12 months. This means that if you earned an award on December 1, 2009, it expired December 1, 2010. But, you have until December 1, 2012 to pay the $50 and extend the expiration an additional 12 months. The 12 month expiration starts the day you extend the ticket, so if you wait until November 30, 2012, the ticket will not expire until November 30, 2013. If you let the 24 months pass by and do not extend the ticket, you are out of luck – so do not forget to do this! Essentially you have a full 4 years to use your standard award tickets!

So how do you find out when your ticket is expiring?

Step 1: Click on the “Where are my old Credits and Awards” blue button after you sign into your account.

Step 2: Click the “View awards” link.

You will then see all the awards you have available with the respective expiration date and reissue availability.

Any award that states that it is not available for reissue means that it is a new award part of the Rapid Reward 2.0 program. That also means that the award cannot be extended for the $50 fee. If the award states that it is available for reissue, you have the option to extend the award. You will notice that I currently have two standard awards. The first expiration date is February 15, 2011, which means I have until February 15, 2013 to reissue the award and pay the $50. If you only have a one-way award available (which means just Coupon A or B is listed) you will still have to pay the same $50 fee. To reissue you the ticket you can call Southwest directly or click on the “Yes” link next to the award you’d like to extend.

Unfortunately, the only way to search for award availability is to currently have an award reissued or to call customer service. Once all your awards are expired and have yet to be reissued you will not be able to search availability online, which is the biggest pain and something I just do not get, but it is what it is. In these situations your only option is to call the reservations agent and explain to them that you want to check availability for using a free rapid reward ticket from the old program. Remember, these tickets are capacity controlled.

Make sure to not allow those awards expire as they can be extremely valuable! Also remember, that you can transfer your awards to AirTran with no fee (1 Southwest standard award = 1 AirTran standard award). If AirTran has better flight options and is available you might be better off transferring your ticket. However, remember though AirTran has very different change/cancellation policies (not as flexible as Southwest) and you are not able to use your Southwest companion pass if you have one.

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  1. Just to add – there’s a workaround I identified for standard awards (under the old program) that are set to expire. I have a standard award that expired, I extended it for $50, but never got a chance to use it and its now set to expire on 2/2013. BUT, thanks to a nice program Southwest and Airtran have in place to transfer points/awards, you can work around this expiration date – and if you read the terms and conditions, there’s nothing against it. Here’s what I did:
    1. Setup an Airtran A+ rewards account
    2. Go to the Southwest “Transfer to Airtran” page
    3. Transfer the standard award to Airtran – this will transfer at 16 A+ credits.
    4. Transfer the 16 A+ airtran credits back to your Southwest account

    Doing this will put the Standard Award back in your Southwest account AND extend the expiration date 1 year from today. So, my award set to expire 2/2013, will now expire on 12/26/2013.

  2. I have a one way award ticket that will expire at the end of January. I have lots of southwest points (11,000) can I exchange the points at Southwest into AirTran credits then back again?

  3. Thanks for the tip Mark. I was able to follow your instructions to move credits to Airtran and back to SW and get another year to use. Great tip!

  4. OMG, Mark! That was amazing! It completely worked and now I’m good until 3/28/2014 (today’s date is 3/29/2013, shouldn’t the expiration been 3/29/2014?)

    Minor, stupid nitpicking aside– WOW! This is an amazing tip. You saved my butt because it was literally gonna be impossible to book my trip to NY before expiration.

  5. this only works if you have a round trip standard award. i tried converting my SW to AT and back to SW..but only have 10 credits (8 from one way SW and 2 from AT)…so i have to wait until i get 16 credits to get another award. and my expiration date for credits remains!

  6. Thanks so much!! It worked for me today 11-10-13. I had purposely saved the round trip reward to use for Christmas and then just discovered today that Christmas is blocked out or not available at all for the locations we wanted to use it. It expired in Jan 2014 and we really wouldn’t have been able to use it by then. I followed the instructions here and it worked like a charm! Now we have until 11-09-14 ! Thanks for sharing!!

  7. Mark, thank you for the method. I used it last year, and went ahead and did it again because I only had two months. Now I don’t have to rush to use my flights.

    Bobby, thank you for your followup, and putting a date in there. It helped knowing the method still work. To do the same, I did this successfully February 1st, 2014. Now I have until 01-01-2015.

  8. Just did this on 2/2/2014 for some standard awards set to expire later this month and it worked perfectly. Thank you for the awesome tip!!

  9. I have credit that expires 4/4 I’m trying to book 4/3-4/7 but the travel has to be completed before the 4th what are my chances of getting an extension for those 3 days with my air credit? Will I have a fee?

    • @Mary – Unfortunately it will require writing a letter to customer service and I still don’t think they will allow the extension. However, if you follow my steps in the roundabout way to extend your credits by transferring them to AirTran then back to Southwest you should be all set.

  10. What is the timeframe of transferring to AirTran then back to Southwest? Can I do it all in one day or does it take 24-48 hours?

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