Southwest Is Selling Points With a 75% Bonus, But Is It Worth It?

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Southwest has just announced one of its most lucrative buy-points sales ever, offering Rapid Rewards members a 75% bonus on all point purchases through September 28. Loyalty members who buy at least 5,000 points will score Rapid Rewards points for just 1.57¢ per point. That's one of the best prices we've seen Southwest sell points.

While this seems like an incredible deal at first glance, it may be worth thinking twice before pulling out your wallet. Southwest points currently have a fixed value of between 1.3–1.5¢ each. So, does it ever make sense to buy them for 1.57¢?

A Note on Buying Points

At AwardWallet, we don't generally recommend buying points and miles speculatively. Most loyalty programs sell points at a price point that makes it difficult to receive outsized value, so you're often better off holding onto your cash.

However, there are at least a few exceptions. The first is when you only need a few more points to complete a redemption you're planning. Buying points can make a lot of sense here since it's one of the fastest (and easiest) ways to top-off your account balance. The second is when buying the points necessary for an award flight you want to book is cheaper than paying the cash rate. Third, if you're struggling to meet a credit card sign-up bonus spending requirement, buying points can be a quick way to spend now for travel later.

Key Terms

  • Point purchases between September 18 and September 28, 2020 (promotional period) will receive a 75% bonus.
  • Loyalty members can buy a maximum of 60,000 points per day, with no annual maximum.
  • Purchased points do not count towards A-List, A-List Preferred, or Companion Pass qualification.
  • Purchased points may take up to 72 hours to post in the applicable Rapid Rewards Account.
  • Transactions are non-refundable.

The 75% bonus will get you 45,000 bonus points on the maximum purchase of 60,000 points.

Buying Points with a Fixed Value

Southwest's loyalty program is a little different from the rest. In many ways, that's a good thing. For instance, you can redeem points for any flight with seats available, you can easily cancel or change your booking with class-leading flexibility, and every passenger can check two bags for free.

However, unlike some of the other major U.S. airlines, Southwest assigns a fixed value to Rapid Rewards points. This means that the award price is directly tied to the revenue price, typically charging between 76–78 points per dollar of base fare.

After factoring in taxes and fees, you're currently left with a per-point value of 1.3–1.5¢. The advantage of this is that you'll never be left wondering if you're getting a good deal. The disadvantage is this precludes you from the ability to buy and redeem points for outsized value as you can with AA miles or Alaska miles.

Sample Redemption

Let's look at an example itinerary to see if buying Southwest points makes sense.

This non-stop itinerary from Dallas Love Field (DAL) to Atlanta (ATL) is going for a reasonable cash price of $44.98. If you were to book this flight with points, it would cost 2,721 points + $5.60.

If you were able to buy exactly 2,721 points at 1.57¢ a piece, it would cost $42.72. After adding the $5.60 security fee, you're left with a total cost of $48.32. That's $3.34 more than the cash price. Plus, by buying the flight with cash, you'll earn Rapid Rewards points from the flight. In this case (and likely most cases), you're better off paying the cash price.

There are two tips for maximizing your Southwest redemption value: buying cheap tickets on connecting itineraries.

When redeeming points for a flight, you don't have to pay the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) that's collected by the airline and remitted to airports. On really cheap flights, the PFC can be a significant amount of the cash price. And, on connecting itineraries, you have to pay the PFC to multiple airports. Therefore, you might be able to get more than 1.5¢ from your Southwest points in the case of a cheap connecting itinerary. But, it's going to be hard to get 1.57¢ per point.

Topping Off Your Account

One of the few circumstances where buying points can make sense is when you're just a few points shy of that next redemption, and you're on a time constraint. AwardWallet tracking shows that Southwest points are immediately deposited into a Rapid Rewards account. So, if a sale is ending soon and you don't want to pay the full cash fare, buying points to top off your account might make sense.

However, there's an even better solution to that problem. Southwest Rapid Rewards is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. That means that points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card can be transferred (instantly) to Southwest to top-off your account in a pinch. Since earning Ultimate Rewards doesn't necessarily cost you anything (apart from maybe an annual fee), it's a cheaper solution than buying Southwest points.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Bonus Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Our #1 recommended beginners rewards card featuring a 80,000 point signup bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®..
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases

Maximize Your Purchase

Like many other loyalty programs, Southwest uses Points.com (a third party) to process point purchases. This means that although the purchase occurs on Southwest's website, it won't qualify for any travel category bonus offered by some credit cards.

In cases like these, we suggest that if you're going to make a purchase, use it towards a minimum spending requirement for a welcome bonus or use a credit card optimized for everyday purchases. Some of the best cards for that include:

It's also worth noting that one of the payment options you're able to select is ‘Rapid Rewards Credit Card' when buying Southwest points. While not 100% certain, this should trigger the applicable multiplier for a Southwest purchase if you pay with a Southwest co-branded credit card. Those bonus points would change the math on the value you get from the purchase, so it's something to consider.

Other Ways to Earn Rapid Rewards Points

If you aren't as pressed for time, another way to build your stash of Southwest points is with a co-branded credit card. Chase offers a full portfolio of Southwest cards. Among the best of these offerings is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. The current sign-up bonus offers 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, plus an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.

That means that if you complete all the requirements, you'll have a stash of at least 125,000 Rapid Rewards points and will have qualified for the famous Southwest Companion Pass!

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
Annual Fee$199
Welcome Bonus Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.
The latest card to join the Southwest lineup of rewards cards, the Southwest Performance Business Card offers the highest Rapid Rewards signup bonus, earns more points than it's Southwest counterparts, receives a massive 9,000 point anniversary bonus, plus offers plenty of perks and benefits for Southwest fans. One of the best co-brand business cards on the market.
  • Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.
  • 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available
  • Inflight WiFi Credits
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® Fee Credit
  • Employee cards at no additional cost, earn points on employee spending.
  • 3X points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases
  • 2X points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services
  • 1X point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Bottom Line

Southwest doesn't offer a buy points promotion all that often. So, whenever one comes around, it's worth taking the time to look it over and do the math. But in this case—even with the best-ever 75% bonus—you're still a lot better off acquiring Southwest points through co-branded credit cards, shopping portals, or converting Ultimate Rewards.

But if you're in a pinch and need the points quick, at least this bonus allows you to snag them for (almost) face value.

Are there any other circumstances where buying Southwest points would make sense that I'm missing?

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Comments

  • Not really worth it at this point in time…

  • If airlines want people to convince buyers they should try harder.

  • In the past buying ,keeping and using a bank of points was the easier way for myself and my family to book trips where I wasn’t 100% sure I’d be taking. That way when i cancelled i didn’t have to bother tracking unused flight values. Even with the introduction of the tracking travel funds within each account I still tend to book our family of 4 with points from one account.

  • I would only consider buying Southwest points if I was coming up short on meeting a minimum spend on a credit card bonus!

  • Traveler 46 says:

    Points are transferable – Travel funds are NOT. It would make sense if you do not foresee travelling personally with your SWA travel funds, but might want to have family or friends travel using your points to purchase their ticket. MANY have cancelled flights that have resulted in “Travel Funds” as credits which are non transferable. Sooo that might be an advantage- also SWA points do not expire- my travel funds expire Sept. 7 2022. Just sayin’
    Great article!

  • No thanks for me, but interesting that they are getting creative in trying to generate some revenue.

  • These promotions make sense as a way for the airlines to pull cash forward as a loan against the points they’re distributing. I feel like they’d have to make this deal a good bit better to influence any speculative purchases. This would probably be a sharper price if travel was actually starting to ramp up again.

  • I agree with the author, I think buying points is not a great deal compared to holding onto your cash unless as stated you’re really close to an award flight on another airline, then it might be worth it to buy a few points to put you over the edge. I’ve never done it with Southwest because how far your points will go depends on the ticket price. With Southwest, better to just keep accumulating points until you can pay for the flight you want with points, rather than buying them.

  • Airlines are trying to seduce travellers but definitely it will be very hard to come back to normality

  • greyhk SWA changed policy about a year ago. points do not expire now, so no need to buy or take surveys to extend the expiration date for points.

  • I think i will not buy this point as it’s not safe to travel in 2020 with COVID-19, and the promo is not good to buy , it’s expensive.

    • I’d argue it’s just as safe, if not safer. Everyone has made an emphasis on cleaning and distancing. I flew internationally early last month and am flying again in November. It was great with how few people there were.

  • I can’t understand why Southwest offers something like this – when you can book a Wanna Get Away fare for basically the same price. I guess it helps their financial filings look better when the rewards program has unredeemed points sitting there?

  • I wonder why would anyone buy miles at face value when travel industry is said to never pick up again. It must be tough for companies offer promotions like this without looking desperate for cash.

  • Don’t fall for the trap.
    The bonus isn’t even that big, and buying points is not worth it at this point.

  • Before I knew about doing a survey to earn Southwest points, I had to purchase miles in the past just in order to keep my points from expiring. If you need to keep points from expiring, now might be a good time to buy.

  • I’ve bought Southwest points in the past, but I’m not sure that I’d do it now. Maybe if I needed to buy a plane ticket on 2 days notice and was sure I’d have a use for the points.

  • This promo is a joke. You are paying more buying points than cash fare. The bonus should be at least 100% before considering it.

  • Very little value in this promo, for me. With recent multipliers of earning rates on the CSR etc., transferring Chase points offers a better value.

  • I think SWA points are more valuable than 1.5 cent per mile, because with the miles, you can book multiple flights on different days and just cancel the ones you don’t use. so if your plans change you aren’t stuck paying last minute prices. All points are redeposited for free. If you try that with cash, you are stuck with credits that you have to use in a certain time frame. I have found they only cancel multiple flights on the same day.

    • Great point. And that’s exactly what I’ve done on this trip: use Southwest points to book a few different options and then see how things work out.

  • I don’t know if I would risk buying points right now, even if it is a very good price. I would rather pay more later, than pay less for something that don’t know if I ll be using

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    I’ve booked and taken advantage of these deals. It’s a great time to travel. Put down your mask and fake fear and get going. Southwest is the way to go.

  • It’s never worth it, especially in today’s climate, unless you are topping off for an immediate trip or are truly spur of the moment.

  • Michael C says:

    Another reason to buy SWA points: If you travel rarely but plan to do a trip in the near future – but not sure of the dates and may need to cancel, using points to “buy” a ticket gives more flexibility. You can cancel and get all point redeposited and point never expire. If you buy a ticket and cancel, the Travel Funds they give you will expire a year after you first made the reservation. Also, if you buy tickets for someone else with points and then cancel, the points go back to you – travel funds are only used for the person on the ticket.

  • Arne Gallagher says:

    At least one good thing if you buy the points that are about the same price as the value of the points is you can book flights at the cheap “Wanna Get Away” price with points and be able to cancel the flight and get the points redeposited. You can still cancel the cheap flight if you bought it with cash, but you would only then get a credit to use later. So, this helps you reserve and cancel flights for about the same price but be able to cancel without any lingering aftereffects of canceling.

  • Although this might be a savings for those with a family who like traveling on Southwest, I avoid them so this is definitely a no-go for me.
    I will say that since there are always award seats available, this is a better bet for getting a cheap flight than on some of the other airlines. Especially if you intend to use them for a flight to Hawaii (Which may be a more expensive flight.)

  • This is not a great time to buy miles. Better to wait so you aren’t sitting on a bunch of miles and facing devaluation.

  • I’m still curious what rate Southwest is going to use when they allow travel funds to be converted to points.

  • I do not think it is a good idea to buy points in this context (who knows when we will be able to travel in peace of mind again) unless the offer is not extremely profitable.

  • Southwest is probably one airline that will survive the current catastrophe so I might actually buy some points at this rate.

  • Great info!!! I have been waiting for the past few months to find an offer like this one! I am planning a trip and I am in need of some extra points… hope to make this deal on time

  • I think it only makes sense if you pay for the points purchase with a Southwest VISA card and you get the extra points for that also.

    I’m going to give it a try as we are a family of 5 and it costs us a lot for airfare each time we travel.

  • It’s clearly really tough for the airline industry in this pandemic. The industry will clearly bounce back but is a question of timing… Providing the airlines stay solvent! I have to say I have been pleasantly pleased how the airlines that I had flights booked for have accommodated either a reschedule or refund. As they have treated me fairly I am more inclined to invest a few air miles which will help their cash flow and myself in the long run.

  • I wouldn’t buy points now, unless it is to top up for a very specific reward redemption. Even though it may be debatable depending on the price of the ticket.

  • Liam Maloney says:

    I would generally choose a SW flight over other airlines due to their lack of baggage and seat fees, but would not buy points at any airline right now.

  • Yeah I wouldn’t ever buy points unless you have an immediate need to use them. Buying them is converting the most liquid asset (cash) into the most illiquid (airline points).

  • Not a good deal. This goes for Jetblue and most other airlines that have flexible point prices depending on the cash price.

  • I don’t think its worth it, I’d rather transfer points from my credit card to use them right before booking a flight instead of pre-paying in case I might book a southwest flight.

  • Florencia says:

    Beyond the fixed value of the points, it does not seem to me a good decision to buy miles in this context (in which unfortunately some companies will disappear after the covid 19 crisis)

  • Points promotions need to be properly analized. This one isnt worth it. Sometimes they might look like a risk and difficult to believe, that ones are the ones i like the most!

    • Can I ask what you do find to be worth it? I never find it worth it, bit I also can’t justify business class when I can get more trips in economy.

  • Planning on holding off for now as no trips are currently in the works via Southwest.

  • It’s interesting, but you have to do the math before

  • Thank you for the analysis! Not reason to buy this at this promotional price.

    • Same here. I just do not find it comfortable nor safe to travel in 2020.

    • I love the work and effort that AW puts into these posts letting us know where to find the maximum value and what the sweet spots are. I never would have thought cheap flights with a layover would be a criteria but now I know.

  • wow so it seems like their points program isnt the best. seems like proper investigation needs to be done before buying points. this is a very good post and i will hold off on buying points with them.

    • SW has no business class and their award pricing is tied to the cash price so you’ll consistently get around 1.5cpp – certainly good but nothing lucrative if you’re used to large redemption rates.

    • It’s not the best but they are consistent. They’re a no-frills airline and you’ll know what you’re getting every time.

  • I’ve bought Southwest points before, but I’m definitely not buying them now, I really don’t know when I’ll able to use them. Anyway some could find it rentable.

    • I wonder why airlines are offering point purchase sales when travelers very much resist against traveling.

      • @Charles, it’s all about them being terribly cash-strapped right now because of the very resistance to traveling out there that you mention. They are so desperate for cash that they are selling miles at steep discounts. It should be an opportunity for someone with disposal income. Pay for future travel now at a discount.

        • I’m concerned that since they are so cash strapped, they’re likely to devalue at some point down the track, cancelling out the benefits of any savings now.

          • I think airlines are still competing with each other and trying to win over consumers though. I don’t think any one of them wants to be the one to shoot themselves in the foot.

      • The fact that they offer it means people do it.