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Southwest just launched its latest promotion to buy points, offering a 50% discount on Rapid Rewards purchases. If you want to take advantage of this promotion, you have until 11:59 p.m. CT on December 24, 2023. You'll need to buy at least 5,000 points to get the 50% discount on Rapid Rewards points. This promotion might be targeted — so some members might see a different discount amount. If you've got the 50% discount, it drops the price of Rapid Rewards points to just 1.5¢ each.
While this seems like a good deal at first glance, it may be worth thinking twice before pulling out your wallet. That's because Southwest devalued its Rapid Rewards points in 2021 and will devalue them again in 2024. Southwest points generally have a fixed value between 1.3¢ and 1.5¢ each. Does it ever make sense to buy them for 1.5¢ apiece? Let's dig in.
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 that's higher than the standard value people get when redeeming their points — a loss for the traveler.
However, there are a few exceptions to the general rule. 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 in this scenario since it's one of the fastest (and easiest) ways to top off your account balance.
The second is when buying the points necessary to book a flight you want is actually 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.
Southwest Buy Points Key Terms
- This promotion offers up to a 50% discount through December 24, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. CT.
- Minimum purchase amount is 2,000 points (no discount).
- Must purchase at least 5,000 points to receive the 50% discount.
- Loyalty members can buy a maximum of 60,000 Southwest 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 and non-reversible.
Southwest says points will be deposited within 72 hours of purchase. However, data points from AwardWallet users show that points purchases are processed immediately.
The buy Southwest points offer that we're seeing at AwardWallet has just one discount tier:
- 2,000–4,000 points: No discount (3¢ each)
- 5,000–60,000 points: 50% discount (1.5¢ each)
Is It Worth Buying Southwest Rapid Rewards Points?
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, easily cancel or change your booking with industry-leading flexibility, as well as check two bags for free.
However, unlike some of the other major U.S. airlines, Southwest assigns a fixed value to its Rapid Rewards points. This means that the award price is directly tied to the current cash price of the ticket. After a Southwest devaluation in early 2021, the Dallas-based airline now charges 81–83 points per dollar of the base fare.
After factoring in taxes and fees, you're generally left with a per-point value of 1.3¢–1.5¢ — depending on the taxes and fees on the flight. The advantage of this is that you'll never be left wondering if you're getting a good deal. The disadvantage is that this makes it nearly impossible to buy and redeem Southwest points for outsized value as you can with AAdvantage miles or Alaska Mileage Plan miles.
How to maximize Southwest Rapid Rewards redemption rates
There are two main tips for maximizing your Southwest redemption value: buying cheap tickets and 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. For really cheap flights, the PFC could end up being a significant portion of the cash price. And on connecting itineraries, you'll be required to pay the PFC to multiple airports.
Therefore, you may be able to get more than 1.5¢ in value from your Southwest points in the case of a cheap and/or connecting itinerary. Let's show you one example.
Let's look at an example itinerary to see if buying Southwest points makes sense. This non-stop flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Las Vegas (LAS) is going for a reasonable cash price of $90 after taxes.
If you were to book this same flight with points, it would cost 5,797 points + $5.60.
If you could buy exactly 5,797 Southwest points at 1.5¢ apiece, it would cost $86.96. After adding the $5.60 security fee, you're left with a total cost of $92.56. That's $2.56 more expensive than just buying the flight with cash!
And that's before considering other factors. For example, if you bought the flight with cash, you'd earn 168 Rapid Rewards points from taking the flight. That's a minimal amount, but it still eats into the advantage of buying Southwest points. Then there are the rewards you would earn for purchasing the ticket using a credit card with a good return on travel spending.
Also, you need to buy Southwest points in increments of 1,000 points, making it harder to buy just the right amount of points for a flight. Here, you'd need to buy 6,000 points for $90, plus add the $5.60 in taxes for your award booking. The math is getting even worse.
Buy Southwest points to top off your account
One of the few instances where it can make sense to buy Southwest points 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.
Buying some points to top off your account might make sense if a sale is ending soon and you don't want to pay the full cash fare.
Other Ways to Earn Rapid Rewards Points
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. Since earning Ultimate Rewards doesn't necessarily cost you anything (apart from maybe the annual fee), it's a cheaper solution than buying Southwest points.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, and 2x on all other travel purchases, and $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
- Member FDIC
- 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2025
- 5X points on travel purchased through Chase
- 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide
- 3X points on eligible streaming services
- 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs)
- 2X points on all other travel
- 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
You also can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Southwest. This is done at a 3:1 ratio, plus a 5,000-point bonus for every 20,000 points received in your Southwest account. For example, sending 60,000 Marriott points nets 25,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
If you aren't 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® Priority Credit Card. The current sign-up bonus offers 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- 7,500 anniversary points each year.
- Earn 3X points on Southwest® purchases.
- Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
- Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
- $75 Southwest® travel credit each year.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- Member FDIC
- 3X points per $1 spent on all Southwest® purchases
- 2X points per $1 spent on all Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
- 2X points per $1 spent on local transit and commuting, including rideshare
- 2X points per $1 spent on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming services
- 1X point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Maximize Your Southwest Points Purchase
Like many other loyalty programs, Southwest uses Points.com (a third party) to process point purchases. Why does this matter? Though the purchase is made on Southwest's website, it won't post as travel and hence you won't earn bonus rewards on many of the best travel rewards cards. That makes the following cards your best choices:
- Any credit card where you're working on a sign-up bonus. These are the best credit card offers currently available if you're looking for a new card.
- Any credit card with perks you can unlock from spending, such as hotel free night awards, hotel elite status, or airline elite status.
- Your best credit card for everyday spending, such as the Citi Double Cash® Card or Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
It's also worth noting that one of the payment options you're able to select is the “Rapid Rewards Credit Card” when you buy Southwest points. While not guaranteed, this should trigger the applicable multiplier for a Southwest purchase if you pay with a co-branded Southwest credit card. These bonus points would change the math on the value you get from the purchase, so it's something to consider.
A few years ago, Southwest didn't offer many promotions to buy points, but it's offered quite a few as of late. This 50% discount — costing 1.5¢ per point — is one of the best promotions Southwest has offered. But it's always worth evaluating the promotion and doing the math for your specific situation. In many cases, it won't make sense to buy Southwest points, but it can be a relatively good deal for the right redemption.
This current promotion allows you to snag Rapid Rewards points at the upper end of what we consider face value. Still, it's generally better to acquire Southwest points through co-branded credit cards, shopping portals, or possibly converting Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Do you plan to buy Southwest points for 1.5¢ each?
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