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Southwest just launched one of its best buy-points sales, offering Rapid Rewards members a 45% discount on all point purchases through November 30. Loyalty members who buy at least 5,000 points will score Rapid Rewards points for just 1.51¢ 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 1.51¢?
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.
- Point purchases between November 26 and November 30, 2020 (promotional period) will receive up to a 45% discount.
- 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 45% discount will get you a $742.50 discount 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.
Let's look at an example itinerary to see if buying Southwest points makes sense. This non-stop itinerary from Los Angeles (LAX) to Las Vegas (LAS) 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 1.51¢ a piece, it would cost $41.09. After adding the $5.60 security fee, you're left with a total cost of $46.69. That's $1.71 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 1.5¢ from your Southwest points in the case of a cheap connecting itinerary. But, it's going to be hard to get more than 1.51¢ 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.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 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 travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 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 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.
- 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022
- 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:
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- Citi® Double Cash Card
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!
- 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
Unlike other airlines, Southwest doesn't constantly offer a buy points promotion. 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 a solid 45% discount—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 discount 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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