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Southwest just launched a new buy points sale offering Rapid Rewards members a 40% discount on all point purchases through September 21. Loyalty members who buy at least 15,000 points will score Rapid Rewards points for just 1.65¢ per point.
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 recently devalued its Rapid Rewards points. Now, Southwest points generally have a fixed value of between 1.3-1.5¢ each. So, does it ever make sense to buy them for 1.65¢ 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 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 through September 21, 2021 (promotional period) will receive up to a 40% 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 40% discount will get you a $660 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. After a recent Southwest devaluation, Southwest now charges between 81-83 points per dollar of 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 this precludes you from the ability to buy and redeem points for outsized value as you can with AAdvantage miles or Alaska Mileage Plan 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 $48.98. If you were to book this flight with points, it would cost 2,671 points + $5.60.
If you were able to buy exactly 2,671 points at 1.65¢ a piece, it would cost $44.07. After adding the $5.60 security fee, you're left with a total cost about $49.67. That's about the same as the cash price. So, it could theoretically make sense to buy Southwest points at this rate.
However, there are other factors. If you bought the flight with cash, you'd earn 194 Rapid Rewards points from the flight. That's not much, but it narrows the advantage. Also, you need to buy Southwest points in increments of 1,000 points. That makes it hard to buy just the right amount of points for a flight.
There are two 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. 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 may be able to get more than 1.6¢ from your Southwest points in the case of a cheap connecting itinerary — but probably not 1.65¢ 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.
- Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
- 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022
- 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
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 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 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
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, it just doesn't make sense. If you're in a pinch and need the points quick, at least this discount allows you to snag them for a little more than face value. But, it's generally better to acquire Southwest points through co-branded credit cards, shopping portals, or converting Ultimate Rewards.
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