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The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you've got an Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card — points earned with these cards can be transferred to Rapid Rewards at a 1:1 ratio in 1,000-point increments. In this article, we'll explain the basics of redemptions with the Rapid Rewards program.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards program is revenue-based — both with earning and redeeming. In turn, this can make it challenging to determine the best time to transfer Ultimate Rewards to Rapid Rewards. Hopefully, reading this article will help you identify when you should transfer Chase points to Rapid Rewards and when you shouldn't.
Impact of Southwest Rapid Rewards Redemptions Being Revenue-Based
Most airline loyalty programs adhere to either a region-based (such as American, Delta, and United) or distance-based (including British Airways) award chart. In short, this is where you'll pay a set amount of miles based on the regions your travel includes or the distance of the flights you book.
With Rapid Rewards, you won't find any award charts. As long as there is a seat for sale, you can redeem your Rapid Rewards points to pay for it. The price is directly correlated to the cash price for that seat. The higher the cash rate, the more points it'll cost you and vice-versa.
Four Types of Southwest Fares
Southwest sells four types of fares for all flights: Business Select, Anytime, Wanna Get Away Plus, and Wanna Get Away.
Business Select fares are the most expensive and include the most benefits. In comparison, Wanna Get Away fares are the cheapest and include the basic perks of flying Southwest, such as two free checked bags.
Anytime fares and Wanna Get Away Plus fares provide more flexibility than Wanna Get Away fares but don't include all of the perks of the Business Select fares. Wanna Get Away fares are the least expensive and most popular; we'll limit the scope of discussion to these fares.
Redemption Value of Southwest Points & When to Transfer From Chase
When redeeming Rapid Rewards, you'll use more points for a more expensive fare. To put this in perspective, let's compare fares for a sample one-way ticket from Chicago-Midway (MDW) to Orlando (MCO):
Here are the same flights priced in points:
Depending on the specific flight, you can find six different Wanna Get Away cash fares for this route. These fares range from $188 to $275. The same flights are available for 12,646–20,081 points.
Even though there appears to be a fixed point value for all cash rates, that does not mean the redemption value is the same for all flights. Taking into consideration the $5.60 in taxes on these flights, we see five different redemption values on this MDW-MCO route:
- 1.44¢ per point for the $188 fare
- 1.42¢ per point for the $210 fare and $221 fare
- 1.41¢ per point for the $231 fare
- 1.36¢ per point for the $211 fare
- 1.34¢ per point for the $275 fare
Based on these results, we see that you generally get a better redemption rate on lower fares. However, none of these fares offer the best redemption values we've seen.
Cash fare examples
For cheaper fares, it's possible to get a better value. Take a look at these cash fares available from Cincinnati (CVG) to Baltimore (BWI):
Now, look at the points fares for the same flights:
In this case, you would receive a redemption value of 1.48¢ per point.
Since Southwest has devalued Rapid Rewards points over the last few years, it’s getting harder to get good value for your points. Redemptions of less than 1.5 cents per point should be avoided. Remember, if you're cashing in points earned from your Sapphire Reserve, you'll get 1.5 cents per point in value through the Chase travel portal. Why not just use those points to book flights with cash at a higher redemption rate — especially where you would also earn rewards as those are considered paid flights?
How To Transfer Points From Chase to Southwest
Thankfully, transferring points from Chase to Southwest is much easier than you’d think. Head to the Chase travel portal here, log in, and choose “Transfer to Travel Partners.”
After you select Southwest, enter your Rapid Reward details. It’s important to note that you can only transfer points to yourself or one authorized user on your account.
Then, choose how many points you want to transfer. You must transfer in increments of 1,000.
Finally, review your information and hit submit.
Data points from AwardWallet users show that most transfers are instant. Also, it's important to know that your point transfers are final. Once you transfer the points, you cannot transfer them back to Ultimate Rewards.
Other Factors To Consider
Among the many reasons to love Southwest Airlines, we've found two that stand out from all others. First, Southwest is the only U.S. commercial airline still offering free checked bags to all passengers (subject to weight and size limitations); in fact, you get two free checked bags per passenger. Depending on your scenario, this could easily save you more than $75 each way.
In addition, Southwest doesn't charge award change or cancellation fees. If you book a ticket using Rapid Rewards points and need to change or cancel your award, you can do so without penalty. Your points will be redeposited for no additional charge. Also, if you need to change your award, you can do so simply by paying the difference in the fare with your points. Even better: If you notice the fare drops for your fight, you can go to Southwest’s website and have the difference refunded to your Rapid Rewards balance.
Lower fares tend to provide better redemption rates for Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards travelers. Fares under $100 can be particularly attractive. You can get value if you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest Rapid Rewards for these. For other fares, you should use your Ultimate Rewards to pay for flights in the Chase travel portal.
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