Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards has just rolled out its latest promotion on purchased points. The concept of a revenue based frequent flyer program selling points has always been strange to me, so let’s take a look at the details.
Southwest Rapid Rewards selling points with 70% bonus
Through Friday, November 20, 2020, Southwest is offering a bonus when you purchase Rapid Rewards points. Specifically, you can receive a tiered bonus of up to 70%, as follows:
- Buy 3,000-9,000 points, get a 60% bonus
- Buy 10,000-14,000 points, get a 65% bonus
- Buy 15,000+ points, get a 70% bonus
Southwest lets you purchase at most 60,000 Rapid Rewards points per day, though there’s no annual limit on how many points you can purchase. Southwest ordinarily charges 2.75 cents per purchased Rapid Rewards points.
With a 70% bonus, you’d be looking at paying $1,650 for 102,000 Rapid Rewards points, which is a cost of ~1.62 cents per Rapid Rewards point.
How much are Southwest points worth?
Southwest Rapid Rewards is a revenue based frequent flyer program, and the number of points required for a flight is directly correlated to the revenue cost of a flight. As a general rule of thumb:
- Southwest Airlines Wanna Get Away fares cost 76-78 points per dollar
- Southwest Airlines Anytime fares cost 78 points per dollar
- Business Select fares cost 78 points per dollar
In other words, each Rapid Rewards point is worth somewhere around 1.3 cents towards the cost of a ticket on Southwest Airlines.
Is buying Southwest Airlines points worth it?
Let me cut to the chase — there are few situations where it makes sense to purchase Rapid Rewards points. Even at the discounted cost, there’s not usually value in buying points for ~1.62 cents each when you can only redeem them for ~1.3 cents each.
There are three potential scenarios I’d like to address, including the main scenario where I think it could make sense, which is to build up a balance of Southwest points, given the flexibility this provides.
Buying points to top off for an award
Some might buy points in order to top off their account so they have enough points for a Rapid Rewards award ticket. I guess this might be worth it to some if you need a small number of points, though personally I’d just keep collecting points and then redeem with your next ticket. That’s especially true when you consider how many points you need to buy in one transaction to get the best per-point cost.
Buying points with Southwest Companion Pass
The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is one of the best values in domestic travel. It ordinarily requires earning 125,000 qualifying points in a year, and if you get this, you can always have a companion travel with you for just the standard taxes, regardless of whether you’re booking a cash ticket or redeeming points.
For those with a Companion Pass, buying Southwest points could get you outsized value:
- You could buy points for 1.62 cents each
- You could then redeem them for 1.3 cents each towards travel and have a companion fly with you, meaning you’d get 2.6 cents of value
However, there’s still absolutely zero reason to do that. You’d be better off just booking a paid ticket and then having a companion fly with you.
For what it’s worth, buying Southwest Rapid Rewards points doesn’t count towards Companion Pass qualification.
There is value in having a stash of Southwest points
There is one major benefit in general to paying for a ticket with Southwest Rapid Rewards points rather than cash. While Southwest Airlines has no change fees on both revenue and award tickets:
- If you cancel a revenue ticket then you need to reuse that travel credit within a certain amount of time, and also the same passenger has to travel
- If you cancel an award ticket then the Rapid Rewards points go back into your account and can be used for anyone at any future point in time
I do think there’s big value in having a stash of Rapid Rewards points. I use this when I speculatively want to book travel (including for friends and family), since there’s no downside. Meanwhile if you cancel a revenue ticket, the same passenger still has to use the credit within a limited period of time.
Which credit card should you buy Southwest points with?
If you’d like to buy Southwest Airlines points (for whatever reason), note that purchases are processed by points.com, meaning they don’t count as an airfare purchase for the purposes of credit card spending.
Therefore I’d recommend using a card on which you’re trying to reach minimum spending, or otherwise, a credit card that maximizes your return on everyday spending.
Other ways to earn Rapid Rewards points
If you’re looking to earn Southwest Airlines points, there are a couple of best ways to do so:
- You can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio (there’s even a 20% bonus on those transfers through October 30, 2020)
- Southwest has several excellent co-branded Chase credit cards, which offer big bonuses
Southwest is selling Rapid Rewards points with up to a 70% bonus, which brings the cost down to ~1.62 cents per point.
Personally the only circumstance under which I think it makes sense to buy Southwest points is if you’re trying to build up a future stash so you have flexibility for booking speculative tickets. But short of that, there’s not much value, in my opinion.
Under what circumstances do you think it’s worth buying Southwest Airlines points?