Why You Shouldn’t Buy Southwest Airlines Points, Even For 45% Off

Filed Under: Southwest
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Obviously this isn’t the time to buy points speculatively. However, there are also lots of people planning last minute trips to get home, or planning travel way in advance, so if that applies to you, buying points at a discount could be worth considering. That’s why I’ll keep covering deals to buy points as they arise, though I’d generally shy away from these promotions for the time being.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards has just rolled out their 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 points are 45% off

Through May 22, 2020, Southwest is offering a tiered discount when you purchase Rapid Rewards points, as follows:

  • Buy 2,000-9,000 points, get a 25% discount
  • Buy 10,000-14,000 points, get a 35% discount
  • Buy 15,000 or more points, get a 45% discount

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 this promotion you could purchase a total of 60,000 Rapid Rewards points for $907.50, which is a cost of ~1.51 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 ever worth it?

Let me cut to the chase — there’s virtually no situation where it makes sense to purchase Rapid Rewards points.

Even at the discount cost, there’s not value in buying points for ~1.5 cents each when you can only redeem them for ~1.3 cents each.

There are two potential scenarios I’d like to address.

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 1,000 points or something, though personally I’d just keep collecting points and then redeem with your next ticket.

That’s especially true when you consider that the cost is lowest to buy points when you buy a lot of them, so you’ll pay even more per point if you buy a small quantity.

Buying points with Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is one of the best values in domestic travel. It 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 1.5 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.

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.

See this post for more on which credit cards are best for buying points.

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:

Bottom line

Southwest is selling Rapid Rewards points for up to 45% off, which brings the cost down to ~1.5 cents per point. This is among the lowest costs we’ve seen on purchasing Southwest points.

However, there really are no circumstances under which you should buy Southwest points, in my opinion.

Anyone have a different take on the value proposition?

Comments
  1. I would say the points are actually much easier to use than cash, which when cancelled used to be a pain to track and keep up with it, and you only the rest of the 12 mo left to use it or lose it. However now that Southwest has made this easier to track travel funds, I would agree no reason to buy points.

  2. If you don’t fly SWA very often (I have non-rev privileges on multiple airlines), points are absolutely essential for booking backup itineraries. I have probably utilized my point stash 10 times over without ever actually taking a flight.

  3. You know at this current situation, for speculative buying you are better off buying Southwest (or just any airlines) stocks over miles.

  4. Do purchased points count towards EARNING the companion pass? If so, then that could be worth it. I have about 90K earned this year, only because I did the 80K business card signup that was offered at the end of last year. I’m now over 5/24, so I can’t get the personal card to get to 125K, and I don’t pay for tickets on SW that often. Maybe purchasing 35K points would be worth it for me?

  5. Lucky,

    When referencing buying Southwest RR points, I’m not sure what you meant by “they don’t count as an airfare purchase for the purposes of credit card spending”. In November 2019, I purchased RR points with my Chase SWA Performance Business Card and the full cost earned me 3X RR points due to it being recognized as a purchase from SWA.

    I sometimes book multiple Wanna Get Away tickets for the same trip (combinations of different routings, dates of travel, etc.) as I don’t know what my final itinerary will need to be. With RR points, when I cancel the unneeded segments, I get 100% of my points immediately returned to my account, and get 100% of security fees credited back to my credit card. If I had purchased these same tickets with cash, I would have significant travel credits available to me–and only to me–with SW for 12 months from when the ticket was purchased (this disregards their temporary policy of extending expiration dates of these funds). I could not realistically use the funds prior to their expiration. For me, booking with points is the way to go.

    Regarding the purchasing of points, it’s a no brainer that it is a money-losing proposition in the absence of using those points in conjunction with a Companion Pass.

  6. In this case I have to disagree for our own personal case. Here’s why. Southwest has one of the best cancellation policies out there and we cancel and change flights a lot. If I book with points then it is easy to cancel and the points go back onto account. However, when I book with cash then the cash is not refunded but the balance can be used for a future flight but has to be used by the same traveler and has to be used within twelve months of booking. So it’s worth it to me to be able to book with points and have the flexibility of using it for anyone in the family and no restrictions on the date.

  7. I think @Tommy Boy is right. A good stash of WN points is better than a bunch of WN travel credits, usable only by named travelers.

  8. @Tommy Boy
    @stvr

    Ignoring the cost, I agree WN points are better than credits.
    But is it really worth paying 15% more (based on this 1.5 vs 1.3 valuation) so it can be used for anyone.

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