Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards has just introduced its latest promotion on purchased points. While there has long been value in strategically buying points, the concept of a revenue based frequent flyer program selling points has always been strange to me, especially for an airline like Southwest.
Let’s take a look at the details, but I’ll say upfront that this is an offer you probably shouldn’t take advantage of, even though this is in line with the best offers we see from Rapid Rewards.
In this post:
Southwest Rapid Rewards selling points with a discount
Through Friday, February 23, 2024, Southwest is offering a discount of up to 50% when you purchase Rapid Rewards points. Typically when there’s a promotion on purchased points, there’s a tiered discount that gets bigger the more points you buy. In this case you can get a flat 50% discount as long as you purchase at least 3,000 points in one transaction.
Southwest lets you buy at most 60,000 Rapid Rewards points per day, though there’s no annual limit on how many points you can buy. Southwest ordinarily charges 3.0 cents per purchased Rapid Rewards point.
If you were to buy 60,000 points with a 50% discount, you’d be looking at paying $900 for 60,000 points, which is a cost of 1.5 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.
Generally speaking, you need to redeem roughly 85 Rapid Rewards points for each dollar of airfare on Southwest. In other words, each Rapid Rewards point is worth just under 1.2 cents toward 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 1.5 cents each when you can only redeem them for ~1.2 cents each.
There are three potential scenarios I’d like to address, including the main scenario where I think it could make sense (but not really), 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 Rapid Rewards 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.
Buying points with Southwest Companion Pass
The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is one of the best values in domestic travel. It ordinarily requires earning 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar 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 1.2 cents each toward travel and have a companion fly with you, meaning you’d get 2.4 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 toward 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’ll be issued a travel credit that has to be used for a future flight (though at least nowadays travel credits have no expiration), while Rapid Rewards points can be redeposited in your account and used for anyone; some Southwest fares do allow you to transfer your ticket to someone else
- 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.
Which credit card should you buy Southwest points with?
If you’d like to buy Southwest Airlines points, 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 a minimum spending requirement, or otherwise, a credit card that maximizes your return on everyday spending, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review), Citi Double Cash® Card (review), or Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (review) (Rates & Fees).
- Earn 3% Cash Back on Dining
- Earn 3% Cash Back at Drugstores
- Earn 1.5% Cash Back On All Other Purchases
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
- Southwest has several excellent co-branded Chase credit cards, which offer big bonuses
Southwest is selling Rapid Rewards points with up to a 50% discount, which brings the cost down to 1.5 cents per point. I still don’t think there are many circumstances under which it makes sense to buy points, given that Rapid Rewards is a revenue based frequent flyer program, and points can typically only be redeemed for significantly less than 1.5 cents each.
Under what circumstances do you think it’s worth buying Southwest Airlines points?