If you’re looking for airlines miles that combine value and simplicity, Southwest Rapid Rewards points may be your best bet.
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If you are someone who loves to travel – especially to domestic locales – but doesn’t want to have to put a lot of sweat into figuring out how to redeem airline miles, Southwest Rapid Rewards points may be the happy medium you’ve been searching for.
Rapid Rewards points are easy to redeem as they are to earn – you get a consistently good return on your points without having to worry about hidden fees or wading through a lot of complex rules to use them.
The best card for Southwest flyers
Why should you get it?
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is by far the best value for a frequent Southwest flyer, thanks to its $75 travel credit and 7,500-point annual bonus.
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Southwest points value
Rapid Rewards points – while more valuable than the average credit card point, fall in the middle of the pack for airline rewards programs. While Southwest offers more value than some competitors, including JetBlue and United MileagePlus, it’s also outmatched by a few airlines, including Delta and American Airlines. We value Southwest points at approximately 1.6 cents per point:
See Related: Best ways to redeem Southwest points, Which Southwest credit card is best for you?, Best ways to earn Southwest points, Southwest Airlines partners, Southwest A-List status, Booking a rewards flight with Southwest, How to get the Southwest Companion Pass, Rapid Rewards Shopping guide
Why we value Southwest points less than some airline currencies
While programs such as British Airways and AAdvantage use a chart to price their flight awards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program ties the number of required miles closely to the price of the fare. In other words, the number of points required for a flight rises and falls with the price of the fare and remains fairly consistent across fare types. Since there are few opportunities to maximize the value of the points, Rapid Rewards points tend to have a lower value on average than rewards programs with fixed charts.
Southwest offers some advantages over these programs, however, in terms of flexibility and simplicity – you don’t have to navigate a complicated rewards chart to figure out how to redeem your points and you don’t have to deal with limited awards seats. As long as there are seats are available, you can use your points to pay for a seat.
Not to mention, Rapid Rewards points are still very valuable, especially if you redeem them for Wanna Get Away fares.
Since Wanna Get Away fares are by far the best deal on Southwest, we’ve used them to set the value of Southwest points at 1.6 cents per point. As you can see from our chart below, the other fare options on Southwest (Anytime and Business Select) don’t offer as much as value:
|Fare type||Value per point (cents)|
|Wanna Get Away||1.6|
How to value your Rapid Rewards points
We’ve told you how we calculate the value of Rapid Rewards points, but, truly, the value of points is subjective – depending on your goals for your points and how you ultimately end up using them. Here are some questions you should ask yourself in valuing your Rapid Rewards points:
- How do you prefer to redeem your points? Do you intend to redeem your points for anything besides Southwest flights? If so, you’ll probably have to shave some cents off your rewards value, since the value of redemption options outside of Southwest flights tends to be low.
- What class do you prefer to fly in? Class is almost a moot point on Southwest flights – you get a few additional perks and priority seating in Business Select class, but otherwise, everyone sits in the same seats. Still, you should decide ahead of time if you prefer a Business Select fare, since the points will have a lower value.
- Where do you want to fly? The more popular your destination, the higher the price of the flights and the more likely lower-priced fares will get snatched up quickly.
- Where are you flying from? If you live in a major city, you may find yourself with more flight options (and more options for Wanna Get Away fares) than if you live in a smaller city.
- How flexible are you on flying? If you are flexible on your dates and destinations, you are more likely to find Wanna Get Away fares (as well as great deals on discount fares).
- How far in advance can you book your flight? Wanna Get Away fares tend to disappear quickly from the list of available flights, especially for popular times and destinations. If you don’t tend to book your flights months in advance, you may find yourself having to pony up extra points to purchase an Anytime fare.
How to calculate the value of Rapid Rewards points
There are varying philosophies on calculating the value of points, but, for simplicity’s sake, we offer the following calculation:
Rapid Rewards Value = Reward Value (in dollars)/Number of Points
In other words, to determine the value of your points, you take the amount that you would pay for your intended redemption option in cash and divide it by the number of points.
Of course, there is an endless number of factors that can affect the value of your points, such as the opportunity cost for the Rapid Rewards points that you would earn by paying for your flight with cash or a rewards card, varying prices of airfare over time, the lowest possible price that you could get by flying with any airline to your desired destination, and so on.
But, for a basic comparison of points across rewards programs, simply dividing the price of your redemption by the number of points should give you enough information.
How flexible are Rapid Rewards points?
Rapid Rewards points are extremely flexible for an airline rewards currency — flexibility is, in fact, one of the greatest benefits of flying with Southwest. Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of Rapid Rewards:
- Rapid Rewards points never expire.
- There are no blackout dates or restrictions on awards seats on Southwest Airlines – if a seat is available on a flight, you can book it with points.
- The Southwest Airline network offers great domestic coverage (including flights to Hawaii soon).
- Point valuation is very straightforward – Southwest only has three types of fares (Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select fares) and the pricing and value of points is very consistent across these three options, so it’s easy to determine what type of fare you need to book and what strategy you need to take to get the best value.
- Southwest is extremely flexible about making changes to award tickets – you can cancel up to 10 minutes before your flight and have your points refunded, and there’s no fee for changes.
- You don’t have to worry about hidden costs or fees with Southwest. For most flights, you will only owe $5.60 in government-mandated taxes and fees.
- Routing rules are very flexible. Since all flights are booked as one-way tickets, you can create open-jaw tickets by booking two one-way flights. Layovers aren’t allowed, but, since Southwest doesn’t fly to many international destinations, there’s not much need for complex routing.
- Southwest partners with many companies – including hotel, car rental and other types of partners – giving you a plethora of opportunities for earning points, including some great deals that can earn you a lot of points all at once.
- You have few options for international travel with Southwest Airlines – outside the U.S., Southwest only travels to Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean – and it doesn’t partner with any other airlines to give you more flight options. (You can book international flights with other airlines through the More Rewards portal, but the value is terrible.)
- Wanna Get Away fares tend to disappear quickly, so you need to book far in advance if you want a good value on your points.
- Since the value of Rapid Rewards points is fairly flat, there aren’t many opportunities to “hack” your way to a higher point value (but the program offers many other kinds of hacks, as you’ll see in other pages of this guide).
Are Rapid Rewards points worth it?
If you want a simple airline rewards program with a lot of value, Southwest Rapid Rewards points are a great way to go. Not only can you get a lot of mileage with your points, but – since Southwest makes it simple to redeem points – you’re almost certainly guaranteed to fly great places with your points.