If you’re looking for airline miles that combine value and simplicity, Southwest Rapid Rewards points may be your best bet.
If you are someone who loves to travel – especially to domestic locales – but doesn’t want 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 as easy to redeem as they are to earn, allowing you to 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
Although they’re worth more than the average credit card point, Rapid Rewards points fall in the middle of the pack when it comes to airline rewards programs. While Southwest offers more value than some competing loyalty programs, including JetBlue TrueBlue and United MileagePlus, it’s also outmatched by a few airline rewards currencies, like Delta SkyMiles and American Airlines AAdvantage. We value Southwest points at approximately 1.6 cents apiece:
See related: How to get the Southwest Companion Pass
Why we value Southwest points less than some airline currencies
While programs such as the British Airways Executive Club and AAdvantage use a chart to price their flight awards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program ties the number of required miles closely to the fare price. 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 their value, Rapid Rewards points tend to be worth less compared with rewards programs that use fixed charts.
Southwest offers some advantages over those 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, nor do you have to deal with limited awards seats. As long as there are seats available, you can use your points to snag one for yourself.
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 Rapid Rewards points at 1.6 cents each. As you can see in 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 the value of points is truly subjective – they depend on your goals and how you ultimately end up using them. Here are some questions you should ask yourself when 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 may have to cut their value in half, if not more, since the value of redemption options outside of Southwest airfare tends to be low.
- What class do you prefer to fly in? Class is almost a moot point when you fly Southwest – 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 travel times and destinations. If you don’t usually 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 it’ll cost you.
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 you would earn by paying for your flight with cash or a rewards-earning credit card, the varying prices of airfare over time, the lowest possible price you could get by flying with any other 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 to go on.
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 Airlines network offers great domestic coverage, including flights to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland as well as intra-island service.
- Point valuation is very straightforward: Southwest has only three fare types (Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select) and the pricing and value of points is very consistent across these three ticket options, so it’s easy to determine which 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 to your Rapid Rewards account, and there’s no fee for changes.
- You don’t have to worry about other hidden costs or fees with Southwest, either. For most trips, you will only owe $5.60 in government-mandated taxes and fees per one-way flight.
- Routing rules are very flexible, so you can create open-jaw tickets by booking two one-way flights.
- Southwest partners with many companies – including hotels, car rental agencies and other types of partners – giving you a plethora of opportunities for racking up 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, Belize, Costa Rica and the Caribbean, and it doesn’t partner with any other carriers 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 the best value for 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.
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 rewards – you’re also almost certainly guaranteed to fly great places with your earnings.