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Update: As of April 2013, Chase Ultimate Rewards has added Virgin Atlantic as a new airline transfer partner.
Well, the big day is finally here. As of yesterday, Southwest is now officially a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. Sapphire Preferred and certain Ink Bold cards will be able to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio and then redeem those points towards any Southwest flight.
Since Southwest’s points program is a fixed-value system based on award type, points vary in value depending on the type of fare you redeem for. (Obviously points’ values vary a lot with other programs as well, but here it’s a bit more regimented than with other airline or hotel programs.)
Wanna Get Away: 1.67 cents per point
Anytime: 1 cent per point
Business Select: .83 cents per point
For the mathematically challenged, a $200 Wanna Get Away flight would cost 11,976 Southwest/Ultimate Rewards points.
Here’s a reward chart for Southwest points with an example of how many points you’d need to book each kind of fare:
This is a great enhancement for both Ultimate Rewards and Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. The one downside is that these transferred points will not count towards qualifying for the Companion Pass, which is one of the best benefits in the airline loyalty program world. This could also be a sign that Southwest is going to be clamping down on Companion Pass Qualifying points and no longer counter hotel transfers and credit card sign-up bonuses, like they currently do. If you are holding out to transfer a ton of points to start your 2013 qualification, it may be a risk, and you could see the value of those points devalued.
On the other hand, in my opinion this just strengthens the Ultimate Rewards program, making it that much more versatile by adding another airline partner. In addition to landing more transfer partners, the one major feature I’d love to see from Ultimate Rewards is to start running transfer bonuses, like American Express does (with their current British Airways 30% bonus) to stay competitive with Amex.