The Benefits of Moving AirTran Credits to Southwest and Vice Versa

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With anxiety-inducing echoes of the merger of Continental and United, the acquisition of AirTran by Southwest means that the two airlines are also going to be merging their frequent flyer programs: AirTran A+Rewards will become a part of Southwest Rapid Rewards.

If you don’t want to read in detail below, the key things to note here are:
1) You can now transfer Southwest points to AirTran so you can use them for international (Caribbean/Mexico) and business class awards.
2) If you have expiring credits/points you can transfer them back and forth to extend the expiration date by a year (and then transfer again before this transfer option goes away to extend one more time)
3) AirTran to Southwest credits won’t help you get a Southwest companion pass, but you can move 120,000 Southwest points to 100 AirTran credits and then redeem for one of their 100-credit companion passes
4) You can effectively “launder” Southwest points to AirTran credits back to old Southwest credits. Now, points are worth 1.66 cents towards Wanna Get Away fares. 19,200 points would be $318 in airfare. However, 19,200 Southwest points transferred to AirTran and then back to Southwest credits would get you a free Wanna Get Away roundtrip award regardless of the price. So if you are eyeing a roundtrip Wanna Get Away ticket that’s more than $318, it behooves you to book it via AirTran and back to credits vs. Southwest points.

Where do I go to transfer?
  • Go to southwest.com® and enter your username or your Rapid Rewards number and your password under “Account Login“.
  • Once logged in to your account, click on the “My Account” link under your name in the welcome message box on the right.
  • Once inside your Rapid Rewards account, click on the “My Rapid Rewards” tab. Next, select the “Transfer Between A+ Rewards
    and Rapid Rewards
    ” button on the left side of the page, or select the link from the dropdown menu in the “Quick Links” section.

If you need a Southwest Rapid Rewards account, you can get 750 free points by signing up via this link and agreeing to receive weekly and monthly emails.

Here’s an infographic explaining how it will work:

Here’s Southwest’s flowchart on converting points between the two programs.

Air Tran to Southwest
Air Tran members will be able to convert their A+ Rewards credits into old Rapid Rewards credits, not their new system of Points. This made me scratch my head a bit – why would Southwest want to re-open issuing of their old Rapid Rewards credits (where 8= a one-way Wanna Get Away flight)? I suppose they didn’t want AirTran members screaming about the credits being devalued into a new confusing fixed-value system (which they are going to have to get used to sooner or later anyway). With this credit-credit exchange, 8 AirTran credits, which currently are enough for a one-way coach awards, will equal enough for a Southwest one-way coach award. Fair enough.

Credits can be converted in increments of .25 credits. The expiration date of newly created Rapid Rewards Credits will be the same as the original expiration date of the A+ Rewards Credits converted. Once you reach 16 total combined credits in your Rapid Rewards account, an Award will automatically generate, carrying an expiration date of one year from the date the Award was created. You can read more about the conversion here.

Companion Pass?
The biggest question I have is whether converting AirTran credits to Southwest credits will count towards the annual companion pass, however there are only two ways to earn a pass: fly 100 one-way flights or accrue 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying points. Per my understanding, the old rule of 100 credits = a companion pass is no longer available, though if anyone has experience to the contrary, please share your insights.

Southwest to Air Tran
Southwest members can convert their Rapid Rewards Points, Rapid Rewards active Credits and active Awards and Certificates into A+ Rewards The amazing thing is that those AirTran credits can then be converted into Southwest credits – effectively allowing one to convert Southwest points (fixed value) into credits (old system of one-way flight awards for 8 credits).

-Rapid Rewards Points can be converted in increments of 300 points. The expiration date of newly created A+ Rewards Credits will be one year from the date of creation. Once points have been converted into A+ Rewards Credits, they cannot be converted back into Rapid Rewards as points. However, they can be converted back into Southwest credits! 1,200 Rapid Rewards Points will equal 1 A+ Rewards Credit. 1 A+ credit = 1 Southwest Credit. 

-Rapid Rewards Credits can be converted in increments of .25 credits. The expiration date of newly created A+ Rewards Credits will be the same as the original expiration date of the Rapid Rewards Credits transferred. 1 Rapid Rewards Credit will equal 1 A+ Rewards Credit.

-Active one-way Standard Award Certificates can be transferred for 8 A+ Rewards Credits. The expiration date of newly created A+ Rewards Credits will remain the same as the original expiration date on the Award/Certificate. 1 Rapid Rewards Standard Award Certificate equals 16 A+ Rewards Credits.

-Active one-way Freedom Award Certificates can be transferred for 16 A+ Rewards Credits. The expiration date of newly created A+ Rewards Credits will remain the same as the original expiration date on the Award/Certificate. 1 Rapid Rewards Freedom Award Certificate equals 32 A+ Rewards Credits.

What Does This Mean?

One good thing about it is that Chase Ultimate Rewards members can now use their points on Air Tran by default since Southwest is a 1:1 partner of Chase. You could convert your points into Rapid Rewards points, and then turn those into A+ Rewards and opening up a few more redemption offers. Per AirTran’s award chart, one-way business class upgrades are a measly 4 credits (4,800 Southwest/Chase points), one-way coach award is 8 credits (9,600 Southwest/Chase points), a one-way business class award is 16 credits (19,200 Southwest/Chase points) and a year-long companion pass is 100 credits (120,000 Southwest/Chase points).

The companion pass is something to think about if you fly AirTran. The companion is booked into the same class of service as the main passenger – even if there is no award availability and only full fare coach for sale. If the main passenger is upgraded, so is the companion. There is no news whether AirTran companion passes will become Southwest Companion Passes once the programs officially merge, but my guess is that they will since they usually err in favor of their passengers during mergers.

To get more into the specifics of the conversion and redemption offers and how they will affect members of both programs, check out the updated FAQ page.

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