Using Chase Ultimate Rewards To Book Southwest Tickets at up to 1.8 Cents Per Point

by on June 18, 2012 · 20 comments

in Chase, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Southwest

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Update: This offer is no longer available. View the current offer for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card here.

I used to fly Southwest frequently during my college days, because they always ran super-cheap fares between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and I’d get a free roundtrip award to anywhere in the US after 8 of my short, inexpensive flights.

In March of 2011 Rapid Rewards changed to a fixed-value points program, meaning that you now earn points that can be redeemed for any flight instead of earning capacity controlled flights awards. The catch? Each point has a fixed value (up to 1.8 cents when redeemed for Wanna Get Away, 1 cent for Anytime and .8 cents towards Business Select) so no more flying 8 cheap roundtrips and then redeeming for an expensive flight- everything is now pegged to the cost of the fare.

Ultimate Rewards Points transfer 1:1 to Southwest.

Southwest left the American Express Membership Rewards program in July 2010, but was added as a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate rewards on January 5, 2012, and when I did my transfer the other day the points showed up in my account within 3 minutes. (Note: transferred points do not qualify for the Companion Pass, which is one of the best benefits in the airline loyalty program world.)

I generally transfer most of my Chase points to United (business/first class Star Alliance awards) and Hyatt (15,000-22,000 for top tier Park Hyatt free night awards), however, I recently used points to book a flight for a family member and think it made a lot of sense. I booked a $222 one-way flight for 12,000 Chase -> Southwest points and $5. In my scenario, I saved $217 by using 12,000 points, valuing them at 1.8 cents a piece – pretty good for a domestic coach award.

There was a US Airways option that I could have booked using 12,500 Chase -> United miles, but the flight times were horrible and US Airways charges much more for bags, $25 for the first and $35 for the second vs. $0 for up to two free checked bags with Southwest.

$221.60 for a one-way flight from Islip to Jacksonville.

12,000 points and $5 for a $221 flight.

For Southwest flyers who redeem for Wanna Get Away fares, that means the current Ink Bold 50,000 point sign-up bonus would equal $900 in Southwest flights and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 40,000 bonus would be $720 – not bad for two cards that have the $95 annual fee waived the first year and certainly better than getting the Chase Southwest Plus or Premier card that currently only offers 25,000 points ($450) and has a $69 annual fee. There are often 50,000-point Southwest deals, so I’d wait until one re-emerges, especially since credit card sign-ups currently count towards Companion Pass qualification.

While a lot of people (myself included) may choose not to fly Southwest because of their fixed-value award program, lack of advanced seat assignments, lack of international routes and no first/business class, the bottom line is that Southwest can make a lot of sense for those looking to fly domestically and check bags. I still think United and Hyatt are the most valuable transfer partners of Ultimate Rewards, but I’m happy to have Southwest as an option- especially since they are one of the only airlines to fly into Islip airport in NY, which is incredibly convenient if you are visiting the Long Island and want to avoid the inevitable NYC summer traffic.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • PSL

    Completely agree that this is one of the best values around, unless you would rather have the experience of staying in a megabucks Hyatt, such as in Paris, that you could never otherwise afford. Also, when you mention the convenience of Islip, which is my home airport, a big plus is the fact that it is not plagued by the usual delays at LGA and JFK. Unfortunately, Southwest’s fares have gotten much higher this year (about $500 round trip for ISP-PHX or ISP-LAS), although there were some good deals to be had during last week’s fare sale.

  • PJ

    Simply the Champion for the Last Class ( Frugal) travellers; check out their flexibility as well: no change fees though you have to pay the difference if the new ticket costs more.

    Many of my friends are waiting to jump on the next round of 50K sign up which can fly roughly 5 round trips from SFO area to many airports in southern CA or similar distance.

  • PJ

    hohoho you still can fly out from EWR to DEN or PHX NON stop for as low as ~8000 points on the labor day Monday.

  • Jim

    I have the Chase Freedom as well as the United card. I was wondering why my card didn’t allow me that transfer, and then I finally found that the Freedom is a 5% cashback card. I have cashed it in for a hotel gift card in the past, but perhaps the points from one of the other cards might be a better deal, especially since we can get a deal on the airfare.

  • thepointsguy

    If you have a Sapphire Preferred ( or Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards ( you can transfer those Freedom points to any of the transfer partners like United, Southwest, Hyatt, Amtrak, etc

  • thepointsguy

    The no change fee and bags is a huge plus..wish other airlines would copy them!

  • Mommy Points

    So true – if you have a family and don’t have a credit card or status that helps you avoid baggage fees with other airlines, this is a huge plus. With more and more airlines blocking seats for a premium, the “free for all” seat grab at Southwest actually can work well for families. It isn’t fancy, but these days Southwest seems to include as many frills as the legacies… least for travelers that don’t have elite status.

  • Ackrach

    Oh do I miss the PIT/PHL $39.00 plus tax. I checked and now it’s over $200.00-crazy! Nice write up in the Pitt Alumni magazine Brian! Keep up the good work!

  • Yehuda

    You can also get good value by subsequently transferring your Southwest points to AirTran, at 1200 points = 1 A+ Rewards. Their economy rewards flights are 8 A+ Rewards, which is only 9600 points. Business class, although perhaps not as nice as others’ in the industry, can be booked for 16 A+ Rewards, 19,200 points. Considering they charge over $500 for longer domestic flights, this seems to be a good value.


    Funny that Southwest is growing and everyone else is struggling. I wonder why that is.

  • Jim

    Thanks! I’ve got the AMEX Platinum card, and it does me well with points, but I don’t want to be inundated with cards, but it looks like these two are almost no-brainers. I’m going to give Chase a call and see if they can easily add one of those.

    I’m flying 6 to Bermuda in July on Membership Rewards and Continental One Pass miles.

    As a side, Delta recently added COU to it’s route to Atlanta, so I will be delving into some more Delta territory, since the airport has 2 gates and free parking!

  • PJ

    another head up time: Do you know you can travel as north as from Montreal to as south Virginia beach for not too many Amtrak points which can be trasnferred from Sapphire Preferred Ultimate rewards?

    Now how do you price up the 5% rebate from Chase Freedom.. you spend 1500 and get 1500 + 150 +6000 + ~35 swipes at 10 points each from the Chase 10/10 Exclusive= 8000 points
    if at 1.80 each points =144 a whopping 144/1500= about 9.5% off upped from 5 %

    if you are hooked with business class travelling, that will bring up your conversion value up to another big notch. Many freguent travellers can coucher the best use of miles is use points to upgrade coach to business class

  • Tracy

    Just an FYI. Southwest is working on the International part. They just won the first step in a battle here in Houston against United (yippee – go SWA!) Southwest will be footing the bill to build an international terminal at Houston Hobby Airport (HOU). This will give Houston 2 International Terminals! The plan will be to have flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. . . On small step for Southwest and international flights, hopefully one huge step for some good ol’ competition on fares.

  • D2junk

    Note that with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Visa, you get 3,000 anniversary each year, which are worth $54.00 using your valuation. This almost offsets the annual fee of $69.00!

  • D2junk

    I meant to type 3,000 anniversary *points* each year.

  • Scott

    SWA got incredibly lucky with a fuel hedging strategy in the mid 2000′s, banking on the cost of fuel increasing, and buying a bunch at the cheaper, fixed rate. They continue to have a better fuel hedging strategy than other airlines, but as those cheap fuel hedging contracts expired, you also noticed a huge uptick in SWA’s flight prices. I believe the change in the reward program was the start of their financial changes that were necessary with the expiring cheap fuel contracts and their desire to build capital to purchase AirTran.

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  • name

    Not only THAT, but you’d have to fly via CHICAGO. Directs are long gone. It’s not feasible. I’d sooner just drive!

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