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TPG follower Bryce tweeted me this week wanting to know if there is any way he can book Southwest flights through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, or if it makes sense to transfer those points to Southwest and book the flights through there instead. Here was his question:
”@thepointsguy Hi there! Any idea if you can book @SouthwestAir flights through the Ultimate Rewards site? Or is it a better value to transfer points?”
First off, you cannot book Southwest flights through Ultimate Rewards travel, sadly. Southwest does not have their flights available for sale on most online travel agencies, and that is basically what Ultimate Rewards travel is – a travel agency that essentially pays for the ticket and then uses your points as a currency.
Transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest can be a really good deal, however, and you are going to get more than 1.25 cents per value in points, which is what you would get when you redeem through Ultimate Rewards with your Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold or Ink Plus. One Ultimate Rewards point transferred to Southwest can be upwards of 1.9 cents towards Wanna Get Away fares. I highly recommend trying to book those Wanna Get Away fares because that is how you are going to get the maximum value out of your Southwest points.
For example a flight from Chicago to Las Vegas in late July as a Wanna Get Away fare would cost you $268 or 14,820 points, giving you a value of 1.8 cents per point.
To put that in perspective, if you were able to book directly from Ultimate Rewards, 14,820 points would only get you $185.25 in value since Ultimate Rewards points are redeemed at 1.25 cents apiece – not quite as good a deal, right!
Regardless of whether Southwest flights are bookable from Ultimates Rewards or not, you’re still getting a much better deal by transferring your points to Southwest and booking directly from their site.
Hopefully in the future we will see Southwest open up their bookings to online agencies, but it is currently their thing to make you book directly through their site. The good thing is, that unlike award availability with other airlines, if there is a ticket available to purchase on Southwest, you can book it with points, so you don’t have to hold your breath and hope that the seat will still be available after you transfer those points.
Plus, if the price goes down, you can rebook your ticket at the lower fare since Southwest doesn’t charge you change or cancellation fees. So go ahead and transfer to Southwest and try to get a Wanna Get Away fare for the best value for your points.