Southwest to Become Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner on January 5, 2012
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Update: As of April 2013, Chase Ultimate Rewards has added Virgin Atlantic as a new airline transfer partner.
Chase just announced that starting January 5, 2012 you will be able to transfer your Ultimate Rewards points earned from the Sapphire Preferred and certain Ink Bold cards to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. Southwest points can be redeemed towards any Southwest flight and each point varies in value depending on the type of fare you redeem for.
Wanna Get Away: 1.67 cents per point
Anytime: 1 cent per point
Business Select: .83 cents per point
This is a great enhancement, but note 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.
This just further strengthens the Ultimate Rewards program. I'd love to see them continue adding partners and to also start running transfer bonuses, like American Express does (with their current British Airways 30% bonus and Delta 30% rebate).