Transferring Ultimate Rewards Points to Southwest

Oct 26, 2015

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All award travelers should earn transferable points, as they give you great flexibility in your redemptions. They also shield you from any potential devaluations, since the ability to transfer to other programs means you’re not locked into one currency. Chase Ultimate Rewards are some of the best transferable points out there, and TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen explains how you can transfer them to Southwest for flight redemptions.

In order to even think about redeeming these points for maximum value, you first need to know the actual process for transferring them to partners. Today I’ll continue our series that looks closely at the process for transferring points to each Ultimate Rewards partner. Our first two subjects were Hyatt Gold Passport and United MileagePlus, and today I’ll take a look at another one of the program’s airline partners: Southwest Rapid Rewards.

Southwest has the nicest cabin crew among domestic airlines in my opinion.
Southwest may not be the most luxurious way to fly, but you can still get some solid value out of transferring Ultimate Rewards points to your Rapid Rewards account.

General Set-Up

Before you even think about transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest, you’ll need to complete a few basic steps. For starters, you need to set up online access for your Ultimate Rewards-accruing credit card (like the Ink Plus Business Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred). To do this, simply go to and look for the “Not enrolled? Sign-up now” link at the right-hand side:

Chase online access enrollment

Then simply enter in the required information to complete your online enrollment.

If you already have an online credit card account with Chase, you can add a new card to it by clicking Manage Accounts in the Customer Center and then selecting Add Accounts at the top.

The other important thing to do is to sign up for Southwest Rapid Rewards (though if you’ve read my points and miles mistakes post, hopefully you’ve already done this!). To do this, just visit the page to enroll in the program and enter your information.

Once these two things are complete, you’re ready to start transferring!

Transferring to Southwest

The actual process for transferring Ultimate Rewards points to all partners starts the exact same way:

1. Log in to your Chase account and click on the Go to Ultimate Rewards link at the top right.

Ultimate Rewards balance

(1a. If you have more than one card account, choose your desired one from the next page.)

Ultimate Rewards select account

2. Hover over the Use Points drop-down menu and select Transfer to Travel Partners.

UR transfer

3. Scroll down the list of airline partners and click Transfer Points next to Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards.

UR Airline Partners SW

4. Enter the required information and click Add Member ID to add a new account.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 9.28.18 AM

5. Enter the number of points you want to transfer (must be in increments of 1,000) and click Continue.

UR transfer to Southwest

6. Review your details on the next page and then click Confirm & Submit.

UR to southwest confirm page

The next screen should confirm that the transfer was successful.

UR to Southwest transfer confirmation

We recently tested how long Ultimate Rewards transfers take for each of the program’s 11 partners, and fortunately Southwest is one of 7 partners that show up instantaneously.

Program Transfer Time
Amtrak Instantaneous
British Airways Instantaneous
Hyatt Instantaneous
IHG 1 day
Korean Air Instantaneous
Marriott 2 days
Ritz-Carlton 2 days
Singapore Airlines Same Day
Southwest Instantaneous
United Instantaneous
Virgin Atlantic Instantaneous

Sure enough, when I logged into my wife’s Rapid Rewards account after transferring, the points were already there:

UR points post to SW

There are a few important things to keep in mind with these transfers:

  • The transfers are nonrefundable, so be certain you want to make the transfer before you click Submit.
  • You can only transfer to yourself or an authorized user.
  • You can combine points from your different cards or transfer points between your account and that of your spouse/domestic partner. For complete details, check out my post on combining Ultimate Rewards points.
  • These points do not count toward Companion Pass qualification. While there are ways to earn a Companion Pass for almost two years, transferring points from Ultimate Rewards does not help in this endeavor.
Southwest makes it very easy to search for (and book) award flights online.
Southwest makes it very easy to search for (and book) award flights online.

Booking with Southwest

Now that you’ve made the transfer, it’s time to actually book with Southwest. The Rapid Rewards program is revenue-based, meaning that the number of points required for a flight redemption varies based on the cash price of the ticket. This used to be very straightforward, with a flat redemption rate of 60 points per dollar for Wanna Get Away fares that was increased to 70 points per dollar just a year later. This meant that each point was worth 1.42 cents.

Unfortunately, the Rapid Rewards program muddied the waters back in April with a “program update” that included the following language:

“The number of Rapid Rewards Points needed to redeem for certain flights will vary based on destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare class, and other factors.”

My colleague Jason Steele analyzed these changes shortly after they took effect and found that your points now have a variable value of somewhere between 1.2 and 2 cents per point (TPG’s most recent valuations peg them at 1.3 cents, on the lower end of that range). Generally speaking, you’ll get less value from the redemption as the cash price of the ticket increases. In other words, a $99 short-haul Wanna Get Away ticket would likely give you a value of 1.7 or 1.8 cents per point, whereas a last-minute $400 Business Select ticket would likely push you closer to 1.2 cents per point.

Take it from these three guy crossing their arms, Southwest has no change fees.
Southwest’s lack of change and cancellation fees applies to award tickets as well.

That being said, one of the best things about award tickets on Southwest is that they can be changed and canceled without any fees. If you book a flight using Rapid Rewards points and the price falls the next day (or at any time leading up to your flight), you can rebook the exact same itinerary and have the point differential refunded into your account. I actually did this exact thing twice for a trip to New England over Columbus Day Weekend:

  • July 26th: Booked for 20,954 points
  • July 27th: Rebooked for 18,545 points
  • July 29th: Rebooked for 18,284 points

By keeping an eye on the flights, I was able to save 2,670 points (or $34.71 based on TPG’s most recent valuations).

Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of what this process actually looks like on

1. Start by visiting Southwest’s homepage. Type in your search parameters, check the button to display results in Points and then click Search:

Southwest award ticket search

2. The results page will display all flight options for your desired date(s) with the required number of points for all three types of fares:

SW award ticket results

You can also filter the results at the top to display only nonstop and/or direct flights (“direct” flights may have a stop):

SW filter results

You also have the option to quickly change your date at the top or search the low fare calendar (if your dates are very flexible):

SW flexible dates

Here’s what that calendar looks like:

SW low fare calendar

This is a quick way to get a snapshot of availability a month at a time and a great way to identify alternate dates that may require fewer points.

3. Once you’ve decided on the flight(s) you want, select the type of fare you want to book and click Continue down at the bottom of the page:

SW flight selection

4. Confirm the itinerary and pricing on the next page (you can also add a hotel or rental car if desired) and then click Continue:

SW award flight confirmation

5. Sign in to your Rapid Rewards account (if you haven’t already done so, the site will prompt you):

Rapid Rewards account login

6. Verify the flight(s) you’ve selected (again) and complete the booking process.

While Southwest’s revenue-based program doesn’t have any true “sweet spots” like first-class partner redemptions, you also don’t have to worry about finding award seat availability, since every available seat on Southwest’s entire network can be booked online using Rapid Rewards points. Just remember to book early, since pricier flights require more points.

In addition, you may want to consider opening the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, which is currently offering 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. This bonus is worth $650 based on TPG’s valuations, and the card also comes with added benefits like double points on Southwest and select Rapid Rewards partner purchases and no foreign transaction fees.

For this week's Thursday Giveaway we are giving away a $500 Southwest gift card.
Southwest spreads the LUV by partnering with Ultimate Rewards.

Bottom Line

Ultimate Rewards points regularly appear near the top of TPG’s monthly valuations (and for good reason). With a number of valuable transfer partners, you can get a ton of value and flexibility by collecting these points and then putting them toward a variety of different redemptions. I’ve transferred a decent amount of Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest when I needed to top off my account for various awards, and you too can still get some solid value out of the program.

For additional information about Ultimate Rewards and redeeming Southwest points, check out the following posts:

What are your experiences transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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