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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
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.
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 www.chase.com and look for the “Not enrolled? Sign-up now” link at the right-hand side:
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.
(1a. If you have more than one card account, choose your desired one from the next page.)
2. Hover over the Use Points drop-down menu and select Transfer to Travel Partners.
3. Scroll down the list of airline partners and click Transfer Points next to Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards.
4. Enter the required information and click Add Member ID to add a new account.
5. Enter the number of points you want to transfer (must be in increments of 1,000) and click Continue.
6. Review your details on the next page and then click Confirm & Submit.
The next screen should confirm that the transfer was successful.
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.
|Singapore Airlines||Same Day|
Sure enough, when I logged into my wife’s Rapid Rewards account after transferring, the points were already there:
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.
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.
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 Southwest.com:
1. Start by visiting Southwest’s homepage. Type in your search parameters, check the button to display results in Points and then click 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:
You can also filter the results at the top to display only nonstop and/or direct flights (“direct” flights may have a stop):
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):
Here’s what that calendar looks like:
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:
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:
5. Sign in to your Rapid Rewards account (if you haven’t already done so, the site will prompt you):
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.
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:
- One Year of Earning and Burning with the Southwest Premier Visa
- 9 Ways to Use 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
- Southwest Companion Pass: 16 Things Every Flyer Should Know
- Maximizing Ultimate Rewards with Chase Freedom, Sapphire and Ink Plus
What are your experiences transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest?