Southwest is offering up to a 45% discount on points: Here’s when it makes sense to buy them

Jul 14, 2020

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the newest promotion.

Southwest just launched three new buy-points promotions: get a 35%, 40% or 45% discount when you purchase Southwest points now through Aug. 26, 2020. You can see which promotion you’re targeted for by heading to Southwest’s buy points page and logging into your Rapid Rewards account. Since we don’t see too many buy-points deals from Southwest, these promotions likely leave many Southwest flyers wondering whether they are a good deal.

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Are these promotions a good deal?

For better or worse, Southwest points have a fairly defined value. You won’t be able to get spectacular value out of buying points and redeeming them for first-class awards like you can with Alaska miles. Instead, Southwest award flights are redeemable based on the following general formula:

  • Business Select fares: 78 points per dollar (1.28 cents per point)
  • Anytime fares: 78 points per dollar (1.28 cents per point)
  • Wanna Get Away fares: around 76-78 points per dollar (1.28-1.31 cents per point)

That said, this formula is based on the base airfare cost, before taxes and fees. So, the actual value you’ll get from an award will be around 1.4-1.5 cents per point. TPG’s current valuation of Southwest points sits at 1.5 cents per point.

Armed with that knowledge, let’s check out how much Southwest is selling points for during these promotions:

35% discount

Buy points Discount/bonus Price per point
Buy 2,000 points No discount or bonus 3.0 cents
Buy 3,000 — 4,000 points 35% discount 1.95 cents
Buy 5,000 — 60,000 points 35% discount 1.79 cents

40% discount

Buy points Discount/bonus Price per point
Buy 2,000 points No discount or bonus 3.0 cents
Buy 3,000 — 4,000 points 40% discount 1.8 cents
Buy 5,000 — 60,000 points 40% discount 1.65 cents

45% discount

Buy points Discount/bonus Price per point
Buy 2,000 points No discount or bonus 3.0 cents
Buy 3,000 – 4,000 points 45% discount 1.65 cents
Buy 5,000 — 60,000 points 45% discount 1.51 cents

As you can see, even if you were targeted for the maximum 45% discount, the price of Southwest points is slightly higher through this promotion than the value you’d get from them.

What if you’re just shy of an award?

The rate for buying just 2,000 points is punitive at 3 cents per point — more than twice the value of Southwest points. And purchases of either 3,000 or 4,000 points costs 1.65 cents each even with the maximum discount. So, it’s best to look for another source when you’re looking to top off your account. Your best bet for quick Southwest points are Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which you can transfer to Southwest instantaneously. With that said, being able to get the lowest purchase rate when buying just 5,000 points is much better than normal.

Related: How to earn points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards program

Other ways to earn Southwest points

If you’re short of an award and have some time before booking a flight, I’d recommend generating more points by signing up for a Southwest credit card — or spending on an existing one — like one of the three below:

All three of these cards currently have a welcome offer of 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.

If you have a business, you can sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card to score an awesome up to 100,000-point bonus; earn 70,000-point bonus for spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. Plus, an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first six months. Or, sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and earn 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Alternatively, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest if you have a card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve (50,000-point sign-up offer after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening), Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (60,000 point sign-up offer after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening) or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card (100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months).

Related: Maximize your wallet with this perfect quartet of Chase cards

Will buying points help you earn the Companion Pass?

One of the most valuable airline perks around is the Southwest Companion Pass. It allows its holder to bring a companion on any Southwest flight along with them for just the cost of taxes and fees. For couples, the Companion Pass practically means two-for-one flights on Southwest — even if you’re using Southwest points for the flight.

For some travelers just shy of the Companion Pass, it could make sense to overpay for Southwest points if the purchased points were elite-qualifying. However, buying Southwest points isn’t a shortcut to the Companion Pass. As explicitly stated in the terms:

Purchased points do not count towards A-List, A-List Preferred, or Companion Pass qualification.

Related: How to quickly earn the Southwest Companion Pass

Do you get double points with the Southwest card?

Southwest point purchases are processed by instead of Southwest directly, so the purchase won’t code as “airfare” on credit cards that offer a bonus for travel purchases. That said, you might be able to get bonus miles for using a Southwest credit card, as one of the card payment options is “Rapid Rewards credit card.” In TPG testing for buying United miles, selecting the cobranded card option in the drop down prompted bonus miles.

If you get bonus points, it could help the case for buying Southwest points through this promotion. Let’s take the example of buying the maximum of 60,000 points for $907.50. You might get 1,815 bonus points from the purchase ($907.50 x 2 points per dollar spent). That’s a total of 61,815 points for $907.50 — or 1.47 cents per point. That’s below TPG’s valuation of Southwest points at 1.5 cents each.

Does it ever make sense to buy Southwest points?

While you theoretically may be able to buy Southwest points for slightly less than TPG’s valuation, typically, the only one time I’d suggest someone take advantage of a Southwest buy points offer is if you’re trying to book a great Southwest deal before it sells out or have an urgent flight need and:

  • are just short of Southwest points
  • don’t have Ultimate Rewards points to transfer, and
  • need to minimize your out-of-pocket cost as much as possible

Only then would I say that it’d make sense to buy enough points to complete the redemption. Otherwise, I’d recommend avoiding this promotion and only using Southwest points you earn through flying or spending on a credit card.

We’re currently in the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic and there’s no telling yet when it’ll be safe to travel using the miles purchased with this promotion. Additionally, while we’re confident that Southwest will survive the coronavirus downturn, it’s possible that the points will be worth less once this is all over, making them less attractive to purchase during a promotion like this.

Additional reporting by JT Genter.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.

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