Southwest is offering a 30% discount on points: Here’s when it makes sense to buy them

Jan 9, 2020

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

Southwest just launched a new buy-points promotion that may sound good at first blush: get a 30% discount when you purchase Southwest points now through Jan. 28, 2020. Since we don’t see too many buy-points deals from Southwest, this promotion likely leaves many Southwest flyers wondering whether this is a good deal.

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For better or worse, Southwest points have a fairly defined value. You’re not going to 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 this promotion:

Buy points Discount/bonus Price per point
Buy 2,000 points No discount or bonus 3.0 cents
Buy 3,000 — 4,000 points 30% discount 2.10 cents
Buy 5,000 — 60,000 points 30% discount 1.93 cents

As you can see, even with the 30% discount, the price of Southwest points is 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 2.10 cents each even with the 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 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 a redemption 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 you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

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.

The information for the Southwest Performance Business card, Southwest Premier Business card, Ink Business Preferred card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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 Points.com 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.

However, even if you get bonus points, it doesn’t help the case for buying Southwest points through this promotion. Let’s take the example of buying the maximum of 60,000 points for $1,155. You might get 2,310 bonus points from the purchase ($1,155 x 2 points per dollar spent). That’s a total of 62,310 points for $1,155 — or 1.85 cents per point. That’s still well above TPG’s valuation of Southwest points at 1.5 cents each.

Does it ever make sense to buy Southwest points?

There’s only one time I’d suggest someone take advantage of a Southwest buy points offer: 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.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
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  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.