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Southwest's groundbreaking feature will allow you to convert vouchers into Rapid Rewards points

April 16, 2020
5 min read
Southwest's groundbreaking feature will allow you to convert vouchers into Rapid Rewards points
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Southwest is joining the bandwagon of major airlines extending elite status due to the coronavirus pandemic. Over the course of the past two weeks, we've seen Alaska, American, Delta and United all extend status, so it was a matter of time before we heard from America's largest domestic air carrier.

And it's got great news for those with A-List status or a Companion Pass. But buried in the press release is a potentially exciting feature that we've never seen before — the ability to convert travel funds into Rapid Rewards points.

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Southwest is the only major airline that doesn't have any change or cancellation fees, so it didn't need to issue any change fee waivers like the rest of the industry. Instead, anytime you voluntarily cancel a Southwest Wanna Get Away fare (the cheapest), the value of your ticket will be kept in a travel fund that typically expires one year from the date the ticket was issued.

Related: Southwest extends Companion Pass, elite status benefits into 2021

As part of today's announcement, funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between March 1, 2020 and Sep. 7, 2020, will have an expiration date of Sep. 7, 2022. That's great for those who need some more flexibility and are uncertain of what the future holds.

Southwest check-in counter in Maui, HI (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.)

But aside from the expiration policy, there's long been another annoyance about travel funds: they can only be used by the originally-ticketed traveler. That means that even if you purchased a ticket for a friend or family member, they'll get to use the value of the ticket for future travel.

In order to mollify those concerns, Southwest's newest option will allow customers to convert select travel funds into Rapid Rewards points. On the surface, that's great news for customers, since points never expire, never have change or cancellation fees and you can redeem them for anyone you choose.

Related: Complete guide to coronavirus and airline elite status

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But there are some things that remain to be seen to determine whether this will actually be a good deal. For one, this option will only be available to those passengers who have travel funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between March 1, 2020 and Sep. 7, 2020. It's unclear whether the applicable period will be extended further. If the shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders continue to get extended across the country, I'd bet that it will.

But the real kicker will come down to the conversion ratio. According to the press release, it'll be the "same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today." Well, here's the thing: Southwest points are a variable currency, with different values depending on the type of fare you purchase and other factors. Our TPG valuation is at 1.5 cents per point, and the value you get varies slightly based on whether you redeem for Business Select, Anytime or Wanna Get Away fares. Once we know more about the conversion ratio, we'll update this post with our analysis.

Southwest Boeing 737 interior. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.)

Additionally, it'll be interesting to see if Southwest takes into account the fact that you don't earn Rapid Rewards points on award tickets, but you do with tickets booked with travel funds. Furthermore, you don't earn tier-qualifying points (TQPs) or Companion Pass qualifying points (CPQPs) for award travel.

Related: All about the Southwest Companion Pass

As such, it remains to be seen if the these Rapid Rewards will count as TQPs or CPQPs when processing the conversion. I'd bet not, but we've reached out to Southwest to clarify.

Ever since I've taken over the change/cancellation beat for TPG, I've received countless reader emails and Instagram messages with stories about airlines trying to convince passengers to take vouchers with bonuses instead of refunds. Normally, I'd say that it makes sense to collect a refund, unless you're certain you're going to travel again with the airline.

Southwest's new conversion offer has the possibility to tip the scale in favor of collecting points instead of a refund. It'll come down to the ratio that's applied, but hopefully it'll be generous.

And for all the other airlines trying to convince passengers to accept vouchers instead of refunds, it may be time to borrow from Southwest's playbook and allow customers to convert credits to points.

Featured image by Peter Scott Barta

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TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees