Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Devaluation

Photo credit: Leslie Harvey / Frequent Flyer TravelingMom

Southwest Airlines is a favorite airline among many family and budget travelers.  With its no change fee policy and free checked bags, Southwest affords travelers a lot of convenience and simplicity.

Many families have also used Southwest’s frequent flyer miles program for earning free travel.  Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program worked in a very simple way: points were worth a fixed dollar amount.  Travelers redeeming for the cheapest “Wanna Getaway” fares found that a point was worth 1.43 cents.  Stated another way, award flights cost 70 points per dollar.

Did you know, however, that as of April 17, 2015, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program has changed?  The year 2015 brought a lot of changes to airline frequent flyer programs.  Southwest is just the latest to announce the details of its change.

So what’s new with Southwest?  Rapid Rewards points are no longer worth a fixed amount.  Instead, the number of points needed for a free flight now varies based on factors other than just the base airfare price. Southwest has not published the details of these variables, but it goes without saying that very popular routes at very popular times will likely cost you more points per dollar than before.

Under the new Rapid Rewards, Southwest award flights now cost somewhere between 70 to 80 points per dollar.  It remains to be seen whether this range will change with time, especially as holiday air travel schedules are announced.

For travelers looking to use points for Southwest flights, this means that you should always do the math before deciding whether to book a flight using Rapid Rewards points or cash.  If you spot an award closer to the old 70 points per dollar rate, that would be a great time to use your points.  Conversely, if you find that the Christmas flight to the Caribbean you’ve been eyeing is suddenly 80 points per dollar, pay cash instead.  Save your points for the best deal.

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