New 2014 Southwest Rapid Rewards Program Changes

email about Rapid Rewards changesI just got an email this week from Southwest and it’s bad news bears.

Several years ago, back in 2011, when Southwest last changed their Rapid Rewards program.

Those new changes created quite an uproar because they transitioned from a very lucrative system for short-haul travelers; you received 1 “credit” per flight taken and once you reached 16 credits, that was enough for a Standard Award.

Many people would rake up credits fast on cheap short-haul flights (i.e. LAX to SFO) and then cash out the credits for much more expensive flights.

Obviously, for financial reasons, it’s understandable why SWA had to change the system to a points-based system in 2011. That gave a fixed dollar value per point as follows:

  • $100 worth of “Wanna Get Away” Fare = 6,000 points (1.67 cents per point)
  • $100 worth of “Anytime” Fare = 10,000 points (1.00 cents per point)
  • $100 worth of “Business Select” Fare = 12,000 points (0.83 cents per point)

For the Wanna Get Away Fare, this yielded a good value. The others not so much.

How it will work come March 31st 2014

In a nutshell, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is being watered down. Here’s how it will work for reward flight bookings made on or after March 31st 2014:

  • $100 worth of “Wanna Get Away” Fare = 7,000 points (1.43 cents per point)
  • “Anytime” Fare = no changes
  • “Business Select” Fare = no changes

It means your points will be worth about 14% less than they previously were for Wanna Get Away Fare.

Is 1.43 cents/point still a good value? Yes. But given that Anytime and Business Select fares will remain to be a sub-par value, it does warrant a re-evaluation of what you’re getting. Will it still be the best bet for your circumstances? Only you can answer that.

This is just one more reason to use CSP

For me personally, this is just one more reason for me to keep using my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and not hassle with the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards.

Why? Because with Sapphire Preferred, the points you earn can be transferred to Rapid Rewards on a 1:1 basis (1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points = 1,000 Rapid Rewards points). But that’s not the only airline you can do that with. The same 1:1 transfer option is available for United, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, and Korean Air.

Given the soon-to-be watered down SWA point value, having that versatility of being able to also convert your credit card points to United MileagePlus for your domestic flights is a wise idea. Because let’s face it, you may not want to use Southwest Airlines for all of your reward flights after these 2014 changes go into effect.

This post was written or last updated March 1, 2014

 
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