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On Friday, April 17th, Southwest Rapid Rewards is raising the number of points you will need for award tickets on many flights. The announcement was made a couple of months ago in the fine print of an email, which is a pretty clear signal this is not an improvement for you.
Currently, every point in your account has a set conversion rate of 70 points per dollar of any Wanna Get Away Fare.
So if a flight has a Wanna Get Away fare of $300 available, you’ll need 21,000 points to cover it ($300 X 70).
If it’s $200, you’ll need 14,000 points to cover it ($200 X 70).
The conversion rate is valid no matter what time of year your fly, or where you fly with Southwest. As long as they’re selling their discount Wanna Get Away fares on the flight you can take advantage of it.
But come Friday, April 17th that conversion rate will increase for some flights, even if a Wanna Get Away fare is available.
Or put another way, be prepared to spend an extra 3,000 – 10,000 points (or more) on some of your award tickets.
It’s all some pretty fuzzy math because Southwest isn’t telling anyone what the new conversion rates will be for your points, or on which flights it will be charged.
All they will say is ‘many’ flights will still have the old 70 point per dollar conversion rate, but that some won’t. And you can bet those that won’t are going to be popular flights you’re going to want to fly.
How can you deal with this?
The best thing you can do is to book as many trips with your points as you can now – before Friday.
There is no downside to doing that.
And if you decide to change your flight there’s no fee either, though you might get charged more points at the prevailing conversion rate.
Why is Southwest doing this?
Quite simply, it want to extract more points out of you.
Southwest recently launched international flights to vacation destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Those flights attract a lot of people wanting to use points.
Other airlines typically charge more miles for Mexico and Caribbean flights than they do for regular domestic flights because they are in high demand for vacations with miles, but Southwest didn’t do that, creating some really good value for Rapid Rewards members.
Now it’s trying to fix that.
They could have just kept the domestic conversion rates the same while adding new conversion rates for international flights.
Instead, Southwest is muddying the waters for all of its flights, which is a really disappointing way to handle things.
Rapid Rewards has been a consistently high rated mileage program because it doesn’t have any fees and offers a straightforward value for our points. While there are still no fees, with this change, the value you can get will be up to the whim of Southwest bean counters every day.
It gives Southwest more flexibility to charge more when flights are in high demand. Which doesn’t really benefit you, a loyal Rapid Rewards member, in any way.
Your points will still save you a lot of money, but there’s a good chance they won’t save you as much. So book as any trips as you can before Friday to lock in the better rates.
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