The Secret to Earning Up To 20% Off ALL Southwest Flights!

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Emily and I love flying on Southwest airlines because the flight attendants and ground crew are friendly, the boarding process is among the most efficient, they don’t fly small regional jets, you can check 2 bags for free, you don’t get nickel-and-dimed with change fees, and they have a lot more non-stop flights than other airlines.

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About to Get on a Southwest Flight!

And my Southwest Companion Pass lets Emily fly with me for free (just the $2.50 security fee per segment) on either paid or award tickets!

All Southwest Tickets Have a 10% Discount!

You earn Southwest points when you pay CASH for a Southwest ticket and fly on that ticket.

For example, you earn 6 points per $1 towards a Wanna Get Away Fare.

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Earn At Least 6 Southwest Points or 10% Off Future Southwest Flights For Every $1 In Southwest Airfare

6 Southwest points are worth 10 cents towards the cheapest Wanna Get Away fares, so every Southwest ticket paid with cash automatically gets you a 10% Southwest discount.

This assumes that you will be flying Southwest again and that you will have enough points to redeem for an award since Southwest doesn’t allow you to pay for part of an award ticket with cash and part with points.  You have to have enough points in your account to pay for the entire Southwest award ticket.

But you can often get more than 10% points or cash back!

From home.  Without having to go to a store to buy Southwest gift cards.

5X ULTIMATE REWARDS POINTS ON ALL southwest PURCHASES

Staples and Office Max sell Southwest gift cards, and you will get 5X Ultimate Rewards points if you buy them with your (no longer available) Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus.  That’s because you earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points per $1 when you use the Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus in Office supply stores which INCLUDES buying Southwest gift cards.

You can also use the Chase Ink Cash or Chase Ink Classic which do not have annual fees.  You can’t transfer points from the Ink Cash or Classic directly to airline or hotel partners.  But you can transfer the Ultimate Rewards points to the Chase Sapphire PreferredChase Ink Bold or the Chase Ink Plus card and from there to airline or hotel partners such as Southwest or Hyatt.

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You Earn 5X Ultimate Rewards Points When You Use the Chase Ink Cards in Office Supply Stores

You can redeem Southwest gift cards very easily when you buy a Southwest ticket online (see the section below).

You don’t need to be incorporated to apply for a business credit card and can also apply for a business credit card as a start-up business with little to no revenue.  But don’t lie on the application form!

Ultimate Rewards points from the Ink Bold and Ink Plus can be redeemed for:

  • Cash back at 1 cent per Ultimate Rewards point
  • Travel via the Ultimate Rewards portal at 1.25 cents per point
  • Transferred to Airline and Hotel Partners such as UnitedSouthwestHyatt and more

But you have to go to a physical Office Max (or Staples) to buy the Southwest gift cards.

5X ULTIMATE REWARDS POINTS + 2% CASH BACK (OR 7% CASH BACK TOTAL) ON ALL SOUTHWEST PURCHASES!

However, you can buy Southwest gift cards from Staples ONLINE, and still earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points if you buy a Southwest gift card with your Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus.

Even better – You can earn an extra 2% on TOP of the 5X Ultimate Rewards points if you go to Staples via Ebates which gives you 2% cash back for purchases at Staples!

This means that for every $1 you are getting:

  • 5 Ultimate Rewards points worth 5 cents in cash back or 8.35 cents towards Southwest Wanna Get Away Fares for using your Chase Ink Bold or Ink Plus to buy a Southwest gift card at Staples
  • 2% Cash Back via Ebates
  • And you will eventually get 6 Southwest points per $1 (10 cents towards Wanna Get Away fares) when you fly on a Southwest flight bought with a Southwest gift card

So you’re getting ~20% off for every $1 spent on Southwest airfare:

  • 8.35 cents towards Southwest Wanna Get Away fares (5 Ultimate Rewards Points transferred to Southwest points X 1.67 cents per point) for using the Chase Ink cards at Staples and transferring the points to Southwest
  • 2 cents in cash back from Ebates when you click through to Staples from Ebates
  • 10 cents towards Wanna Get Away fares (6 Southwest points) for eventually flying on the Southwest flight

I tried earning extra Ultimate Rewards points by shopping at Staples online via the Ultimate Rewards portal, but didn’t earn extra Ultimate Rewards points.  I suspect that is because the terms say that you don’t earn Ultimate Rewards points for online gift card purchases at Staples.

But I was able to earn 2% cash back at Ebates because the terms at Ebates don’t restrict gift cards from earning cash back.

Step 1 – Go to Staples.com via Ebates for an extra 2% cash back

You can skip this step (and go directly to step 2) if you’d rather save time and don’t want the extra 2% cash back.

Ebates is currently offering 2% cash back for all purchases at Staples if you visit Staples via the Ebates website.

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An Extra 2% When You Go to Staples Via Ebates!

Step 2 – Search for Southwest Gift Cards at Staples.com

Staples.com sells 2 types of Southwest gift cards.  The first are regular gift cards which have a $1.99 shipping fee and are only available in small denominations.

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Skip The Regular Southwest Gift Cards at Staples.com

Skip these (unless you prefer getting a physical gift card for $1.99 extra).

Staples.com ALSO sells e-gift cards to Southwest airlines which you receive via email.  You can buy:

  • $50 Southwest Email Gift Cards
  • $100 Southwest Email Gift Cards
  • $200 Southwest Email Gift Cards
  • $300 Southwest Email Gift Cards
  • $400 Southwest Email Gift Cards
  • $500 Southwest Email Gift Cards
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Southwest Email Gift Cards!

You can use up to 4 forms of payment when you buy a Southwest ticket at Southwest.com so higher denomination e-gift cards are easier to use.

You will earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent when you use your Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus.

Step 3 – Wait for Staples to Call You

I placed 3 test orders on 3 separate days and all 3 orders went into pending status or “researching” status.

I called Staples to manually process the first order, but they weren’t able to process the order.  But I did receive a call from Staples within 2 to 3 days asking me to confirm the order and I received my e-gift card a few hours after that.

The 2nd and 3rd order automatically processed within 1 to 2 days of placing the order.

Step 4 – Get Your e-gift Card Code

The Southwest gift card is sent by “GiftCardMall.com

Click on “View Gift” in the email

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Click “View Gift”

Then click on “Get Code

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Click on “Get Code”

You will see a “Card Number” and “Security Code” which you will need to redeem your gift card at Southwest.com

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Card Number and Security Code

Step 5 – Redeem Your Southwest Gift Card

Book a paid ticket at Southwest.com and click on “Apply Travel Funds

Then enter your gift card number and security code.

And click “Apply Funds

Money from your gift card is then applied to your Southwest ticket purchase.

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Funds Are Applied to Your Ticket

 Southwest Airlines Gift Card Rules

Here are the complete terms and conditions for using Southwest gift cards.  Here’s what stands out to me.

  • You CAN use a Southwest gift card to pay for airfare, excess baggage fees, security fees, and fees to bring a pet on board
  • You CAN’T use a Southwest Airlines Gift card to pay for EarlyBird Check-in, Southwest Vacation packages, or for in-flight purchases
  • Southwest gift cards never expire and there is no fee for not using the card within a certain time

TYPES OF INK CARDS

CHASE INK BOLD & INK PLUS

You get 5 points per $1 spent or 5% cash back at Office Supply stores (all the time) up to $50,000 in spending per cardmember year on the Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus.

These cards have a $95 annual fee, but you can transfer points to Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline partners such as Hyatt, United, and Southwest.

CHASE INK CASH & INK CLASSIC

  • Link:  Chase Ink Cash
  • Link:  Chase Ink Classic

The Chase Ink Cash and Chase Ink Classic have NO annual fee, but you get 5X Ultimate Rewards points or 5% cash back at office supply stores only for $25,000 in annual spending per year at Office Supply stores.

You can’t transfer points from the Ink Cash or Classic directly to airline or hote partners.  But you can transfer the Ultimate Rewards points to the Chase Sapphire PreferredChase Ink Bold or the Chase Ink Plus card and from there to airline or hotel partners such as Hyatt or United.

Bottom Line

You already earn 10% off in Southwest points per $1 on every Southwest ticket paid with cash.  But it is pretty easy to earn up to 20% off for every $1 spent on Southwest airfare!

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46 responses to “The Secret to Earning Up To 20% Off ALL Southwest Flights!

  1. Excellent report.. very helpful…thanks!

  2. I don’t have any business cards, but I think my grocery store sells the physical SW cards, so I could get 6% cash back with the Amex, which is almost as good. Thanks for the idea!

  3. I just wanted to share that two weeks ago I bought a SW gift card through ultimate rewards at staples and was given my 2x points for using the UR mall. YMMV

  4. Would using gift cards for these flights invalidate any travel insurance protection automatically provided by a credit card? For less expensive domestic flights, it may be best to use a card that earns bonus points on travel (CSP, Business Rewards Gold) and provides travel insurance for free vs. purchasing a separate travel insurance plan for the trip. You would still be looking at a 13% discount (6 SW points per dollar, 2 UR points for CSP) and would get free travel insurance to boot.

  5. Slightly off topic: does “ebates’ extra 2%” trick also work on Amazon’s gift card purchase? i.e., can I buy Amazon gift card (with Ink, of course) through ebates to get an extra 2%?

  6. Great work D, I am always struggling to determine if I should pay for my southwest ticket or transfer points from UR. How do you determine if you should buy or redeem UR points. I am assuming you have more UR points that you know what to do with, so you might transfer points in.

  7. While I love Southwest’s business model and the ease of booking and cancelling with “no penalty” is fantastic … I have some complaints:

    If you cancel a booking and get credit in the form of Travel Funds, these expire in a year (not noted on their site) and you cannot search for them so you have to keep your own records by Confirmation number.

    Also these can only be used to ticket the same person later. I cancelled a ticket I had bought for my son and was then not allowed to use these Travel Funds for myself even though I had paid for his booking.

    Lastly, I had some AirTran credits expiring in 2015 that I transferred to Southwest and even though the website says they will have the same expiry date, they came over to Southwest with an expiry date of 1 year from when I did the transfer, about 8 months earlier. I called both Southwest and Airtran and though the agreed that it should have kept the expiry date the same, neither could change it.

  8. Was this post written by you?

    It has a similar style of writing (and similar bombardment of CC’s) as Drew’s Lufthansa series

  9. If you jump on a southwest sale or promotion, it can get better. They are currently offering double miles on flights. I just took a couple flights, paid by gift card to get 5x UA + 12 miles/dollar. That’s closer to 30%. Of course, that isn’t always available.

  10. so southwest GCs are treated like case ? also a poster mentioned above brought up a good point , God forbid if anything happens to the flight, buying with GC dont have regular CC flight insurance protection. Airlines insurance dont payout that much. so its a gamble of points or have flight insurance !!!

    • @misty – Thanks!

      @Lisa – That’s a good way to do it as well!

      @Corey – Very interesting. YMMV indeed.

      @Tom – It would, but be sure to read the terms of the travel insurance since they all vary and some don’t really cover much.

      @best_daddy – Staples.com doesn’t sell Amazon gift cards. But it would be great if it did.

      @Grant – If you won’t use the Ultimate Rewards points to transfer elsewhere( say to United or to Hyatt) or if you have a Southwest companion pass, transfering to Southwest is a good deal.

      @Frank – Those are all valid complaints.

      @Scott – That’s true, but you also have to travel by June 15. But 30% is sure worth it if you can!

      @choi – You can use the giftcard like cash, but not for certain purchases like Easy Bird Check in etc.

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  12. Hey D:
    Nice article! Just a quick question – how did you calculate 5 UR points becoming 8.35 cents for Southwest Wanna Get Away fares? I saw your multiplier of 1.67 but am still confused. Thanks for the help!

  13. This is a really great post. I just missed out on two tickets I purchased last week on Southwest.
    But will for sure remember for next time!

  14. Lowe’s has 5x points bonus on the Chase Freedom card this quarter (April, May, June) and they have SW gift cards.

  15. @Cory – Was it a physical SW GC or the eGC?

  16. It was a $500 SW E-giftcard. But I also just got 240 UR pts for buying three $50 itunes physical cards for $40 each when they were on special at staples.

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  18. I have an American Express Gift card – so I can use it? or does it have to be a SWA gift card?

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  20. I just applied for the Chase Premier card. At the end of the on line application process, terms were read, including that if I apply for an additional Chase SW airlines credit card, I may be approved but I would not receive the reward points offered. These points are offered on a one time only basis only for the first credit card.
    Any suggestions?
    I was given an approval over the phone for the credit card within 1 minute.

    • @Nancy – Not sure I understand the question, but you can pay for your Southwest ticket with either an AMEX gift card or a Southwest gift card bought at an Office Supply store.

      @dave – You can usually get the bonus for each type of card (personal vs business and Premier vs. Plus).

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  22. I just ran into one potential problem with this. Southwest is running a double points promotion for July and Aug. I just booked a flight using SW Gift Cards bought with my Chase Ink Plus business card through the Staples online portal for 5X CIP points. I used my SW Credit Card for the last $35 of the airfare purchase. I flew business class so it looks like I left some points on the table. Double points would be + 8,000 if I had purchased the flight with my SW credit card. I’m only getting 3,000 points on my Chase Ink Plus card. I forgot about the double points promotion on SW when I booked this. There are so many things to remember when trying to maximize points!

  23. 1.7M miler with American

    My loyalty has switched to Southwest because of their great Customer Service.

  24. I took your advice and used my INK card at Staples to get Southwest cards to use on a flight…..love the 5x bonus! If you are in a rush, like me, just go to Staples and buy the cards. They are validated at the register immediately. Just be aware that you can only use 4 cards at a time, so buy the $100 cards if you can! Love Southwest for putting these at an office supply store! Emily

  25. I love the ease and flexability of using Southwest. It made it so stress free for me to spend a lot of precious time with my Dad when he was dying in Colorado – while running my business in California! No other airline could have made it so easy!

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  27. Question – Why would a southwest giftcard ever have any value to me?

    Since you can’t combine giftcard and points, isnt it always better to use points for southwest since you get more bang for your buck?

    Correct me if Im wrong?

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  31. I read somewhere that credit card will often not award points on gift card purchases, is that indeed true?

    In other words, if I purchase the above gift cards with my SW Premier Visa, will I get the points for the purchase?

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  37. Paying in CASH, as it is described here, is not technically correct. The author should have said paying by using a southwest credit card. Yes, it all comes out of the same pocket, but the distinction in terms of actual currency must be made more clear.

  38. Ebates rebates does not apply to gift card now…:(

  39. Quick question – I book tickets for friends and relatives. Is there some way to get the benefit of miles if I book using my SouthWest Account ? They dont care about their miles so it is always either they dont accure miles OR I make Accounts for them and they never use the miles leading to expiration of the miles ? I know Etihad and British Airways have the Household concept,,, Anything similar with Southwest ?