For Free Domestic Flights, Better to Collect Southwest or British Airways Points?

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If you travel frequently within North America, you can save miles and points by using British Airways Avios points for short-haul award tickets on its partners Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways.

Or save by using Southwest points for cheap award flights, especially when there’s a seat sale (an even better deal if you have the Southwest Companion Pass!).

With the increased sign-up bonuses on the Chase British Airways and Chase Southwest Premier cards, now is a great time to collect a lot of points quickly!

But which program is a better deal for domestic travelers?

For Free Domestic Flights Better To Collect Southwest Or British Airways Points

You Can Save Miles & Points on Domestic Flights by Choosing the Right Frequent Flyer Program

Let’s look at what you should consider when deciding between British Airways Avios points or Southwest points for your domestic award travel!  Or if it’s worth considering both programs!

What’s the Deal?

Link:   Best Ways to Use Airline Miles for Domestic Award Tickets

Link:   Book British Airways Award Flights Like a Pro

Link:   A Step-By-Step Guide to the Southwest Companion Pass

Link:   Chase British Airways 100,000 Point Offer

Link:   Chase Southwest Premier 50,000 Point Offer

Now is an excellent time to think about boosting your British Airways Avios point or Southwest point balance.

That’s because the sign-up bonuses on the Chase British Airways and Chase Southwest Premier cards are currently double the usual offer!

For Free Domestic Flights Better To Collect Southwest Or British Airways Points

Get 2X the Usual Number of Points When You Sign-Up for the Chase British Airways or Southwest Cards

You’ll earn a total of 100,000 British Airways Avios points when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the 1st 12 months of opening your account.  That’s a lot of money, but remember there are plenty of ways to meet minimum spending requirements.

You could get 22 short-haul (under 650 miles) 1-way coach flights on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, or US Airways with the sign-up bonus!  It’s a terrific deal if you can manage the minimum spending.

For Free Domestic Flights Better To Collect Southwest Or British Airways Points

Folks In Seattle Have Lots of Options for Using British Airways Avios Points on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways

And with the Chase Southwest Premier card, you’ll earn 50,000 Southwest points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months of opening your account.

That’s worth up to ~$715 in Southwest flights, and double that if you have a Southwest Companion Pass!

So which is a better deal for you?

1.   Consider Your Home Airport

Link:   Wandering Aramean Avios Tool

Link:   Southwest Route Map

Enter your home airport into the Wandering Aramean Avios Tool to see where you can fly non-stop on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, or US Airways.

And to check Southwest, visit Southwest’s route map and hover your mouse over your city to see where you can fly!

If you live in a large city that’s served well by Southwest AND British Airways’ partners Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, or US Airways, you’re lucky!  You’ll have lots of choices when it comes to booking award tickets.

For example, Chicago and Dallas are hubs for both American Airlines and Southwest.

For Free Domestic Flights Better To Collect Southwest Or British Airways Points

Check Which Airlines Fly Most Frequently From Your Home Airport

But if you live in a smaller city, your options may be limited to 1 or 2 airlines.  Or there may be differences depending on which region of the country you’re in.

For Free Domestic Flights Better To Collect Southwest Or British Airways Points

Alaska Airlines Serves Many West Coast Cities – So You May Have Better Luck Booking Award Flights With British Airways Avios Points

For example, here in Austin, there aren’t many non-stop routes that can be booked with a relatively small number of British Airways Avios points.

Remember, if you book a connecting flight using British Airways Avios points, you’ll pay per segment.  Which is often not a deal at all!

For Free Domestic Flights Better To Collect Southwest Or British Airways Points

There’s Only 1 Destination From Austin That Can Be Booked for 4,500 British Airways Avios Points 1-Way, and a Handful of Others for 7,500 or 10,000 Points

But looking at the Southwest route map, there are far more options.  Southwest has a revenue-based frequent flyer program, which means the number of points required for an award ticket depends on its cash price.

For Free Domestic Flights Better To Collect Southwest Or British Airways Points

Southwest Could Be a Far Better Option for Folks in Austin

That’s why Emily and I travel almost exclusively on Southwest for domestic flights!  Plus, with the Southwest Companion Pass, we can fly almost 2-for-1!

2.   Where Do You Want to Go?

Is most of your travel short hops to nearby cities?  Or do you prefer vacations further away?

It’s worth checking routes you fly frequently, or destinations you plan to visit, to see if they’re served better by Southwest or British Airways partners.

For example, if you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, you can’t get there on Southwest!  But you can fly Alaska Airlines and American Airlines using British Airways Avios points from the US mainland.

For Free Domestic Flights Better To Collect Southwest Or British Airways Points

Hawaii Is an Option If You Collect British Airways Avios Points, but Southwest Does NOT Fly There

Plus, folks on the West Coast can get to Hawaii for just 25,000 British Airways Avios points round-trip in coach.  That’s the cheapest and easiest way to fly to the Aloha state!

But if you’re dreaming of a Disney vacation, there are far more cheap options for flights to Orlando on Southwest from many cities, especially those on the East Coast.

For Free Domestic Flights Better To Collect Southwest Or British Airways Points

Folks in Many Cities Can Get to Orlando Cheaply Using Southwest Points

If you’ve earned the Southwest Companion Pass, this could be a no-brainer!

3.   What Kind of Traveler Are You?

If a reserved seat or flying Business or First Class is important to you, using British Airways Avios points on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways might be a better choice.

For Free Domestic Flights Better To Collect Southwest Or British Airways Points

Looking for a More Comfortable Experience? Booking Domestic Flights With British Airways Avios Points Could Be a Better Plan for You

But keep in mind, these airlines charge for checked bags in coach!  Unless you have a card which gives you a free checked bag on domestic flights, like the Bank of America Alaska Airlines, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®, or Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard® cards, you’ll pay $25 for your 1st checked bag.

You won’t get a seat assignment on Southwest, and they don’t have a true Business Class, but everyone gets 2 free checked bags.  That can be a huge money saver!

4.   Solo Flyer or Group Travel?

Airlines like Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways only release a certain number of award seats each flight.

And it can be tricky to find more than 1 or 2 seats on the same plane during peak times!  Unless you’re the type of person who plans travel well ahead.

So if you fly often in a group or with your family, you might have trouble finding award seats on the same flights if you book with British Airways Avios points.

For Free Domestic Flights Better To Collect Southwest Or British Airways Points

If It’s Important Your Group Travel on the Same Award Flights, British Airways Avios Points May Not Be the Best Choice

On Southwest, as long as there’s a paid ticket available, you can book it with points.  Even at the last-minute!

And partners can stretch their points by earning the Southwest Companion Pass.  Your companion flies with you for nearly free on paid and award tickets.

That said, the number of points required depends on the price of a paid ticket.  So if you find yourself flying at peak times, like holidays or spring break, you’ll often pay more.

But that’s better than no available award seats at all!

What If You Need More Points?

To stock up on British Airways Avios or Southwest points for a trip, there are easy ways to earn both (other than from paid flights)!

Southwest is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner.  And there are lots of other ways to earn Southwest points!

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 Ratio

Don’t forget, you can also buy Southwest gift cards at office supply stores and earn 5X points or 5% cash back with cards like:

British Airways is also a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner.  And you can transfer Starwood and American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios points as well!

Note:   Starting October 1, 2015, you’ll get fewer British Airways Avios points when you transfer American Express Membership Rewards points.

Bottom Line

It’s a good time to earn a lot of Southwest and British Airways Avios points.  Because the sign-up bonuses on the Chase Southwest Premier and Chase British Airways cards are double the usual offer!

Both types of points are excellent for booking domestic award flights.  But to decide which you should collect, consider:

  • Your home airport
  • Where you plan to travel
  • How you like to travel (coach, Business, or First Class)
  • Whether you often fly solo or in a group

In some cases, it may make more sense for you to focus on collecting points in 1 program.

But if you live in a city equally well served by Southwest and British Airways’ domestic airline partners (Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways), consider collecting both!

What’s your favorite way to book domestic award tickets?

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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2 responses to “For Free Domestic Flights, Better to Collect Southwest or British Airways Points?

  1. Like you stated above Daraius, “If you’ve earned the Southwest Companion Pass, this could be a no-brainer!” But if not, there is definitely great value in BA Avios.

    Heck, why not do what I did and get both? No, not at the same time, unless of course you already have one of the two SW cards needed to get the pass. If so, apply for the second SW card (PERSONAL not business) and if you get auto-approved or approved by phone that same day, go for the British Airways card that same day. These two apps on the same day for these two PERSONAL cards from Chase will result in only one hard pull whether the second card is approved or not that day or another. (Applying for a Chase BUSINESS card and a Chase PERSONAL card on the same will most likely NOT get combined into one hard pull). So why not go for both of these PERSONAL cards if you get approved for the first card THE SAME DAY you apply? As an option, this same strategy could be helpful in getting you both the SW Premier and SW Plus PERSONAL cards at the same time, but that’s another topic where Companion Pass timing matters.

  2. Another point to consider is how each set of points expire. I believe SW points never expire, so you don’t have to worry about using the points in a certain time frame. Avios points expire after three years of inactivity. Three years is a long time, but it still expires at some point.