The Secret Way to Get the Most Southwest Flights From Your Points!

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Recently, I wrote why I selected Southwest as the airline on my AMEX Business Platinum card.

I think the 50% points back perk opens up a terrific new way to use AMEX Membership Rewards points for Southwest flights.

Plus the points I earned from the Business Platinum’s 100,000-point sign-up bonus and minimum spending requirement can get me $2,300 worth of paid Southwest airfare!  That’s a great deal!

But unlike other airlines in the AMEX Pay With Points program, you can NOT book Southwest flights online through the AMEX travel portal.

American Express Business Platinum Southwest Airlines

Booking a Southwest Flight to Cancun? I’ll Show You How Business Platinum Cardholders Can Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for a Southwest Flight Purchase and Get 50% of the Points Back!

I’ll provide a step-by-step guide for using AMEX Membership Rewards points to book Southwest flights!

American Express Business Platinum Southwest Airlines

Link:   The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN 

Link:   Get 50% of Your Points Back With AMEX Business Platinum

Link:   Selecting an Airline With the AMEX Business Platinum & Why I Chose Southwest

To use AMEX Membership Rewards points for Southwest flights, you must have The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN.  And Southwest has to be your selected airline!

Keep in mind, you can combine points from other AMEX Membership Rewards cards, like the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, to use towards Southwest flights.  But you’ll need the Business Platinum card to use Pay With Points for Southwest flights.

Instead of booking Southwest flights through the AMEX travel portal, you’ll book through the Southwest website and pay for your flight with the Business Platinum card.

American Express Business Platinum Southwest Airlines

Southwest Now Flies to Cuba! Book Your Flight on the Southwest Website With Your AMEX Business Platinum Card, Then Call AMEX to Use Your Points for a Statement Credit

Then, you’ll call AMEX Membership Rewards to credit your points, which will offset the purchase.

Remember, because of the 50% points back perk, you’ll get 2 cents per point when you use AMEX Membership Rewards points to book coach airfare on Southwest if it’s your selected airline.

For example, you’ll initially use 10,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points for a $100 flight.  But you’ll get 5,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points back.  In the end, you’ll use 5,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points for a $100 flight, which gets you 2 cents per point (100 / 5,000).

Here’s how to book Southwest flights with AMEX Membership Rewards points!

Step 1.   Book Southwest Flight and Pay With Business Platinum Card

First, book your flight through the Southwest website.  In this example, I’m booking a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Denver, which costs ~$158.

On the payment page, pay with your AMEX Business Platinum card.

American Express Business Platinum Southwest Airlines

First, Book Your Southwest Flight Directly Through the Airline’s Website and Pay With Your Business Platinum Card

Because you’re paying for the flight, you’ll earn Southwest loyalty points and credit towards A-List status.

Step 2.   Wait for Flight Purchase to Post to AMEX Statement

Next, wait for the airfare purchase to post to your credit card statement.  In my experience, this usually takes 2 days.

American Express Business Platinum Southwest Airlines

Wait for the Airfare Purchase to Post to Your Credit Card Statement

Step 3.   Call AMEX Membership Rewards

Once the flight purchase has posted to your account, you can call AMEX Membership Rewards at 800-297-3276 to use your AMEX Membership Rewards points to credit the charge.

You’ll use 100 AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1 you spend on the flight.

So the ~$158 example flight I showed requires ~15,800 AMEX Membership Rewards points to offset the charge.

Remember, even though you’ll get 50% of your points back in the next step, you’ll still need the full amount of points at the time you call to credit the purchase.

Step 4.   Wait to Get 50% of Your Points Back

Getting 50% of your AMEX Membership Rewards points back is automatic.  But you’ll have to wait 8 to 10 weeks to see them in your account.

This is a long time to wait.  But I think it’s worth it because this method requires the fewest number of points to book a Southwest flight.

Adding Your Southwest Companion Is an AMAZING Deal

Link:   1 Couple + 2 Cards = 2 Years of Free Flying + 7 Free Hotel Nights!

Folks with the Southwest Companion Pass will get amazing value by using AMEX Membership Rewards points linked to their Business Platinum card for Southwest flights.

Because you’ll get DOUBLE the value per point.  Instead of 2 cents per point, you’ll get 4 cents per point!

And you can even use AMEX Membership Rewards points to cover the cost of your companion’s taxes and fees.  This means they’ll fly with you completely free!

Here’s how to do it!

Step 1.   Add Your Companion

In this example, I’m adding a companion to the Southwest flight I booked earlier.  Visit your Southwest account page, and click “Add Companion” to the desired flight.

American Express Business Platinum Southwest Airlines

Click Add Companion to the Desired Flight

Step 2.   Pay Taxes and Fees With Business Platinum Card

Next, you’ll pay the taxes and fees with your Business Platinum card.  For this flight, the cost is ~$11.

American Express Business Platinum Southwest Airlines

Pay Taxes & Fees for Your Companion Using the Business Platinum Card

Step 3.   Credit Taxes & Fees Charge Using AMEX Membership Rewards Points

The next few steps are optional for folks who’d like to use points to offset the taxes and fees you pay when adding a companion.

First, wait for the charge to post your AMEX statement.

American Express Business Platinum Southwest Airlines

Wait for the Companion Pass Taxes & Fees Charge to Post to Your AMEX Statement

Then, you can call AMEX Membership Rewards at 800-297-3276 to use your AMEX Membership Rewards points to credit the charge.

You’ll use 1,120 AMEX Membership Rewards points to offset the $11.20 charge.

American Express Business Platinum Southwest Airlines

You’ll See the AMEX Membership Rewards Points Deducted From Your Account

You should see the taxes and fees credit on your statement within 2 days.

Step 4.   Wait to Get 50% of Your Points Back

Finally, wait 8 to 10 weeks to see the 50% of your AMEX Membership Rewards points returned back to your account.

It’s a personal choice if you want to use your points to credit the taxes and fees charges.  You’re still getting 2 cents per point, which is a good deal!

Why AMEX Pay With Points Is the Best Option for Southwest Flights

Compared to other redemption options, you get the most value per point by using AMEX Membership Rewards points and the 50% points back perk to book Southwest flights.

American Express Business Platinum Southwest Airlines

Compared to Alternative Booking Methods, You’ll Get the Most Value for Your Points by Using the Business Platinum Pay With Points Perk to Book Southwest Flights!

For example, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to Southwest.  But you’ll only get a value of ~1.25 to ~1.43 cents per Southwest point.  And you won’t earn loyalty points or credit.

Or, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can call Chase to book Southwest flights through the Chase travel portal and get 1.5 cents per point.

And points earned on other Ultimate Rewards cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, are only worth 1.25 cents per point through the Chase travel portal.

So using AMEX Membership Rewards points linked to your Business Platinum card is the ONLY way to get a value of 2 cents per point!

Bottom Line

Folks with the AMEX Business Platinum card can use AMEX Membership Rewards points for Southwest flights if Southwest is their selected airline.

This is a great deal because you’ll get a value of 2 cents per point, compared to 1.5 cents per point for folks with the Chase Sapphire Reserve who book through the Chase travel portal.  Or even less if you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to Southwest.

And folks with the Companion Pass get DOUBLE the value (4 cents per point) by using AMEX Membership Rewards points linked to their Business Platinum card.

To use AMEX Membership Rewards points for Southwest flights, first purchase the flight through the Southwest website.  Then, contact AMEX Membership Rewards at 800-297-3276 to use points to offset the charge.

Within 8 to 10 weeks, you’ll get 50% of your points back.

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43 responses to “The Secret Way to Get the Most Southwest Flights From Your Points!

  1. Given the free luggage on SWair and the paucity of food purchases, what is the best way to use the $200/ airline credit?

  2. @David. Buy Southwest giftcards

  3. Does this work for airfare purchased for other family members who are not cardholders? I already booked a flight for myself but need to add flights for 3 kids. Can I just purchase their tickets and get the 50% bonus without buying a ticket for mysel?

  4. Great post and explanation. Two points of clarification:

    1. The valuation of 1.25-1.43 cents per point on Southwest points transferred from Chase or earned in some other way is simply wrong. I consistently get upwards of 1.6 cents per point, and almost never less than 1.5. Getting 2 cents per value is still significantly better, and so I intend to give your plan a try, but every time I see you or others indicating the lower value on Southwest points, it’s very frustrating. In line with this is that Southwest points used for flights are more flexible because even on the Wanna Get Away fares, you can cancel as close as 10 minutes before the flight and all your points are redeposited. That means they can be used anytime and for any passenger. By contrast, tickets you cancel after paying with Amex Business Platinum and charging points are given as travel credit, which is only good for one year, and only by the same passenger. On a flight I might take, but am not too sure about, I would pay with Southwest points to lock in a favorable fare that I could release at any time, rather than tying up funds in travel credit that expires.

    2. Combining this with the travel pass is a great use of the perk, but I think it’s misleading to say it becomes worth 4 cents per point. I see where you’re figuring “it’s like buying two tickets, which would cost twice as much.” But the cents per point valuation contemplates what it would otherwise cost you in cash for the ticket. Since the companion flies free whether the primary ticket is bought with cash, or points, a holder of the Companion Pass would not have bought two tickets at cash price; she would have bought one, and had her companion fly for free. I don’t dispute that it’s a great way to leverage value, but I it’s not really 4 cents per point.

    Many thanks for this insight and explanation! – John

  5. What if I have the the Amex Business Platinum, and my wife is qualified for the Southwest Companion perk. Would I be able to book on SW’s website under her login. pay for her flight using my Amex BP card and add myself as a ~free companion ticket? And then use Amex points to pay for that flight as your article suggests?

    • Yes, you could. The key is to just pay for the Southwest airfare with your Business Platinum card. Then, go back and credit points against the purchase.

      • Is this still valid? I was initially told that I would need to call Business Platinum Travel services and they would book my flight and then make sure my purchase would qualify for point use. But the rep told me that the points are not 100 pts per $1 but at a rate of 167 pts per $1 (I believe 167 was the number) which then would qualify for a 50% credit.

        At that point I explained that this was NOT my understanding and if I wanted to change my preferred airline could I? I was told we could and placed me on hold, at which time I hung up because I want to confirm this is the case.

        MMS please confirm that:
        1) 100 pts per $1 is still the valid conversion
        2) Purchasing your ticket on SWA website first using your AmexBP card then calling Amex is still the proper protocol.

        Thanks a Million MMS!!

  6. MMS – Very surprising that this works (rather than booking via phone in the first place) – great find! Thank you!! Taking this further…

    Do you think this “trick” would work for other airlines based on your interaction with the AMEX agent(s), e.g. Alaska? I am tempted to try this in combination with the BoA companion code for a trip to Hawaii, but unfortunately there is no way to apply that when booking on AMEX Travel. I would have to risk booking a flight via Alaska’s website, waiting for the transaction to post, and then calling up AMEX. (assuming my “selected” airline is already Alaska, of course…). Was there a lot of hesitation and/or confusion when you call to have the “Pay with Points” applied?

    Thanks for your feedback!

  7. Will this work with the Amex platinum personal card as well? Thanks

  8. Has anyone had any luck actually doing this? I called AMEX and they keep insisting that “Southwest” is not one of their partner airlines for Pay with Points. They are allowing 167 points per dollar ratio, but not 100 pts per dollar. I’m confused…

    • George, do you have the Business Platinum or the Personal Platinum? With the Personal, Southwest is not a good option at all as AMEX require you to buy the ticket through Southwest and then do a normal statement credit (which can be done with ANY transaction, travel or otherwise). This gives a value of about .007 cents per point. What Dariaus is describing is only for the Business Platinum.

      Having said all of that, I’d also like to know if Dariaus has indeed seen this come to fruition. if so, it’s a phenomenal deal.

    • I am having the same problem. And yes, I have the Business Platinum.

  9. This does not work. You can pay with points, but every CSR that I’ve talked to has told me that I will not get the 50% points back because I did not book over the phone with Amex Travel.

    • Darius can you confirm this?

      • Just confirmed with Amex Agent. 50% points back is only when you book southwest flights over phone with Amex Travel.

        • It also seems when you book over the phone they charge a non-refundable $39 booking fee per ticket. That’s not good.

          • Daraius, did you ever get your 50% refund? I noticed there is no screenshot of that step. Although AmEx claims it takes 8-10 weeks for reimbursement, my points were deposited back to my account the day after I made the redemption. If you didn’t get a refund yet from a purchase made on Dec 6th, I’m calling shenanigans.
            This seems like very irresponsible reporting on your behalf that you would not confirm this all worked before posting a how to article on it.

            • I can confirm it worked for me on 2-2-17, but it took some persuasive talking in a CSR online chat. I have screenshot confirmations from two separate CSRs that I will get the bonus points. They both said it’s not supposed to work that way but allowed me the bonus when i pointed out that their website language said that’s exactly how to do it for pay with points — make SW reservation first then call Amex after posting. Both also said it would be 6-8 weeks plus before bonus would be returned.

              • Cbrown – thanks for your post. I am running into the same problem where they won’t credit the 50% back with southwest. Would you be willing to share which specific areas you pointed out to them to prove your point? We called ahead of time and were told we could go either direction (book through their phone system or pay for the tickets and call back for reimbursement but now they say there is no 50% reimbursement.
                Anyhow would love any help or suggestions.
                Thanks,

                • I essentially used the info quoted in Donald’s post. Just sent a screenshot to chat rep that clearly showed I was following their own procedures and then arguing that that should allow me to qualify for the bonus.

                  • @ThatGirl @Jack @Mike @Cbrown @Cpitcher – If Southwest is your selected airline, you can pay for a flight with your Business Platinum card through the airline’s website. You do NOT have to book a Southwest flight over the phone with AMEX Travel.

                    After you book your flight, call AMEX Membership Rewards at 800-297-3276 to use points to credit the charge. Then, wait 8 to 10 weeks to get 50% of your points back.

                    It took ~8 weeks for me to get 50% of my points back.

                    • MMS, Can you confirm that you got 100 pts//$ redemption value as well? I can’t seem to talk a rep into it!

                    • Okay, I finally got a rep to change my redemption rate to 100 points/dollar, but he insists there is no way to get a 50% bonus since I didn’t book through Amex travel. Did you have to ask for it, or did you bonus post automatically? I’m wondering if perhaps it will just happen in 8-10 weeks?

                    • The mr rep applied the 50% points in real time for me. I received them immediately. Maybe i got extremely lucky. I would try huca.

                    • HUCA finally worked! I got my bonus after four calls. But in the future I will call Amex Travel to book Southwest. Please amend your post to make it clear that this is the policy (in spite of the FAQ on their own site to the contrary).

  10. I Googled, “How to book Southwest flights with AMEX Membership Rewards points.” This is the answer I found on American Express Customer Support. It is as Daraius has outlined:

    Customer Support: Answer
    Was this answer helpful?
    Yes No
    Support Options | Search Results | Answer

    Are all airlines available on the American Express Travel Online site?
    American Express Travel Online offers the majority of domestic and international airlines. There are some airlines, however, that are not offered on the site. While we cannot book these airlines for you, we have solutions for how you can redeem points for these airlines if you choose.

    To redeem your Membership Reward points for Southwest Airline tickets, simply book your ticket directly with Southwest Airlines and then redeem your points after the charge posts via Your Charges online at: membershiprewards.com/yourcharges or through the American Express App on your mobile device (iPhone and Android platforms only). You have the ability to schedule a point redemption for eligible pending charges through the American Express Mobile App. You must have enough Membership Rewards® points to cover the entire cost of the charge with Your Charges.
    If you are looking for any other airline and it is not shown in your search results on the website, please call American Express Travel Online at 1-800-297-2977 .

      • I got your back! 🙂 Thanks for the ongoing education!

        • @Donald @Million Mile Secrets: As others have mentioned, AmEx will apply the points post purchase at 166 points/dollar instead of 100 points/dollar. So yes, you can book on SW’s site and call AmEx to get the points credit, but you’ll only get the terrible redemption of 166 points per dollar. This is what was told to me by a rep just now on the phone. Looks like others have had sporadic luck getting a CSR that did otherwise, but I’ve been given the 166 rate twice by two different CSRs now. Both of them did say I could book the flights and call back to get the 50% refund, but that is a terrible redemption at 166 points per dollar.

          • I have now gotten the same message from 3 different reps: SW is no longer a partner with AmEx so they will not honor the 100 points per dollar rate. It will be 166 per dollar.

  11. I booked SWA flight directly on SWA using my AmEx Bus Plat card (for which SWA is my preferred airline). I then had an online Chat with a AmEx rep to confirm that I could get 50% of my points back using AMEX Membership Rewards points to credit the charge. The AmEx rep told me that in order to get the 50% points back, I had to book my flight by calling the Business Platinum travel team FIRST (800-553-9497) and book my SWA flight through them. I sent the link from the AmEx FAQs that Donald posted below to see if that changed the rep’s answer. He said that while I could use points to pay those charges using the method Donald posted, that wouldn’t qualify me to get 50% of my points back since I didn’t book with the Business Platinum travel team initially. I then called the Business Platinum Travel team line and they contacted Membership Rewards and confirmed the same thing — to get the 50% bonus, you have to call and book the SWA flight through the Business Platinum Travel team. I know others apparently have gotten the 50% bonus points back, but it sure doesn’t sound like a sure thing.

    • Also, at least redeeming the points online via Your Charges online at: membershiprewards.com/yourcharges, the redemption wasn’t a penny a point. For a charge of $277.88, the points necessary to pay that charge were 46,313 (not 27,788)

  12. Just successfully followed the steps above and it worked (after 2 calls). First phone call I called the number on the back of my card and was denied because I booked directly with SW. Second phone call I called the membership rewards # above. Rep briefly mentioned that he could apply the 50% for SW airfare purchased through the Amex Travel Team. I avoided responding to that specifically and he proceeded with the redemption. Process was very quick. I received my 50% in real-time. From this I learned that it is not hard-coded and if you find a rep that doesn’t dig too much, they can process the redemption without a hitch. However, it sounds like this isn’t policy and next time I will call in to book the travel first.

    • Did you get 100 pts/$ or 166 pts/$ redemption (before the 50% rebate)? I purchased over $1000 of tickets, counting on using only 100k points (and getting 50k back), but now I’m finding that it will cost me 166k (or 83k, if I’m successful getting the rebate, which I haven’t been yet, but I’m determined to HUCA until it works). A terrible redemption.

      • I also had the same terrible experience.
        Yesterday the rep at business platinum travel service INSISTED that I book my Southwest ticket on the AMEX travel website. I had to make her go and try it on her end and then she finally came back to me and said “oh ok I see that you have to book it with me over the phone and that there would be a $40 fee to do that. I said no thanks and hung up because she clearly did not kn ow what she was talking about.
        Does anybody know how to go about getting the 100 points per $1 redemption AND how to get the 50% back in points? There does not seem to be any clear policy over at AMEX!
        Thanks.

      • Hi fivegirls, what did you have to say to AMEX to make this work?
        I am having a terrible time making them understand that an AMEX rep told me to book it on SW website and then call back to redeem the points. Also, AMEX has not published anything anywhere about the redemption rate being less for SW. How did you convince them to let you use only 100 points per dollar?
        Any help would be appreciated!

        • I just got off the phone with AMEX. Rep said the only way to get 100 points per $1 AND the 50% points back for Southwest is to book with AMEX travel. We had charged over $1000 in SW tix directly through SW website and could only get 167 points per $1 when tried to pay with MR points. She said that is the redemption rate unless booked through AMEX travel. She then offered to allow a redemption rate of 100 points per $1 as a courtesy with no 50% points back. After some pleading she spoke with a supervisor and made it very clear that as a one time only exception they would give both: the 100 points per $1 and and 50% MR back. She processed the 50% back while I was on the phone with her. She also said all future SW bookings must be made thru AMEX travel to get the 100:1 ratio and 50% points back. LESSON: DO NOT BOOK DIRECTLY ON SW WEBSITE.