How to Get the Most Value for Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Booking Southwest Flights

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Million Mile Secrets reader, A.J., commented:

In many cases, I’ve found better value by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest for award flights, rather than using points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve to book through the Chase travel portal.

Can you explain when it’s a better deal to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points for Southwest flights through the travel portal?

Fantastic question!

The value of your points for a Southwest award flight varies depending on your travel dates and destination.

It’s possible to sometimes get more value for your points by transferring them directly to Southwest.  But some folks prefer to use points from the Chase Sapphire Reserve to book through the Chase travel portal.

Because you earn points like a regular paid flight, get credit toward A-List status and the Companion Pass, and don’t have to pay any taxes or fees out of pocket.

Chase Points Southwest Flights

Before Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Book Your Next Southwest Flight, Run the Numbers to Make Sure You’re Getting the Most Value!

I’ll show you how using Chase Ultimate Rewards points for Southwest flights can get you different values depending how you book.

Transfer Chase Points Directly to Southwest or Book Through the Travel Portal?

Link:   Chase Sapphire Reserve Increases Value of Your Ultimate Rewards Points

Link:   How to Get Big Travel on Southwest With the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Southwest award flight costs are based on the cash price of the ticket.  Generally, you’ll pay 70 to 80 points per $1 of the base fare.

So a $100 base fare requires between 7,000 and 8,000 Southwest points for an award booking.  This means each point is worth between ~1.25 and ~1.43 cents ($100 / 7,000 Southwest points = ~1.43 cents or $100 / 8,000 points = ~1.25 cents).

Chase Points Southwest Flights

Southwest Award Flights Cost Between 70 and 80 Points per $1 of Base Fare

But when you compare the total cash cost of a flight (including taxes and fees) to an award flight, your points are often worth more than ~1.43 cents each.  Because the value can fluctuate quite a bit, depending on the route and dates.

Or you can book a Southwest flight with Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal where the value of your points is fixed.

The Value of Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points in the Travel Portal Depends on Which Card You Use! 

Folks with the Chase Sapphire Reserve get 1.5 cents per point toward travel.  And you’ll get 1.25 cents per point with these cards:

This means you can book a $100 flight for ~6,700 Chase Ultimate Rewards points linked to your Sapphire Reserve ($100 flight / 1.5 cents).  But that rate is inclusive of taxes and fees.

Note:   You’ll have to call Chase at 866-951-6592 to book Southwest flights through the travel portal.

Here are 3 examples of getting different values for your points depending how you book a Southwest flight.

1.   Here’s When Transferring to Southwest Is a Better Deal Than the Chase Travel Portal

As reader A.J. suggested, you’ll often get the most value using Chase Ultimate Rewards points toward Southwest flights when you transfer points directly to the airline.

For example, I searched a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco, which costs ~$148 if you pay cash.

Or you can pay 8,004 Southwest points and ~$11 in taxes and fees.

Chase Points Southwest Flights

Sample Award Flight From Los Angeles to San Francisco

The ~$11 in taxes and fees are already included in the cash cost of the flight.

This means you’re using 8,004 Southwest points to cover $137 worth of airfare (~$148 airfare – ~$11 in taxes and fees).

So your points are worth ~1.7 cents each ($137 / 8,004 Southwest points).

This is more value than you would get if you book through the Chase travel portal.  Because you’ll only get 1.5 cents per point with the Sapphire Reserve.  And 1.25 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred.

But remember you will NOT earn Southwest points for the flight or credit toward elite status when you transfer points to the airline and book.

2.   Here’s When Transferring to Southwest Is a Worse Deal Than the Chase Travel Portal

Because you’ll pay high taxes and fees on certain international Southwest award flights, you might get more value for your points booking through the Chase travel portal.

For example, I found a round-trip flight from Houston to Cancun for ~$612.  Or you can book an award flight using 38,262 Southwest points.  But you’ll also have to pay ~$75 in taxes and fees.

Chase Points Southwest Flights

Consider the Taxes and Fees You’ll Pay Out of Pocket When Calculating the Value of Your Points

This means you’re essentially using 38,262 Southwest points to cover ~$537 in airfare ($612 cash cost of flight – $75 in award flight taxes and fees).

So you’re only getting ~1.4 cents per point ($537 airfare / 38,262 Southwest points).

Chase Points Southwest Flights

Because of High Taxes and Fees, You’ll Often Get Less Than 1.5 Cents per Point When You Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Southwest and Book Award Flights to Cancun or Caribbean Destinations

In this case it makes more sense to book the flight with points linked to your Sapphire Reserve, which are worth 1.5 cents each.

Because you’ll use 40,800 Chase Ultimate Rewards points ($612 / 1.5 cents) to cover the entire cost of airfare.  And you won’t pay any taxes and fees out of pocket.  Plus, you’ll earn Southwest points for the flight.

But ~1.4 cents per point is still a better deal than 1.25 cents with the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred.

Keep this in mind for other Southwest routes, which have high taxes and fees too, including:

  • Aruba
  • Belize
  • Cabo San Lucas
  • Cuba
  • Grand Cayman Island
  • Liberia, Costa Rica
  • Mexico City
  • Montego Bay
  • Nassau, Bahamas
  • Puerto Vallarta
  • Punta Cana
  • San Jose, Costa Rica

3.   And Here’s When Booking Through the Chase Travel Portal Is Better Because of the Points You’ll Earn

Sometimes your points are worth the same whether you book through the Chase travel portal or transfer to Southwest.

For example, I found a round-trip flight for Memorial Day weekend from my home in Austin to Chicago for ~$506.

As an award flight, you’d pay 33,342 Southwest points and ~$11 in taxes and fees.

Chase Points Southwest Flights

A ~$506 Round-Trip Memorial Day Weekend Flight From Austin to Chicago Costs 33,342 Southwest Points

So you’re using 33,342 Southwest points to get ~$495 worth of airfare (~$506 cash cost of flight – ~$11 in taxes and fees).

So the value of your points is ~1.5 cents each ($495 airfare / 33,342 Southwest points).

This is the same value you would get booking with points linked to your Sapphire Reserve.  And more than the 1.25 cents you get with the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred.

But consider you’ll also earn at least ~2,700 Southwest points for booking through the travel portal.  And you’ll get credit toward A-List status and the Companion Pass.

Bottom Line

When you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest for an award flight, you’ll often get more than 1.5 cents per point worth of value.

But if you’re traveling last minute, during peak travel times, or internationally, you might get less than 1.5 cents per point.  Then, it makes sense to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points linked to your Sapphire Reserve to book Southwest flights through the Chase travel portal.

Some folks prefer using the Chase travel portal for flights because it’s the same as paying cash.  This means you earn points for your flight, get credit toward A-List status and the Companion Pass, and don’t have to pay any taxes or fees out of pocket.

How do you use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book Southwest flights?

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11 responses to “How to Get the Most Value for Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Booking Southwest Flights

  1. When you transfer points to SW and redeem them, you can cancel without any penalty. An important value to me. What happens if you use Chase UR points to book airfare if you later need to cancel? Do you get all your points pack into your Chase UR account?

    • If you cancel a Southwest flight booked through the Chase travel portal, you’ll have a travel credit, which is good to use for one year.

      • Travel credits are pain to use with SW as they count as a form of payment of the 4 allowed. They can also only be used for the persons ticket assigned to. We buy discounted gift cards from staples and Amazon so utilizing forms of payment are important. Using RR points, a change just credits those points back with no restriction.

  2. This is a follow-up question to Pat’s question. Does that travel credit (when you cancel a Southwest flight through Chase Ultimate Rewards) remain with Chase or is it directly linked to Southwest Airlines? And do those points go back into Ultimate Rewards or Southwest???

  3. It sounds as if the difference is not a large amount but I certainly will consider it when the taxes are much higher on international trips.

    If I have a trip I think has a higher possibility of being changed or cancelled because my plans might change I would prefer to have that trip booked with Southwest RR points as they go right back to my account with no expiration dates and no need to make sure I use that particular credit amount on a flight 1 year from the original booking date. Sometimes I’ve used part of a credit and had trouble using the remaining credit before it expires.

  4. Can the Southwest companion pass be used for cash flights too, or only when booking flights using reward points?

  5. Pingback: Daily Points: Maximizing Southwest Miles, New Sweet Spot to Hawaii, New Award Search Tool, Get More Value from Amex MR - Travel Miles 101

  6. As a follow up to my prior question about cancelling a flight booked with Chase UR points, what if the price of the same flight drops? With SW points, the difference in points is returned to your account, but what if you are booked using Chase UR points? Is it the same as with a cancellation, i.e., you get the price difference back in the form of dollars of travel credit with Southwest, which are good only for same passenger and expire one year from flight booking date? These distinctions made a difference to me as to what booking option to use, even with international travel’s higher taxes. Thank you.