Update: This Trick to Booking Southwest Flights Still Works!

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Million Mile Secrets reader Dan commented:

Southwest is my airline of choice.  I’m having trouble getting AMEX to honor the rebate deal when I book tickets on southwest.com as per your December 2016 post on this topic.  Please help me (and other Southwest fans) understand the process.  Thanks!

Good question, Dan!

Million Mile Secrets team member Jake recently booked Southwest flights using the The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN Pay With Points rebate.

And he’s confirmed the method I wrote about earlier this year to get the most Southwest flights for your points still works. 

American Express Points For Southwest Flights

Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for Southwest Flights to New Destinations Like Turks and Caicos

I’ll let Jake share his experience!

American Express Points for Southwest Flights

Link:   The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

Link:   My Review of the AMEX Business Platinum Card

Link:   AMEX Business Platinum Pay With Points Rebate

Link:   Changes to AMEX Business Platinum Pay With Points Rebate

Jake:   Southwest is popular with many folks because of their terrific fares, free checked bags, and growing route network.  Plus, if you have the Southwest Companion Pass, flying Southwest can save you even more money!

If you have The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, you’ll save even more when you use Pay With Points and have Southwest as your selected airline.  This is the same airline you’ll choose for earning the $200 airline incidental fee credit.

And when you use Pay With Points, you’ll get some of your AMEX Membership Rewards points back as a rebate.  You can read about recent changes to this perk here.

But You Can’t Book Direct Through the AMEX Portal

I selected Southwest as my preferred airline and was reimbursed $200 for purchasing Southwest gift cards back in January.

But unlike other airlines, you can NOT book Southwest flights online at AmexTravel.com.  Many of us assumed you have to call AMEX travel at 800-297-2977 if you want to book flights on Southwest.

The disadvantage to calling in is agents won’t always be able to see the same fares that are listed on Southwest.com.  For example, an AMEX travel agent last week couldn’t find the lowest fare for a flight I wanted to book between Denver and Washington, DC.

American Express Points For Southwest Flights

If You Call AMEX Travel to Book Your Southwest Flight, They May Not Be Able to See the Cheapest Fares

He explained this is because AMEX travel agents are sometimes restricted and can’t book “Wanna Get Away” fares or international Southwest flights.

Book Direct With Southwest Instead

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

Fortunately, there is a workaround that is faster and more convenient.  And I’ve recently had success using it!

Several AMEX travel agents have told me to go ahead and make a flight booking directly at Southwest.com using my AMEX Business Platinum card.

Then, after the charge posts, call AMEX Travel at 800-297-2977 and request to pay with AMEX Membership Rewards points.

American Express Points For Southwest Flights

Call AMEX Travel After You Book Through Southwest With Your AMEX Business Platinum

So far, I have successfully booked directly with Southwest and had the charges reimbursed 4 times.  Each time, I called AMEX travel ~3 days after I purchased the Southwest flight, and they credited my account without question using my AMEX Membership Rewards points.

Note:   I have also used Pay With Points to reimburse flights booked ~3 months earlier.  This might be useful for folks who don’t have the necessary points now, but might earn them within a couple months!

The phone calls typically took ~10 minutes and the AMEX travel agents were knowledgeable about the process.  I did have to explain to one representative what I was trying to do, but he quickly understood and processed the account credit.  If you happen to get an agent who can’t help or doesn’t know the process, you can always HUCA (hang up, call again)!

American Express Points For Southwest Flights

Wait For the Flight Purchases to Post to Your AMEX Account Before Calling to Have Them Reimbursed

Note:   To save time, you can ask the AMEX travel agent to credit multiple flights on a single phone call.  So if you have multiple Southwest flights coming up, you can book them all at Southwest.com and get them reimbursed in one call.

After the AMEX travel agent credits your account for the amount of the purchase, points are immediately deducted from your Membership Rewards account balance.

American Express Points For Southwest Flights

After Calling AMEX to Reimburse the Charges, I Was Refunded Within ~48 Hours

Remember that points are worth 1 cent each towards travel, before the Pay With Points rebate.  For example, a $475 Southwest flight requires 47,500 Membership Rewards points.

But you would get a rebate credit 6 to 8 weeks after you redeem your points.  Keep in mind AMEX is making changes to how many points you’ll get back.

Why This Is a Good Deal

This is one of my favorite uses of AMEX Membership Rewards points, because it allows me to book flights that are most convenient for my schedule.  And because Southwest is NOT an AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partner, this one of the only ways to use AMEX Membership Rewards to book flights on Southwest.

Plus, I can save my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to transfer to other partners for Big Travel, like Hyatt, United Airlines, or Singapore Airlines!

American Express Points For Southwest Flights

Instead of Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Southwest, Save Them for More Valuable Transfer Partners Like Hyatt Hotels

And because Southwest has no change or cancellation fees, you can cancel your flight and get a credit in your Southwest account for future travel within 1 year.  However, you will NOT get your AMEX Membership Rewards points back!

Note:   When booking flights using the Pay With Points rebate on AmexTravel.com, you typically have a 24-hour cancellation window with no penalties.  But if you book directly on Southwest.com, you have to follow Southwest’s booking and cancellation rules.

Bottom Line

Folks with The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN can still use the trick I wrote about to book Southwest flights using AMEX Membership Rewards Pay With Points.

Team member Jake recently booked 4 Southwest flights with this method.  And received the Pay With Points rebate to get some of his AMEX Membership Rewards points back.

Keep in mind, AMEX recently announced changes to the Pay With Points rebate.  But it’s still a good deal compared to no rebate at all!

I’d love to hear about your experiences using AMEX Membership Rewards points for Southwest flights!

Thanks for the question, Dan!

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15 responses to “Update: This Trick to Booking Southwest Flights Still Works!

  1. Beware – I have tried this and after the first time I was told they absolutely would not apply points to it at the same rate… and I would not get 50% back. I tried calling about 10 times and still no luck.

    This absolutely did not work for me.

  2. What would happen if you booked a business select ticket and then canceled it and got your money back? you’d essentially be cashing out your points for 2 cents each.

  3. Agree with Eric. I’ve tried this so many times after the original post was published. This doesn’t work.

  4. I booked my own on Southwest but when I called to pay with points I was told repeatedly that I could only redeem as a regular statement credit (.06 cents per point) and I wasn’t eligible for the 50% point rebate since I didn’t call in to book. On my fourth call I found a sympathetic rep who helped me, but she told me that in the future I would need to call to book. Ymmv. Not as easy as this pay makes it sound.

  5. Worked for me on 5/23/17 for the fourth time this year. It can be difficult to find an AMEX rep that knows how it works but the last time I tried there were no issues at all. Be sure you are using BUSINESS plat AMEX, not personal platinum. Good luck!

  6. They recorded me the first time I tried it and noted it would be my one-time exception. Then I called to book through Amex Travel and the guy was determined to charge me the phone booking fee and the inflated prices. When he couldn’t find my flights, he notated my account and called over to Membership Rewards to notate that account to allow a redemption after booking at Southwest.com since he couldn’t see the flights I wanted. That exception worked on the two flights I needed to book.

    Since then, my attempts to redeem after the fact have all failed. But this is really the only way to get 2 cents of value. Otherwise, with the inflated prices (if you can get them to agree to waive the fee), the return is about 1.6 cents. When the Platinum drops to 35%, it’ll no longer be an attractive offer compared to other programs where points are easier to redeem for the same or better value.

    • I experienced the same thing JR did, and I find it pretty ridiculous. My sole reason for applying for this card (the Biz Platinum) was because I have a SW Companion Pass and saw this as a huge point redemption opportunity. Anyone I talk to at AMEX says that if I book directly with SW, then they will do a normal statement credit for purchases, which is an abysmal redemption rate. The alternative is to book through AMEX, and they charge a fee ($35-40 I per ticket believe) for phone booking. Combine that with the upcoming drop from 50% to 35% on the rebate, and I have absolutely no reason to keep this card after the first year. I just don’t think SW flyers should be punished compared to Delta, American, United, etc. flyers.

  7. I was able to call in and get credited for 1 cent per point (regular platinum, so no rebate) for s southwest ticket.

    It took a few minutes because the charge posted as “dc.com” or something like that. The Rep couldn’t recognize it as Southwest, but checked with Supervisor and was told it sometimes posts that way and was no problem.

    Not the greatest redemption rate, but better than a cash outlay.

    • You did that today?

      I have a small one-way purchase pending on my Amex Business Platinum for a purchase yesterday on Southwest.com. I’m going to try to call Membership Rewards when it posts Monday or Tuesday to see if I can get the redemption to work. I’ll come back and let everyone know how it goes for another data point.

  8. Amex has the best customer service I’ve ever experienced and I think if I received pushback on the 50% rebate I’d yell and scream. After all if “Southwest” is one of the preferred airlines you can choose for the 50% rebate, how can they not honor it? On their site under benefits it clearly says: “If you select Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, or AirTran Airways, to receive your 35% Airline Bonus you must call Business Platinum Travel Service at 1-800-553-9497.” Of course some of us are grandfathered into the 50% off for awhile longer… but I would play dumb and book and then call them to DEMAND the rebate just like it says on the website.

  9. Christine Unruh

    It worked the first time for me in April. No questions asked. In May I booked my Southwest flight then waited for it to post then called Membership Rewards to have 50% points credited. when I called, I was told that they would do it again for a one time exception and it would be made a note in my account that this was the only time they were allowed to be done. In the future I would have to call and the agent would have to book my flight and they could not waive the $39 fee for speaking to the American Express travel agent. I can get my 50% point rebate until October but still have to pay $39? Yes. Yes you do. So frustrated.

  10. Called at 12:35 Central time today: 167 points per dollar, must book through Amex Travel for 100 points per dollar. Ended call.

    Called at 2:50 Central time today: 167 points per dollar, must book through Amex Travel for 100 points per dollar. Ended call.

    This is irresponsible leading people to believe this works and is no big deal to get done.

    • It seems like you’re calling the wrong number or doing something wrong. I followed the guide and it has worked 10+ times for me including on Friday. Unless they changed the policy over the weekend.

      • I’m on with them now at the number posted above.

        Getting the same thing. You can’t redeem for Southwest.com booking on your Amex Biz Platinum, only those booked direct with Amex Travel over the phone. We can grant a one time exception, but it looks like we’ve already done that for you previously.