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The bad news is that you need 15% more Southwest points to redeem a Wanna Get Away ticket (Southwest’s lowest price tickets).
The somewhat good news is that the 15% increase doesn’t start until March 31, 2014. So try to book all your Southwest flights using points BEFORE March 31, 2014.
In my opinion, Southwest is the best frequent flyer program for travel within the US. That’s because Southwest has lots of non-stop flights from different airports, lets you check-in 2 free bags, and has a friendly crew. They also let you cancel or change flights for free without change fees which can be up to $200 on other airlines!
And whenever an airline or hotel provides much more value than their competitors, I know from personal experience that the pressure is on company executives to justify that the outsized benefits helps the bottom line. So it is very common to see airline and hotel miles and points devalue.
Or to have airlines and hotels make changes to their programs which increase their profitability, but reduce benefits to members.
I certainly don’t like it, but that’s the nature of the points and miles hobby. Companies continually look for ways to cut costs and reduce benefits when they don’t need to provide it or are providing way more benefits than the competition.
Currently a Wanna Get Away award ticket will cost 60 Southwest points per $1. So each Southwest point is worth ~1.67 cents (100 cents / 60 Southwest points) towards an award ticket
But from March 31, 2014, a Wanna Get Away award ticket will cost 70 Southwest points per $1. Which makes 1 Southwest point worth ~1.42 cents (100 cents / 70 Southwest points) or a 15% reduction.
What Does This Mean?
A $344 ticket from Kansas City to San Francisco in April 2014 currently costs 18,000 points.
But that same $344 ticket would cost ~21,000 points (instead of 18,000 points) if I booked it after March 31, 2014!
Southwest’s schedule is only loaded through April 6, 2014, but you can book award tickets at the current rate of 1 Southwest points = 1.67 cents towards Wanna Get Away fares even for travel after March 31, 2014.
You can book your trip using points even if your plans are tentative, because you can get the points back without paying a change fee if you have to cancel your flight. So wait until the schedule opens out for beyond April 6, 2014 and lock in your awards at the higher redemption level.
Southwest is not making any changes to Anytime or Business Select award tickets (at least not now).
I’ve written lots on the Southwest Companion Pass and think it is the best deal for our domestic US travel. Why?
Because it lets a companion travel with you for free whenever you travel on Southwest. It doesn’t matter if your flight is booked with points or paid for with cash – your companion flies free (~$10 in taxes and fees)!
The Southwest credit cards have a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $2,000 within 3 months up to October 31, 2013 and the sign-up bonus currently counts towards the Southwest Companion Pass.
At 1.67 cents per Southwest point, you’d get ~$850 in flights on Southwest. But you’d get only ~$710 worth of flights at 1.42 cents per point.
But $710 in flights within the US from just 1 credit card is still very good!
From March 31, 2014, Southwest will increase the cost of redeeming Wanna Get Away fares from 60 Southwest points per $1 to 70 Southwest points per $1. This reduces the value of 1 Southwest point from 1.67 cents to 1.42 cents.
So wait for the schedule to open beyond April 6, 2014 & book your flights on Southwest before March 31, 2014 to get the most out of your points!