Lyn writes about flying on Southwest on her GotoTravelGal.com blog and offers a free step-by-step guide to show you how to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, which Emily and I believe is the BEST deal in travel and lets one person fly nearly free with you for up to 2 years.
I’ve asked her to give our readers a basic review of how Southwest points work and how to use them for free travel.
Lyn: Southwest is my favorite frequent flyer program for many reasons. Not the least of which is the fact that using their program, my family has flown nearly free for the past year and a half, visiting destinations like New York City; Las Vegas; Marco Island, Florida; San Diego; Orlando; and more!
I’ll get into the nitty-gritty on how to use Southwest points, including their value, reserving flights with points, and adding your Companion.
How to Use Southwest Points
First, let’s go over some basics about Southwest points.
To collect Southwest points, you will need a Rapid Rewards account. Rapid Rewards is the Southwest Airlines frequent flyer program.
Simply go to Southwest.com and select “Enroll“ at the top right. Fill in the required information. And I would suggest checking all boxes under “Communication Preferences“ to make sure you stay up-to-date on any promotions and freebies.
There are many ways to earn Southwest points like:
- Flying on Southwest
- Starting online shopping at the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping portal
- Rapid Rewards Dining (points earned automatically when dining at restaurants in the program)
- Bonus points earned by signing-up for Chase Southwest credit cards
- Spending on Chase Southwest credit cards
- Referring new cardholders to the Chase Rapid Rewards credit cards
- Booking a hotel through the Southwest.com hotel portal
- Reserving a rental car through Southwest.com
You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest when you have certain cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Ink Bold (no longer available), Chase Ink Plus (no longer available), and Chase Ink Business Preferred.
Benefits of Flying Southwest
Southwest Airlines has many great perks! All flyers can check up to 2 bags up to 50 pounds free, as well as bring 1 carry-on and 1 personal item on the plane.
The points needed to book a flight on Southwest are based on the cost of the flight and so they fluctuate, unlike other airlines that have a set number of points to book a flight within a specific distance or zone. Southwest points are worth ~1.25 to ~1.43 cents each.
There are no blackout dates for booking flights with points, so you can book any flight any time, though obviously more popular routes and dates will require more points. Typically, Tuesday and Wednesday flights cost fewer points as do flights during a destination’s off season.
Other benefits include access to Southwest’s inflight entertainment system on your own device.
Southwest also does not charge change fees, so you can cancel or change your flight with no penalty, though you will have to any increase in fare if you change your flight. If you are cancelling, you will be issued a Southwest credit if you paid in cash and booked a Wanna Get Away fare. If you booked with Southwest points, the points will immediately be credited back to your account – a big perk of booking with points!
So it’s often helpful to book a flight, knowing you can cancel and rebook if you find a lower price, especially if you booked using points.
Finally, your points don’t expire so long as you have some activity within 24 months.
Booking a Southwest Flight With Points
Here is a step-by-step walk-through of how to book a Southwest flight with points.
1. Start at the Low Fare Calendar
To book a Southwest flight using your Southwest points, I find it’s easiest to start at the Low Fare Calendar. This allows you to see the lowest point price for a flight across a range of dates. You can then select a date that works for you that offers the lowest possible price.
2. Enter Your Search Criteria
Log into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account and then visit the Low Fare Calendar page. Enter your departure city, destination, and the month you will be traveling along with the total number of passengers. Then choose “Points“ at the top right and “Search.”
3. Review Dates and Total Points Needed
Next you get will a list of the lowest price in points on each day of the month for both outbound and return flights. Select a departing date and returning date to see the flight options. On the right-hand side, you can choose the type of fares you’d like to consider. Choose “Lowest Fares“ if you’re looking for the cheapest option and then “Continue.”
4. Select Your Flights
The resulting page will list flight options on that date along with the cost in points each way. You can filter the results by non-stop only flights if you prefer. Make your selections and choose “Continue.”
5. Select Check Out, Save Flight, or Modify Trip
Now, you will see the total cost of the flight in points under your Shopping Cart on the right-hand side. You will also see the $5.60 mandatory government security fee per person per direction included in the total price. You can choose to Check Out, Save Flight, to come back to it later, or Modify Trip at the bottom to make changes or check additional dates, times, and flights.
6. Pay for the Security Fee and Fill in Passenger Information to Purchase
To purchase the flight, you will select “Checkout“ where you will need to fill in all passenger information, as well as pay for the mandatory government security fee.
Adding Your Companion to a Flight
If you are lucky enough to hold the Southwest Companion Pass, which lets 1 person fly almost free with you on any Southwest flight for up to 2 years (you can download my free guide for a step-by-step walk-through of how to earn it), you’ll want to add them.
You DO NOT book your companion on your flight like a regular passenger. Instead, you book the flight first and then ADD your companion to your ticket. Here’s how you do it:
1. Go to “My Account”
Once you are logged into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account on Southwest.com, click on “My Account.”
2. Scroll to My Trips
Scroll down until you see the My Trips section of the My Account page.
3. Choose “Add Companion”
Go to the trip where you want to add a companion and below the trip, select “Add Companion.” The system will add the person listed as your companion. If you’d like to switch companions, here’s how to change your Southwest companion.
4. Pay the Mandatory Government Security Fee
You’ll need to pay the $5.60 government security fee for your companion each way.
5. Click “Purchase”
You are all set!
Southwest has a great frequent flyer program that not only allows you to earn a pass so that a companion can fly almost free with you, but is incredibly flexible with no blackout dates or cancellation fees.
Within a short period of time, you can be flying free on Southwest using points that are easy to collect!