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Update: This Trick to Booking Southwest Flights Still Works!

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Update:  This Trick to Booking Southwest Flights Still Works!

Scott LiebermanUpdate:  This Trick to Booking Southwest Flights Still Works!Million Mile Secrets Team

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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 Business Platinum® Card from American Express 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

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, 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 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!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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We just tried to do this. Our Southwest flight total was $1,160. We were told we needed 190,000 points to do this. Is that right? Or should we call back and ask for a different agent? We have the Amex Platinum card.

Do not call Amex Travel directly because they will say you cannot redeem your points for a flight purchased outside of Amextravel.com. I called twice and they said the same thing. One said I’d have to redeem them through “Cover Your Card Charges” at 0.6 cents to 1 point.

On the third call to AmexTravel, I was referred to Membership Rewards department (866)751-2692 and the women knew exactly what I was talking about. She reimbursed me 1 cent to 1 point on my Southwest charge. It was not a one time courtesy. According to the Amex website: https://help.amextravel.com/service/#/articles/1016/824/25185 “redeem your Membership Reward® points for Southwest Airline tickets, book your ticket directly with them and then redeem your points after the charge posts”.

The Amex exchange rate for Southwest flights is now 1680 per dollar instead of 1000 per dollar. Even with a rebate it’s a terrible deal. AMEX didn’t inform me of the change when I changed designated airlines for rebates from Delta to Southwest. Then the AMEX reps were surly, rude, and condescending when I complained. My worst experience with AMEX ever by a long run.

Hi! Do you know if this works with the AMEX gold Card too? Thanks!

Just to add my data point to this discussion, I called today to pay with points for a Southwest flight that was booked direct through Southwest. The agent told me that it would have to be at the lower redemption ratio since it wasn’t booked through American Express. I basically just told them I thought they would be able to give me the 1:1 redemption ratio since Southwest is not bookable through the website, and asked for a one-time exception. The agent called over to the travel rewards department, then came back on the line and said they could give me a one-time exception (she stressed that it was one-time).

With all that said, I agree with several of the folks below. MMS needs to make it much clearer that official AMEX policy is that flights booked direct through Southwest CANNOT be reimbursed through pay with points at the 1:1 ratio. YMMV with one-time exception requests, and you certainly can’t assume that it’s going to work at this point (contrary to the suggestions by the article above).

I’m having the same problem. Without the 1:1 ratio Southwest is a terrible deal. I will switch back to Delta, which is unfortunate since my daughter lives in Reno and the only sensible flights there are via Southwest. But I’d be better off buying Home Depot gift cards and selling them to raise the money.

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