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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!
I’ll let Jake share his experience!
American Express Points for Southwest Flights
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.
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
Then, after the charge posts, call AMEX Travel at 800-297-2977 and request to pay with AMEX Membership Rewards points.
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)!
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.
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!
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.
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!