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I’ve written lots about Southwest’s frequent flyer program and how it’s the best program for domestic travel. Emily and I love their schedule and destinations, and being able to check up to 2 bags each for free! There are no blackout dates and it is really easy to book award seats.
The number of points needed to book a Southwest flight depends directly on the advertised fare. Right now, Wanna Get Away (their cheapest fare) award flight bookings cost 60 points per dollar. This means 1 Southwest point is worth ~1.67 cents ($1 towards Southwest flights / 60 Southwest points) towards Southwest’s cheap Wanna Get Away flights.
But in practice, you can actually get a value of ~1.8 to over 2 cents per point!
Let’s look at some examples.
See related: Step by step: How to cancel or change your Southwest flight
1. Austin to Chicago (Midway) 1-Way
It costs $173 in March from Austin to Chicago on Southwest including taxes and fees.
If you want to book this flight using points, it will cost 9,042 Southwest points plus a $2.50 security fee.
This means that, for 9,042 points, you’re getting a flight valued at $173 – $2.50 = $170.50.
So you’re actually getting a value of ($170.50 towards Southwest flights / 9,042 Southwest points) = ~1.89 cents per Southwest point!
2. Austin to Dallas (Love Field) 1-Way
It costs $69 in March from Austin to Dallas on Southwest including taxes and fees.
If you want to book this flight using Southwest points, it will cost 3,237 points plus a $2.50 security fee.
So for 3,237 points, you’re getting a flight valued at $69 – $2.50 = ~$67
In this case, you’re actually getting a value of (~$67 towards Southwest flights / 3,237 Southwest points) = ~2.05 cents per point!
Why Is This Different From Southwest’s Advertised Value of 1.67 Cents per Point?
Southwest calculates the number of points needed for a flight by multiplying the BASE FARE by 60.
To see the base fare, click on “fare breakdown” under the fare subtotal. A new window will pop up showing the base fare plus additional taxes and fees.
In our Austin to Chicago example, the base fare is ~$151. When you add excise taxes, segment fees, passenger facility charges and the security fee, the total fare becomes $173.
But Southwest calculates the points needed by multiplying the base fare (not the total fare) by 60.
That means that on a points booking, you are NOT being charged for all of the additional taxes and fees (except for the security fee of $2.50).
The points needed for this booking are ~$151 x 60 = 9,042 Southwest points. But you’re getting a value of $173 – $2.50 = ~$171 for the fare.
And (~$171 towards Southwest flights / 9,042 Southwest points) = ~1.89 cents per point!
I really like getting more value for points than I previously thought!
Remember that if you have the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, you get even more Big Travel with Small Money! With the Companion Pass, your companion will fly for free with you, even on award bookings.
Emily and I love our Companion Pass and use it frequently to visit our friends and family in the US. Right now, all 4 versions of the Southwest credit cards are offering 50,000 point bonuses, making it relatively easy to qualify for the Companion Pass.
Don’t forget that Southwest is devaluing their points! Any award bookings made after March 31, 2014 will cost 70 points per dollar instead of 60.
This works out to ($1 towards Southwest flights / 70 Southwest points) = ~1.43 cents per Southwest point. But you will still be able to get a greater value out of your points because Southwest will still use only the base fare to calculate the number of points needed.
Now is a good time to book Southwest flights before it costs more points for the same flights after March 31, 2014!
Southwest values their points at ~1.67 cents per point. But in reality, Southwest points can be worth up to ~2 cents per point!
However, Southwest points will be worth 15% less after March 31, 2014. But you can still get a better value from them than what Southwest advertises.
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