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The Basics: How to Use Southwest Points for Award Flights

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The Basics: How to Use Southwest Points for Award Flights

Meghan HunterThe Basics: How to Use Southwest Points for Award FlightsMillion Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: One of the great things about Southwest award flights is that there are no blackout dates for booking flights with points, so you can book any flight any time.

Southwest is a favorite airline of many for multiple reasons, including the fact that they offer the best deal in travel with the Southwest Companion Pass. Lots of us on the Million Mile Secrets team and readers have used Southwest points to fly to popular spots like New York City, Las Vegas, Cancun, Punta Cana, San Diego, Austin and more!

But if you’re new to the miles and points hobby or have just recently become interested in making the most of Southwest’s customer friendly frequent flyer program, you’re probably here looking for some tips and tricks to use.

Let’s take a look at the basics of how to use Southwest points for free travel.

You can now redeem Southwest points for flights to Hawaii, giving you a great low-cost option for getting to the Aloha State! (Photo courtesy of Southwest)

How to Use Southwest Points

First, to collect Southwest points, you will need a Rapid Rewards account. Rapid Rewards is the Southwest Airlines frequent flyer program. It’s easy to sign-up for an account right on Southwest’s homepage. Check out this guide for step-by-step instructions on how to setup a Southwest account.

If you need more Southwest points, you can earn them directly from the following cards:

Southwest is also a Chase transfer partner, so if you need to top off your account you can move points when you have cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Benefits of Flying Southwest

Southwest offers tons of great perks! All flyers can check up to two bags for free and bring one carry-on and one 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 ~1.5 cents each.

Even better, there are no blackout dates for booking flights with points, so you can book any flight any time, though obviously more popular itineraries (think Spring Break and Christmas travel!) will require more points.

Traveling with your family? The kids will be happy to know you can access Southwest’s free inflight entertainment system on their personal mobile device. (Photo by Jasmin Baron/Million Mile Secrets)

Southwest also does not charge change fees, so you can cancel or change your flight without penalty. That said, you’ll have to pay any increase in fare if you change your flight.

If you cancel your flight you’ll 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 – which is nice!

With these lenient cancellation rules, we always suggest booking a flight if you find a good price because you can always cancel and rebook if you find a lower price.

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 on Southwest’s Homepage

To book a Southwest flight using your Southwest points, it’s easiest to start at the Low Fare Calendar. Log into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account and then click 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

Enter your departure city, destination and the month you will be traveling along with the total number of passengers. Then choosePoints at the top right and click the Search” button.

3. Review Dates and Total Points Needed

You’ll get a list of the lowest price in points on each day of the month for both outbound and return flights. You can select a departing date and returning date to see the flight options. The various flight options can be sorted using the “Fare Type” dropdown. You can select “Lowest fare” to see the cheapest options.

Choose the outbound and return flights you want and click “Continue.”

Choose “Lowest Fares” to see the cheapest prices and select a departing and return date to see flight options.

4. Select Your Flights

The next page will list flight options on that date along with the cost in points each way. Again, you’ll be able to filter the results by things like departure time, nonstop flights, etc.  Make your selections and click Continue.”

Review the list of flights for options and make a selection. You can also filter for nonstop flights.

5. Continue to Checkout or Save Flight

From there you’ll see the total cost of the flight. Included is the $5.60 mandatory government security fee per person per direction included in the total price. Double check that everything looks right and then choose to “Save this flight for later” or “Continue.”

Once you’ve made your selections, you can check out and pay, or save your flight to come back to it later.

6. Complete Your Purchase

To purchase the flight, you will select the “Continue” where you’ll then be able to fill in the passenger information and pay for the mandatory government security fee. That’s it!

Bottom Line

Southwest has a great frequent flyer program that not only allows you to earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass but is incredibly flexible with no blackout dates or cancellation fees.

Within no time at all, you can be flying free on Southwest using points that are easy to earn and use!

Looking for more information on Southwest? Check out these posts:

For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel

More Info

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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So an award flight is basically booking by lowest rate?

No – an award flight is just using your points for any flight that is also available to purchase with $. But you’ll want to shop for the lowest amount of points needed, just like you would for a flight you would purchase.