Southwest Is Great, but Their Expiration Policy Is Not!

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Southwest Is Great, but Their Expiration Policy Is Not!

Million Mile SecretsSouthwest Is Great, but Their Expiration Policy Is Not!Million Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

If you’re traveling domestically, it’s hard to beat Southwest.  They have a straightforward loyalty program, 2 free checked bags per person, no change or cancellation fees, and frequently have great fare sales.  And they have the best deal in travel – the Southwest Companion Pass!

The one downside to collecting Southwest points is they expire after 24 months.  And unlike most other airlines’ miles, redeeming Southwest points will NOT reset the expiration date!

Southwest Is Great But Their Expiration Policy Is Not
Folks Love Southwest for Their Customer Service and Simple Rewards Program, but How Does The Southwest Points Expiration Policy Actually Work?

Million Mile Secret Agent Gerald tweeted:

I have 16,000 Southwest points earned via e-Rewards.  Do Southwest points transferred from e-Rewards reset the 24-month expiration date?  Or would you suggest signing up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Cardpay the $69 annual fee and then be able to redeem for gift cards?

You’re in luck, Gerald, because Southwest points transfers from e-Rewards will restart your 24-month expiration time period.  And if you get the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card, any Southwest points you earn with it, including the sign-up bonus, will also reset your expiration date.

But redeeming for gift cards will NOT extend the life of your Southwest points.  And there are some other things to consider, because getting gift cards might not be the best deal for your situation.

Southwest Points Expiration Policy

Southwest has one of the less generous point expiration rules.  Your Southwest points expire after 24 months of inactivity.  And redeeming Southwest points does NOT count as qualifying activity!

But you can keep your Southwest points alive with any activity that earns Southwest points.  So transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards, e-Rewards, or hotels will all reset your expiration date.  And it’s important to keep your Southwest points from expiring, because expired Southwest points can NOT be reinstated!

Don’t Forget About the Chase “5/24” Rule

If you’ve opened 5 or more new credit cards accounts from any bank within the past 24 months, you’re unlikely to be approved for most Chase cards, including the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card.  But some small business cards won’t appear on your personal credit report.  So they do NOT count toward your Chase “5/24” limit!

Southwest Is Great But Their Expiration Policy Is Not
Point Transfers Will Reset Your Expiration Date, but They Will NOT Count Toward the Southwest Companion Pass

Also, while transfers keep your Southwest points alive, they won’t count toward earning a Southwest Companion Pass.  But the sign-up bonus from the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card will count.  Plus, any points you earn from your spending on the card will also get you closer to a Southwest Companion Pass.

So if earning the Southwest Companion Pass is one of your travel goals this year, then applying for a Southwest card is the way to go.

Are Gift Cards Your Best Option?

Chase Southwest cardholders have access to Southwest’s More Rewards program.  The More Rewards program allows you to redeem your Southwest points for events, merchandise, and gift cards.  But this is generally NOT a good deal.

Southwest points are worth ~1.25 to ~1.43 cents per point toward paid airfare.  But if you use your Southwest points for merchandise you’ll get much less value per point.  For example, on a few items I saw it was ~0.5 cents per Southwest point.

Gift card redemptions are a bit better.  You can get up to 1 cent per Southwest point for a variety of $50 and $100 gift cards.

Southwest Is Great But Their Expiration Policy Is Not
You Can Redeem Southwest Points for Gift Cards, but I Don’t Recommend It

So you’ll have to decide if this is a good deal for your situation.  If you aren’t planning on traveling much, then getting gift cards might be a good choice.

But if you’re looking to get 1 cent per point to use for any expense, there are lots of great cash back cards that do not have an annual fee.  So I wouldn’t recommend getting the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card just to be able to redeem your Southwest points for gift cards.

Bottom Line

Southwest points expire after 24 months of inactivity.  And redeeming Southwest points does NOT reset the expiration date!

Thankfully, there are lots of quick and easy ways to keep your Southwest points from disappearing for good.  Any Southwest point earning activity will keep your points alive, including transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards, e-Rewards, and hotel programs.

If you get a Southwest credit card, like the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card, you’ll have access to Southwest’s More Rewards program.  More Rewards lets you redeem your Southwest points for merchandise and gift cards.  But this is generally NOT a good deal, because you’ll get more value out of your Southwest points if you redeem them for award flights.

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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more

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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I JUST GOT 6OOO POINTS FOR MY ANNUAL RENEWAL OF MY CHASE SW CARD. . WILL THAT CHANGE MY EXPIRATION DATE?
THANKS

Million Mile Secrets

Yes, it will!

This is a lot of crying about nothing. Two years before they expire is a long time. Many programs have it as a year, as do casino rewards programs, etc. Some are even less. There are like a million ways to earn points and extend the expiration date. If you are not using Southwest or Rapid Rewards even once within 24 months, then I guess they’re not that valuable to you in the first place. All it takes is earning one point, like the guy said above and you’re good.

Not only is their expiration policy terrible, Southwest customer support is even worse if you try to convince them to return/refund the points.

Southwest changed the “Last Activity Date” on my account on their own, they say, when I was named as the companion for a companion pass. So, when checking various sites to update my expirations on my spreadsheet, I was using the Last Activity Date they put on my account. Well, that date was wrong.

They admitted they should have notified me that they changed the date, but STILL refuse to return any of the points taken.

Ridiculous, because I told them that of course I would just have made a purchase through their portal or transferred some UR points over to extend if the DATE WAS RIGHT!

I’ll never book a paid flight again on Southwest unless it’s the last resort / absolute most convenient option for me.

Million Mile Secrets

Wow, that is really frustrating to hear! I hope you didn’t lose out on too many points!

The other thing to be aware of is you cannot use points to book a flight that is scheduled for a date beyond the expiration date of the points. For example, if your points are due to expire on Aug. 1, 2018, you cannot book a flight with them for Aug. 2. There are a lot of good things about the Southwest program, but their points expiration policies are not one of them.

Million Mile Secrets

This is good to know, thanks for sharing!

Go to their shopping network via your RR account. Buy a bag of dirt from Home Depot for $1.49. Presto, points extended.

Another option is to use their Rapid Rewards dining program. You can register your credit card numbers with them, so credits are automatic – you don’t even have to think about it at the restaurant.

There is a deli near me that participates, and I happen to eat there frequently anyway. So as long as I do that once every two years, my Southwest points don’t expire.

Million Mile Secrets

These are both great ideas! How long does it normally take for the points to post to your account?

I haven’t been watching enough to say for sure, but I can say my sandwich on 2/7 was posted on 2/14, and before that my sandwich on 1/29 was posted on 2/7. So … about a week