Southwest Points Value: What Are They Worth?

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Southwest Points Value:  What Are They Worth?

Brett HolzhauerSouthwest Points Value:  What Are They Worth?Million Mile Secrets Team

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Because the price of a Southwest award flight is directly related to the cash price of the ticket, it’s easier than with most airlines to estimate the value of Southwest points.

So how much are Southwest points worth?   It varies slightly depending on the route, time of year, and other factors, but in general, you can expect to get an average of 1.5 cents per point in value.  At times, they can be worth even more.

The great thing about Southwest points is that they’re easy to earn from cards like the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card.  And they’re also a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, so you can indirectly earn Southwest points from top cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

What’s the value of Southwest points?  We’ll show you how to figure out what they’re worth

I’ll show you some examples to see what Southwest points are worth and how to calculate their value in your situation.

Southwest Points Value

The number of points needed to book a Southwest Airlines flight depends directly on the advertised fare.

Wanna Get Away (Southwest’s cheapest fare) award flight bookings cost roughly 76 points per $1.  This means each Southwest point is in theory worth ~1.32 cents ($1 / 76 Southwest points) towards Southwest’s cheap Wanna Get Away flights.  However, this is calculated against the base fare without the taxes and fees.

To calculate the value of each point for your specific flight, use the following formula:

(Cash price of ticket – taxes and fees you’d pay on the award ticket) / number of points required for an award ticket

The detail to know about award flights is that you do not have to pay the following fees.

  • Excise taxes, including:
    • 7.5% of base fare for domestic travel within the Continental US
    • US Transportation Tax of $18.60 each way for travel between the continental US and Puerto Rico
  • Federal segment fee of $4.20 that will be imposed on each flight segment.  Flight segment is defined as a takeoff and a landing
  • Airport assessed Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) of up to $18

On domestic award flights, you will pay a government-imposed September 11th Security Fee of $5.60 per one-way trip.

How to Find Out How Much Southwest Points Are Worth for Your Flight

Here a few examples of flights where you can get more value, less value, and somewhere right around the middle for each Southwest point.  Also, I’ll add in an international trip as well (because taxes and fees on those are a little different).

1.   Los Angeles to San Francisco

Here’s a ~$65 one-way flight between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

A Paid Ticket From Los Angeles To San Francisco Will Cost Roughly $65

If you booked the same itinerary as an award flight, you’d pay 3,677 Southwest points.

That Same Ticket Will Cost 3,677 Southwest Points and $5.60 in Taxes

On this particular flight, you can get ~1.61 cents per point (($64.98 cash fare – $5.60 taxes) / 3,677 points).  That’s an above-average deal.

2.   Atlanta to Orlando

This flight from Atlanta to Orlando costs ~$191 in cash one-way.

A Paid Ticket From Atlanta To Orlando Will Cost You ~$191

The same flight would set you back 12,820 Southwest points and the same $5.60 security fee.

Or Pay 12,820 Southwest Points and $5.60 for the Same Itinerary

On this flight, you can get ~1.45 cents per point (($190.98 cash fare – $5.60 taxes) /12,820 points)!  That’s closer to average.

3.   Houston to Cabo San Lucas

International flights are a little trickier because you’ll pay additional taxes, which you’ll have to pay separately along with points on an award ticket.

Here’s a flight between Houston and Cabo San Lucas.  Including taxes, you’d pay ~$193 for a paid flight.

The Taxes and Fees on International Flights Are Higher

For an award ticket, you’d pay 10,530 points and ~$34 in taxes.  The extra taxes are from an additional Mexico tourism fee you must pay on paid and award tickets.

You’ll Pay an Additional Tourism Fee on Award Flights to Mexico, Which Reduces Your Value per Point

In this situation, you’re getting a slightly lower value than average.  For this particular ticket, your Southwest points are worth ~1.28 cents each (($192.72 cash fare – $34.62 taxes) / 10,530 points).

Of course, if you have the Southwest Companion Pass, you can get nearly double the value for your points.  To qualify for the Companion Pass, you’ll need to earn 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year.  Once you have it, a friend or family member can fly with you on paid and award tickets for just the cost of taxes and fees.

You can earn Southwest Companion Pass qualifying points quickly from the following cards:

Bottom Line

The value of Southwest points varies depending on route and other factors.  On average, Southwest points are worth ~1.5 cents each.

To figure out the Southwest points value on your particular flight, use the following formula:

(Cash price of ticket – taxes and fees you’d pay on the award ticket) / number of points required for an award ticket

You’ll find on international flights you’ll typically get a lower value per points because the taxes and fees on an award ticket are usually higher.

It’s easy to earn Southwest points from cards like Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card.  Or transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points from cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

What’s the best value you’ve gotten from your Southwest points?

Check out our guides for using Southwest Airlines miles:

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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

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I’m saving mine for the release of the Hawaii schedule. Can’t beat 2 tickets to Hawaii for less than maybe $300!!! #STOKED!

P.S. Thanks for the details on this post!

Glad you’re excited, that makes two of us!

Been excited for Southwest fights to Hawaii…the more competition there is the better it is (usually) for us consumers!

Thanks for sharing. One other thing to remember is that award flights essentially become refundable tickets since you get your points back if you cancel (instead of a voucher good for one year if you paid cash). Depending on your situation, that flexibility may put a slight premium on the points over the calculated value.

It is also worth pointing out for those that may use their points for someone else that those points will come back to your account to be reused how you want. When you pay cash the voucher can only be used by the original traveler how they want, if they even use it at all. This can be important whether it is a friend or family member that doesn’t travel often and may not use it before it expires or a significant other if the relationship ends before the trip.

Totally agree Eric! Opportunity cost for Ultimate Rewards points gives a very different answer than 1.5. My question is always what else could I do with these points? Not, how much would it cost me to do this same thing in cash? It isn’t costing me cash to get those miles (I don’t use card where asked not to or pay a fee). It is costing the businesses we want to support up to 3 cents per point and we owe it them to get that back. Hyatt and SWA make that much easier.