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Now that the Southwest 50,000 point cards are back, folks might have a lot of Southwest points to use. But Southwest increased the cost of award tickets by 15% at the end of March, so a point is worth less than it used to be.
I wrote about how much Southwest points are really worth before the cost of award tickets went up. But how much are they worth now?
How Do We Know What Southwest Points Are Worth?
The number of points needed to book a Southwest flight depends directly on the advertised fare. Wanna Get Away (their cheapest fare) award flight bookings cost 70 points per dollar. This means 1 Southwest point is worth ~1.43 cents ($1 towards Southwest flights / 70 Southwest points) towards Southwest’s cheap Wanna Get Away flights.
In practice, you can actually get a higher value out of each point!
Let’s look at some examples.
1. Rochester to Orlando 1-Way
It costs $140 including taxes and fees to fly Southwest from Rochester to Orlando on September 9, 2014.
Using points, the same flight costs 8,400 points plus a $2.50 security fee.
This means that, for 8,400 points, you’re getting a flight valued at $140 – $2.50 = $137.50.
So you’re actually getting a value of ~1.64 cents per Southwest point ($137.50 cost of flight / 8,400 Southwest points).
2. West Palm Beach to Atlanta 1-Way
It costs $89 on October 3, 2014, to fly from West Palm Beach to Atlanta.
If you were to book this ticket with Southwest points, it would cost 5,079 points plus a $2.50 security fee.
So for 5,079 points, you’re getting a flight valued at $89 – $2.50 = $86.50.
In this case, you’re actually getting a value of ~1.7 cents per point ($86.50 cost of flight / 5,079 Southwest points).
Why Is This Different From Southwest’s Advertised Value of ~1.43 Cents per Point?
Southwest calculates the number of points needed for a flight by multiplying the BASE FARE by 70.
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 the West Palm Beach to Atlanta example, the base fare is ~$73. When you add excise taxes, segment fees, passenger facility charges and the security fee, the total fare becomes $89.
But Southwest calculates the points needed by multiplying the base fare (not the total fare) by 70.
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 $72.56 x 70 = 5,079 Southwest points. But you’re getting a value of $89 – $2.50 = $86.50 for the fare.
And ($86.50 cost of flight / 5,079 Southwest points) = ~1.7 cents per point!
So Southwest points are still worth more than the advertised value of ~1.43 cents per point!
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.
Right now, all 4 Southwest credit cards have a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after meeting minimum spending. So now is a good time to earn points towards the Southwest Companion Pass!
Southwest values their points at ~1.43 cents per point. But in practice, Southwest points can be worth up to ~1.7 cents per point or more!