Should I Buy Southwest Points? (Rapid Rewards) [2019]

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. 

A lot of people wonder whether or not they should purchase Southwest Rapid Rewards. In this article, I’ll walk you through some factors to consider and talk about why that might or might not be a good deal. I’ll also show you how you can purchase Southwest points and also initiate transfers to other people.

Should I buy Southwest points?

Generally, buying Southwest points does not offer you a great value proposition but there are some instances where you might consider purchasing them. Below, I’ll talk about when it might make sense to purchase Southwest Rapid Rewards.

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How much are Rapid Rewards worth?

Before ever purchasing any type of miles or points it makes sense to figure out how much are those miles or points worth.

The value of Southwest Rapid Rewards are tied to the price of the airfare based on the following rates:

  • Business Select: 78 points per dollar
  • Anytime: 78 points per dollar
  • Wanna Get Away: 76-78 points per dollar

Those rates are based on the base fares so you can actually get a bit more value from your points when you factor in all of the fees and taxes. I generally find that I get about 1.4 to 1.6 cents per point when I redeem my Rapid Rewards for flights (factoring in the fees).

Here are a few examples I pulled up for redemptions:

  • HOU -> MDW: $148 or 9,700 points (1.47 cents per point)
  • HOU -> LAX: $150 or 9,796 points (1.48 cents per point)
  • FLL -> LAX: $153 or 9,433 points (1.56 cents per point)
  • OAK -> LAX: $65 or 3,677 points (1.63 cents per point)

With that said, it’s possible that the value for your redemptions could be lower or higher than that range but I think that estimating the value of Rapid Rewards at about 1.4 to 1.6 cents per point is a safe bet in many cases.

So now you can proceed with a baseline value in mind when choosing to purchase Rapid Rewards.

How much do Rapid Rewards cost?

Rapid Rewards are usually set at an established price. They will cost 3 cents per point at the lowest level of 2,000 points but once you get at 10,000 Rapid Rewards and beyond, they will cost you 2.75 cents per point.

  • 2,000 points for $60 = 3 cents per point
  • 10,000 points for $275 = 2.75 cents per point
  • 20,000 points for $550 = 2.75 cents per point
  • 30,000 points for $825 = 2.75 cents per point
  • 40,000 points for $1,100 = 2.75 cents per point

As you can tell, these prices are substantially higher than the value attached to Southwest points in most cases. Thus, you won’t be getting a good deal when you purchase Rapid Rewards in many cases. So unless you just need to top-off a Rapid Rewards balance, I don’t think that this is usually that great of a deal.

Just pay cash?

You always want to consider how many Rapid Rewards you’ll be earning if you just paid cash for the airfare.

Let’s use one of the examples shown above to see how this would work out:

  • HOU -> MDW: $148 or 9,700 points (1.47 cents per point)

In this example, let’s say you already had 5,700 Rapid Rewards in your Southwest account and just needed 4,000 Rapid Rewards to make the booking for 9,700 total points so you purchased 4,000 Rapid Rewards for $120.

Well, the price of the ticket is only $148 and so you if you just paid $28 extra you’d get to keep your 5,700 Rapid Rewards and you’d also earn 888 Rapid Rewards since Wanna Get Away fares earn you 6 points per dollar spent (6 x 148 = 888).

So that leaves two scenarios:

  • Spend $148, book your ticket, and have 6,588 Rapid Rewards left in your pocket
  • Spend $125, book your ticket, and have no Rapid Rewards left in your pocket

The second scenario also involves purchasing 4,000 Rapid Rewards for 3 cents per point and then redeeming for half of that amount so I would not be attracted to that option.

So you always want to think about the efficiency of just paying cash for a ticket versus purchasing points.

Credit card spend points

You also have to factor in the amount of points you will learn from credit card spend. When you purchase Southwest points they are processed by Points.com and so you are not typically going to earn bonus points such as those for travel with your credit card.

However, if you are purchasing airfare from Southwest you can earn as much as 5X with certain cards like the Amex Platinum. In the above example if you had used the American Express Platinum Card you would have earned 740 Membership Rewards on the $148 airfare. At a valuation of 1.8 cents per point that would be like getting $13 back.

So again purchasing points in that situation would have been considerably less lucrative than just paying cash for the airfare.

Promos

The cheapest time to purchase Southwest Rapid Rewards is whenever they are running a promotion.

Southwest is known to offer promotional offers for purchasing their points. For example, you might be able to receive a 30% or a 40% bonus when purchasing Southwest Rapid Rewards. In these cases, it can make a bit more sense to purchase points but they still are not usually the best deals that you can come across.

Here are some price examples from a recent 30% bonus offer from Southwest:

  • 3,000 Points: $63.00 (reg. $90.00)
  • 4,000 Points: $84.00 (reg. $120.00)
  • 5,000 Points: $96.25 (reg. $137.50)
  • 10,000 Points: $192.50 (reg. $275.00)
  • 15,000 Points: $288.75 (reg. $412.50)
  • 20,000 Points: $385.00 (reg. $550.00)
  • 25,000 Points: $481.25 (reg. $687.50)
  • 30,000 Points: $577.50 (reg. $825.00)
  • 40,000 Points: $770.00 (reg. $1,100.00)
  • 50,000 Points: $962.50 (reg. $1,375.00)

How to buy Southwest points

To purchase Southwest points you can go to the Southwest webpage here.

After you click on “Buy Points,” you’ll be able to select the number of Rapid Rewards that you want to purchase and then you’ll be prompted to input your credit card details.

Transferring Southwest Rapid Rewards Cost

You can also transfer Southwest Rapid Rewards to others. However, you cannot do this for free.

Southwest will charge you 1 cent per point to make a transfer.

So if you want to transfer 2,000 Rapid Rewards, it will cost you $20. Simply follow this link and then fill in the information, including the recipients name and Rapid Rewards number and you can initiate the transfer process.

If there is an ongoing promotion you might be able to take advantage of that promotion as well so that could be a cheap way to transfer your points to someone else.

Since transferring is so expensive I would just recommend you to make a booking for someone else using your points. 

Gifting Rapid Rewards

If you want to gift someone Southwest Rapid Rewards, it’s going to cost you the same amount as purchasing them outright and any ongoing promotions might apply to your situation as well.

Here are some of the gifting rates for your reference:

  • 2,000 points for $60 = 3 cents per point
  • 10,000 points for $275 = 2.75 cents per point
  • 20,000 points for $550 = 2.75 cents per point
  • 30,000 points for $825 = 2.75 cents per point
  • 40,000 points for $1,100 = 2.75 cents per point

Donating Rapid Rewards

Finally, you can also donate your Rapid Rewards and it will not cost you anything to donate them.

Here are some of the charities that you can donate to:

  • All Hands Volunteers
  • American Red Cross
  • Dream Foundation
  • Honor Flight Network
  • Make-A-Wish
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities
  • Student Conservation Association
  • Team Rubicon
  • The Mission Continues

Things to know

Minimum thresholds for promos

If purchasing for a promo, there may be a minimum points threshold that needs to met. For example, the terms might state: “A minimum 3,000 points purchase threshold must be met on a per transaction basis in order to qualify for the discount.”

Blocks of 1,000

Points must be purchased in blocks of 1,000 and a daily maximum of 60,000 points can be purchased by a Member with no annual maximum.

No refunds

Transactions are non-refundable and non-reversible, so make sure that you know what you’re doing when you decide to purchase points.

No A-List or Companion Pass

Purchased/gifted/transferred points do not count towards A-List, A-List Preferred, or Companion Pass qualification. This is a big one as some might expect to meet those elite levels or obtain the Companion Pass with purchase points but that’s just not possible with Southwest.

Processing time

Southwest states to “allow 72 hours for points to post to the applicable Rapid Rewards account.” This means that if you’re in a time crunch purchasing points for a last minute flight might not work out.

Can you purchase points with travel funds?

No, you cannot purchase Southwest Rapid Rewards with travel funds or with vouchers. Those need to be used exclusively for the cost of airfare and not for buying points. If you want to learn more about travel funds then you can click here.

Final word

Purchasing Southwest Rapid Rewards is often not the best idea because you’re purchasing points at a price that’s twice as high as the amount of value you might be getting from them. However, if you need to top-off your points or if you’re able to jump on a good promo, it might not be the worst idea ever. I’d still recommend that you just consider paying cash for the airfare though since you’ll earn Rapid Rewards and probably earn more points with a solid travel rewards credit cards.

UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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