Southwest Devalues Rapid Rewards Points By 6.5%

Effective immediately and without notice, Southwest Airlines has started requiring 6.5% more points for flight redemptions. The change comes as Southwest celebrates its 50th anniversary this week.

The Rapid Rewards program only just set new point values in 2018, making all redemptions cost the same number of points per dollar ticket cost whether it’s a ‘Wanna Get Away’ fare, Anytime, or Business Select ticket. With some occasional slight variation, a ticket cost 78 Rapid Rewards points per dollar of base fare. That was a big reduction in cost of Anytime and Business Select tickets, but an 8% increase for the cheapest fares that people tried to redeem for.

Now redemptions appear to cost 83 points per dollar of base fare, a 6.5% increase, a change first reported by Zach Honig.

That means each Southwest Rapid Rewards point gets you gets you about 1.2 cents apiece in base fare, or 1.35 cents apiece in ticket cost when you factor the taxes saved as well (award tickets don’t pay passenger facility charges, domestic excise taxes, or segment taxes but do incur security fees).

Since Southwest redemptions are tied directly to the price of a ticket, there’s no legitimate reason to devalue the currency. When air travel demand is high, award prices go up automatically. When demand is low, award prices fall. This model even accounts for inflation, since that alone pushes up redemption prices as it raises ticket prices. And the Rapid Rewards program is getting money for each point to cover those redemptions.

During the pandemic people have kept earning points on their co-brand credit card, in anticipation of using those points when they’re able to travel. Just as travel begins to pick up, the goal posts get moved slightly.

Last year the airline allowed customers to convert travel credits from unused tickets into points. Many members had credits from trips they’d cancelled due to the pandemic. This seemed like a good deal. Customers were given the same purchasing power in points that they had in cash, plus points don’t expire and can be used for someone other than the original traveler (but tickets purchased with points don’t earn points or elite status credit). Now the value of those pandemic travel vouchers, converted to points, have been devalued because they purchase 6.5% less travel.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I am SW defender due to the free bags and free ticket changes (even pre-pandemic), but they should give people a heads up about changes like this. I have over 100k points from the credit cards, which apparently are now worth only 93.5k. Someone needs to invent a frequent flyer bitcoin that is inflation-proof ; )

  2. @PlanMoreTrips

    No currency is inflation-proof, although a singular entity devaluing points any time they choose after enticing customers to switch their credits into that currency is certainly shady.

    I’m a huge southwest fan, but this is pretty bad.

  3. Southwest, Spirit, and Frontier are vying for the “Greyhound of the Skies” title.
    I’m not surprised.

  4. Shit heads just robbed my wallet of $515.
    Where do I file a police report?
    I’ve given up the miles game after 20 years and millions of miles now it’s only cash bonuses as the inflation rate is less than the devaluation rate of banked miles.

  5. Most cardholders are lemmings, they won’t even notice. Airline cards are useful for ancillary benefits like boarding, clubs, baggage fees etc. But putting spend on an airline card is just plain foolish.

  6. Confirms that earning airline points is an exercise in futility. You’re better off with cash back cards. When you need a ticket, go and buy one. These award programs are constantly devaluing the points.

  7. Weird how miles/points people freak out over every “devaluing” as if this is just unheard of. Seriously? It happens continually. Earth to travel people: EVERYTHING rises in cost, eventually and inevitably ALL THE TIME. We don’t see shopping bloggers inundating the airwaves with “BREAKING NEWS!!!!” posts every time butter goes up another nickel, which it does continually. Nope. For some reason, it is just absurd, inexcusable and downright evil for airlines and hotels to join with literally EVERY OTHER PART of our this economy and raise prices. “We will not stand for these greedy, evil capitalists lowering the value of our miles, which they mostly gave us for free in the first place!” Such a weird, entitled and warped perspective.

  8. This is almost borderline fraud following last year’s offer to convert everyone’s outstanding TTF into points. I’m pretty certain there was no disclosure that WN was planning to reduce the value of the points below the conversion rate. Maybe time to contact my class action lawyer.

  9. So, are you still going to promote all of their Chase cards? This is about as hostile an action as an airline can possibly take.

  10. @TProphet – I think the value proposition for an initial bonus if it is big enough / bigger by > 6% makes sense, and companion pass also. So the answer is – i depends on the scenario and whether southwest’s change affects it.

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