Getting the Best Value out of Southwest-Airtran Transfer Options

Now that Southwest and Airtran let you link accounts, Milevalue has a a rundown of when it makes sense to use your points to redeem through Southwest and when it makes sense to redeem through Airtran.

Roughly speaking, cheap tickets redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points, expensive tickets redeem credits.

19,200 Rapid Rewards points are worth $324, so if you can find two oneways on either airline that cost more than that, you can profit from transferring.

In today’s environment of sky high fares, finding a roundtrip or two oneways that cost more than that is pretty easy, especially since Airtran flies internationally to Mexico and the Caribbean.

Let’s go through some examples to show how to determine whether you can exploit the transfer options.

LAX-MDW-LAX for the dates I want costs $408, and I value it at that price because I need to get to Chicago, and there are no cheaper options. In Rapid Rewards points it costs 23,160 and $5. This is a prime example of a fare where exploiting the transfer options saves money!

Instead of paying cash or 23,160 points, I can transfer 19,200 Rapid Rewards points to A+ credits. The transfer is instantaneous. I can then immediately transfer 16 A+ credits to 16 Rapid Rewards credits. After that instantaneous transfer, I now have two free oneways on Southwest that I can use to fly LAX-MDW-LAX for just the same $5 in taxes.

So I got an itinerary for 19,200 Rapid Rewards points that should have cost me 23,160 Rapid Rewards points. Exploiting the transfers saved 3,960 Rapid Rewards points with a value of $63.54! Awesome!

Here’s an easy example of when not to transfer. I want to fly LAX-LAS-LAX, and the flights I want cost $114 or 5,520 Rapid Rewards points and $5. Transferring 19,200 Rapid Rewards points to 16 A+ Credits to 16 Rapid Rewards credits would be folly. Instead I would just book with 5,520 points and $5.

While the transfer options exist, you never need to spend more than 19,200 Southwest points on a roundtrip award.

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 Milepoint.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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Comments

  1. After doing the double transfer, and spending 19,200 on a Southwest flight, can you still apply a companion pass? In other words, in the LAX-MDW-LAX example, would you be able to get two tickets for 19200 if you had a CP? I would assume yes, but I’d hate to rebook a flight we made recently and find the CP invalid for some reason.

  2. It’s worth pointing out that the RR1 16 credit award flights are capacity controlled. Before converting your points into credits using this method, check to verify that the flights you want are available as awards.

  3. Also, remember to account for the fact that you do not earn points when redeeming points or credits for a free flight.

  4. My experience is that there are far less capacity controlled 16 credit seats on SWA after the Rapid Rewards II points program started. I would think that AirTran may have more 16 credit seats because they have no points program to try to upcharge you.

  5. Here’s another angle to exploit… you can potentially earn miles (elite qualifying and redeemable) on other airlines. With 32 A+ Rewards credits, you can book a flight on another airline anywhere within the U.S. 48 states. Downside is that it is 2x the points of a regular AirTran round trip, but if you need a mileage run, can find an expensive high mileage ticket, and don’t have a better use for the A+ Rewards this can be a nice way to use the credits.

  6. Dont forget that you can transfer points over from Ultimate Rewards. I’d argue that 19,200 points for a two free one-way trips anywhere Southwest flies is a great deal. No change/cancel fees either. Great for families and non-elites.

  7. And, if you have a residual balance of RR credits from the old program, soon to expire, sounds like you can “top them up” by transferring. For example, if you have 6 orphaned credits, you can transfer enough to add 10 more credits – enough for a flight.

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