Get Some of Your Points Refunded After You Book Southwest Airlines Award Tickets

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Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

There are several things I really like about the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and about the Rapid Rewards program generally. It’s not my go-to for premium cabin international awards, obviously, you cannot spend your points on airline partners. But the points are really flexible and fill a real need.

Data suggests that some lower credit scores may be enough to get this card than many other rewards cards.

The credit card currently offers a signup bonus of 50,000 points after $2000 in spending on purchases within 3 months of account opening.

The biggest benefit to these points, of course, is that it puts you nearly halfway to a Companion Pass in one shot. A Southwest Companion Pass lets a companion fly with you free when you travel on Southwest — even when you are flying on a Rapid Rewards award ticket. You can use the Southwest companion pass as many times as you’d like, and you can change your designated companion three times during its validity.

But one thing I really love about Southwest points is that there’s no fee for award changes and redeposits. Southwest is the largest airline at my home airport in Austin, though I fly mostly on the second largest (American). Southwest gives me a great option to connect to an international award ticket I book starting out of another city.

  • It lets me lock in transportation if American flights are expensive or American isn’t offering domestic award space on my international trip.

  • Maybe prices drop on American, or they open up award space, I can change airlines later but I don’t risk losing a seat or prices going up.

Here’s one thing this means, that’s easy to forget. dieselz on reddit makes the obvious point that since Southwest Airlines award tickets are based on the price of paid travel, when a paid ticket gets less expensive the number of points for your award drops as well. And no fee changes mean you can get points back on an award you’ve already booked.

I just checked a reward for December that I initially paid ~8,200 points for. Now it’s listed as ~6,000. Did a change from the flight to the same flight and was credited the ~2,200 points, at a cost of nothing, took about 15 seconds – all online.

When you book a Southwest Airlines award, don’t consider yourself ‘done’. Track the price of your ticket, and if it falls rebook your award to get points back for free

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

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, 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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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. It’s definitely worth having WN points and, if you travel frequently with a spouse/partner, the companion pass is very useful too. That said, their computer systems are clunky to deal with. Refunding and rebooking an award ticket is slow and (the first couple times you do it) confusing — especially if it’s attached to a companion ticket. Indeed, everything you do online with WN is inefficient: they’re like 10 years in the past, but I understand they’re working to improve their systems.
    When I travel with family, I also don’t like how I have to individually check in each passenger if I don’t want to pay them $15, and we often don’t get next to each other on the boarding line. You will definitely miss your elite privileges on other airlines when it comes to check in!

  2. @Gary:

    “you can change your designated companion three times during its validity.”

    Incorrect. You can change it three times per calendar year. If you earn it right now, you could change it 3 times in 2016 and 3 times in 2017. This might be less relevant now than it is in the early part of the year, but it’s big. I’ve changed mine more than 3 times — but not more than 3 in a calendar year.

    @iahphx — rebooking an award ticket isn’t confusing or difficult at all. I believe that you do have to cancel your companion’s reservation first — that’s the most confusing part. As for rebooking, you just click to “change” your flight and pick the new flight. If it’s less, they refund the difference. I’ve never found it slow or confusing…..more or less the same as changing a ticket online on any airline’s site apart from the complication of a companion if you have one attached. But even that is pretty quick to cancel…and then re-add.

  3. I love the changing after booked feature – just saved 700 points today by re-booking the same flights at lower rates!

  4. This is one reason points are worth more than their nominal 1.43 cent value toward base fare.

    The other reasons are lack of name lock (cancel the trip and the points go right back to account holder) and greatly reduced taxes. If you redeem for a sub-$50 fare you can save about 2 cents per point.

    Pay cash for expensive fares and use Rapid Rewards points for cheap fares. That’s the opposite of traditional redemption strategy.

  5. @Nico — Well, your response kind of proves it IS confusing for newbies to rebook their award tickets! Real world example: I’ve got a family of 4 travelling roundtrip and one of us has a companion pass. Originally, I had to make 3 reservations. The person who has the companion pass, the person who is the designee, and the two other travelers. And, to make changes easier, I had to make 3 reservations in each direction. Let’s say the fare each way goes down $10 per person. First, I have to cancel the companion pass (the website doesn’t really tell you this, but you’ll figure it out). Then I have to wait a little while for the system to catch up with this cancellation. Then I have to go to the first 6 reservations (the two non-companion passholders will be split up by WN in an effort to collect the $15) and rebook. Then I have two more rebookings for the companion pass holder. So I’m slooowly changing 8 reservations to save $60. I don’t think this is a great system. Do you?

  6. I guess what I don’t understand is:

    1) Why do you have to wait after cancelling the companion before rebooking your reservation? I’ve not noticed the lag there. I have noticed the lag in a new reservation showing in my online account, but not in an ability to take action after cancelling my companion’s seat. I cancel her flight, then go back into my confirmation number and change mine, then add her back. Would it be better if I didn’t have to cancel and rebook her manually? Of course. Do I think this process is cutting edge? Absolutely not. Did I find it cumbersome or challenging after the first time? Not at all. Certainly less cumbersome than some of the customer service calls I’ve had to make to change partner award tickets on other airlines in the past.

    2) I didn’t follow your math to get to 8 bookings and I’m not sure what $15 you’re talking about or how WN splits the reservation for the two non-CP travelers. That said, you sure confused me. I don’t imagine you’re making it all up, I just haven’t run into nearly as much difficulty rebooking the fam when necessary. That said, most of the rebookings I’ve done have been for 2 pax. Maybe I’m selectively forgetting the more complex itnineraries? I don’t know.

  7. Perhaps the companion pass complicates matters, but on a straight award booking, rebooking when the price drops is super easy.

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