For anyone who has had to cancel a Southwest Airlines flight due to the coronavirus pandemic, this may be some welcome news: As of August 10, anyone with qualifying future travel credits (what Southwest refers to as travel funds) can convert them into Rapid Rewards points—as long as they do so by December 15, 2020. And the conversion rate is pretty impressive.
To qualify, a customer must be a Rapid Rewards member, and the funds must be set to expire by September 7, 2022. (If you’re not already a member, you can join and then convert the funds online.) The first and last name on the travel fund must match that of the Rapid Rewards account, and the original ticket must have been purchased directly from Southwest.
To see how much your travel funds are worth in points you simply go to “check travel funds” and enter your details. Southwest has built in a “funds to points conversion eligibility” tab that shows you how many points you will get in exchange for the balance of your travel funds.
The carrier is assigning a whopping 78 points to every travel fund dollar, which are all being converted at the same rate. That’s a lot more than its standard conversions for purchased tickets. Southwest typically determines points based on the fare class and the fare amount. So, if you purchase a Business Select fare, you get 12 points for every dollar spent—a $200 ticket will earn you 2,400 points; for an Anytime fare, you get 10 points for every dollar spent—a $150 ticket will get you 1,500 points; and for a Wanna Get Away fare, you earn 6 points for every dollar spent, so a $100 ticket will get you 600 points. By comparison, a $200 travel fund converts to 15,600 points, and a $100 travel fund would be converted to 7,800 points.
The option is key for those who purchased tickets for someone other than themselves: While travel funds remain in the original passenger’s name (the person who was originally scheduled to fly), the purchaser would be able to transfer the funds for a ticket they bought for someone else into their Rapid Rewards account. They could then use the Rapid Rewards points toward any ticket, regardless of who is flying.
Another thing we love about Rapid Rewards points? They never expire. Additionally, a Rapid Rewards account represents a lump sum of points that you can add to or draw upon to book flights with as needed, making it easier to use than travel funds. The travel funds are individual credits that are assigned per refund. As you start to use them, you can end up with odd and small remaining amounts (such as $15.83 or $1.22) that become very difficult to cobble together toward a flight, especially since Southwest limits customers to three forms of payment. Keep in mind that you cannot combine points and cash for a single reservation, so you can get some leftovers with points, too—but you can book a one-way reservation using points, and a one-way reservation with cash, as one workaround.
You won’t get status with those converted points, however
There are a couple potential drawbacks to this conversion offer. The biggest one is that points transferred from travel funds will not count toward earning tier status or a coveted Companion Pass, which allows you to have someone travel with you for a year or more for free. And you can’t earn points when purchasing a ticket with points—but you can when purchasing it with travel funds. So if status is your aim, the conversion may not be best for you.
Southwest has three tiers of elite status: A-List, A-List Preferred, and the Companion Pass. To earn A-List status, travelers need to have racked up 35,000 points in a calendar year. To earn the Companion Pass, you’ll need to earn 125,000 points. Anyone with A-List or A-List Preferred status through December 31, 2020, will have that status extended through the end of 2021.
Points don’t cover taxes or fees, either. So you’ll have to pay for those out of pocket for any flights purchased with points. These can vary quite a bit depending on where you are flying and what kind of extras you have, such as additional bags or a pet.
Nevertheless, the conversion option adds more flexibility to Southwest’s already very flexible policies. Even prior to the pandemic, the carrier’s standard policy included no change fees for flight changes. However, it made some adjustments due to the pandemic that offered its customers longer grace periods. Typically, after canceling a Southwest flight, a new flight must be booked within a year of the travel credit being issued. But if you have funds that have expired or will expire between March 1, 2020, and September 7, 2020, they will now expire on September 7, 2022. And any travel funds that resulted from a flight that you canceled between March 1 and September 7, 2020, will expire September 7, 2022.
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