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If you’re a Southwest frequent flier and want to get even more value from your points, you’ve come to the right place. Read on as we delve into the airline’s Low Fare Calendar and share some additional Southwest booking tips to help you maximize savings.
Use the Southwest Low Fare Calendar to find the cheapest dates
Southwest uses a fare-based award system, which means that the number of points a flight will cost is based on the cash price of the ticket instead of a fixed award chart. If your dates are flexible, you can book the same trip for fewer Rapid Rewards points depending on when you travel. That’s where the airline’s Low Fare Calendar comes in.
To find Southwest’s Low Fare Calendar, head to the desktop website (Though Southwest has a user-friendly mobile app that’s helpful for tracking flights, changing your bookings and checking in, but you can search for the lowest fares in a calendar view only on the airline's website).
This calendar tool helps you compare prices for different days for an entire month, and you can see multiple months at once. It’s easy to find the price difference if you're considering travel on a different day than you had originally planned.
As you can see in the above calendar view, if you booked a trip for the second day of the month, the cheapest seat would cost 14,460 points. But if your dates are flexible and you could fly later in the month, you would pay as few as 9,234 points. That’s a savings of over 5,000 points on a one-way ticket.
You can see the cost to book in points up to six months (or 180 days) in advance, which is the ideal time to book according to a spring 2021 NerdWallet airline booking analysis.
For travel with fixed dates, this calendar view will show you the cheapest award travel available to you on your specific travel dates. If you have some flexibility, this tool is clutch for shopping even more smartly for the cheapest Southwest flights.
» Learn more: The best days to book a flight and when to fly
Other Southwest booking tips for points nerds
Now that you've mastered the Low Fare Calendar, you can step up your booking game even more. Here's what to think about as you collect and redeem Rapid Rewards points for your next flight.
Don’t transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards® hastily
Southwest Airlines is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards®, but it doesn’t always make sense to transfer your Chase points to Southwest.
For instance, if you’re a Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholder who doesn’t have enough Rapid Rewards points for a Southwest flight you’ve been eyeing, you probably won’t want to transfer points from Chase. That’s because that card has a guaranteed value of 1.5 cents per point when you book travel through the Chase travel portal. Since NerdWallet values Southwest Rapid Rewards points at 1.5 cents each, you’ll eke out slightly better value by booking directly with Chase.
Better yet, you’ll earn Rapid Rewards points, too. When you book a flight through the Chase travel portal, Chase pays the airline for your ticket. In the eyes of the airline, it’s a paid revenue ticket instead of a points redemption. That means you’ll earn Rapid Rewards points on flight segments booked through Chase. If you have Southwest status like A-List or A-List Preferred, that status will still be recognized if you book with your Chase Ultimate RewardsⓇ points.
If you don’t have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or you’re in need of some Southwest points to top up your account for a specific booking, then transferring points from Chase to Southwest is a great option.
Rebook your ticket when fares drop to get a refund
Southwest has one of the most generous cancellation and change policies of any airline. There’s no fee to cancel or to change your ticket as long as you do so 10 minutes in advance of your flight.
While there’s no fee to change your ticket, you will have to pay the difference in fare. If the flight you’re trying to change to costs more than the price you paid, you’ll pay the difference.
If the price of the flight you want to change to is cheaper, then you’ll be credited back the difference.
With this generous change policy, you can even rebook the same flight you already have paid for and get the difference credited to you. Just find your flight on the website and click "change flight." If the price has dropped from what you originally paid, just "change" the flight and you’ll get the difference back.
If you paid in points, you’ll get refunded in points. If you paid a nonrefundable Wanna Get Away fare, you’ll get a credit in the form of a Travel Fund. Travel Funds are easy to view when you’re logged into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account, and you can apply them to the cost of future flights.
» Learn more: How to rebook and save when Southwest flight prices drop
Fly someone with you for next to nothing with the Companion Pass
What some consider to be the "holy grail" of travel, the Southwest Companion Pass can help Southwest flyers save some serious cash. It’s essentially a "buy one, get one free" coupon that enables you to fly a companion of your choice for nearly free whenever you fly. Just pay the taxes and fees (often only $5.60 each way for domestic flights) and your companion is all set.
The pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which it’s earned, plus the entire next calendar year. If you earn the pass early in the year, you can get almost two full years of nearly free flights for your companion. Plus, you can change your companion up to three times each calendar year. So if you want to take a trip with your spouse, they can be your companion for a flight; but later if you want to take another trip with your friend, you can change your companion.
Be sure to think about timing if you change companions. You cannot have two flights booked at the same time with different companions. This means you have to complete one trip, change your companion, wait for it to process, then book your next trip.
Companion Passes work when you book your trip with Rapid Rewards points, too — you don’t have to pay for your ticket in cash. You could use the Low Fare Calendar to find a cheap round-trip, book with Rapid Reward points and add your companion for a low-cost getaway.
Sweet spot: Island hop around Hawaii for less than 5,000 points
You can fly Southwest to Hawaii nonstop from four California cities: Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento and San Diego. Southwest services Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Kona and Hilo on Hawaii.
Not only can you get to Hawaii using Southwest Rapid Rewards, but you can often do so cheaply. It’s not uncommon to find one-way tickets for less than 10,000 Rapid Rewards points from California to Hawaii.
Once you’ve reached Hawaii, it’s also easy to hop around to different islands. Inter-island flights can be found for less than 5,000 points each way. That’s rock-bottom pricing that even beats Hawaiian Airlines — you’ll pay at least 7,500 Hawaiian miles to fly around Hawaii. You could use 6,000 JetBlue TrueBlue points for a one-way flight on Hawaiian Airlines between islands, but Southwest is still the lowest points option. Aloha!
» Learn more: How to island hop in Hawaii
Earn thousands of Rapid Rewards points on hotel stays
Thanks to Southwest’s partnerships with Booking.com and RocketMiles, you can earn a substantial amount of Rapid Rewards points on your hotel bookings.
Visit the Southwest hotels link on their site and search for hotels. You’ll see the prices and the amount of Rapid Rewards points that you’ll earn, so it’s easy to compare your options. Watch for periodic promotions where you’ll earn more points than usual when you book your hotel.
While you’ll earn a lot of Rapid Rewards points on these bookings, you won’t always find the best rates on these partner sites. Make sure to do some price comparison research and weigh your options.
Use these Southwest booking tips to maximize rewards
If you’re looking to travel within the U.S. and to Hawaii, or popular locations in Mexico and the Caribbean, chances are that Southwest flies there. You can use your Rapid Rewards points to book your trip, and even if your plans change, you’ll get your money or credit back.
Make sure you’re looking at the Low Fare Calendar and checking flights you've already booked to lock in the lowest fares. If you need to book a flight and have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, don’t transfer points to Southwest. Instead, book through the Chase travel portal to also earn Rapid Rewards points on that ticket.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card