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If you’ve ever flown Southwest Airlines, you’ve seen that the carrier doesn’t differentiate its seats between first class, premium economy or economy. With the exception of bulkhead rows and emergency-exit rows that offer extra legroom, all seats look the same. But they’re not all the same — and an Anytime Fare is actually pretty different from a basic, Wanna Get Away fare.
There are four Southwest fare types available for purchase, and Anytime fares sit in the middle of them. Here’s what you need to know about Southwest Anytime fares, who they’re best for, and whether or not they’re worth buying over the other Southwest ticket options.
Southwest ticket options at a glance
There are four different fare types available on Southwest:
If all the fares put you in the same type of seat, what’s the difference?
The main differences between Wanna Get Away and Anytime fares is refundability and points earning rates. While Wanna Get Away fares can be refunded as future travel funds, Anytime fares are refunded as cash back. Anytime fares also earn 10 points per dollar, which is far higher than the 6 points per dollar earned on Wanna Get Away fares. Business Select offers even higher points returns, as well as priority boarding and more perks.
Wanna Get Away fares offer travelers the best value, while Business Select fares offer the most flexibility. Anytime fares fall somewhere in between.
» Learn more: Why fly Southwest Airlines?
What are Anytime fares on Southwest Airlines?
Southwest Anytime fares tend to offer an excellent ratio of flexibility to cost. Although this ticket type costs more, it comes with tangible perks such as higher rewards earning rates on the cost of your flight as well as a flexible change and cancellation policy.
Here’s what you can expect from booking a Southwest Anytime fare:
Earn 10x Rapid Rewards points per dollar.
EarlyBird Check-In, which gets you a better boarding position than those without it (who also haven’t otherwise purchased a higher fare or upgraded boarding).
A full refund to your original form of payment as long as you cancel your flight at least 10 minutes before departure.
Free same-day confirmed flight changes as long as there’s an open seat on a flight going to the same destination as your original ticket.
Free same-day standby list access.
Up to two free checked bags per person listed on the reservation (included with all fare types).
Free in-flight entertainment on your personal device (included with all fare types).
What’s the difference among the three Southwest fare types?
Each of the three fare types offers something unique to Southwest passengers — be it low cost, change and cancellation flexibility, or priority boarding. Your preference depends on your travel style.
The cheapest Southwest fares: Southwest Wanna Get Away fare vs. Anytime fare
Wanna Get Away fares are the cheapest fare class with Southwest, so why should you pay more for an Anytime fare? Here are a few reasons:
Higher points earning: As a Rapid Rewards program member, you earn 10 points per dollar spent on your Anytime ticket. Wanna Get Away fares earn rewards at a lower rate of 6 points per dollar.
Let’s say you’ve spent $100 with Southwest. Given NerdWallet’s valuation of a Southwest point at 1.5 cents, you’d earn about $14 worth of points if that $100 went toward an Anytime ticket. You’d only earn about $8.40 if that money went to buy a Wanna Get Away fare.
Get your money back in cash: Perhaps the biggest difference between the two fare types is that Southwest Anytime fares are refundable — assuming you cancel at least 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time. Wanna Get Away fares are not. While Wanna Get Away customers do receive money from canceled flights in the form of Southwest travel funds, that money is tied up in a future Southwest flight.
If you don’t intend to fly Southwest anytime again soon — or you’d simply rather have the cash on hand for other expenses like rent or groceries — then getting your refund in cash can be way more valuable.
Get same-day changes and standby list access: Want to fly on an earlier flight going to the same destination? Get on a list at no extra cost. Wanna Get Away flyers must pay the fare difference for the privilege.
EarlyBird Check-In: With EarlyBird Check-In, you’re automatically checked in to your flight 36 hours prior to scheduled departure (assuming you also bought the fare at least 36 hours in advance). If you bought a Wanna Get Away fare, you should go ahead and accept the fact that you’ll likely be at least in the B group — and perhaps even C or D.
Priority and Express Lane access: If the airport offers it, you’ll be able to access special lines at check-in and security lines. Priority Lanes are at Southwest check-in counters, and Express Lanes are at security checkpoints.
The battle of the middle Southwest fares: Southwest Wanna Get Away Plus fare vs. Anytime fare
Wanna Get Away Plus is Southwest’s newest fare class. Before its introduction in 2022, Anytime fares were your sole, middle option. Now we’re in a world of two Goldilocks. So which do you choose?
Higher points earning: As a Rapid Rewards program member, you earn 10 points per dollar spent on your Anytime ticket. Wanna Get Away Plus fares earn rewards at a lower rate of 8 points per dollar.
Once again, let’s say you’re spending $100 with Southwest. Given NerdWallet’s valuation of a Southwest point at 1.5 cents, you’d earn about $14 worth of points if that $100 went toward an Anytime ticket. You’d only earn about $11.20 if that money went to buy a Wanna Get Away Plus fare.
Get your money back in cash: Like Wanna Get Away fares, Wanna Get Away Plus only affords you a flight credit if you cancel (assuming you cancel at least 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time). Anytime customers get that money back to their original method of payment, which can be significantly less annoying than having a credit for an airline you might not fly again.
EarlyBird Check-In: Like the trade-off between Wanna Get Away versus Anytime, Wanna Get Away Plus also does not offer EarlyBird Check-In. Reduce your risk of ending up in the dreaded D boarding group and pay for Anytime to improve your chances of being one of the first to board (and one of the first to get that coveted overhead bin space).
Priority and Express Lane access: Perhaps even more valuable than the privilege of boarding first is the privilege of skipping the lines. Assuming your airport offers it, you’ll be able to access special lines at check-in (Priority Lanes) and designated VIP security lines (Express Lanes).
The most expensive fare: Southwest Business Select fare vs. Anytime fare
Southwest Business Select fares don’t actually mean you get to fly in business class. Southwest doesn’t offer a business class cabin on its flights, so instead of cushy seats and extra legroom, the special treatment is measured in terms of extra benefits.
But is it worth paying even more for Business Select than Anytime fares? Here are the tradeoffs when you book an Anytime fare versus the more expensive Business Select fare.
Lower points earning: Sure, Anytime fares earn 10 points per dollar spent. Yet Business Select fares receive a hefty 12 points.
Going back to the example of spending $100 with Southwest, and accepting NerdWallet’s valuation of a Southwest point at 1.5 cents, you’d earn about $14 worth of points if that $100 went toward an Anytime ticket. You’d earn nearly $17 if that money went to buy a Business Select fare.
The best boarding position: Anytime fares receive EarlyBird Check-In, but Business does even better. By booking a Business Select fare on Southwest Airlines, you’re guaranteed a priority boarding position between A1 and A15. This boarding position gives you a better chance of having a preferred seat onboard because of the airline's open seating policy.
A premium drink: If you like a tipple after takeoff, Business Select is for you. All the cheap seats are stuck with a free soda, but you’ll be sipping on something more special (assuming your flight is at least 175 miles).
How to book Southwest Anytime fares
Southwest fares aren’t searchable on Google Flights or other online travel agencies, such as Orbitz or Expedia, so you have to look for airfare directly with Southwest.
Go to southwest.com and the process from there is pretty straightforward:
Input your city pair and travel dates.
Check whether you need a one-way or a round-trip flight.
Select the number of passengers.
Decide whether you want to pay with cash or with Rapid Rewards points.
On the next page, you’ll be presented with flight options and available fare types: Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select. The flights are listed chronologically based on departure time.
If your dates are flexible, select the “Low Fare Calendar” button and shop by flight cost.
When you're back on the flight selection screen, navigate the cursor over each fare type to see how many Rapid Rewards points it earns. Note that points are awarded based on the base fare without taxes or fees.
Select your preferred fare type, in this case Anytime, and finish your booking by entering your passenger information. If you’re logged in to your Rapid Rewards account, this information will be pre-filled for you.
Finalize your purchase by submitting payment and enjoy your trip.
Are Southwest Anytime fares worth the extra cost?
As always, the answer depends on the part of your travel experience you value most. Let’s take a more detailed look at what to expect when you book Anytime fares on Southwest.
Let’s use a one-way flight from Los Angeles to Maui in December 2022 as our example in both comparisons. The parameters are as follows, taking into account a valuation of 1.5 cents per Rapid Rewards point, as per NerdWallet’s estimate.
Rapid Rewards points earned
Approximate value of Rapid Rewards points
Wanna Get Away
Wanna Get Away Plus
The value of Southwest Wanna Get Away (and Plus) vs. Anytime fares
Wanna Get Away (and Wanna Get Away Plus) fares are the least expensive fares Southwest sells. They come with free cancellations, but not refunds. They also offer the lowest rewards earning rates.
That said, consider if the $466 price difference is worth it on this particular itinerary. Sure, you earn about $70 or $80 more worth of points, but you could also just get into a faster security lane by holding TSA PreCheck, which costs just $78 to apply for and is good for five years.
Considering you can buy EarlyBird Check-In separately (prices vary by flight but are typically $15-$25 per person), it might be better to just go a la carte. You can also get two EarlyBird Check-Ins each year when you hold the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.
Unless you really value refundability in cash versus Southwest travel funds (say, this is your only Southwest flight you ever intend to take, and there’s a high likelihood you’ll cancel it anyway), skip Anytime on this particular flight.
But realize that the price difference in this particular example is stark, and that’s not always the case. Sometimes Wanna Get Away fares are as little as $20 less, in which case Anytime’s upgrade could be far more valuable.
The value of Business Select vs. Anytime fares
A Business Select fare costs an extra $40 over the Anytime fare on this selected flight. The Business Select fare automatically puts you in the A1 through A15 boarding group, comes with airport perks and an extra 2 points per dollar spent over the Anytime fare.
The extra earnings here are worth about $20 more though, which really leaves you with $20 in extra cost assuming you value the points like we do.
Since you get an adult beverage and a guaranteed A1-A15 boarding position (and you probably want it for the long flight to Hawaii), springing for Business Select versus Anytime is probably better.
If you want to book a Southwest Anytime fare
Anytime fares on Southwest provide passengers with more flexibility than Wanna Get Away fares but with fewer perks than Business Select fares. The extra rewards can often add quite a bit of value over Wanna Get Away fares, and the generous change and cancellation policy — which is worth its weight in gold in this day and age — makes the extra cost worth considering.
Just run your own calculations on the fare difference and decide whether the bonus benefits are worth the higher cost.
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