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Southwest Airlines has some of the most dedicated fans in the airline business. If you’re one of them and you’re sitting on a bunch of hard-earned Rapid Rewards points, you might be wondering how much those points are worth.
Based on our analysis, the short answer is:
NerdWallet values Southwest points at 1.4 cents each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 1.4 cents or more in value from your Southwest points.
With the calculator below, you can figure out how much your miles are worth based on this value. No tarot knowledge required.
What does this value mean?
Our value of 1.4 cents per Southwest point is an average, baseline value that can help determine whether a given redemption is "worth it." The value is based on real-world data (see below) and is effectively the value you can expect to get from your Rapids Rewards points if you use them for a random redemption.
In other words, it is not a maximized value, and you might be able to get more value from your Rapids Rewards points with some patience. Keep comparing flights paid with cash or points until you find a high-value redemption.
Southwest offers fewer “sweet spots” than many competitors, since Rapid Rewards points can’t be used to book with partner airlines. On the flip side, this means less complexity and frustration when trying to decide how to use your points.
How flexible are Southwest points?
To put it frankly: Rapids Rewards points aren't very flexible. Sure, you might be able to use them for nonflight options through the "More Rewards" portal, but these redemptions rarely match or exceed the value of using them to purchase Southwest flights.
How do Southwest points compare to other airline loyalty miles?
Per our analysis, Southwest Rapid Rewards points are some of the most valuable airline awards available. See the table below for how they stack up with other programs.
Despite their relatively high value, if you’re looking for more adventurous, high-value flight redemptions, (like booking international first-class suites), you’re better off looking to other programs that enable partner redemptions. Southwest points offer plenty of consistent value, but less razzle-dazzle.
How did we determine this value?
We collected hundreds of data points comparing the cash value to award (mile) value for the same routes and dates. That is, we compared the cost of a given ticket in either cash or miles across many tickets.
This method differs from many others in that it looks at real-world redemptions rather than hypothetical, maximized redemptions. The advantage of this approach is that it provides an actual, real-world indication of how much these miles are worth on average. That said, it doesn’t take into account the high-value redemptions that points enthusiasts seek.
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 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card