Southwest’s More Rewards: Don’t Waste Your Points

Southwest lets you redeem your points for merchandise and gift cards, but that doesn't mean you should.
Southwest’s More Rewards: Don’t Waste Your Points

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So you nabbed a cheap flight to Maui in a Southwest airfare sale, and now you’re eyeing a brand-new GoPro HERO8 Black for your snorkeling trip in Honolua Bay.

If you paid for your flight with Southwest Rapid Rewards points, go ahead and cheers that in-flight mai tai. But if you’re planning on buying the GoPro with Rapid Rewards points too, you’re making a mistake worse than snorkeling without sunscreen.

That’s because the GoPro comes at a nearly 200% markup if you purchase it via the Southwest More Rewards program instead of directly from a traditional retailer like Target or Best Buy.

Surprised? Here's how we evaluated this deal (and others), as well as a few strategies for making the most of your points if you do choose to shop through the More Rewards portal.

What is Southwest More Rewards, and how does it work?

If you're a Rapid Rewards credit card holder, the More Rewards program gives you access to a shopping portal where you can spend your points on items that aren’t Southwest flights (like designer handbags, baby strollers and gift cards), plus non-Southwest travel including international flights and hotels.

Spending Rapid Rewards points on anything other than actual Southwest flights is, in most cases, not the best use of your points. In 2020, we ran the numbers on dozens of redemptions in the More Rewards portal. Using our airline miles valuations, which peg a Rapid Rewards point at 1.5 cents, we found that, on average, items are marked up by more than 100%.

Southwest More Rewards markup

Here is the average markup of Southwest More Rewards redemptions compared with retail outlets:

Some items are worse deals than others. Gift cards tend to be marked up the least, yet still aren't the best deal. For example, you can nab a $100 gift card to The Cheesecake Factory for 10,000 points, which we'd value at about $150 for flight redemptions. And a $25 Krispy Kreme Doughnuts gift card costs 3,000 points, which should be worth about $45 in flights.

Physical products — like handbags, perfumes, headphones and even car seats — tend to be the worst deals. According to our analysis, the markup on physical products was more than 160% higher than prices you'd see when purchasing them directly from the maker or major retailers (and we didn’t even factor in other discounts you might have for those products, like in-store coupons or sales).

Based on data compiled in 2020, here are some of the items you can buy from Southwest’s More Rewards portal and how bad of a deal we found them to be:

Item

Cost in Southwest points

Cash price of item

Southwest's markup

GoPro HERO8

63,610.

$299.99.

196.86%.

AmazonBasics Microwave

12,118.

$59.99.

182.80%.

Super Mario Party for Nintendo Switch

9,815.

$49.99.

174.87%.

Godiva Chocolates

9,569.

$49.95.

168.20%.

Ray-Ban New Wayfarer Sunglasses

23,964.

$144.

132.98%.

Bose Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones

62,745.

$379.95.

131.20%.

Are Southwest More Rewards sale items worth it?

Occasionally, Southwest puts items on "sale" in the More Rewards portal — but even the sale items can be a bum deal. For example, a promotion for Kendra Scott jewelry put those items at 23% off usual More Rewards redemption prices. We value 7,578 Rapid Rewards points at about $100, but you can buy these items from the Kendra Scott website for less than $70. These prices from 2020 represent a more than 50% markup over buying jewelry directly from the Kendra Scott website.

Is the Southwest More Rewards program ever worth it?

We’re not going to say you should absolutely never shop with the More Rewards program. Here are some instances where buying items that way might make sense:

  • You don’t intend to travel on Southwest anytime soon: Shopping through More Rewards might make sense if, say, a pandemic has paused your travel plans. We generally advise against hoarding points, as loyalty programs reserve the right to change the value of their already-made-up currencies at any time in a process called devaluation. If your points become worth less over time anyway, then it might not be the end of the world to buy new Bose headphones now, even with a 130% markup. Be aware, though, that Southwest Rapid Rewards points never expire.

  • You need to make a purchase and want to save cash: There are plenty of situations that can arise where money is tight. You might not have the spare cash to buy a new air purifier, but West Coasters might find it imperative to spring for one to live through wildfire season. Even though you can buy an air purifying fan directly from Dyson for around $400, it's possible to save your cash and spend 56,219 points for this air purifier through Southwest (even though we value that many points at nearly $800).

Gift cards tend to be the best redemption

If you're going to shop with points, try to go for the gift cards, which seem to be the least bad deal. We found that gift cards were marked up 40% to 60% from what we estimate those points would be worth to buy Southwest flights. That’s still not an ideal redemption, but gift cards can also help out if money is tight. Food is essential, but air travel probably isn’t, so putting 6,000 points (which we value at $84) toward a $60 HelloFresh gift card could be a smart financial move.

How to shop with Southwest More Rewards if you still want to

If you really want to burn those airline points on stuff (or non-Southwest travel), here’s how to do it. Visit the More Rewards page and under “Redeem for More Rewards,” click “Explore Rewards.”

You’ll be redirected to log in as a Rapid Rewards cardmember; you need to hold a Southwest credit card to spend your points through the More Rewards program. From there, it’s like online shopping. Find an item you like, add it to your shopping bag and enter your shipping details. Just don’t be fooled by the attempt to congratulate you on getting “a really good deal” — you probably didn’t.

If you want to use Rapid Rewards More Rewards

A bank account filled with cash is almost always more valuable than a stash of Southwest Rapid Rewards points. With money on hand, you can cover rent, groceries, a new GoPro or even your next Southwest flight. With a pile of Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you can either buy flights ... or shop from Southwest’s selection of items, like overpriced GoPros.

If you find yourself racking up Rapid Rewards points you won't use through credit card spending, it might make more sense to shop with a travel credit card that earns flexible travel rewards. If you’re committed to using your Southwest credit card for a lot of your spending and you want to maximize the value of points you earn, you’re far better off redeeming those points for travel on Southwest Airlines when you’re ready to travel again.

Frequently asked questions

Based on our analysis, 10,000 Southwest points are worth about $150.

Yes, you can donate Rapid Rewards points by logging in to your Rapid Rewards account and navigating to the Rapid Rewards Point Center, where you’ll “Donate Points.” Southwest provides a handful of charities that you can select from. Once the donation has been accepted, you will receive an email with a receipt.

Your Southwest Rapid Rewards number will display on the Southwest website when you’re logged in. If you cannot remember your account info, click the "Need help logging in?" link under Account Login on Southwest’s website.


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 2022, including those best for:

partner offers

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 Bonus points offer - Terms Apply
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
New! Earn a 30,000 bonus point offer - Terms Apply
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
25,000 online bonus points offer - Terms Apply

Partner offers

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

With a $95 annual fee & an outstanding sign up bonus, this card is a great option, especially if you transfer points from other Chase cards
APPLY NOW

on Chase's website

Highlights:
  1. Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  2. Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X on dining and 2X on all other travel purchases, plus more
  3. Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  1. Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  2. Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X on dining and 2X on all other travel purchases, plus more
  3. Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
APPLY NOW

on Chase's website

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Credit Card

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Earn unlimited points on all purchases and 3X points in a host of common spending categories. With a great bonus offer as well, this card offers so much value, all for no annual fee
APPLY NOW

on Wells Fargo's website

Rates & Fees
Highlights:
  1. Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
  2. Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases
  3. $0 annual fee
  1. Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
  2. Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases
  3. $0 annual fee
APPLY NOW

on Wells Fargo's website

Rates & Fees
Bank of America Travel Rewards® Credit Card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

This card makes its bones with simplicity and value: solid rewards on every purchase for an annual fee of $0
APPLY NOW

on Bank of America's website

Highlights:
  1. Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  2. 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  3. Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  1. Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  2. 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  3. Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
APPLY NOW

on Bank of America's website

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