5 Ways to Save Money When You Fly Southwest Airlines

Erin HurdMay 14, 2020
On a similar note...
On a similar note...

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Want to make cheap travel even cheaper? Even though Southwest is known as a low-cost carrier that flies to over 100 destinations, there are still some tricks that savvy travelers use to save even more money.

Here are a few more reasons to love traveling with Southwest Airlines (that can maybe even help sway some of the Southwest haters):

1. Book one-way tickets

Some airlines make it cheaper to book a round-trip ticket than to book two one-way segments. But not Southwest Airlines. Flights are priced separately for the departing flight and for the return flight, so you won’t save any money upfront if you book one-way tickets.

Why should you book your Southwest flights as one-ways instead of round-trips? It’s easier to change your flight later to get money back if prices drop.

With Southwest’s change and cancellation policy, you can get credit back on your flight if the price drops. Just log into your Rapid Rewards account and click "change flight." If the price has dropped from what you originally paid, "change" the flight and you’ll get the difference back.

If you’re booked on a round-trip ticket and one leg goes down in price but the other leg goes up, you won’t be able to change it to get credit back. But if you’re booked as two one-way tickets, you can change the flight that dropped in price and keep the other segment intact.

2. If you have young kids, skip the EarlyBird (but still get a good spot in the boarding line)

Flyers who are nervous about getting a late boarding number in Southwest’s unique boarding process often opt to buy EarlyBird Check-In. For an extra charge ranging from $15 to $25 one way (depending on your fare), you’ll be automatically checked-in and score a better boarding position.

But if you’re traveling with a kid under age six, you can skip paying for the EarlyBird and still get a good seat. With Southwest’s Family Boarding policy, two adults traveling with a child under six years old can board right after the "A" group boards, even if their assigned positions are in the "B" or "C" groups.

This means that a family of four could save up to $100 each way in EarlyBird Check-In fees by taking advantage of Family Boarding, and you’ll still find seats together on the plane with ease.

3. Get free Wi-Fi (365 times)

While Southwest doesn’t have built-in screens to watch movies or TV shows, it does offer inflight entertainment for free if you bring your own tablet or smartphone. You can watch a variety of TV shows (including some live channels) and movies, listen to music and play games — absolutely free of charge.

If you want to browse the web or answer emails while you fly though, you’ll have to pay $8 per device.

But here’s an easy way to get free Wi-Fi: Consider the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. One of the perks that comes with holding the card (along with 9,000 bonus points on your cardmember anniversary and four upgraded boardings per year) is up to 365 inflight Wi-Fi credits per year.

Since you probably won’t be flying Southwest every day of the year, you can use those credits to pay for Wi-Fi for other people you’re traveling with. So if you’re traveling with your whole family and everyone wants inflight Wi-Fi, just put all the charges on your Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, and they’ll all be covered up to 365 times per year.

4. Fly on holidays for free drinks

Do you like to enjoy a cocktail when you’re flying? When you fly Southwest on certain holidays, customers who are age 21 and older can request beer, wine or cocktail on the house.

Here are the holidays that in the past have qualified for a free drink:

  • New Year’s Day.

  • Valentine’s Day.

  • St. Patrick’s Day.

  • Mother’s Day.

  • Memorial Day.

  • Father’s Day.

  • Southwest’s Birthday (June 18).

  • Fourth of July.

  • Labor Day.

  • Thanksgiving.

  • Christmas.

Also, keep an eye on your mailbox for free Southwest drink coupons. While not an official policy, Southwest Rapid Rewards members generally will receive four coupons for free drinks for every 10 one-way segments flown. Cheers!

5. Watch for sales (Hint: they happen all the time)

Unlike some airlines that rarely offer sales on fares, Southwest regularly puts flights on sale. Pretty much every Tuesday, in fact.

Southwest has an unofficial but predictable fare sale calendar that drops the prices on some routes nearly every Tuesday. While it’s not a published policy, these generally run from Tuesday through Thursday and offer one-way prices on select routes as low as $39.

The bottom line

Even though Southwest often has some of the lowest fares you’ll find, there are still easy ways to save even more.

Of course, the ultimate Southwest money saver is the Companion Pass. You can earn the opportunity to fly a companion with you almost free for nearly two years if you qualify at the right time. You need to fly a lot of Southwest flights to qualify for the Companion Pass, but spending on Southwest credit cards can help you get there much faster (learn more here). Even if you don’t earn the pass, you can still lock in low rates and have peace of mind with Southwest’s industry-leading change and cancellation rules.

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:

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