Southwest Airlines usually can’t be found on online travel sites like Expedia, Google, etc. This is because it wants us to purchase tickets directly from its own website, so it can avoid having to pay commissions to a third party. This has historically applied to the various bank travel portals as well, such as Chase, Amex and Citi.
This week, a Reddit user discovered that Southwest is now appearing as an option on the Chase Travel Portal. Southwest is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, so it’s long been possible to use Chase points to book Southwest flights. What makes this an interesting opportunity is that Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can use their points to purchase travel at 1.5 cents each through the portal, which now applies to Southwest as well. In addition, purchasing through Chase Portal counts as a paid fare, so you’d earn additional Rapid Rewards points that you wouldn’t earn if booking an award flight.
Rapid Rewards points are worth ~1.4 cents each towards booking its flights, when you factor in fees and taxes. This means that, theoretically as a Sapphire Reserve cardholder, it should be a better deal to purchase through the Chase Travel Portal than to transfer points to Southwest and book award flights directly.
Let’s see if it really is.
- Southwest flights can now be purchased through the Chase Travel Portal
Things to Know
- Southwest offers easy cancellation up until 10 minutes before departure and your Rapid Rewards points will go right back into your account. If you book through Chase, there could be more of a delay and you will probably end up with a credit towards future travel in lieu of your originally flexible points (we’re testing this to confirm what happens).
- If a fare drops in price, you can easily rebook with Southwest. Again, it could be a hassle with Chase.
- Flights booked through the Chase Travel Portal with Ultimate Rewards will earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Southwest award tickets that are booked directly will not.
Chase Travel Portal vs. Southwest.com
It looks to me like Chase only has access to Southwest’s two lowest fares classes: Wanna Get Away and Wanna Get Away Plus.
Here’s what a comparison looks like between Chase and Southwest on a non-stop, one-way flight between Seattle and San Jose. First, the fares that are listed on Chase:
In two cases, Chase is offering both Wanna Get Away and Wanna Get Away Plus fares. All three Wanna Get Away tickets are pricing at $104.
Here’s what we see for the same flight on Southwest.com:
Interesting. Both of the Wanna Get Away Plus fares that Chase is offering are the same price as Southwest. But 2/3 of the cheapest Wanna Get Away fares are 14% higher.
If you compare the points prices on the one flight that does have an equal Wanna Get Away price, the 11:10am, booking through Chase will cost you 6,932 Ultimate Rewards points:
Booking through Southwest will cost you 6,879 Rapid Rewards points + $5.60, seemingly less points than Chase:
The reason why this is the case is that Southwest points are only worth 1.2 cents per point (cpp) towards the base fare. But, Southwest waives many of the taxes and fees on an award ticket, which is why the value tends to be closer to 1.4cpp when all is said and done. Booking through Chase, you’re paying for all of those fees, even though the points are actually worth more in “cash value.” The cheaper a ticket is, the higher a proportion of the total cost those fees will tend to be.
It should also be noted that booking through Chase would earn you an additional 482 Rapid Rewards points because it counts as a paid fare. So, in reality, it would actually cost 7,361 points to book via Southwest. Booking through Chase would save you 429 points or about $6.44 in value based on our Reasonable Redemption Value for Ultimate Rewards. Add in the $5.60 that you have pay in taxes on the Southwest award ticket and the difference is closer to $12 on a $104 fare.
The more expensive the fare is (and thus, the lower a proportion of the total cost fees and taxes are), the larger that number becomes. But, the percentage difference seems to be never be more than 6-10%.
In my quick spin around Southwest fares on the Chase Portal, it seemed like the majority of the more expensive Wanna Get Away Plus fares were the same price as booking direct with Southwest. The majority of the cheaper Wanna Get Away fares were more expensive.
To my mind, it might not be worth using Ultimate Rewards to book Southwest flights through the portal if:
- The fare that you want to purchase is cheaper on Southwest. The difference in cost will most likely offset the difference in point value and not be worth the trouble
- You’re unsure if you’ll actually be taking the flight. The hassle to make changes might not be worth the points savings.
In the event that the prices are equivalent and you’re reasonably sure that you’ll be taking the flight, it could be worth considering, especially after Southwest devalues their points on January 1st. After that, I would expect the spread between the points cost of booking with Ultimate Rewards directly vs. transferring to Southwest to grow closer to 9-13%. On more expensive redemptions, that juice might be worth the squeeze.
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