Last week, Southwest Airlines sent an email to its Rapid Rewards loyalty program members informing them of a future change in the program. Sadly, they weren’t very specific about the change but it reads as a devaluation.
We created Rapid Rewards® because we think you deserve to actually feel rewarded. And, from time to time we must make some updates to our program. Beginning April 17, 2015, the number of Rapid Rewards Points needed to redeem for certain flights will vary based on destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare class, and other factors.
Previously, Rapid Rewards points basically had a fixed value that were correlated to the cash fare of a flight. However, this cryptic message from Southwest makes it seem like they can charge however many points they want for a given flight on a given day to a given destination.
I really do like Southwest because they have great availability from my home airport (EWR). Another reason Southwest must be considered for is that it is a transfer partner for Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Rapid Rewards instantly at a 1:1 ratio.
If you book flights with points, you can cancel them any time before the flight and you will receive the points & taxes/fees back 100%. This is great for making speculative bookings and it’s a feature that other airlines charge big bucks for (often $150+).
When you throw in a Companion Pass, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program hard to beat for affordable domestic travel for one, let alone two.
The only thing we can do now is wait but we do have 2 months to make preparations in case these changes are quite terrible. If you have a lot of points, you may want to consider making some speculative bookings to lock trips up at the current rates. You really have nothing to lose since you can get a full refund at any time.
This is just another lesson in the frugal flying game. Things change all the time to be ready to react. Stay tuned.