Your stash of Southwest Rapid Rewards points won't get you quite as far in the New Year. But the airline is giving travelers more than a month and a half to use those points up before that happens.
In tiny text in an email update sent to members late last week, Southwest tipped off travelers of the impending devaluation to its Rapids Rewards program, saying: “Starting on Jan. 1, 2024, for flights purchased using Rapid Rewards points, the number of Rapid Rewards required per dollar of base fare will increase by 4%.”
Unlike other airlines with award charts that determine how many miles each flight will cost, award rates at Southwest are tied firmly to the cash price. Currently, each Southwest point gets you about 1.2 toward the base airfare. With this decrease, that'll drop to 1.15 cents. It's the latest hit we've seen to Southwest points since back in 2021.
With that change, this $277 roundtrip fare from Oakland (OAK) to Maui (OGG) that you can currently book for 18,751 Rapid Rewards points – plus $11.20 in mandatory taxes and fees – will jump to approximately 19,500 points.
While it may seem small, any increase like this is bad news for travelers who have saved up points for a big redemption. Then again, it's also unavoidable: From the major U.S. airlines to top foreign carriers, devaluations like this are constant and inevitable. It's why we constantly urge travelers to stop waiting and use their miles.
But what sets Southwest apart this time is that its giving flyers a chance a nearly two-month window to cash in their points before they take a hit – most other airlines do it overnight … without warning.
United didn't warn its members before hiking award rates to Europe, Asia, and beyond by 20% or more. Delta hasn't said a word to its loyal flyers as it eliminated the final sweet spots to book business class with SkyMiles, raised partner award rates, or spread basic economy award tickets across the globe. Heck, even Southwest itself did the same the last time it cut down Rapid Rewards in April 2021.
A 4% increase may be mild by comparison, but it'll add up over time for travelers who have banked a ton of Southwest points, love to transfer Chase points to book Southwest flights, or are working towards earning a Southwest Companion Pass to bring a buddy for free while redeeming points. Come Jan. 1, your points won't go quite as far.
But you've got seven weeks until that happens. Use that time wisely: Book your Southwest award tickets before this change takes effect!
Any airline mileage program increase like this rubs travelers the wrong way. While a 4% hike may be small, an increase is still an increase.
But by warning members of this impending change to Southwest Rapid Rewards come Jan. 1, 2024, they're giving you and me a window to cash in our Southwest points before they become less valuable. Mark your calendars!