Better than 1:1 to Southwest from Amex & Chase points, almost 1:1 from Citi

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We posted earlier today about the fact that Southwest travel funds can now be converted to Southwest Rapid Rewards points (See: Southwest travel funds conversion live & it’s a good deal). We noted within that post that one option that may now be interesting is the ability to convert discounted Southwest gift cards into greater purchasing power in terms of Southwest points. Other options to consider include using flexible currency points to buy Southwest tickets, cancel, and convert to points to achieve a better-than-1:1 transfer ratio.

Convert Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest Rapid Rewards at 1:1.17

Those who have a Chase premium credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Business Preferred can ordinarily convert Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest Rapid Rewards points at a ratio of 1:1. Those who have the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card may be able to do a bit better.

That’s because points can be used at a value of 1.5cpp when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. I believe it is again possible to book Southwest flights over the phone via Ultimate Rewards and get this redemption value (Note that it may not be easy, but this post may help: How to book the cheapest flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards). It would therefore be possible to convert Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest Rapid Rewards points at a better rate in a roundabout way:

  1. Buy a Southwest flight redeeming points at a value of 1.5cpp. Let’s assume a flight that costs $150, which would require 10,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
  2. Cancel the flight with Southwest
  3. Convert the $150 to points at a rate of 1.28cpp and get 11,718.75 Southwest Rapid Rewards points
  4. Final conversion ratio is 10,000 UR points = 11,718 Southwest points (or 1:1.17)

I’d not be in a huge hurry to convert at that rate, but if you had a conversion in mind for a specific use, this is a better deal than converting 1:1.

If you were unable to redeem points through a phone agent for a Southwest flight, another option would be to buy Southwest Airlines gift cards at a grocery or home improvement store and pay yourself back at a value of 1.5cpp, which would effectively achieve the same effect with a bit more complication.

Convert Citi ThankYou points to Southwest Rapid Rewards at almost 1:1

If you have a Citi Premier card that has been open since before April 10, 2020, you can still use points to book travel at a value of 1.25cpp until April 10, 2020. This means that (I believe) you can book a Southwest flight at a value of 1.25cpp and get a nearly 1:1 conversion:

  1. Buy a Southwest flight redeeming Citi ThankYou points at a value of 1.25cpp. Let’s assume a flight that costs $125, which would require 10,000 Citi ThankYou points
  2. Cancel the flight with Southwest
  3. Convert the $125 travel credit to points at a rate of 1.28cpp and get 9,765 Rapid Rewards points.
  4. Final conversion ratio is 10,000 TY points = 9,765 Southwest points (1:0.977)

That should enable you to eke just a bit more value out of the points with Southwest. This may be particularly attractive if you’re looking to clean out a ThankYou points balance.

Convert Amex Membership Rewards points to Southwest Rapid Rewards at 1:1.2

If you have the Business Platinum card from American Express, you can redeem points on your chosen airline and get a 35% rebate (up to 500,000 points rebated per year). This makes it possible to get a favorable conversion ratio to Southwest points:

  1. Buy a Southwest flight redeeming Amex Membership Rewards points with a 35% rebate if you have a Business Platinum and have selected Southwest as your airline. Let’s assume a flight that costs $150, which would require 15,000 Amex Membership Rewards points. After the 35% rebate, your net cost would be 9,750 Membership Rewards points.
  2. Cancel the flight with Southwest
  3. Convert the $150 to points at a rate of 1.28cpp and get 11,718.75 Southwest Rapid Rewards points
  4. Final conversion ratio is 9,750 MR points = 11,718 Southwest points (or 1:1.20)

Like the other options in this post, that’s not such a compelling value as to transfer speculatively, but it could certainly make sense in some scenarios.

Other flexible cash-like currencies

The same technique could be used to convert other cash-like currencies to Southwest points. For example, if you have rewards on a Capital One Venture card, Barclays Arrival+, or other cash-like points currency, you could effectively use those points to buy Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

Bottom line

Again, I wouldn’t make the trade from a flexible currency to a specific type of airline mile without a specific use in point. With near-term travel in flux for many of us, it probably won’t make sense to make a conversion here unless you need the points to book something now. Still, it could make sense if you can use fewer net points to book the fights you want this way.

It also adds an option for moving these flexible points (or any of the above currencies) if you’re looking to close out an account. In some cases, it is easy enough to keep those points alive, but if you’ve decided to cut and run from a points program, this could be a reasonable way out given the fact that Southwest points don’t expire.

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