Why I Purchased A $385 Ticket On Southwest That I have No Intention of Using

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Getting Maximum Value From Your FlexPerks Points

I booked a flight on Southwest earlier this week that I have no intention of using.  I did this in an attempt to maximize my FlexPerks points before the new changes go into effect at the end of the year. If you use your FlexPoints to book a Southwest flight you can cancel it a few days later and get Southwest credit. This ensures that you maximize your points by picking a perfectly priced flight. It takes a few extra steps but I think it was well worth the effort.

How FlexPerks Points Work

FlexPerks points are currently worth up to 2 cents per point when using them towards flights. The points are put into buckets.  You can book a flight up to $400 for 20,000 points, $600 for 30,000 points, $800 for 40,000 points etc. The key is to use them on airfare that is towards the top end of the fare bucket without going over.  A $200 flight and a $398 flight are both 20,000 points since they fall into the first bucket.  If the flight is $402 then it moves up into the 30,000 point bucket.

This system makes getting max value out of FlexPoints a little tricky and planning is needed. Starting December 31, 2017 all points will be worth a flat 1.5 cents a piece which simplifies things but some value is lost.

My Situation

I was sitting on 19,000 FlexPerks points and I wanted to try to get maximum value out of them before the changes kicked in. There was some upcoming travel on Southwest I needed to book so I decided to use a trick I had read about for redeeming FlexPerks on Southwest.

The problem was that I was 1,000 points short of being able to book a flight.  I went to the supermarket and bought a $500 Visa gift card to get the 1,000 points I needed, since the FlexPerks Visa earns 2x points at grocery stores.

Pre-Booking Process

Once my statement closed and my balance reached 20,000 points I went to work. I needed to find a flight as close to $400 as possible without going over. From what I had read the agents at FlexPerks were only able to access anytime and business fares.  They supposedly did not have access to wanna get away fares. I found a one way anytime fare that was $390 and got ready to call the booking center. To find a flight that worked I just picked random airports and dates until I found something that worked.  The worst and most time consuming part of the process for sure.

Southwest flights are not bookable online in the FlexPerks system, so you need to call the Quality Reward Travel Center at 888-229-8864 to book the flights.  There is normally a $25 fee to book flights via phone but this fee is waived since Southwest is not bookable online.

Booking Phone Call

An agent got on the phone pretty quickly and I gave him my airports and the date of departure.  He was able to pull up the flight quickly and he was set to book it for 20,000 points.  Out of curiosity I asked him what he was showing as the cash price because I had heard it sometimes varies a little bit versus what you see online.  He informed me that the cash price of the flight was $165….UH WHAT?  I immediately realized that he was booking a wanna get away fare which wasn’t supposed to be possible.

Panic mode kicked in a little bit and I started looking at return flights to book a round trip but nothing was coming anywhere close to $400.  After just making grumpy breathing noises for a few minutes I told him I needed to research the flights some more and that I would call back.  I spent the next 10 minutes or so looking up new roundtrip flights to a different city that came in close to $400.

Once I had my new flights picked out I called them back and got the same agent, DOH.  It made it a little more awkward to give him new dates and airports but it wasn’t a big deal. He was able to locate the flights easily and I was able to confirm the price of the new tickets at $386.  Mission accomplished!

Canceling the Flights to Get the Credit

After an hour or so the flight ticketed and I was able to add it to my Rapid Rewards account. I then added my frequent flier number to the flights to make the cancellation easier.  You have to wait 24 hours before canceling the flight to ensure that you get Southwest credit instead of a credit back to your credit card.

I decided to give it two days to be on the safe side.  I logged into my account and went to cancel the flight but I got an error code. After a quick call to Southwest they were able to cancel the flight for me and issue me the travel voucher for $386.  I think that I was having issues canceling it online because of how it was paid for, essentially via a travel agency.

Now I have $386 in Southwest credit good for the next 12 months. This allows me to book the three upcoming one way flights I have in the spring.  Three flights would have cost me 40,000 FlexPerks points but by doing it this way it only cost me 20,000.

Conclusion

If you have a stash of FlexPerks you may want to consider doing something similar to get the maximum value out of them before the new rules kick in.  By doing this I was able to turn 20,000 FlexPerks points into $386 in travel.  After December 31, 2017 those 20,000 points will only be worth $300.

This trick works on Southwest, as well as, any other airline that issues travel credit for canceled flights.  Alaska and JetBlue are two airlines where this should work as well.  Make sure to confirm the cash price before giving them the go ahead to book the ticket!

Another tip to remember is that US Bank gives you $25 in reimbursement for the airline you use the FlexPerks points on. This is to offset whatever incidentals you incur on your flight.  I purposely booked the flight for the same day that I am flying Delta Airlines.  I plan on buying a $25 Southwest gift card at the ticket counter and then calling in to get it reimbursed.  Something to consider if you want to stretch the value even further.

Have you ever done this with your FlexPerks points?  Do you plan on doing it before the changes later this year?  Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

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17 COMMENTS

  1. I can confirm you can buy the $25 southwest gift card online and get the allowance credit. Just did it 2 weeks ago – just send a secure message after transaction posts (took a few days, bought the same day as my dummy southwest booking)

  2. Can you use the Southwest credit you received to pay the airfare for other people or can you only use the SW credit for flights in your name? Thx.

    • It only works for the person the flight is booked for. So you can originally book for another person and then use it for them if you want to.

  3. Works great with Alaska too, and you can even book it online. Just wait more than 24 hours before cancelling or it gets tricky because they try to refund rather than crediting.

    • I wish Southwest was online or that Alaska was useful from my airport – online would be sooooo much easier!

  4. Interesting idea with aligning the dates for the $25 incidentals credit. So you think that US Bank won’t be able to see that you cancelled the WN flight?

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