|by Jason Steele|
Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program had been one of the simpler programs out there. By this time next week, they will have gone to Rapid Rewards 2.0 (RR2.0). While it is probably too late for most people to get an additional reward in the old system, there are still some steps you can take to maximize your rewards going forwards.
Split Your Old Awards
I still have a couple of old awards. I can still use them for the next year. The problem is that you still have to have availability to use them. Since I will be traveling as a group, this award space is even harder to find. One strategy that I will be using is to split my round trip awards into two one way tickets. Southwest will allow you to do this. In this way, I can use one of my awards to get two tickets on a particular flight that has award space. On the return, I have not been able to find award space under the old system, so I might use credits from the new system or, gasp, find another carrier for my return. Splitting carriers is an old trick that is becoming more popular as fewer tickets now require a round trip purchase. In my situation, the schedule is just as much of a concern as the ticket price is.
Save Your Old Awards For High Value Tickets
One of the problems I always had with Southwest’s old system was that it really only paid for itself when you are traveling great distances or at the last minute. Otherwise, their fares were so low that the awards rarely carried much value. To this day, I don’t think I have ever redeemed an award for a flight I would have had to pay more than $300 for. Going forward, if you have an award on the old system and points on the new system, save your award for a big trip or a last minute flight. Use your points for advance purchase or relatively short haul flights.
One of the problems I have with the new system is that they will only convert your old credits to the new system, not your old awards. I wish they had made it possible to, on request, convert awards into the new point system. In that way, one could take a round trip award and use it for multiple short haul flights. I don’t see why they are not offering this option, as it would be consistent with their claims,right or wrong, that the new system is better. Of course, if few people took advantage of it, it would certainly prove that the new system was not.
It is unfortunately that Southwest chose to go with a much more complicated system. Like any system, there will always be ways for savvy travelers to maximize their award utilization.