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Travel Hacking: Using Credit Card Points on Southwest

July 21, 2012

I’d used an airline card quite some time ago  to get a free flight home for Christmas (and cancelled it before the annual fee hit).  It worked really well, my credit score is still great, and it was overall a really easy process.  I haven’t experimented with travel hacking since.  However, with T’s impending move to the bay area I looked into my options to ease the travel burden.

Southwest is my favorite airline for the short trips between Los Angeles and San Francisco (like, are there really any other options!?), so my initial instinct was to get the Southwest Visa  card.   The current Southwest deal is for “two round trip flights”, which is 50,000 rewards points.  Chase Sapphire was offering a similar deal (currently down to 40k), but   allows transfer of points to a variety of airlines (Southwest, United, British Airways).  I strategically got the Chase card before we booked our Alaska trip because I knew I could meet the spending requirements ($3k in 3 months).  As a bonus, I was able to transfer another 11,000 points from my old Chase card to my new rewards account.

Armed with 60,000 miles, T and I took advantage of last week’s fall sale on Southwest and booked all of our fall flights .  Southwest is a different than other rewards programs I’ve used (Delta, American), in that when the flight goes on sale, the “points” price is also less.  Most of the flights were <3,000 points one-way.

  • 1 way ticket for him 😦
  • 6 RT tickets from San Francisco to Los Angeles for him (August, September (2), October (2), November)
  • 2 RT ticket from Los Angeles to San Francisco for me (September, October)
  • AND I have about 10-15k points left!

It was a little overwhelming to book so many tickets all at once!  Southwest is really flexible, and if we need to change or cancel the tickets, the points can go towards future flights.  Also… that is a crazy travel schedule!  We didn’t intend to have quite so many flights, but with various events and pre-planned trips, it turned out to be a little excessive.   I’m kind of embarrassed by the excess & luxury of seeing each other so much… but I’m so glad!

Our last travel to book for the year will be Christmas flights to the Midwest.  We’ll pay full price for those, since we get the most bang for the “points” on short flights.  I  think T will get the Southwest card to get 50,000 points to help us get through the spring.

Have you ever tried travel hacking?  I have a hard time explaining to my non-PF real life friends how and why we had so many points without sounding like we are being careless!  I think it is a great strategy for people who already know how to manage their money to save big on travel.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Brad permalink
    July 23, 2012 7:03 am

    I got in to the game last Fall after Well-Heeled posted about getting new cards with bonuses to use towards her honeymoon. I’ve been pretty much hooked on miles and points since then. I signed up for 7 new cards in November and received over 350,000 points/miles in bonuses. We’re going to Hawaii this Fall for free (and still have plenty of miles to spend). Now the tough part is just deciding where to go next. And for what it’s worth, my credit score only went down 10 points (and I still have a really good score).

  2. July 26, 2012 8:36 pm

    Wow that’s such a great deal! I always use my points as soon as I get them and on stupid things such as gift cards. However, I do love Chase just because I can redeem points for cash.

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