How I Made Money Upgrading to Business Select on Southwest Airlines

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There are two things you need to keep front-and-center when earning miles and points – the benefits of the programs you belong to and what your goals are for those programs.  I had to fly to Las Vegas for a quick business trip earlier this week.  When the tickets are available, our company requires us to fly on Economy fares (Wanna Get Away fares in Southwest terms).  When I checked in at the airport for my flight from SNA to LAS, I was offered the option of upgrading to Business Select for $98.  I thought about it for a second, then said yes… and I didn’t even try to expense it  Here’s why!

Southwest Upgrade to Business Select SNA to LAS

Benefits of Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

For standard flights, you earn 6x points on Wanna Get Away, 10x points on Anytime, and 12x points on Business Select fares.  Because of changes in the law, airlines have to include taxes and fees, so you don’t receive 6, 10, or 12 times the fare listed.  The points are based upon the fare price, excluding taxes and fees.

Southwest Wanna Get Away points earned

In this example (which is the same as my original flights), 786 is the points earned off a ticket price of $142.  786 points / 6 points per dollar = $131 fare, so there are $11 in taxes and fees in this ticket price.

As a Southwest Airlines A-List Preferred member, I get double the standard points earned on every Southwest flight I take.  So, instead of 6, 10, or 12 times the points, I receive 12, 20, or 24 times the points.  If I hadn’t upgraded, that would have been an extra 786 points, for a total of 1,572 points.  Unfortunately, the bonus points earned are not considered Tier Qualifying Points and do not count towards qualifying for A-List, A-List Preferred, or the Companion Pass.

Southwest A List Preferred benefits

According to the Southwest website FAQ:

  • What are Tier Qualifying Points, and how do I earn them?  Tier Qualifying Points are earned from revenue flights or through the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card from Chase. Points earned via Rapid Rewards Partners-with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Premier Card from Chase-purchased points, Bonus Points, or points earned via a promotion are not Tier Qualifying Points and do not count toward tier qualification.


Current Southwest Double Points Promotion

One of the current promotions allows you to earn double the normal points when using the Chase Southwest Visa.  Click here to sign up for the Chase Southwest Airlines Visa cardmember Double Points promotion.  So, the normal 6, 10, and 12 points becomes 12, 20, and 24 points per dollar.  As a Southwest A-List Preferred member, this means I’ll earn 18, 30, or 36 points per dollar!!!

Earn double points this summer!

As a Rapid Rewards Credit Cardmember, you can earn double points on flights booked through Southwest Airlines between July 1, 2013 and August 31, 2013.  Pay with your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card and watch your points soar!

With this promotion, you will receive 24 points (instead of the standard 12 points) per dollar spent on Business Select Fares, 20 points (instead of ten points) per dollar spent on Anytime Fares, and 12 points (instead of six points) per dollar spent on Wanna Get Away Fares.

Southwest promotions_cardmembers_double_points

Here’s how easy it is to take advantage of this promotion:

  1. Register between June 19, 2013 and August 31, 2013.
  2. Purchase your flights through Southwest with your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card for travel between July 1, 2013 and August 31, 2013.
  3. Earn double points on your flights!

Keep in mind that you also continue to earn 2 points per dollar spent on flights just by using your card.


The Math To Making Money

Now, this won’t work on all fares, but it did for mine.  As a Chase Southwest Visa cardmember and with my A-List Preferred status, I knew that I’d earn 2,358 points (786 * 3), which is equivalent to $39.30 in Wanna Get Away fares (2,358 / 60).  I would have to spend $98 extra upgrade to Business Select.

The Business Select ticket earned 8,406 points.  I think I was awarded extra points, because my math suggests I should have earned 8,244 points.  Base ticket of $131 + $98 = $229 * 12 points/$ for Business Select = 2,748 * 3 (base points + cardmember promotion + A-List Preferred bonus) = 8,244.

My return flight was the same fare as the first base fare, so I earned 8,406 for SNA-LAS and 2,358 for LAS-SNA.  A total of 10,764 points!

Southwest SNA to LAS points earned

Back to making money… the 8,244 (I’ll use the lower figure I calculated) is equal to $137.40 in Wanna Get Away fares (8,244 / 60).  Compare that to the original $39.30 in Wanna Get Away fares (2,358 / 60), I netted out $98.10 in value.  Ok, so not a LOT more money, but STILL more money.  =)

Because I have the Companion Pass, the value is actually double, because wherever I fly, my wife can fly for FREE… so I earned the equivalent of $274.80 in fares for this flight vs. $78.60, an earning of $196.20 vs. the $98 spent.  No we’re talking!!!

And, these calculations don’t take into account the 2 points per $ spent on the Chase Southwest Visa.


How To Calculate & Decide For Yourself

The taxes and fees generally aren’t that much, so to make things simple, take your ticket price and divide by 10 (multiply by 6, then divide by 60 = same as dividing by 10).  That is your cash equivalent in points earned.

For the upgrade to Business Select, take your new ticket price (original fare + upgrade cost) and divide by 5 (multiply by 12, then divide by 60 = same as dividing by 5).

Compare the two numbers.  If they’re close and you value Southwest points (especially if there’s a double points promo and/or if you have A-List or A-List Preferred status), then I say “go for the upgrade” to Business Select.


Why This Has Even More Value

One of my goals each year is to earn 110,000 points so that I can renew the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows my wife (or any companion you choose) to fly for free on flights you’re on.

With my original Wanna Get Away flight, I was set to earn 786 points ($131 fare * 6).  With my upgrade to Business Select, I was now earning 2,748 points (($131 + $98) * 12)… which is almost 2,000 more points than I would have had.  The fact that I upgraded for essentially free, or even made money, while getting that much closer to my goal, is simply awesome!!!



Know the benefits of the programs you’re using on your trip, then determine if there are ways to supercharge your progress towards your goals.  You may find that spending a little bit of money, will not only net you approximately equal value in return (or even make some money!), but you’ll make unexpected progress towards your goals.  Happy travels to you!


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