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Business Travel

Southwest's Less-Rapid Rewards

Say goodbye to Southwest Airlines' simple Rapid Rewards frequent-flier program. The new program switches from credits to points. Business travelers, who fly frequently and purchase Southwest's more expensive tickets, earn 12 points for every dollar they spend on airfare. Leisure travelers, who take short, inexpensive flights, get just six points for every dollar spent. Chris Mainz, a Southwest spokesman, says that it will take an average of ten round-trips to get a free ticket, instead of eight.

Using a Chase Southwest card, you now earn two points for each dollar you spend on Southwest tickets, hotel stays and rental cars from Southwest partners, and one point for every dollar spent elsewhere. In addition to the Classic card (annual fee: $39; no bonus points) and the renamed Plus (Visa Signature) card (annual fee: $69; 3,000 bonus points on your anniversary date), there is now a Premier card (annual fee: $99; 6,000 points).

Should you hold on to your Southwest card? Tim Winship, of SmarterTravel.com, says it depends on how loyal you are to Southwest. But with the new system, he says, you will need a calculator to manage it.