Southwest Switching to New Frequent-Flier Program

Say goodbye to the simplicity of the old program.

Southwest Airlines will launch its new Rapid Rewards program for frequent flyers March 1. Members used to the simplicity of the old program will have to adjust to receiving rewards for dollars spent rather than flights taken.

Under the old program, members received a credit for each flight they took -- 16 credits equaled a free flight. Under new program, points are earned based on the cost and type of a ticket. Business Select fares (the most expensive) earn 12 points per dollar spent, whereas Anytime fares earn ten points per dollar and Wanna Get Away fares earn six points per dollar. So now it will take an average of ten round-trip flights -- rather than eight -- to get a free flight.

If you have existing credits, you still can use them by converting any new points you earn back to credits (1,200 points equals one credit). You'll still need 16 credits to get a free flight. If you already have a Standard Award or Freedom Award, you can redeem it for a free flight. However, you won't be able to convert a Standard Award to a Freedom Award after March 1, according to an e-mail Southwest sent to Rapid Rewards members.

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For more information, see the frequently asked questions about the program at Southwest.com.

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Cameron Huddleston
Former Online Editor, Kiplinger.com

Award-winning journalist, speaker, family finance expert, and author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk.

Cameron Huddleston wrote the daily "Kip Tips" column for Kiplinger.com. She joined Kiplinger in 2001 after graduating from American University with an MA in economic journalism.