Deconstructing Southwest Awards to Extend Expiration

Ok, so I read obscure references to this but perhaps missed the point. Airtran and Southwest credits (NOT points) expire after 1 year. Or do they?!? Apparently small things behave very differently than anything big which is a wonderful and significant story (for frequent fliers).

Ok, I’m reaching a bit lot but I’ve spent too much time on YouTube lately.

First, the rules:

  1. When credits are transferred from Southwest to Airtran, expiration dates are preserved.
  2. When credits are transferred from Airtran to Southwest, expiration dates are preserved.
  3. When 16 credits are available at Southwest, a Standard Award is created composed of 2 one-way coupons, each of which has an expiration 1 year from the date the coupon was created.
  4. Each Southwest coupon may be converted to 8 Airtran credits, where the expiration of the credits will be the same as the Coupon.

Now, let’s apply the rules…

Imagine the following scenario (applied October 10th, 2012).

  • 1 Standard coupon (one-way) at Southwest expiring December 15th, 2012.
  • 5 credits at Southwest expiring August 1st, 2013.
  • 3 credits at Southwest expiring December 1st, 2013 (14 MONTHS)
  • 2 credits at Airtran expiring October 1st, 2013.

Experiment Steps:

  1. Deconstruct the Standard coupon by transferring to Airtran, resulting in 8 credits will appearing at Airtran as of the date of transfer (e.g. Oct 10th, 2012).
  2. Transfer 6 credits from Southwest to Airtran, which will convert with their original dates (5 on 8/1/2013, 1 on 12/1/13).
  3. Transfer 14 credits from Airtran to Southwest.
  4. A “Standard award” will be created which is really two “Standard coupons” each with an expiration 1 year from the date of transfer (e.g. Oct 10th, 2012).
  5. Notably, you’ll be left with 2 credits at Southwest with an expiration of Dec 1st, 2013 (the third bullet above).

To summarize, you can extend credit expiration this way so long as you have 16 credits as the extension effect is contingent on the conversion into a standard award. Of course, given that 1200 Southwest can convert into a Southwest credit, this isn’t at all difficult (and you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest at 1000:1000) so there really is no reason why your Southwest or Airtran credits should expire.

In layman’s terms: if your Southwest coupons/awards are expiring, transfer them to Airtran to break them up/combine them. Then transfer them back to Southwest to reconstitute an award with a longer expiration.

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One comment

  1. […] committing the change. Remember though that credits expire after a year (unless you know the transfer tricks to extend them) and cannot be converted back into points. It’s helpful to have a standard award or two on […]

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