As my previous posts explained I earned the Southwest Companion Pass this year. I have used it to book many trips so far.
One of the perks of Southwest Rapid Rewards is that you can make changes for free. The flexibility is truly great for award tickets booked with rapid rewards points and gives you some flexibility to make speculative bookings during fare sales.
The Companion Pass complicates this a little because you have to cancel the companion ticket before you cancel or change the primary flyer’s ticket. It is just a quirk of the system where you can’t cancel or change both at the same time. You have to rebook the primary ticket and then re-add the companion fare after the new one is confirmed. The confirmation usually takes a few minutes to process.
The result of changing or cancelling any Southwest ticket can be some residual cash Southwest credits. This is especially true of the taxes paid on an award booking and later cancelled! It is important to keep track of the credits so they all get used up eventually.
In Southwest’s system the the lowest fares, “Wanna Get Away” remain as credits and do not go back to the original credit card. This includes taxes on award tickets booked as “Wanna Get Away” fares. You have to use the passenger first and last name and old confirmation number to apply the credit to any new bookings. If you do a lot of trips or a lot of changes this can get messy to keep track of. You can apply up to 4 credits/gift cards to a single new booking. If you cancel a cash “Wanna Get Away” fare you get the entire amount back as a credit.
One important rule: Residual credits from a cancelled Southwest tickets (cash or award) can only be used for the person who was named on the original ticket. It is important to keep track of who it belongs to so it can be used later.
Southwest gift cards (such as ones bought at staples for 5x points per dollar) can be used for anyone. I buy these $50 at a time to get 5 points per dollar and then use them when I book Southwest flights. They can be used to pay the award ticket taxes or go towards a cash fare. This way I get 5 points per dollar on all of my Southwest spending. Any unused portion of Southwest gift cards remains under the same gift card number until the balance reaches zero. You can apply up to 4 gift cards per purchase.
I keep an excel spreadsheet of all of my unused credits and gift cards. I keep the old confirmation number, original booking date, first name, last name, and dollar amount of each one. When I book new Southwest tickets I always use as many residuals as I can before I break out the credit card or even a Southwest gift card. You can pay 100% of the ticket cost with residual credits and/or gift cards and not use a credit card at all if you wish. It is very easy to do on the payment page of the booking process. All residual credits do expire 1 year after the original ticket issue date. Be sure they get used up!
Plans do change and Southwest gives us a lot of flexibility. It does take a little record keeping on our side to make sure we don’t leave any money behind as we cancel today and rebook later. Using an excel sheet is a quick and easy way to maintain the records and copy and paste into Southwest.com to redeem them again later.