Is this enough compensation? My Rapid Rewards expired and I can’t get them back

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By Christopher Elliott

Rachel Cabarcas’s timing isn’t the best. No, not because she has an expired awards problem she’s sharing with us today, but because if she’d waited a little longer, then this probably wouldn’t have been a problem.

And what, exactly, is the problem? Her Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards are no longer valid, and she’d like them back.

As some of you probably know, Rapid Rewards no longer expire. But they used to.

Expired rewards

Cabrcas and her husband have been a Rapid Reward member since 2004. They racked up a lot of flight credits, because he was a frequent traveler.

“We used some of the awards we had, but we’ve been saving them to used toward a family vacation,” she told me. “He doesn’t travel as much now and we aren’t accruing them as readily as we used to.”

Under the old Rapid Rewards program, the clock was ticking on those credits awarded years ago.

In 2008 we relocated, and I was in the process of updating all of my information with various rewards groups, I noticed we had four awards with Southwest that had expired but were “available for reissue.”

I pride myself on being thorough, so I called Southwest to see if I needed to reissue them right away. Do the “expired” awards ever expire? I was told that they did not. That even if I couldn’t see them, they were still in their database and could be reissued when I was ready to use them.

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That wasn’t quite right. The credits did expire.

I went online to go about the reissue process to find that only one of my awards was there. I called Southwest and was told that the other awards had expired.

You can imagine my surprise and frustration. I immediately called customer relations and was told the same story. They said they would not make those awards available to reissue.

My question is, why not? If they can see in their system that I earned them, why won’t they let me pay the reissue fee and use them? I earned them, right? It’s not like I’m making it up. They can see that I earned them. I just want to be able to use them.

Credit compromise

I understand Cabarcas’s frustration. If a Southwest representative told her the credits would be usable, then they should have been. But I’m almost certain this was a misunderstanding. As a matter of fact, under the old Rapid Rewards, the credits expired, and anyone with even a passing familiarity with the program would have known that, or should have been able to find the terms online. (Related: My Allstate Rewards gift card didn’t work on my Princess cruise.)

Still, it’s possible someone at Southwest made arrangements to extend her vouchers but then didn’t follow through. So in order to get some clarity on her case, my advocacy team and I suggested she get in touch with a manager at Southwest.

Southwest gave her 2/3 of her rewards back. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

“Something’s better than nothing, right?” she says.

True. But should Southwest have given her all the credits back, given the likely misunderstanding and the fact that none of its rewards now expire? Or was she lucky to get most of her credits?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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