Southwest changed its Rapid Rewards program, and the new program is confusing.

I recently went to redeem my credit card rewards, only to find out they changed the whole program. I read all the fine print that comes in the mail from credit cards, and don’t remember reading the fine piece of literature alerting me to the change. Trying to get a customer service rep to answer my questions got me nowhere.

It’s a frustration many cardholders in all sorts of reward programs are unfortunately experiencing as well. Perk programs don’t offer many perks anymore.  You have to spend thousands of dollars on a credit card before you see a measly $50 credit or gift card or whatever you want to redeem it in for. Plus, who can keep up with all the changes.

Now, Southwest is changing its rewards programs even though there is no mention of the changes on their main Rapid Rewards page. The Southwest website still reads, “After taking just 8 roundtrips (or after earning 16 credits) in 24 consecutive months, you’ll automatically get a standard flight free, anywhere Southwest Airlines flies!”

It won’t be that easy starting March 1, 2011. The new program seems a bit confusing, although you will get a few nice perks.

Southwest is promoting the fact that there are no blackout dates, no expiration of your miles if there is earning activity within 24 months, and every seat on every plan is eligible for a reward voucher. Those are all bonuses as some airlines require you book frequent flier points months in advance or their small allotment of reward seats are gone.

With the phased out program, you earned points for every flight no matter the miles or dollar amount of the flight. Now, you’ll earn points for every dollar you spend. But, it’s not as simple as spend $1 earn 100 points. The amount of points you earn also depends on the fare category from which you buy.  There will be Wanna Get Away, Anytime, and Business Select fares. Each has a different price, and a different number of fare points allocated for it. So, the more you pay the more points you earn per dollar.

Confused yet? You better watch the video they put together to figure out how to redeem your points:

If you have old credits, they’ll transfer into points. Every credit will earn you 1200 points and you need 15,600 points in the new program to earn a flight.

Basically, the credits are gone. Now, it’s a points based system. The more you spend the more points you earn per dollar. Redemption points also vary depending on the fare category you choose.

Good luck navigating the rewards program. Who said traveling was easy?