Investing in Southwest Airlines drink coupons is one of the more obscure unusual investments out there. Anyone who is a frequent traveler on Southwest Airlines has probably received drink coupons in the mail as a ‘Thank You’ from the company. Most people don’t realize that if they don’t plan on using the coupons, they are fairly easy to monetize. There are numerous listings on eBay for Southwest Airlines drink coupons and they generally sell (with free shipping) in the $14 to $16 range for a pack of 4. Based on that range and assuming the person used PayPal, you would net $11.89 to $13.64 minus your cost of shipping (probably $0.49 US Mail). However, there is a caveat to this. The back of the Southwest coupon states that the “Drink Coupon is void if altered, sold, purchased, brokered, or bartered.” So according to them, you can’t sell them. People do sell them everyday and flight attendants do accept the sold coupons, but I guess its possible they could say they are void. They would have to check the person’s ID and tell them that the name on the coupon does not match; however, people share them and give them away all the time (and that is not prohibited under the terms on the back of the drink coupon), so I don’t think they could implement something like that without alienating a whole lot of their customers.
How do you get Southwest Airlines Drink Coupons for Free
Southwest Airlines gives out one set of 4 drink coupons for every 10 one-way flights you take (you must be a member of their Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program and you must make sure you checked ‘Yes’ in your account on whether you want to receive drink coupons). They also give them out on your annual renewal of your Southwest Airlines Credit Card if you have one. Finally, they give them out to Southwest Airlines email newsletter subscribers as prizes for entering and winning contests. Please note that drink coupons have an expiration date. The ones you get in the mail typically are good for 1 year. If you fly Business Select, you do get a free drink coupon, but it is only good for that day. It is almost impossible to monetize that one. Someone who flies a moderate amount of flights might end up with 8 or 12 drink coupons per year, which is great, but it is not going to make you rich by selling them.
Finding Affordable Drink Coupons to Buy and Re-sell
Since you might only make $40 or so per year re-selling your own Southwest Airlines drink coupons, you need to find other sources of drink coupons. The most obvious place to start would be friends or family members that don’t drink. If they put zero value on an alcoholic beverage, they are more likely to give them to you or sell them to you for a $1 each or something like that. There is no alternative reward if they don’t opt ‘Yes’ for the drink coupons in their Rapid Rewards account, so unless it is a real moral problem or causes them problems related to alcoholism or something to receive the little pieces of paper, then see if they will be willing to get the free coupons and give or sell them to you.
After that, I would try offering to buy drink coupons on Craigslist. I would try to buy them inexpensively but as a selling point tell them you will give them cash that day. Someone with 8 coupons might be unaware that they could get more money on eBay, they might not want to fool with eBay and they might prefer to have cash today then wait for a sale that may or may not happen in the future. I would save contact information and tell them that you are always interested in buying drink coupons, and offer to buy them in the future whenever they get them. The big catch here would be finding a business traveler that travels all the time but does not drink at all or just never has an opportunity to drink on a flight.
One final thing to consider when buying Southwest Airlines drink coupons: expiration dates. All drink coupons have an expiration date on them and I would avoid buying any that were going to expire in the next 1-2 months. Also, if the drink coupon is really old (pre-August 2010) and it did not have an expiration date on it, the company deemed it to be expired as of August 31, 2011. While I have heard stories of Southwest Airlines drink coupons continuing to be accepted well after the expiration date, I would avoid these drink coupons altogether as they are likely worthless.
Developing Your Own Customer List is the Best Long Term Strategy
Having eBay get in the middle of each sale is not optimal. They take a very large cut of the sale; along with PayPal, you are looking at around 15% of the sale price going to middlemen. Secondly, I have heard of Southwest Airlines forcing eBay to cancel listings of people trying to sell Rapid Rewards free flights; they could conceivably do this now or at some point in the future with drink coupons. If you could develop your own list of buyers that have bought from you on eBay and anyone else you know that is interested in buying drink coupons and email them periodically that you have more drink coupons available, that would be a better way to go. This is not the type of trade where you are going to be selling 1000’s of drink coupons a month; you don’t need a massive database of buyers.