The end of February is here, and soon, the option to transfer hotel points to obtain the highly valuable Southwest Airlines Companion Pass will end, too.
There have been a number of ways to reach that magic 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points mark to achieve Companion Pass status.
As the Companion Pass has become more well known, some of those options have lessened or disappeared altogether.
Such is the cost of notoriety in the Miles and Points hobby.
So, as of March 31, 2017, points transferred from hotel loyalty programs will no longer count toward Companion Pass status.
A blow to one of the more popular free travel opportunities within the Miles and Points hobby.
WHAT IS THE COMPANION PASS?
If you’re not familiar, the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass allows you to choose one person to fly with you for only the cost of the September 11th Security Fee ($5.60 per flight segment) – no additional points if booking award travel or monetary cost if paying for your flight.
You can achieve Companion Pass status in one of two ways: (1) fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or (2) earn 110,000 Qualifying Points in one calendar year.
Obviously, we’re interested in the 110,000-point route.
And, up until the recent policy change announcement by Southwest Airlines, hotel point transfers counted toward that 110,000-point mark, making it easier to achieve the Companion Pass.
MARRIOTT TRAVEL PACKAGES
The most popular of the hotel transfer point options is the Marriott Travel Package.
Marriott Rewards points can be redeemed for travel packages that not only provide 7 nights in a specific category of Marriott hotel but also deposit a certain number of airline miles/points into your frequent flyer account depending on how many Marriott points you redeem.
A number of airlines participate in this program. You can view all the options on the Marriott Travel Package page.
However, for this post, we’re most interested in the opportunity to earn Southwest Airlines points – and ultimately the Companion Pass.
As you can see from the Southwest Airlines Hotel + Air Package graph, to get the magic 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you’ll need to redeem – on the low end – 270,000 Marriott Rewards points. For that 270,000 Marriott Rewards points, you’ll receive 7-nights at a Category 1-5 Marriott hotel and 120,000 Rapid Rewards points.
More than enough Rapid Rewards points to automatically achieve Companion Pass status.
Unfortunately, the option to redeem Marriott Rewards points for the Companion Pass goes away at the end of March.
Which means, it’s time to get crackin’ if you have any interest at all in taking advantage of this route for getting the Companion Pass.
MARRIOTT TRAVEL PACKAGES AND THE COMPANION PASS
If you don’t already have a sizable stash of Marriott Rewards points, it’s likely too late to take advantage of the Marriott Travel Package option before Southwest closes the door.
However, you may be able to add to your Marriott Rewards account via ways you haven’t considered.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to the Marriott Rewards program at a 1:1 rate. So if you have any Ultimate Rewards points in your account – and have a premium Ultimate Rewards earning credit card (Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred) that allows for transfers to travel partners, you can bump up your Marriott points balance instantaneously.
Additionally, since the merger of Starwood Hotels and Marriott Hotels, any Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points you may have will transfer to your Marriott Rewards account. The transfer rate is 1 SPG point to 3 Marriott Rewards points. Which means, if you have 20,000 SPG points, you’ll have a cool 60,000 Marriott Rewards points added to your balance.
Unfortunately, the easiest way to boost your Marriott Rewards account balance – via credit card sign-up bonuses – is likely not an option at this point. With only a month before the discontinuation of hotel point transfers counting toward the Companion Pass, it’s highly unlikely you could get the card, meet the minimum spend and have the points post to your account prior to March 31st.
But, you could use post-March 31st sign-up bonuses to upgrade your Travel Package category after redeeming for the lowest tier, 270,000-point package.
Here’s how that would play out.
Once you have the 270,000 Marriott Rewards points in your account, you simply call 1-800-321-7396 to order the Category 1-5 Travel Package.
With the 270,000 Marriott points redeemed, you’ll have (within a day or two) 120,000 Rapid Rewards points deposited into your Southwest account and Companion Pass status ready to activate. Additionally, a 7-night Category 1-5 certificate will be added to your Marriott Rewards account for redemption at any point within the next 12 months. During that 12-month period, the Category 1-5 certificate can be upgraded to any higher Category simply by redeeming the difference in points between the Category certificate you hold and the Category certificate you want.
And, what’s nice, those additional points can be earned/transferred at any time after the initial redemption.
So, if you want your 7-night stay to be at a Category 7 Marriott hotel, you’ll need an additional 60,000 Marriott Rewards points.
Which may sound daunting, but it’s really not.
Those additional points can be earned simply by applying for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express that currently has a sign-up bonus of 35,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Remember, 35,000 Starpoints equals 105,000 Marriott Rewards points, more than enough to upgrade to the Category 7 certificate.
Earning sign-up bonuses associated with the Chase Marriott Rewards card and/or any Chase Ultimate Rewards earning credit card could also increase your Marriott Rewards balance. Check Chase’s credit card site for the latest sign-up bonuses.
NOW GET GOING!
The options for increasing your Marriott Rewards balance – and in turn the Travel Package hotel category – are plenty, but it all starts with redeeming for the base level package and the Companion Pass prior to March 31st.
The clock is ticking. If you have any interest in earning the Companion Pass via the Marriott Travel Package one last time, you must act fast.
After March 31st, the opportunities for earning one of the most coveted travel perks in the Miles and Points hobby will become one less.
Which, to put it bluntly, really sucks.