Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.
Now that we know that hotel point transfers into the Southwest Rapid Rewards program will count towards Companion Pass qualification until March 31, 2017 (and then likely never again), it is time to strategize how to earn the pass so your designated companion can fly on Southwest flights with you for just the price of taxes for close to two calendar years if you earn it early in 2017.
Earn Southwest Companion Pass Points via Chase Co-Branded Southwest Cards
A popular and easy way to earn the Companion Pass without taking tons of paid Southwest flights for the last several years has been to get one or more of the 50,000 point sign-up bonuses from the co-branded Southwest Chase credit cards. The bonus levels aren’t always at the 50,000 point level, but when they are, getting two of those from the personal and business Southwest cards in a calendar year gets you most of the way to the 110,000 needed points to earn the pass.
There have been no announced changes to that credit card bonus points strategy, but the problem with it for many in this hobby is that thanks to the Chase 5/24 issues, not everyone is able to simply pick up new Chase cards even if they have good credit and are otherwise eligible to do so. This has meant an increased interest in alternative ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass including earning the pass via transfers from hotel program point transfers.
Earn Southwest Companion Passes via Hotel Point Transfers Until 3/31/17
Whether you simply have the hotel points to spend, you purchase them from the hotel programs, or you transfer them to the hotel program from Chase Ultimate Rewards or similar, there are a number of ways to get the hotel points you need to then transfer to Southwest and earn the Companion Pass…at least for a couple more months. As a refresher, here are some of the transfer ratios from the hotel programs to Rapid Rewards.
- 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport = 2,400 Rapid Rewards Points
- 50,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points = 30,000 Rapid Rewards Points
- 10,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 2,000 Rapid Rewards Points
- 20,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 5,000 Rapid Rewards Points
- 30,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 10,000 Rapid Rewards Points
- 70,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 25,000 Rapid Rewards Points
- 140,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 50,000 Rapid Rewards Points
- 200,000 Marriott Reward points = 7 nights in a Category 1-5 hotel + 50,000 Rapid Reward points
- 250,000 Marriott Reward points = 7 nights in a Category 1-5 hotel + 100,000 Rapid Reward points
- 270,000 Marriott Rewards points = 7 nights in a Category 1-5 hotel + 120,000 Rapid Reward points
6,000 Choice points for = 1,800 Rapid Rewards points
Earn Southwest Companion Pass and Much More for 90,000 SPG Points
Since the SPG and Marriott merger, a new popular pathway opened up to earning the Companion Pass that I have talked about before, but I think is now worth a closer look. Because the transfer ratio from SPG to Marriott is 1:3, it takes just 90,000 SPG points to obtain the 270,000 Marriott points needed for 120,000 Southwest Rapid Reward points and 7 nights in a Category 1-5 Marriott Hotel via their Flight and Hotel packages. These must be booked over the phone at 1-800-321-7396, take a few days to post, and you have a year to use the hotel award. You can also spend more points to stay in a higher category Marriott property if nothing you like is in the 1-5 range.
This is truly a killer deal as the 120,000 Rapid Reward points you get from the 270,000 point Marriott package will get you up to $1,700+ worth of Southwest Wanna Get Away award travel, and be more than enough to qualify you for the Companion Pass so someone can tag along on your Southwest flights by just paying the taxes for their seat. Oh and you also get a week long hotel stay at a Category 1-5 property at somewhere like the Renaissance Curacao shown below.
How to Earn 90,000 SPG Points Quickly
So the big question is how do you quickly get 90,000 SPG points if you aren’t already at or near that number in your SPG account?
If you haven’t already had the personal or business Amex SPG cards, those are great ways to get 25,000 SPG bonus points each after hitting their spending requirements. You would want to do that and hit the spending requirement ASAP to have the points in time for the March 31st deadline.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express: 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.Earn an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $3,000 in purchases within the first 6 months.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Limited Time Offer- Earn an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Offer ends 4/5.
You can also purchase up to 30,000 SPG points at a current rate of 3.5 cents each. They have discounted the rate by as much as half of that to 1.75 cents each on occasion, but your guess is as good as mine as to whether they will bring back a discount in the coming weeks. Fingers crossed…
If you are working on this Companion Pass goal with your partner or other household member, remember that SPG allows for free between SPG members who reside at the same address if both members have had the same residential address for more than 30 days before the transfer. This could help get you up to the needed 90,000 points to transfer to Marriott and redeem for a package that includes Rapid Reward points!
While it is not usually the best use of points, do remember that Chase Ultimate Reward points transfer 1:1 to Marriott, and you can also purchase up to 50,000 Marriott points at a rate of 1.25 cents each. Any other Marriott Rewards member can transfer up to 50,000 points per year to you for a $10 transaction fee which is waived for Gold and Platinum elites.
Earn Southwest Companion Pass and More for $2,100 + One Credit Card Bonus
Assuming you are starting at close to 0 SPG points now, you and a household member each purchased 30,000 SPG points, and between the two of you got at least one 25,000 point SPG Amex sign-up bonus, combined you would have the 90,000 needed SPG points to transfer to Marriott and redeem for the 270,000 point package if you moved very quickly. You would be able to get the remaining 5,000 SPG points needed by putting that amount of spending on your SPG Amex from hitting the spending requirement and buying the SPG points since that also codes as a 2x SPG purchase.
At the current rate, the 30,000 purchased points for you and your household member would cost you a combined $2,100. If you don’t need that many points, then obviously your out of pocket cost is even lower. While there is of course some opportunity cost in getting and hitting the spending requirements on one of the SPG Amex cards, there is no true cash cost since it is a $0 introductory annual fee the first year.
This essentially means you can earn the Southwest Companion Pass for the rest of 2017 and all of 2018, get 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points that can be worth over $1,700 in Wanna Get Away awards, and seven nights in a Category 1-5 property for just $2,100 out of pocket + one SPG Amex credit card sign-up bonus even if you are starting at zero SPG points right now. Remember that March 31, 2017 is a hard and fast deadline by which all transfers must have processed, so you only have until earlier in March to work with to get this all squared away.
Only you know whether or not that is “worth it”, but it is probably at least worth some consideration if Southwest is a convenient airline for your family and you could make good use of the Companion Pass in 2017 and 2018!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.