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The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best deals out there for family travelers as it permits a designated traveler to fly with the pass holder on all Southwest flights whether the pass holder booked with points or cash. The companion just has to pay the taxes/fees for their seat. The Companion Pass is good the rest of the calendar year in which it was earned, and then all of the following calendar year. This means that the earlier in the year you earn it, the longer period of time you have to use it.
Earn the Southwest Companion Pass Without Flying
There are thankfully some ways to earn the Companion Pass without flying the massive number of paid Southwest flights usually required, but one big way to earn points towards the Companion Pass will be ending for good effective March 31, 2017 when transfers in from Southwest’s hotel partners will no longer count towards the 110,000 points needed to earn the Companion Pass. Keep in mind that the 3/31/17 deadline is a hard deadline and all point transfers must not only be initiated by then, but actually received by Southwest by that date…so make the transfers much earlier as they are usually not instant.
For those interested in this way of earning the Companion Pass, I want to offer a recap of the hotel programs that allow for points transfers to Southwest and offer a few more bits of clarification since there are only a few weeks left before the 3/31/17 deadline.
You need to come up with 110,000 Companion Pass eligible points in a calendar year, but they can come from a variety of places. This means you can have some from eligible Southwest flights taken that calendar year, some from various hotel programs transferred in that year, some from one of the co-branded Southwest credit cards, etc. The sign-up bonuses from the Southwest credit cards (currently at 50,000 – 60,000 points) even count towards the 110,000 points you need! Do keep in mind that the points need to all come into one Rapid Rewards account – you cannot combine Companion Pass eligible points from two Rapid Rewards accounts.
When doing your math, be sure to not count the Southwest points already in your Rapid Rewards account unless they were earned this calendar year. There is a handy Companion Pass tracker available when you log in your Rapid Rewards account so you can see how many Companion Pass eligible points you have earned so far in 2017. Hopefully you are doing better than me…
I know this can be confusing to those new to this, but you aren’t trying to get to 110,000 total points in your Rapid Rewards account. You are trying to get to 110,000 Companion Pass eligible points earned that calendar year.
Hotel Point Transfers That Count Towards the Southwest Rapid Rewards Companion Pass (until 3/31/17)
Here are the transfer ratios from the various hotel programs eligible to transfer to Rapid Rewards. Most of them aren’t great, but it can be worth it if you will be maximizing your Companion Pass.
- 5,000 Best Western Rewards points = 1,200 Rapid Rewards Points.
- 6,000 Choice points = 1,800 Rapid Rewards points
- 2,000 Gold Points = 200 Rapid Rewards Points
- 50,000 Gold Points = 5,000 Rapid Rewards Points
- 100,000 Gold Points = 10,000 Rapid Rewards Points
- 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport = 2,400 Rapid Rewards Points
- 50,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points = 30,000 Rapid Rewards Points
You can also go from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio
- 6,000 La Quinta Returns points for 1,200 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
You can also go from Starwood Preferred Guest to Marriott on a 1:3 points ratio.
Most recently the popular way to do this has been to go from Starwood to Marriott to Southwest as 1 SPG point becomes 3 Marriott points, and you can then get a Marriott Flight + Hotel package as outlined below. Since SPG members in the same household can pool points you can combine SPG points into one account, and then transfer them to Marriott to get a Flight + Hotel package.
The other relatively common transfer for those in need of a few more points is to go from Chase Ultimate Rewards – Hyatt Gold Passport – Southwest. You lose points in the process due to the ratios, but 50,000 Chase/Hyatt points can become 30,000 Rapid Reward points in a pinch.
Earn Southwest Companion Pass and Much More for 90,000 SPG Points
Because of the 1:3 transfer ratio, 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. Until 3/31/17 those Rapid Reward points will not only be yours to use for Southwest flights, but they also count towards earning the Companion Pass.
These packages must be booked over the phone with Marriott at 1-800-321-7396, they take a few days to post, and you have a year to use the hotel award (though I have even heard of getting that extended a year). You can also spend more points to stay in a higher category Marriott property if nothing you like is in the Category 1-5 range. You can upgrade your certificate at a later time and just pay for the 1-5 certificate now.
This is truly a killer deal for many 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. Of course you also get a week long hotel stay at a Category 1-5 property at somewhere like the Renaissance Curacao shown below…though I’ll be honest that the Cat 1-5 property list isn’t super amazing.
One final thing to consider is that you can purchase points in many of these hotel programs, but that would need to be a pretty last ditch effort to get you the final bit of the way to earning the Companion Pass as it generally won’t be a cheap way to do things. While you want to earn the Companion Pass as soon as possible in a year so you can start using it, keep in mind you actually have all of 2017 to earn the pass. The hotel transfers must be in place by 3/31/17, but if they don’t get you 100% of the way there, you can keep using the Southwest credit card, taking paid Southwest flights, using the Southwest shopping portal, and more all through the end of 2017 until you get to the magic 110,000 Companion Pass eligible point number. Once 2018 rolls around your CP points counter will reset to zero.
How is your 2017 quest to earn the Companion Pass going? What types of hotel points have you used to leverage earning the pass?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.