Should you use Marriott points to get a Southwest Companion Pass? Introducing the Marriott Travel Package MakeUpYourMinder.

Last week I described how I used my Marriott Rewards points to secure a Southwest Companion Pass.  The trick, which will only work through March of this year, is to exchange 270,000 Marriott Rewards points for a Marriott Travel Package consisting of a 7 Night Category 1-5 Certificate and 120,000 Southwest points.  Those Southwest points currently qualify towards the 110,000 points needed for a Companion Pass.  After March 31st, points transferred from hotel programs, like Marriott, will no longer qualify.

The reason this is such a great deal is that the companion pass is good for an unlimited number of flights for the rest of this calendar year, and all of the next.  And you can add a companion for free to either paid or award flights.  So, while 120,000 Southwest points will usually result in over $1800 worth of flights, when combined with the Companion Pass, it can result in over $3600 worth of flights if you use all of the points on flights where you bring a companion for free.

January 2017 Month in Review

Getting Marriott Rewards points

The best way to get Marriott Rewards points quickly is to convert Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points to Marriott.  SPG points convert to Marriott 1 to 3.  So, you would only need 90,000 SPG points to get the required 270,000 Marriott Rewards points.

If you don’t have SPG points, then the next best option is to sign up for Marriott personal and/or business credit cards, and SPG personal and/or business credit cards.

Other options for getting more Marriott points include transferring points from Amex or Chase, or buying points outright…

Convert from Amex or Chase 1 to 1

Amex Membership Rewards points can be converted 3 to 1 to SPG, and then 1 to 3 from SPG to Marriott.  This makes it possible to convert Membership Rewards 1 to 1 to Marriott.  Chase Ultimate Rewards, meanwhile, can be converted directly to Marriott Rewards 1 to 1.

Normally, I wouldn’t recommend converting either Amex or Chase points to Marriott Rewards.  The points are usually worth much more when used for other purposes.  In this case, though, the conversion may make sense for some…

Buy points for 1.17 cents each

SPG sells points for 3.5 cents each.  Since SPG converts 1 to 3 to Marriott, 3.5 cents per SPG point is equivalent to 1.17 cents per Marriott Rewards point.  That’s also slightly cheaper than buying points directly from Marriott for 1.25 cents each.  SPG limits each person to buying no more than 30,000 SPG points per year (equal to 90,000 Marriott Rewards points), and Marriott limits each person to 50,000 Marriott Rewards points per year.  A single person, therefore, could buy up to 140,000 Marriott Rewards points per year.  And, a couple could buy up to 280,000 points (Marriott will let you combine points without limit while purchasing an award, such as a Travel Package).

It’s even possible to buy all 90,000 SPG points / 270,000 Marriott points through SPG.  Since each person is limited to 30,000 points, this would require 3 people in your household to each purchase 30,000 points, and for the third person to transfer his/her points to you.  You and the second person could then transfer your points 1 to 3 to Marriott and, together, you would then have the required 270,000 points.

Decisions, Decisions

Whether you use points you already have, or you buy new points, it’s important to ask yourself if it’s worth it.  Will you get so much value from the Marriott Travel Package that it is worth the price?

A general approach is to estimate your costs (e.g. how much do you value the points that you would spend?), and estimate the resulting value (how much do you value 120,000 Southwest points, a Companion Pass, and a Marriott 7 Night Certificate?).  Then, compare the estimated costs to the estimated value.  Is the estimated value significantly higher than the cost?  If yes, go for it.  If not, why bother?

To help you make this decision, I developed the Marriott Travel Package Companion Pass MakeUpYourMinder.  Open the Google Docs spreadsheet and make a copy so that you can edit it (Click File… Make a Copy), then enter your estimates:

Marriott Travel Package MakeUpYourMinder Estimates

On the right, you’ll see the results:

Marriott Travel Package MakeUpYourMinder Results

If this results in a 75% or better increase in value, then you probably should get the travel package.  If less, don’t.

How to come up with your own estimates

The spreadsheet is pre-populated with estimates.  Some you can keep, but it’s crucial to enter you own values for these:

Number of Marriott points you have available: Include 3 times the number of SPG points you have since those transfer 1 to 3.  If you plan to book the Travel Package with another person, include that other person’s available points too.

In dollars, how much value do you expect to get from the Southwest Companion Pass?  If you bring a companion for free on only one $300 flight, then you would get only $300 value from the Companion Pass.  If you expect to bring your companion for free on 10 $300 flights, then you would expect to get $3,000 value.

In dollars, how much value do you expect to get from a Marriott 7 Night stay certificate?  If you don’t think you’ll use the certificate at all, then keep in mind that you can get back 45,000 Marriott points by returning the certificate.  In that case, multiply 45,000 x your estimated value of Marriott points (e.g. $.0068), to come up with the certificate value (e.g. “45,000 x $.0068 = $306”).  Or, maybe you’re pretty sure that you’ll use the certificate for a 7 night stay at a hotel that would have cost you $140 per night.  In that case, the value is 7 x $140 = $980.  Another approach is to figure out how much the stay would have cost, in points, if you booked the stay with points.  Let’s say that you’re likely to use just 5 nights at a category 5 property.  In that case, you could have used 100,000 Marriott points for that same 5 night stay.  100,000 x $.0068 = $680.

Please also see: 12 things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages.

Reader Feedback

Is this MakeUpYourMinder helpful?  Would you like to see any changes?  Please comment below.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Pingbacks

  1. […] A terrific alternative to signing up for Southwest credit cards has been to book a Marriott Travel Package for 270,000 Marriott points (or 90,000 SPG points).  These Travel Packages offer a certificate for a 7 night stay plus 120,000 airline miles.  If you choose to get Southwest points, you can earn the Southwest Companion Pass in one fell swoop.  Unfortunately, as of April 1st, Southwest will stop counting points transferred from hotel programs as Companion Pass eligible.  So, if you want to get in on this deal, you’ll have to do it soon. I wrote about my own experience with this, here: Secured Southwest Companion Pass and 7 Night Stay. Now where should we go?  To help you decide whether or not to do this deal, please see: Should you use Marriott points to get a Southwest Companion Pass? Introducing the Marriott Travel Pa…. […]

Comments

  1. Great post. I got the CP in February last year from 2 SW cardsso I still have it for the rest of this year. I travel with my wife always. I am thinking of getting her the pass even though we would likely not get much use out of it this year unless we travel with someone else, perhaps grandchildren, but that would likely be only once or twice.

    We also have 500,000 Marriott points between us from 4 cards, never having used the points.

    Lastly, to complicate matters even more, we have over $4,000 in SW gift cards from airline rebates on certain cards, and 100,000+ Southwest points.

    Last year we used perhaps 100,000 SW points for flights (that’s with a companion pass). So, I am wondering whether or not to get one for my wife, and whether we should get the SW points or the United miles.

    Within the US we use Southwest exclusively, and outside the US we go business class only, on various carriers, depending on what suits us best. We also have tons of AA and BA AND Delta miles, plenty of Amex points and an enormous stash of UR points. But we travel a lot, often using United miles.

    We use the Southwest points mostly for positioning for international flights, as we are on the west coast.

    So, this is my dilemma. What would be your advice, Greg?

    • nice “problem” you have! You might consider following that approach instead of burning all those points for just a one year companion pass extension: Have one of you throttle back on credit card apps and be ready to qualify under 5/24 in time to renew your companion pass in the beginning of 2018, or failing that, in the beginning of 2019. It certainly doesn’t look like you’re going to run out of points and you also have to spend those gift cards on Southwest. $4000 will buy a LOT of positioning flights on Southwest.
      All those Marriott points can be transferred to SPG and onward to airlines of your choice for your international flights-which imo is much better use than locking in a 7 day award at a Marriott resort which you apparently would never use and a companion pass that you don’t need.

      • Yes, it is a nice “problem”. I think I may go with partly this approach and also look at Greg’s answer – see below.

    • One way to think about it would be for you to estimate the value of 120K Southwest points + 1 year companion pass (rather than 2), and compare to how much you value 132K United miles. The value of the 7 night cert would be irrelevant since both options offer the same. If you don’t value the Southwest option a lot more than the United option, then I’d go with the latter especially since there’s no hurry to do so.

      Beth: Keep in mind that in many cases, Marriott Travel packages offer better value for converting points to miles. For example, if you want 120K Alaska miles, via SPG directly, you would have to spend 100K SPG to get 125K Alaska. Alternatively, you can use only 90K SPG points to buy the Marriott travel package and get 120K Alaska miles. Then, if you don’t use the 7 night cert, you can later trade it back in for 45K Marriott points (15K SPG points). So, your net cost for 120K Alaska miles through the Marriott travel package would be only 75K SPG points.

      • Thanks for the reply. I think I know what I’ll do: I have already decided to keep getting cards for myself and to stop my wife’s apps, at least until she is under 5/24, though we both have MANY Chase cards (and, of course, others) but she will be under 5/24 in about a year. I, on the other hand, am at 27/24 so I’m forgetting about the Sapphire Reserve.

        We are just about through every AMEX card so that is soon to be a dead-end. We both have to wait about another 18 months before we can get any AA cards.

        So, I think I’ll just run through the SW gift cards for now and hold off on the Marriott packages until I want more United miles. And maybe in 2019 we can go for the CP again. We also give a lot of those SW gift cards away to our kids.

        I am an omnivore when it comes to this game and I am quite good at it, after about 4 years – for now anyway. There are very few cards we have not had and I have a puzzle I have made of all the old cards I have cut up over the last 4 years.

        Mailman just arrived with my 3 new cards right now! One a Chase card even.

        Thanks for the great blog – I apply through it whenever I can.

      • So, is there actually a mechanism for cashing out the Marriott certificate? How would one do that?

        Also, what if you had a 7 night certificate, but only wanted to use it for a 6 night stay? Is that an option?

        • My understanding is that you have to call Marriott Rewards and convince them that you tried but couldn’t find a use for the certificate, then ask nicely if you could trade it in for points. It is not a published option, so you’re at their mercy, but it should work.

          Yes, you can use a 7 night cert for a 6 night stay, but the cert doesn’t then retain any value.

  2. My wife and I have the points to each get a companion pass in order to bring our kids with us. However I am wondering if it would be possible to get the companion pass for my 9 year old and make the other child a companion. That would allow my wife and I to travel alone at times.

    Can I do this or would I have trouble linking them to my reservation and get and unaccompanied minor fee? Marriott does not allow a reservation to be made by someone under 18 although I can setup an account; would I have trouble redeeming the hotel certificate?

    • I haven’t tried, but I don’t think it would work. Southwest would require an adult on each reservation. I think you’re better off getting the Companion pass for each adult and then keep in mind that you can make 3 companion changes per calendar year, so if you want to fly with your wife you can change to her and later back to your child. And she can do the same when you run out of allowed changes.

  3. Great tool! Im considering going for this. But I’m wondering why the increase in value should be over 75%? Wouldn’t a 50% or even a 25% increase be a reason to pull the trigger on this deal?

    • 75% is my subjective opinion. If you’re going to invest a lot (many points, in this case) and lock in a particular type of travel (e.g. flying Southwest, staying at Marriott), then there ought to be very high rewards for doing so. Travel deals come along all the time and this means essentially locking yourself into one particular deal and possibly forgoing others since you’ve already invested in this one.

  4. If we use this strategy to earn a SW companion pass via my husband’s Marriott points, is the companion pass automatically put in his name or can we choose to put it in my name? We would get better use out of one with me as the pass holder. Thanks!!!

    • Yes, when redeeming points for the travel package, the Marriott Rewards rep will ask for the Southwest Rapid Rewards number and the name associated with that account. Give your Southwest number and name at that point so that the points will go to your account and you’ll get the Companion Pass.

  5. I value the RR miles at more than their equivalent cash value since by booking with RR, you get all the miles back and have no need to track the unspent $ in various cancelled tickets with 1 year expirations. My return is not as big since I bought about 20k SPG to make this happen, but I value RR so highly and we’ll probably get $1,000 out of the companion pass. Also having a lot of RR allows me to speculatively book various trips and backup dates (for potential winter weather or other reasons).

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