Bring your favorite passenger: Last chance to buy a Southwest Companion Pass

Last year's pass. I have redeemed for a new pass that will expire in December 2018.

Last year’s pass. I have redeemed for a new pass that will expire in December 2018.

One of the best deals in domestic travel has long been the Southwest Companion Pass. This benefit is hands-down my favorite airline loyalty program benefit because it allows you to bring a companion with you for free any time you fly, whether your ticket was paid for with money or points. For a very limited time, there is a roundabout way to buy the companion pass and have a companion fly with you for free for the rest of 2017 and all of 2018. You would also get about $1,800 worth of Southwest points and a week in a Marriott hotel for a total of $2,225 or less.

This option isn’t new, but rather this is a last call before it disappears this month. Greg previously explored whether or not you should use Marriott Rewards points for a Southwest Companion Pass and created the Marriott Travel Package MakeUpYourMinder tool. Today, I’m going to show you the steps to buy the points necessary to secure this package because I think it can have significantly more value than the purchase price. You may not have considered buying it outright if you had 0 points to start — but I think you should.

The Companion Pass in Review

If you are not familiar with the Southwest Companion Pass, let’s quickly recap what it is. This is a benefit of the Southwest Rapid Rewards program when a member earns 110,000 qualifying Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. See our useful summary of which points do and do not count towards the Companion Pass for more information about what counts towards the 110,000 points.

companion pass from Southwest

Once you have earned the Companion Pass, you simply name a companion and he or she will fly with you for free for the rest of the calendar year in which the pass is earned and all of the following year — you just pay the taxes on the companion’s ticket. On domestic flights within the USA, this will amount to $5.60 each way (taxes on international destinations vary). This applies whether your ticket is purchased with money or points and no matter who pays for your ticket — it could be you, a friend, an employer, etc. It doesn’t matter what fare you originally bought. If there is a seat left for sale on the flight, you can add your companion. In fact, you can add your companion at any time up until Southwest stops selling tickets for your flight. I have added my companion on the day of travel for just $5.60 despite the fact that my ticket was purchased as a cheap Wanna Get Away fare months before.

Furthermore, you can change your companion 3 times in a calendar year. Last year, I changed my companion from my wife to my father so I could treat him to his first trip to Las Vegas. After we got back, I was able to change my companion back to my wife. You need to call make a change to your companion, but it is quite simple to do over the phone with an agent.

The Companion Pass can become very valuable if you fly with someone regularly. It is even more valuable if the pass is earned early in the calendar year as it is good for the rest of the current year and up to December 31st of the following year.

Historically, points transferred from hotel programs have counted towards the 110,000 points needed. Unfortunately, those points will soon cease to count towards Companion Pass qualification. After March 31st, points transferred from hotel programs will no lounger count towards the pass.

Marriott Travel Packages

While points can be transferred to Southwest from a number of hotel programs, the option that is easiest for quickly accumulating all of the points necessary for the companion pass will involve Marriott Travel Packages.

As you may recall, Marriott offers the ability to redeem your points for travel packages that include both airline miles and a 7-night stay in a Marriott hotel. There are many eligible airlines (click here to see all of the packages), but here is the chart for travel packages with Southwest Airlines:

Marriott Hotel and Air Package 3

The package on which we will focus is the one at the top right corner of the chart that awards 120,000 Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points and a 7-night certificate for a Category 1-5 Marriott stay. This requires 270,000 Marriott Rewards Points. With this package, Marriott will transfer 120,000 Rapid Rewards points to Southwest Airlines on your behalf. If this transfer is made by March 31, 2017, those 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points will result in an instant Companion Pass (Note: Points do not transfer instantly from Marriott to Southwest, but once they are received in your Southwest account, you will instantly have Companion Pass status). Southwest has been clear that March 31st is a firm deadline and exceptions will not be made. If you are interested in securing a companion pass, I recommend putting the process in motion immediately. I would not want to be stuck trying to determine whether the transfer needs to be initiated or received before March 31st — I would much rather have points transferred before the deadline and therefore receive automatic Companion Pass status.

Starwood + Marriott Partnership

Thanks to the merger between Starwood and Marriott, members of both programs have the opportunity to transfer points in either direction between loyalty programs. Transfers must be done in increments of a thousand and they transfer at a 1:3 ratio.  That is to say that 1,000 Starpoints = 3,000 Marriott points, and vice versa.

The key point then is that 90,000 Starpoints transferred to Marriott would become the 270,000 Marriott Rewards points needed for the 120k Southwest points + 7-night Category 1-5 package. Note: You do not need to use the Southwest points and Marriott stay in conjunction with each other. The Southwest points and Marriott 7-night certificate are completely independent of each other and can be used any way you wish. I recently used my Marriott certificate at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa in Vietnam — which is not a Southwest Airlines destination :-).

If you currently have 90,000 Starpoints or 270,000 Marriott points (or some combination of the two), you can initiate this process right now. Once you have 270k points (or more) in your Marriott Rewards account, simply call Marriott at 1-800-321-7396 and an agent can help you make the redemption. If you have 0 points or less than enough points, then you can take advantage of a current promotion.

Starwood discount on purchased points

If you do not have the points necessary, hope is not lost. Starwood is currently running a promotion on the purchase of Starpoints. The discount is tiered, but at the high end, they are offering 30% off the purchase price of Starpoints through April 30, 2017.

Note: SPG terms dictate that your account must be active (open) for at least 14 days in order to purchase Starpoints. If you have just opened your SPG account or have not yet opened one, you may need to find a friend to help you make this purchase.

The current discounts on Starpoints are as follows:

SPG points 30k

As shown above, 30,000 Starpoints can be purchased for $735 through the current promotion. If you are starting at 0 points, you need 90,000 Starpoints — which, if you could buy them all at once, would be $2,205 in the current promotion. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy….

Starwood limits members to purchasing 30,000 Starpoints in a calendar year. This means that one member can not buy the 90,000 points required for the Companion Pass package. Similarly, Marriott limits members to purchasing 50,000 points in a calendar year. This means that one person can not buy all of the points required for one of these travel packages. Unless they have . . . .

A team that works together

There are a couple of ways to work together to bypass limitations and make this work. I’ll detail two strategies here:

A) All Starwood

Starwood allows each member to buy a maximum of 30,000 points in a calendar year. However, points can be transferred between members of the same household. To transfer to another member of your household, you must have both been registered at the same address for at least 30 days. This means that you can not register your spouse, child, friend, grandmother, dog, and parakeet today and combine points in time for the March 31st deadline. If you do have three accounts that have been registered at the same address for more than 30 days, each person could buy 30,000 Starpoints. Then, Starwood will allow you to combine points within a household. This process involves submitting a form and waiting a few days — it is not instant.

Note: There seems to be some confusion about whether or not Starwood will allow you to combine 90k purchased points into one account. According to this One Mile at a Time post, the Starwood Lurker on Flyertalk (Starwood’s official representative on that forum) had previously said that a single account can have only 30k Starpoints added to it via purchases. However, if you follow his link to that Flyertalk thread, you will see that the comment cited has since been deleted by Starwood and replaced with “No longer relevant information”. While the Starwood Lurker was somewhat vague in further responses, the conclusion of the thread seems clear that it is in fact possible to combine purchased points from multiple accounts so long as those accounts have been registered at the same address for more than 30 days. It is not possible for two other people to gift you points — in other words, they can’t buy points to be deposited directly into your account. They would need to buy the points for their own accounts and then transfer.

However, an easier option might be…

B) Transfer to Marriott, then combine

Marriott Rewards lets you transfer points to anyone — whether living in the same household or not. So if you do not meet the criteria for combining points with Starwood, you can do it via Marriott quite easily. In fact, this may be the fastest (and therefore best) method for achieving our desired end.

Marriott charges a flat $10 fee to share points, regardless of the amount of points being transferred. This fee is waived for Gold and Platinum members

There is a limit — Marriott officially allows a maximum of 50,000 points per year to be transferred into or out of someone’s account. But there is a helpful exception. From Marriott’s site:

Members who are transferring points in order to satisfy a specific award may exceed the 50,000 limit up to the amount needed to satisfy the reservation.

In other words, if you need more than 50,000 points to redeem for a specific award, there isn’t a limit. Let’s imagine that Rick, Sally, and Madeline want to combine forces to get the 270,000 point package. They must first choose who will be the Companion Pass holder — the primary traveler who will be bringing his or her companion.  Let’s say they want person to be Sally.  In this case, the easiest scenario would be:

Step 1) Rick, Sally, and Madeline each buy 30,000 Starpoints for $735 each. (Total spent = $2,205). Note that you can purchase your Starpoints through a portal for a small additional savings. If you don’t want to bother with that, you can use our affiliate link with our thanks by clicking here.

Step 2) Rick, Sally, and Madeline each transfer 30,000 Starpoints to Marriott (note that you will need to first link your accounts if you haven’t done so). Each person now has 90,000 Marriott Rewards points.

Step 3) Rick calls Marriott and asks to share 90,000 points with Sally in order to be able to book a Marriott Travel Package. Madeline will make the same call and transfer 90,000 points to Sally.  Now Sally will have 270,000 points to redeem for the package.

Assuming that none of the members have status, Rick and Madeline’s transfers would cost $10 each, putting the total out of pocket cost at $2,225.

There is one possible hiccup that you may see. The rules state that you can only transfer in excess of 50,000 points into or out of an account in order to satisfy a specific award.  When Rick makes the first call to transfer to Sally, will the agent allow the transfer even though Sally will only have 180,000 points after the transfer?

My bet is that if you explain to the agent what you’re doing (combining points between Rick, Sally, and Madeline to book a Travel Package for all 3 of you), there probably won’t be a problem. Remember that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, so be nice to the agent if you’re hoping for some help. If you are concerned about this, perhaps it would be best to have all 3 people together for the call.

In the worst case scenario, the agents flat out refuse to do the first transfer.  In that case, I would hang up and call back and say that Sally wants to book 7 nights at a Category 6 property.  Category 6 properties are 30,000 points per night, but the 5th night is free on award stays – so a 7-night stay would be exactly 180,000 points:

cat 6 marriott

Now don’t you all go booking Category 6 hotels in Kentucky just to cancel reservations! There are 511 Category 6 properties in the world from which to choose.

If the agent makes you immediately book the 7-night award stay, just make sure to check the cancellation policy (i.e. make sure you’re booking a room that can be cancelled without penalty).  After booking it, simply cancel it and get the 180,000 points refunded to Sally’s account. Then, have Madeline call Marriott and make the final 90,000 point transfer to redeem for the 270,000 points package.

Important Note: As a second reminder, points do not transfer instantly from Marriott to Southwest. The process takes about 5 days. For this reason, I recommend pursuing this opportunity sooner rather than later. Don’t get stuck in limbo in the final moments.

Is it worth it?

Now that we’ve shown how it can be done, the question is if it should be done.  This is a tougher one to answer definitively as it will depend on your travel patterns and plans for each component of the package. Greg broke down valuations in his MakeUpYourMinder post, but mine are slightly different. Let’s break down the pieces of the package:

  • 120,000 Southwest points = $1,836
    Based on our Reasonable Redemption Values, 1 Southwest point is worth about 1.6 cents towards Wanna Get Away fares, but Greg has since re-tooled his valuation for Southwest points to 1.53 cents. That’s the number I used for the above valuation. This can vary a bit. Values are much lower if you are using points for Anytime or Business Select fares.

  • 7-night Marriott Category 1-5 Certificate = $1,020
    This is somewhat difficult to objectively quantify. Greg gives some solid arguments as to why this certificate could be valued at less than my number in his post above. It’s going to depend on how you use it. In order to assign a value, I considered the fact that a category 5 hotel costs 25,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. Since the 5th night is free, a 7-night stay would require 150,000 points. Based on our Reasonable Redemption Value of 0.68 cents per point for Marriott Rewards, the value of 150,000 points is $1,020. Of course, that number would drop if you used your certificate at a lower category. Additionally, some Category 5 Marriotts could be booked for 7 nights at a cash rate for less than $1,020. Others, like the JW Marriott Phu Quoc where I used my certificate would be much more expensive (total with tax for the 7 nights I booked would have been $2,940 — though I only spent about 3.5 of the nights there in the end). To achieve a total value of $1,020, you would need to book 7 nights at a Marriott that would have cost at least $145.71 a night after taxes. This is certainly a rough valuation, though I think it is fair to expect about this much value if you use your certificate wisely.
  • Southwest Companion Pass = ???
    This is the most difficult part of the equation to valuate. This can be a tremendously valuable benefit. If you were to take a companion with you on all of the trips you book with your 120,000 Rapid Rewards points, you might view it as getting an additional $1,836 in airfare since you will not pay for your companion’s ticket. Whether booking with points or money, you will be able to buy 2 tickets for the price of one from now until December 31st, 2018. It doesn’t matter who buys your ticket or how it was bought — if your employer buys your ticket or a friend uses his or her points to buy your ticket, you can add your companion for just the cost of the taxes. This certainly could be huge.

It would seem fair to say that you can reasonably expect to get $2,836 in value from this Marriott Travel package. You may be able to get considerably more. At a cost of $2,225 to buy the necessary points, it’s certainly not a bad trade even without assigning any value to the Companion Pass itself. If I were not already a Companion Pass holder myself, this is something I would certainly consider.

One final interesting note: If you want to stay at a higher-than-Category 5 hotel, Marriott will allow you to upgrade your package later on. You just need to pay the difference in points between the package you originally chose and the one you would like to book. For example, if you wanted to bump up to a Category 6, you would need to pay an additional 30,000 Marriott Rewards points — or 10,000 Starpoints transferred over. If you had another friend who could buy an additional 10,000 Starpoints, the cash cost of buying points to upgrade to Category 6 would be an additional $297.50 (the discount is lower when buying less than 20,000 points):

Starpoints 5k-14k

That could also be a good deal for those who have already booked a travel package or if you think you might want to upgrade down the road.

What do you think — is it worth buying points for this redemption?

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »



  1. I think the terms of buying SPG points indicate the account has to be 14 days old, combined this with 5 day window may push the transfer into April

  2. Hi Nick. I recently got the Marriott Business Card, met minimum spend and paid the bill VERY quickly. Luckily, my Marriott points dropped this morning…YAY. So, I need to transfer 57000 Starpoints to have the points needed for the package. I think the rules say 50,000….how can I get around that? Then once those transfer to Marriott, I just purchase the package???

    • Hi iamamy. I’ll try my best to answer your questions:

      1) You can’t purchase more than 30,000 Starpoints at one time. You can transfer unlimited points between your Starwood and Marriott accounts — but you can’t purchase more than 30,000. Do you need 57,000 Starpoints, or 57,000 Marriott points? Remember that they transfer 1 SPG = 3 Marriott. So 57,000 Starpoints is 171,000 Marriott points.

      2) If you need 57k Starpoints (and you currently have 0), you’ll need to purchase points in 2 accounts. You will buy 30k points in one account and 27k points in your friend/family member’s account. As per the comment above yours, I think those would need to be previously-established accounts for this to work. From there, I would suggest that you each transfer your Starpoints to your Marriott Rewards accounts. Your friend will then need to call Marriott to transfer the Marriott points to you so you can book the package.

      I think the confusion lies in Marriott’s limits. Again, there is no limit as to how many of YOUR points you can move back and forth between YOUR Marriott account and YOUR Starwood account.

      The Marriott 50k limit on points transferred into or out of an account applies to transfers directly from one Marriott member to another — UNLESS you are transferring the points needed to book a specific award.

      In this case, your friend will first transfer 27k Starpoints from his SPG account to his Marriott account, which will give him 81,000 Marriott points. He will then be transferring 81,000 Marriott Rewards points to you. Marriott will allow him to do this if they are for a specific award — such as your travel package. He will explain to the Marriott rep that his friend (iamamy) needs the points to book a Marriott Travel Package for 270k total Marriott Rewards points.

      Then, once you have the points in your account, you will purchase the package over the phone with Marriott. That’s the easy part :-).

      Does that all make sense now?

      • Great Answer. I’m sorry I was so confusing. I have over 100,000 Marriott points. I need to transfer 57000 Starpoints to Marriott to equal my 270,000. Once those are there, I can call and purchase the package??? I’M SO EXCITED!!!!

        • Yup — once you’ve got 270k, you call and redeem for the package. Don’t delay — it takes a couple of days from the day you purchase the package to get the Southwest points in your account. The 7-night Marriott certificate is available immediately, but you do not need to book it immediately.

  3. How long does it take for the SWA points to post after you book the Marriott travel package? I thought it was within 1 day?

    • It takes several days. Most resources online say 3 business days, though I’ve read up to 5. The official terms say it could take weeks, but I have not read of anyone experiencing a transfer time that long.

      • Mine was in 2 days (not business but calendar). Made the request on Thursday. Points were in my account on Saturday.

        The agent said it would take 3-5 days though.

  4. Great, in informative article. Do you know if Marriott stay certificates are extendable beyond a year? I know they’ve been generous with that in the past regarding the free night certificate if you had a Marriott credit card.

    I live in Hawaii which unfortunately Southwest does not serve. Do you know if their routes from the West Coast to Cuba are good? Or the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles to New York?

    • I know that many people have reported that Marriott has agreed to extend their certificate for one year beyond the original expiration, though this may be somewhat at the discretion of the agent with whom you speak. I have also heard (but not personally tested) that upgrading or downgrading your package will also extend the expiration another year. For example, if you bought the Category 1-5 today and then paid 30,000 points to upgrade it to a Category 6 a little less than a year from now, they may extend the expiration for another year. I obviously can’t guarantee that will work, nor can I guarantee that the price of a level 6 package will still be 300k points next year — but some people have said that it has worked for them in the past.

      As far as Hawaii/Southwest — are you sure you want to redeem with Southwest? I know that there are always rumors that Southwest will begin to serve Hawaii. Maybe you’re banking on that or you travel to the mainland often — but if not, I would consider transferring to a program like Alaska. They have very flexible routing rules and allow a stopover — for as long as you want through the end of the schedule — on a one-way award ticket. You could theoretically fly from Hawaii to the West Coast, stopover for a week or two, and then continue on to New York. I would think that their program may be more beneficial to you — unless, of course, you travel to the mainland often with a partner.

      As for Southwest’s routes, I find them to often be a great value as long as you:

      A) Book in advance
      B) Tend to your reservations

      By B, I mean that you should check every week or so. Prices rise and fall — if they fall, you can rebook and receive a credit. If you paid with points, the difference is immediately credited back to your account. I recently saved about 9,000 points on a one-way just by noticing that it dropped in price. I have booked transcons from New York to the West Coast for less than 10,000 points one way a number of times. Two people transcon for about 5,000 points each is hard to beat.

      Of course, Southwest does have its shortcomings — so you should take a look for yourself and see if their schedule fits your expectations — but I’m a happy Southwest customer.

  5. Just signed up for SPG account, so looks like given the 14 day old account window, i won’t be able to buy the 30k starpoints in time (i linked my year old Marriott rewards account, maybe i can call for an exception). I can buy 50,000 Marriott points and i have 112k ultimate rewards at my disposal, but that will still leave me short.

  6. Looking to capitalize on this via multiple accounts. Purchase 30,000 SPG points, add to 12,000 point balance. Convert 95,000 Amex MR to about 31,667 SPG points. Convert SPG to Marriott and add to balance of 7,500. Transfer 11,000 Chase UR to Marriott. Purchase the remaining 11,000 Marriott points for about $140. Redeem 7 night Marriott package and get 100,000 SW points for 250,000 Marriott points. Convert 25,000 Hyatt points to 12,000 SW points. Phew. Do you think this is worth the $900 and loss of Amex points? Family of four, CP would really help out travel. Sorry for the long comment.

    • Hi Tony — your situation is complex.

      First thing’s first — let’s lay out the numbers:

      30K Starpoints = 90K Marriott
      Current 12K SPG = 36K Marriott
      95K Amex MR–>SPG = 95K Marriott
      Current Marriott Bal = 7.5K Marriott
      11K Chase UR = 11K Marriott
      Buy 11K Marriott = 11K Marriott
      250,500K Marriott

      You’ll redeem that for 100K Southwest + 7 night Marriott
      Then convert 25K Hyatt for remaining 12K Southwest

      Total out of pocket costs = $735 (purchase 30K SPG)
      $140 (purchase 11K Marriott)

      And then you’re additionally trading: 95K Membership Rewards
      11K Ultimate Rewards
      25K Hyatt points

      Personally, I value all three of those currencies at 2 cents a point or greater because I won’t redeem any of those for less. Maybe that’s a stretch as Hyatt points may not be worth quite that much, though with one year of Globalist Status, I’d be hard pressed to give up Hyatt points right now. That said, you’ll have to pry my Companion Pass out of my cold, dead hands….so I understand the desire to get it. If I value the currencies you’re trading (not counting Starwood/Marriott), on top of your $875 points purchase costs, you’re giving up:

      $1900 in MRs
      $220 in URs
      $500 in Hyatt

      To me, that’s almost $3495 altogether. I don’t doubt that you *could* get much more value than that out of the companion pass. I don’t know. My instinct is that I wouldn’t trade all of those pieces away — but when I try to logically explain how you’ll travel better with your Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards and Hyatt rewards separately, I’m not sure I can give you a compelling argument. If you’re traveling with a family of 4, and Southwest has the best pricing on the routes you’re considering, it’s going to save you the cost of 1 airfare every time.

      If you’re going to do this, I might suggest this: is there any other way you can earn the last 10K Southwest points other than trading away 25K Hyatt points? If you’re going to trade for the 100K Southwest package, you don’t necessary need to earn the companion pass before March 31st — points from hotel transfers before March 31st should count, but you should still be able to earn the final 10K at any point this year.

      Like I said, I don’t think I’d personally do it the way you’re doing it — but I can’t tell you that you’re totally wrong, either. Tough choice and only you know how much you’ll use the companion pass. Truth be told, with a family of 4, I’d consider buying a companion pass for each parent if you always travel together — but that’s a lot to lay out and you’d have to be flying a lot to make it worth it.

      • Thanks for the detailed response. Honestly with two little ones, I’m not sure I’d use the Amex MR to max value within the next year, going to Europe in September. I didn’t think of earning the 10k in other ways the rest of the year. Great point. I was just so focused on 3/31. Tough choices. Thanks again.

  7. Greg has previously posted that you can turn in the hotel certificate for 45k I think, turning into a 1:1.6 ratio of SPG/mile. Does anyone have experience with this? Is cancelling the 7 day cert easy?

  8. Great post and thanks for such useful info.

    One question, I created SPG account for my wife and tried to purchase the points, even though the account is only 1 day old. I am at the check out page showing 30% discount, and it doesn’t seem to stop me to this point. I haven’t completed the purchase as I wasn’t sure if they will kick it back to me.

    Did anyone have experience buying starpoints on a new SPG account that is less than 14 days old? Any feedback would help. Thanks!

    • It turns out John is right. According to the SPG terms:

      “Starpoint purchases can be made by Starwood Preferred Guest members whose accounts have been active for a minimum of 14 days, and count as an eligible Starpoints transaction for the purposes of keeping SPG memberships active. Accounts that are less than the required 14 days in age will have the purchase attempt cancelled.”

      So I don’t think it’s going to let you buy them. If you have a friend with an SPG account that has been open more than 14 days, I’d suggest going that route.

  9. Thank you for the very informative post! I purchased 22,000 SPG points and transferred them (along with the others I had in my account) to Marriott to bring my Marriott balance to 271,000. I just got off the phone with the Marriott rep to purchase the Air/Hotel package, and he said the Southwest points should be deposited in my account within 3 days (by Friday). So far it was very easy, I’m just hoping the companion pass actually comes through!

  10. Can you recommend some great uses for the Marriott certificate? If I’m going to stay somewhere for 7 days, I want there to be lots to do in the area. I’m totally flexible with location but am having trouble finding a place to use this certificate. I have the points to purchase but can’t bite the bullet until I know there is somewhere great to use it.

  11. I’ve decided our family can use a second cp, but will need to buy all the points because we used what we had from new Marriott cards to get the first one. So dh and I could each buy 30k starpoints, then I’d buy up to 40k Marriott and he, up to 50k. Will the spg business card, for which I was just approved, arrive in time to make the starwood purchases? It would be helpful to work on meeting the minimum spending and get 5pts per dollar. Will the 5pt bonus points hit right away, or after the statement? What is the best way to purchase the Marriott points (portals, credit card?). We don’t have any other new cards right now, but do have Citi prestige, Amex Plat, Amex Plat business, Marriott bus, Marriott personal.

    • Let me make sure I understand your question correctly. I *think* you are asking this:

      Q) If I buy Starpoints using my SPG credit card, will I get 5x points for it being a Starwood purchase and will those points post immediately?

      If I’m understanding that right:

      A) Your points purchase is processed by, not by Starwood. You will not earn any bonus points on purchasing points.

      As for buying the Marriott points, it’ll be the same thing: the points are sold by, so you won’t get any category bonus. Also note that buying points from Marriott is NOT instant — it took about 24 hours for the points to show up in my account. Transferring to Marriott from Chase is NOT instant either — that also took a day.

      I don’t think it matters which card you use to purchase points apart from choosing the card with the currency you value most. Out of those cards, I’d use the Prestige or one of the Platinums over the Marriott cards since the Marriott cards will only earn 1x on buying the points.

      Another consideration for you: Do you have Membership Rewards points? It wouldn’t be my ideal solution, but remember that you can move Membership Rewards to Starwood and then to Marriott. They transfer at 3 Membership Rewards to 1 Starwood and then 1 Starwood back to 3 Marriott Rewards — so it’s essentially a 1:1 transfer from Membership Rewards to Marriott. I’m not sure I’d trade 90k Membership Rewards points rather than buying points, but that’s another option.

      Finally, if you have a friend or family member with an establised account, it would be cheaper to have them buy the 30k Starpoints, move to their Marriott account, and then combine with you — but that might add an extra layer of time/effort that might not be worth a couple hundred bucks savings to you. Still, didn’t want to neglect that as an option.

      If I misunderstood your question, comment here again. I’ve got my eye out — I know you don’t have much time to make this all happen.

      • Thanks for the quick reply, very helpful! Yes, you understood my questions. I haven’t used portals much, but this seems like a good time to begin – looks like giving assistant has 10% for If no card will give me more than 1pt per dollar, I’ll probably choose the amex platinum since I can now expect those points to be worth 2 cents on airfare. Or wait and use the new spg card, just because I need to meet the minimum spend and it will be here within 2-3 days. I hope I’m not cutting it too close!

      • Thanks again for this terrific post! This was the nudge I needed to buy the necessary points in spg and marriott accounts, transfer to my husband, and buy the package from his account on Sunday. According to TPG today, transfers initiated by 3/31 will count towards the companion pass, so we should be a 2 cp family soon and for all of 2018.

        • Thanks again for this terrific post! This was the nudge I needed to buy the necessary points in spg and marriott accounts, transfer to my husband, and buy the package from his account on Sunday. And now we are a two cp family! According to TPG today, transfers initiated by 3/31 will count towards the companion pass, so we had a few days to spare.

  12. Marriott is blocking the hell out of this for me. They’ve rejected my buddy’s call to transfer me 90k points twice now, saying they need to have a reservation MADE before they can approve >50k points. Now, @Marriott on Twitter is claiming:

    Hi, Peter. Point Transfer can only be done at time of ordering a reward
    •Points can only be transferred at time of redemption between spouses and domestic partners

    What the heck is going on?

    • I’m sorry — I typed out a reply to you last week, but it must not have posted. Did you get this worked out?

      First, I’d try calling more than once.

      If you did that, what I had typed out was that you should just make a reservation that requires the points. Marriott allows you to make a hotel reservation even if you don’t have the points in your account. Find a hotel that costs X number of points for your reservation and make the reservation without having the points. Then have your buddy transfer the points — you’ll have the existing reservation. Then, just cancel the hotel reservation (make sure you book something that is refundable! Remember that Marriott lets you book more than a year in advance). The points should go right back into your account and then you could redeem for the package.

      As Elaine notes above, Julian at The Points Guy (formerly of Frequent Miler 🙂 reports today that Southwest has confirmed that transfers initiated by 11:59pm CT on the 31st will count, so you still have time to make this happen if you haven’t done it yet.

  13. Nick – really enjoying your contributions. I am a newly minted companion pass owner but have not flown southwest much in the past. Any chance you can put together a primer on the ins and out of southwest (I.e. Checkin, is it worth buying early bird, etiquette, anything else you can think of…)? Thanks for sharing your expertise.

    • Thank you, Beej. And congrats on your new companion pass!

      I’ve been working on making the final edits to a Complete Guide to the Companion Pass for a few days now. But what you’re asking about — general Southwest etiquette — isn’t a bad idea. I’ll chew on that and see what we can do — you’re probably not the only person in that position.

      A quick note about early bird check in: The value strongly depends on where you originate. One of the interesting things about Southwest is that because of the way the boarding process is done, people who live in non-hub cities are at a huge advantage for check in. For example, if you live on the East coast in almost any city other than Baltimore or Orlando, you’re at an advantage over anyone who lives in those two cities. If I’m flying from, say, Albany NY to Los Angeles, I’m probably going to connect at BWI. Let’s say I’m on a 6am out of Albany connecting to a 9am out of Baltimore (just made up, I have no idea what the schedule is). At 6am 24 hours prior, I can check in for both flights — three hours before people originating in Baltimore can check in for the BWI-LAX flight. Originating in Albany at 6am, my flight probably won’t be completely full and as long as I’m on check-in ahead of time, I’m probably good to go by just checking in 24 hours ahead (there also wouldn’t be many people originating earlier than 6am to go to BWI, which also means my boarding position is likely to be decent). However, if I were starting at BWI at 9am, I’d surely pay for early bird as I’d assume that a large percentage of people on the flight are able to check in a few hours before me. Does that make sense? It’s very situation-dependent.

      That said, my wife always panics that we will somehow not end up seated together, so fifteen bucks gives her piece of mind and buys me more than fifteen bucks worth of sanity. I often end up paying for it, but usually only pay for early bird for one of us. And Southwest is the airline of choice on one of my Business Platinum cards, so I add early bird after the fact (I use my Prestige card to pay the tax on the award ticket for travel protection) and then get it reimbursed for most of our flights. On the rare occasion that I’ve both forgotten to add early bird and forgotten to check in online 24hrs ahead, I’ve also paid the ~$40 at the airport to get an A1-A15 boarding position (and charged that to my Chase Ritz-Carlton and gotten it reimbursed with that travel credit).

      I’ll work on more tips like that. Thanks for commenting and congrats again on your companion pass!

      • That all makes sense. I’ll remember to choose southwest as my plat reimbursement for next year. Thanks for the immediate feedback. One follow up question: my companion is my 8 yr old son. My guess is that I couldn’t get away with buying one early bird if it’s just the two of us flying? Looking forward to your complete guide post. Keep up the good work – I really appreciate the ego-less, simplistic style you write with (that’s a compliment).

      • Looking forward to the guide, though I may have already learned (the hard way) much of what you’ll include. I think it is worth mentioning that the early bird check in fee is not refundable.
        Also worth mentioning is the wonderful flexibility of booking with points. If I pay dollars for a flight for my daughter and then cancel, the southwest credit can only be used for a future flight for her. But if I use points, they go back in my account to be used for anyone.
        Finally, I’d love to hear about strategies for keeping my cp after 2018, now that hotel points won’t count.

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