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

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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.

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