Earning a Southwest Companion Pass will get more difficult at the end of March 2017, but luckily you still have a chance to earn it one of the easiest ways possible. Here’s what you need to know.
Until the end of the month,
First, what’s so amazing about the Southwest Companion Pass? This is one of the only true companion passes left. The holder of this pass is able to take a companion on any Southwest flight, booked with cash or points, for at least an entire year. The only fee that is paid for the companion to fly is taxes and fees–for domestic flights this is only $5.60 per direction. Depending on when you earn the pass, it can be valid for nearly two years!
Once you have earned 110,000 Qualifying Rapid Rewards Points, you will have earned the Southwest Companion Pass for the rest of the current year and the entire following year. This means that if you use the method I will outline below, you will have the Companion Pass from March 2017 – December 2018 — 22 months of travel with a companion!
You can only have one companion designated at a time, but you are able to change who your companion is up to three times per calendar year.
Now that you know how good of a deal the Southwest Companion Pass is, it’s time to talk about how to earn it before the end of March.
There are a number of hotel programs that have the ability to transfer their points to Southwest, but some will definitely offer a better deal than others. Here is a summary of the points you can transfer and the transfer rates:
Hotel Points that Transfer to Southwest Rapid Rewards
Best Western: 5,000 Best Western Rewards Points = 1,200 Rapid Rewards Points (0.24 Rapid Rewards Point per Best Western Point)
Carlson Rezidor: 2,000 Club Carlson Points = 200 Rapid Rewards Points (0.10 Rapid Rewards Point per Club Carlson Point)
Choice Hotels: 6,000 Choice Privileges Points = 1,800 Rapid Rewards Points (0.30 Rapid Rewards Point per Club Carlson Point)
Hyatt: 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points = 2,400 Rapid Rewards Points (0.48 Rapid Rewards Point per Hyatt Gold Passport Point)
La Quinta: 6,000 La Quinta Returns Points = 1,200 Rapid Rewards Points (0.24 Rapid Rewards Point per La Quinta Returns Point)
Marriott: 10,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 2,000 Rapid Rewards Points (0.20 Rapid Rewards Point per Marriott Rewards Point), 20,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 5,000 Rapid Rewards Points (0.25 Rapid Rewards Point per Marriott Rewards Point), 30,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 10,000 Rapid Rewards Points (0.33 Rapid Rewards Point per Marriott Rewards Point), 70,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 25,000 Rapid Rewards Points (0.36 Rapid Rewards Point per Marriott Rewards Point), 140,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 50,000 Rapid Rewards Points (0.36 Rapid Rewards Point per Marriott Rewards Point), or a Hotel + Air Package.
Marriott’s Hotel + Air Package presents a truly unique opportunity to earn the points needed for the Southwest Companion Pass and a little bit extra! You’ll need at least 270,000 Marriott Points (or 90,000 SPG Points that can be transferred at a 1:3 ratio to Marriott) to earn the points necessary for the Companion Pass. Here’s what you’ll get for this redemption: a seven night stay at a Category 1-5 Marriott Property and 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points – more than enough to earn the Southwest Companion Pass!
If you completely ignore the value of the seven night hotel stay, you are getting 0.44 Rapid Rewards Point per Marriott Rewards Point. If you were going to make a Marriott redemption anyway or have a good use for the seven night stay this is an amazing redemption. A Category 5 Marriott hotel normally costs 150,000 Marriott Rewards Points for a seven night stay. This means that you will be earning 120,000 Rapid Rewards Points by paying only 120,000 extra Marriott Rewards Points!
If you don’t have enough Marriott (or SPG) points to make the full redemption, you can still partially earn your Southwest Companion Pass with a Marriott Hotel + Air redemption. Likewise, if you want to stay at a higher category Marriott (or Ritz Carlton) property, you can redeem more Marriott points.
Now, let’s assume you don’t have any hotel points to transfer to Southwest. Could it make sense to purchase points and transfer them in order to earn the Companion Pass?
You can purchase 90,000 SPG points for $3,150 directly from Starwood (3.5 cents per SPG Point). When you transfer these points to Marriott, you will have enough to redeem for a seven night stay at a Category 1-5 Marriott property and 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points – enough for the companion pass.
Southwest points are valued at about 1.5 cents each, so the points you now have in your Southwest account are worth around $1,800. That means that you have paid around $1,350 for the Southwest Companion Pass. If you can use the Companion Pass enough times to surpass that cost, it can definitely make sense to outright purchase the points necessary to earn the pass. And that doesn’t even consider the value of the seven night Category 1-5 Marriott stay that you can use.
The Southwest Companion Pass is the best deal out there for domestic travel and through the end of March it’s possible to earn the pass easily and relatively cheaply.