****Update: Southwest has reverted their stance and are allowing hotel transfers to qualify for Companion Pass, read more here***
If anyone in the travel space was hoping for good news in 2017, this would not be the way to start. Southwest, via TPG, announced that hotel partner transfers no longer count towards CompanionPass. If you have accrued Marriott or Starwood SPG points, this is a major blow to your Companion Pass goal.
“We’re working to protect the integrity and value of Southwest’s industry-unique Rapid Rewards® Companion Pass by closing a loophole that previously allowed Members to transfer mileage and points from other partner loyalty programs toward qualification for a Companion Pass. As we closed this loophole, we also updated our terms and conditions which now clarifies that points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club will no longer count toward qualification for a Companion Pass. Members will continue to earn Companion Pass benefits through paid flights flown on Southwest, points earned through spend with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit cards, and base points earned through transactions with Rapid Rewards partners.”
Here is what the “loophole” used to look like
The plan for many folks was to transfer Marriott points to Southwest via Marriott’s Flight and Hotel Packages. Prior to this sad news, you were able to redeem your Marriott points for 7 hotel nights plus airline miles transferred to the airline of your choice. With 270,000 Marriott points you were able to redeem for 7 nights at a category 1-5 property and earn 120,000 Southwest CP points. Since you only need 110,000 Southwest points for CP, you’d immediately earn CP and 7 free nights to use at your leisure.
The other huge draw was the recent transfer option from Starwood to Marriott. Starwood SPG points can be transferred to Marriott at 1:3, so you’d need just 90,000 SPG points for Companion Pass plus 7 nights. Sadly, this option is no good anymore. You can still transfer the points to Southwest, but they won’t count towards Companion Pass.
If you are now stuck with 270,000 Marriott points, you can transfer them to United Airlines and receive 7 nights plus 132,000 United points. That is enough for two round-trips in economy to Europe plus you will get 7 nights at a 1-5 property (the nights must be consecutive, can’t be broken up). You can view Marriott category 5 hotels here.
You could stay 7 nights at the Roomers Baden-Baden hotel in Germany (near the border of France). This hotel is typically $250+ per night which means your 7 night stay would be valued at over $1,750.
How you can earn Companion Pass in 2017 moving forward
This loophole plug of hotel/car rental transfers is certainly making it tougher for many to obtain CP. But not to fear, you can still obtain this amazing travel perk with some good timing and a little effort.
According to Southwest Airlines, the sign-up bonuses of the Chase credit cards will still count towards CP. Each card is currently offering 50,000 miles through the links below. (the public offers are only 40,000~). Since you only need 110,000 in a single calendar year, these two credit cards will get you 90% of the way there. Each card requires a $2,000 minimum spend which gets you an additional 2,000 points each, 104,000 total. (after both card bonuses and both minimum spends)
You can pay bills like mortgage, rent, student loans, car payments, etc. using Plastiq.com. This makes meeting your minimum spend easy since you can pay for things you’d need to anyway. Remember, “free travel” is only free if you aren’t spending money on things you don’t need.
If you already have all the SW cards or are over 5/24, you can earn points by reselling. (you can earn each bonus every 24 months). Last month I earned close to 40,000 points simply by buying goods to resell on eBay. If you purchased $10,000 in goods per month to resell with your Southwest card, that is 120,000 points in a year. (at the very least). Southwest Shopping portal bonuses should still count towards companion pass. You can stack these shopping portal bonuses with your credit card spend to hit the needed 110k points rather quickly.
Yes, THESE hotels will still count
According to MMS, you can also earn up to 10,000 Southwest points per night by booking hotel stays. Southwest Hotels offers hefty bonuses on select hotels when booking through this portal. If you were going to stay three nights at this Hyatt in Chicago you’d earn 9,000 points towards Companion Pass! Be sure to shop price before booking on Southwest Hotels.
Just two credit cards and three nights at that hotel would be enough for Companion Pass! Most people value Companion Pass at over $3,000 so it is certainly worth the effort. Alyssa and I have had it for two years and have flown a combined 80,000 (actual) miles on Southwest in that period. That is around the world more than three times using points! Remember, you can fly a companion for free even if you book your flight with points, that makes for nearly “free travel”.
Finally, your refer-a-friend bonuses will still count towards Companion Pass since they post with your credit card spend. If you hold one of the Southwest cards, check your referrals here.
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