Using Marriott Flight + Hotel Awards for the Southwest Companion Pass

by on May 7, 2014 · 41 comments

in Marriott, Southwest

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Later this month I’ll be heading to Cannes to attend some film festival screenings, but mostly to relax with friends over the Memorial Day weekend eating our way through the south of France. When considering my options for accommodations I looked into local hotels in Point Croisette, Antibes and Juan-Les-Pins, but even the cheapest options were going to set me back a ton of cash. Airbnb had some decent options, but for this stay I wanted to be in a hotel close to the action.

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Eventually I came across the JW Marriott Cannes which had standard points room availability for just 40,000 points a night where the daily room rate was $1,300 (929 Euro)! Marriott points are usually worth .7ish cents a piece, so to get over 3 cents per point (whether I would have paid that crazy nightly rate or not) is a good deal, no matter how you slice it. On top of that, Marriott gives the 5th night free on award stays, so 5 nights would only cost 160,000 points, but I wanted to stay for 7, which would be 240,000 points.

Hotel + Air Packages
However, my wheels started turning, because Marriott offers Flight and Hotel packages that allow you to book 7 nights hotel and get a certain number of airline miles for one fixed price. Marriott allows you to choose from numerous airline mileage currencies, though the best mileage ratio is choosing United MileagePlus, where you get an additional 10% increase in airline miles.  In my case, I could get 7 nights at a category 8 hotel (like the JW Cannes) for 290,000 Marriott points. So, 50,000 more Marriott would net me the same 7 nights, but also 55,000 valuable United miles, which in my opinion are much more valuable than Marriott points. Normally, if you wanted to turn Marriott points into United miles without booking one of these packages, you’d need to spend 112,000 Marriott to get just 50,000 United miles.

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 2.28.41 PMHowever, I decided against United miles since they are easy enough to get via Chase Ultimate Rewards. I decided to select Southwest because the points portion of the award counts towards Companion Pass Qualification, which is one of the best airline perks out there if you know how to maximize it. I selected the highest category 8 package (7 nights + 120,000 Southwest points) for 360,000 Marriott points. Even after the recent March devaluation, 120,000 Southwest Points are worth about 1.5 cents a piece towards Wanna Get Away fares, so 120,000 = $1,800, however if you use those points in tandem with the companion pass (where a companion travels with you for free, just paying minimal taxes, whether you pay cash or use points), then you’re really getting upwards of $3,600 in value from those Southwest points.

Racking up Marriott Points Quickly 
The next step was figuring out how to rack up 360,000 Marriott points quickly in order to snag this package while it was available. I didn’t have any Marriott points because I am a Ritz-Carlton Rewards member, but my Dad had 110,000 and my mom had 50,000 points. Marriott allows free transfers to “…your legal spouse or domestic partner at time of reward redemption provided he or she is also a Marriott Rewards member”.

My plan of action would be to build up my Dad’s balance to 360,000 and then have him book my stay in my name (which you can do- just call Marriott to add the other person’s name to the reservation, but lucky for me my dad and I share the same name). The Southwest points would go to his account so my parents could get the Companion Pass since they live outside of Philadelphia and my sister and I both live in Florida so this would allow them to visit us more often, which is a win-win all around. So even though I’d have to use a bunch of my own Chase points to top his account up and some cash outlay to buy 50,000 points, I told them the Companion Pass would be my gift to them for Mother’s and Father’s Day this year and they were very appreciative. Hey you created this monster, you should reap the benefits as well!

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Buying Marriott
You can buy up to 50,000 points a year at 1.25 cents a piece, so I bought 50,000 for my dad’s account for $625 and they posted about 12 hours after they were purchased. Unfortunately these transactions are run through so I wasn’t able to earn 2x using my Sapphire Preferred.

Transferring from Chase
To be honest, I never thought I’d use Chase points to transfer to Marriott, but in this situation, it was the quickest way to top up my dad’s account and get this package booked- plus when all is said and done, the value of this package trumps most other transfer options and I’m lucky enough to have a ton of Chase points from sign-up bonus and maximizing my daily spend.

On the evening of April 17th I transferred 150,000 points from my Ultimate Rewards account to Marriott and while Ultimate Rewards transfers are instant for most partners, this transfer took two days to post and showed up in the account on Saturday April 19th.


Put the Package on Hold While Points Are Transferring
That night I called Marriott to see if I could put the travel package on hold. Even though Marriott Rewards is only open Mon-Fri from 8:15am to 9pm the representative was very helpful and was able to assist me. He told me I would have to send in a point transfer request form in order to get the additional 50,000 points from my mom’s account to Dad’s, but I would have to wait until the Rewards Desk opened up on Monday morning. The reservation would be on hold until the 24 hours before the booking.

Monday afternoon I called Marriott Rewards, confirmed the reservation was on hold and asked to receive the authorization form so the 50,000 point transfer could be completed. Marriott Rewards either has to fax the form or put it in the mail so I opted to receive it by fax and got it a few moments later. Before sending the form to me, the representative collected all relevant account information including my parents Marriott numbers and my Dad’s Southwest account  where they would transfer the 120,000 Rapid Rewards points. I completed the form, scanned and returned it by email to [email protected] that Wednesday morning and waited to receive a final confirmation email.

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By Friday April 25th I hadn’t seen anything come through so I call Marriott Rewards and they told me they hadn’t received it. I sent it again, this time to a different representative’s attention while I had her on the phone and the order was completed within a few minutes.

My companion pass is valid until December 31, 2015!

My Dad’s companion pass is valid until December 31, 2015!

Now that the hotel booking was complete I was just waiting on the 120,000 Rapid Rewards points to post which I was told could take up to 3 business days. The transfer was initiated on April 25th by Marriott, which is also the day the Companion Pass was activated and the points posted in my Rapid Rewards account the next day on the 26th.

Hotel + Air Package Value

Paying for the room would have cost me 5,822.10 EUR ($8079.12 USD).

Paying for the room would have cost me 5,822.10 EUR ($8079.12 USD).

Had I paid for the room instead of using points, it would have cost me 929 EUR for each of the first 6 nights and 239 EUR for the last night totaling 5,822.10 EUR or $8,079.12 USD + the 120,000 Southwest points will be worth roughly $1,800 x 2 (since the Companion Pass doubles the value of the points) $3,600 =$11,679 in value from 360,000 Marriott Rewards points, bringing my cent per point to 3.2 cents each.

This is clearly an extreme example of  maximizing both the hotel stay and airline partner and I highly encourage you to do the math before you decide on redeeming for one of these packages, but I feel strongly that this was a good use of my points and money (and my parents agree too!). BTW, Happy almost Mother’s Day!

If you want to add to your Marriott point balance, consider signing for a Marriott credit card. The Marriott Rewards Premier card will bank you 70,000 points after $1,000 spend within the first 3 months (business version comes with 50,000 points after $1,000 spent within 3 months) and the basic Marriott Rewards card will get you 30,000 points after $1,000 spent in the first 3 months.

If you’re looking to bump up your Ultimate Rewards point balance you can sign up for the Ink Bold or Ink Plus card for 60,000 points after $5,000 spent within the first 3 months or the Sapphire Preferred card which will earn your 40,000 points after $3,000 spend within the first 3 months.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • cosmo

    The 70,000 version link you gave is not working in Safari, but I did get it in Firefox. Also can you qualify if you already have a mariiott card for the 70,000?

  • Matt Diggs

    This is one of the better posts I’ve seen with strategy in a long time. Effectively, if timed right, 540,000 UR points can get you 14 nights in a cat 5, 240,000 RR points and two companion passes for 2 years. Granted, that’s a lot of UR points, but that’s a lot of benefit.

  • Joe

    Great job. As a both a fan of Marriott and the South of France, I’m interested to read your review.

  • Matt

    I am glad to hear that the 120,000 rewards points counted towards companion pass. I had heard that points transfered for the vacation travel packages no longer counted towards companion pass status although they used to count. I heard it was only when you converted Marriott points into Rapid rewards points that it would count. NICE JOB

  • Scott

    Great Post! I’m a fan of Marriott Rewards and a blogger on their Insider’s site. I knew the travel packages were a great deal but didn’t know you could get the benefit of the Southwestern Companion pass that way.

    By the way I saw you on ABC news last night…good job!

  • iahphx

    Interesting, but at the end of the day you got 7 nights at a hotel and 55,000 UA miles — at an astonishing cost and lots of trouble. It is not difficult to book a well-regarded 4-star hotel in Cannes for $200/night (Kayak lists several). So I’d value the real world cost of your efforts to be little more than $2000. To go to the trouble of accumulating 360,000 Marriott points (wow), I’d want an unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

  • Jethro

    I just did something similar. Only question I have is why you didn’t buy 50k MR points for moms account also at .0125 CPP in lieu of transferring 50k UR. I valued the UR higher than the buying price of MR and don’t have tons of them.

  • cosmic apex

    Just a heads up for anyone who signed up for the Marriott Premier Rewards Visa recently for the 50,000 point spending bonus, I just called Chase and they will upgrade you to the 70,000 bonus! :)

  • Joe

    It’s clear that TPG is doing very well for himself these days and booking into more lavish accommodations. It may also be a good example of how adherence to loyalty programs can preclude booking into boutique hotels, B&B, or other accommodation types that can be more affordable.

  • lindseywagners

    oh gosh…

  • foreveryoung
  • iahphx

    I think you’re right, Joe. I “use” hotel loyalty programs to get deals and perks, but they’re only a tool (in other words, I’m not loyal!). I see Tripadvisor ranks the JW Marriott as only the 40th best hotel in Cannes. I’d certainly stay there on “a deal,” but not this deal — at this price.

  • Stone

    I got tired just reading the hoops. I think there ought to be a NEW RULE. If you’re gonna boast about how you used tons of points to get something great, you have to explain EXACTLY where they came from and how regular people with your hook ups or kickbacks can do the same. you DID explain how to get most of the points in this post, but how do you have such a massive amount to pay for the premium class (im sure) flight and all the UR pts to transfer?

    You MUST realize how off-putting and dickish you come off by constantly talking about all the cool high end stuff you book that regular pts collectors can’t even hope for.

  • Andy

    I am accumulating MR and UR points to do this very thing at the beginning of 2015 (to get the companion pass for 2015-2016!) Makes me nervous that they could change these to non CP qualifying points at any time. Good to know it still works!

    Do you know if you can get the 30k marriott basic bonus after getting the 70k premier??

  • Joe

    My read is just that the target demographics of who he is trying to reach are changing as he does better for himself. Which I don’t begrudge him. More travel and leisure less frommers budget these days. Most of the properties at which he stays are out of reach for the average person.

  • stone

    you might be right, but people who stay at the high end places he’s at probably wouldnt even bother with the pts game imo

  • thepointsguy

    I’ve always stayed at nice hotels on the cheap using points, so not sure if this JW Marriott stay is anything out of the ordinary.

    I also book at AirBnB or VRBO when it makes sense. For this trip, booking the JW on points is the most convenient.

  • thepointsguy

    I list in the post that I did a combo of buying points from Marriott directly, transferring from UR and combining points with another account. You don’t need to do these things- you can accrue Marriott points directly by staying there or using a co-branded credit card, which I included in the post.

  • thepointsguy

    Never hurts to ask!

  • thepointsguy

    That is an option, but I have a ton of Chase points so I opted to save the cash

  • thepointsguy

    Can definitely confirm as of last week the Air + Hotel points count!

  • Joe

    Mostly, yes, and I enjoy reading about those experiences. You also, however, spend $450 per night in Brazil. Again, I don’t begrudge your success, but over the last couple of years the content has been aimed at more higher dollar travelers. Unlike say, Ric Garrido, who still blogs about $100-$150 LNF Marriott properties. Which, is more how I travel. Both options are totally fine, it’s just a matter of a different market.

  • Joe

    Right, but the points game he plays is also out of reach for the average person. Which, is part of the appeal and charm for the rest of us schmucks.

  • Rich

    When I tried to transfer from a parents account to mine chase UR told me transfers only between spouses , how did you transfer your UR points to your dads account ??

  • thepointsguy

    I did it online.

  • Chance Bradford

    I would also like to know this!

  • Chance Bradford

    Simple Answer: Stop being average.

  • Lynn

    Ok, I’m a mom and looking at this from a Mom view….seems that you are benefiting from their points by booking your hotel stay as much (or more? You state you are receiving $8,000 in room value) as they are benefiting by receiving the SWA points and pass. Neither party could do this without the other. Not sure I would agree that this is a Mother’s/Father’s Day gift.

  • Scott

    Great post. I’m currently working on Marriott points in order to do exactly what you did–get another SW Companion Pass. I had some concerns that the point transfer wouldn’t count towards the CP, but you proved it does. Thanks!

  • lindseywagners

    The only reason TPG is in the position he is in is because he fell into it with his job that required him to travel. That’s how everyone’s successes come about: capitalizing on luck.

  • lindseywagners

    TPG has a huge ego. In fact, I’d say you have to have a huge ego if you’re going to blog about all the crap you do. It’s similar to the people whose Facebook accounts are obnoxious.

  • alex


  • alex

    yup. I’m the only one in my family who does this lol.. so my dad wouldn’t have 110,000 Marriott, nor my mum any… now would my dad already have a southwest, spg, UA, UR account either…. and if I traveled ONCE like TPG, my Marriott, UR and maybe SPG account would be depleted, making it impossible to rack up 360,000 points (for hotel stay only) – he probably flew there first class on points too = even more points… Plus, reading his articles, he does this more than once a year….

    So lol, Joe I agree with you. :)

    Also lol, I’m an “average guy” :))))))

  • alex

    I’d like to know this too!

  • alex

    and then the Marriott business as well… Won’t Chase smell fishes? mammoth-sized fishes? just asking…

  • alex

    their points offering to him is a “non grata” parental obligation to their stellar son, the companion pass is a sacrifice on his part, thus written off as a favour/gift? I assume..

  • alex

    My thoughts as well… However his job is knowing travel stuff the average person doesn’t. my job is, say, keeping people alive in a hospital… or assisting doctors in a surgery room..

  • alex

    He’s had the Marriott personal and business at some point, but churned them, and now appears to be in for the Ritz Carlton..

    hey TPG, doesn’t Marriott own the Ritz Carlton as well? You could have transferred those points as well to the Marriott if you’d wanted to, right?

  • alex

    What makes him a genius (apart from knowing the stuff that proves invaluable) is that he finds the deal first, then gets the points to make the deal work… He didn’t have any Marriott points before all that.

    If you rack up Marriott points and such an amazing opportunity presents itself with IHG or Hyatt, you’re screwed lol, but he’ll just dig into his diversified bottomless repertoire and make things work out for him lol :)

  • alex

    How many cards can you have active with Chase at a time. Also do you ever get the Marriott basic card for 30k?

  • Vaggeto

    I am purchasing a Marriott Vacation Package and wanted to use it to earn the Southwest Companion pass. I have a hotel stay coming up in December so I need to buy the vacation package now, but I want to delay the Southwest points from posting until 2015 so I can get the fully 2 years out of the companion pass. Does anyone know if this is possible?

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