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TPG reader Kenneth sent me a message on Facebook to ask about Marriott Hotel + Air packages:
“I’m thinking of booking a Marriott Hotel + Air package to get the Southwest Companion Pass, but I don’t have any upcoming stays planned. Can I buy the package, get the Companion Pass, and then redeem the hotel portion later?”
Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages are among the most lucrative ways to redeem Marriott Rewards points, as they effectively allow you to swap for more valuable airline miles when you redeem for a seven-night hotel stay. I list Marriott points at 0.7 cents apiece in my most recent monthly valuations, but airline miles tend to be worth twice as much or even more, so trading (often at a 1:1 ratio) is a clear win.
The Hotel + Air Packages are offered for more than 40 airlines. Some are more enticing than others, but perhaps the greatest opportunity comes from Southwest Airlines, since the Rapid Rewards points you earn count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. I took advantage of this to score myself a Companion Pass a few years ago during a trip to Cannes, and again more recently as part of an award travel retirement gift for my parents. The Companion Pass is one of the most valuable travel rewards out there to begin with, so getting it as an add-on to a hotel booking is an incredible deal.
Kenneth has similar designs for his Marriott points, but needs to know whether he can jump on this deal even if he doesn’t have specific plans that involve a Marriott stay. Fortunately, the answer is yes. When you book a Hotel + Air package, you only have to select the number of points you want to redeem and the hotel category, not the specific property. Marriott will then award you a digital certificate for a seven-night stay at any hotel in that category. You can redeem the certificate later once you decide where and when you want to travel — it’s valid for 12 months, but Marriott is often willing to extend the expiration date.
The airline miles will typically reach your frequent flyer account in a few days or weeks (some of the international carriers may take longer). That timeline is unaffected by when you redeem the hotel certificate, so you can earn the Companion Pass now and wait to plan your stay until you’re ready.
One thing to keep in mind is that you can always upgrade to a higher category by paying the difference in points, but you can’t downgrade to a lower category. Technically, each package is valid for the specified category or below, but if you buy a Category 7 package and redeem at a Category 6 property, then you’re just paying more than you need to. If your plans are uncertain, the best strategy is to book a Category 1-5 package, since you can upgrade it later and avoid getting overcharged.
For more info on Marriott Rewards and the Southwest Companion Pass, check out these posts.
- The Award Traveler’s Guide to Marriott Rewards
- Which Points Count Toward the Southwest Companion Pass?
- Maximizing Marriott Rewards for Family Travel
- 9 Marriott Properties that Make Awesome Award Redemptions
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