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TPG reader Tina sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning the Southwest Companion Pass:
“Is it worthwhile to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to a hotel program and then to Southwest in order to earn the Companion Pass?”
The Southwest Companion Pass is perhaps the most valuable travel benefit out there, so it’s no surprise that I get a lot of questions from readers looking for shortcuts to earn the requisite 110,000 qualifying points. Since Southwest is a transfer partner of the Ultimate Rewards program, you can leverage points from Chase to achieve Companion Pass status, but it’s important to understand the different options so you don’t sacrifice too much value in the process.
For starters, I want to remind everyone that direc transfers from Chase to Southwest do not count toward the Companion Pass. However, you can transfer points from Southwest’s hotel partners, including Marriott and Hyatt, and those points do count in practice (even though the terms and conditions are a bit ambiguous). That gives you a few options if you want to boost your Rapid Rewards account using Ultimate Rewards points.
The transfer ratio from Marriott to Southwest depends on how many points you want to redeem. The best you’re going to get is 2.8:1, and you have to exchange at least 70,000 points for that rate to apply. Hyatt is the much better option, since you can exchange just 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for 2,400 Rapid Rewards points (for a transfer ratio of 2.08:1). That’s not great, but it’s not terrible if you just need to top off your account.
For example, suppose you’re 4,000 points shy of the Companion Pass. You could transfer 10,000 points from Chase to Hyatt (at 1:1) and then to Southwest for a total of 4,800 Rapid Rewards points. I value Ultimate Rewards points at 2.1 cents apiece, so the original 10,000 points are worth $210 in my estimation. Meanwhile, I value Rapid Rewards points at 1.5 cents, so the final 4,800 points are worth $72. That means on average you’d sacrifice $138 in the process — it’s not ideal, but even a single extra use of the Companion Pass would likely make it worthwhile.
Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages offer another valuable transfer option, but since you have to redeem at least 165,000 points, it’s best for when you already have a good number of Marriott Rewards points on hand. I used this strategy myself a few years ago (and again earlier this year), but that was a bit of a splurge from my Ultimate Rewards account so I could get the Companion Pass as a gift for my parents.
Keep in mind that there are other ways to earn Southwest points, like sign-up bonuses from co-branded credit cards and spending through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal. Depending on how many points you need, those might be better options.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards