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We’ve upgraded our “Sunday Reader Question” series! Our new “Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

A number of TPG readers have been asking questions about Chase Ultimate Rewards and the Southwest Companion Pass, such as this email that arrived from Douglas

You mentioned that one cannot use Chase points to earn a Companion Pass. But it’s possible to use Chase points to get Marriott Rewards points. So couldn’t one change Chase points to Marriott points and then Marriott points to Southwest points and thus, essentially, get the Companion pass for Chase points?

TPG Reader Douglas

The Companion Pass is a highly sought-after perk that comes from earning 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a single calendar year. With a Companion Pass in hand, a friend or family member can join you on any Southwest flight for up to two years while paying nothing more than the minimal taxes for their ticket, usually around $6 per flight.

Unfortunately, earning a Companion Pass is about to become harder than it used to be. While point transfers from hotel programs have traditionally counted toward earning a pass, Southwest has announced that will end on March 31, 2017, meaning the only routes left for earning qualifying points will be earning them with Southwest partners, spending on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or taking actual flights on Southwest.

Southwest is also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, but direct transfers from Chase to Southwest have never been Companion Pass-qualifying. However, since hotel point transfers do count until March 31 and Ultimate Rewards can transfer to hotels such as Marriott and Hyatt, the question is whether it’s possible to move those Ultimate Rewards points from program-to-program-to-program in order to turn non-qualifying points into qualifying points.

The answer is yes, this will work. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

The problem is that while points transfer from Ultimate Rewards to Marriott or Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio — meaning you get one hotel point for each Ultimate Rewards point — the secondary transfers from the hotel programs to Southwest are much less favorable.

For transfers from Hyatt to Southwest, the ratio is around 2.1:1, so to end up with 110,000 Southwest points you’ll have to start with about 230,000 Ultimate Rewards points. The ratio from Marriott to Southwest is even worse — depending on how many points you transfer at once, it varies from 2.8:1 to a horrendous 5:1.

Based on our current monthly TPG point valuations, 230,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth a whopping $4,830. You’d have to do an awful lot of companion flying on Southwest to make that worth the cost.

However, there’s one possible way to make this option a little more palatable, which is to tie the transfer to a Marriott Hotel + Air package. These packages award additional airline points when you use them to book a 7-night stay at a Marriott property with Marriott Rewards, and if you select Southwest as your airline, those points will be Companion Pass-qualifying.

Here’s the Marriott Hotel + Air package chart for Southwest:

As you can see in the far-right column, a 7 night Hotel + Air package at a Category 1-5 hotel costs 270,000 Marriott Rewards points, but also comes with 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. That’s enough Southwest points to get you a Companion Pass, but you’ll also end up with a 7-night stay at a qualifying Marriott.

Using Marriott points in this way vastly improves the transfer ratio, since you’re getting the Southwest points basically at a 1:1 ratio. Even though you’re getting less than that for the rest of the Marriott points, the tremendous value of the Companion Pass might make it worth starting with Ultimate Rewards points and using them in this manner, especially if you have a good use for a 7-night Marriott stay.

If you want to learn more about this method, check out our extensive primer on “How To Maximize Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages and Earn a Southwest Companion Pass.” Thanks to Douglas and everyone else who asked this question, and if you’ve got a question of your own, tweet to us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or send an email to info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

With great transfer partners like United and Hyatt, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game.

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More Things to Know
  • 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
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
5.00%
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

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