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Update 1/1/17: Following a change in policy, it is no longer possible to use hotel transfers to qualify for the Companion Pass.
My parents selflessly raised four kids and helped put us all through college. They cringe when I say I “owe” them, because they never did it to be paid back. That’s why it’s so great to be able to do nice things for them whenever possible — such as scoring VIP seats at a Knicks game with SPG and a Mother’s Day trip to Chile.
My Dad recently retired from a long career in healthcare consulting, which required him to travel a ton. In fact, I always call him the original Points Guy, because I learned to use his points in the 90s to take our family of six to the Caribbean every year — pretty much for free. Who would have known that 20 years later I’d have a career in points, and needless to say that both of my parents have been instrumental in helping me get to where I am today. And I’m super blessed with a job I love — helping others travel more for less.
So for my Dad’s retirement present, I decided to get him a less-than-traditional gift — a Marriott Hotel + Air package. For their anniversary, my parents wanted to visit Vancouver, so I got them seven nights at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel, a Category 7 property requiring 30,000-35,000 Marriott Rewards points for a free night.
As part of the package, they also got 120,000 Southwest points, which as you’ll see, count toward the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which I wrote about in my Travel + Leisure column this week. In fact, I made a similar redemption in 2014 when I received seven nights and 120,000 Rapid Rewards points (and the Companion Pass) after booking a Marriott Hotel + Air package at a Category 8 property — the JW Marriott Cannes.
As for this trip, my parents got CAD 3,199.53 ($2,242) in value from a seven-night stay at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel, as well as 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points for a total of 330,000 Marriott Rewards points. Southwest points can be valuable when redeemed for Wanna Get Away fares at almost 2 cents apiece in some cases. So, at 2 cents apiece, 120,000 Rapid Rewards points is equivalent to $2,400. Multiply that by two (for the Companion Pass), and those 120,000 Rapid Rewards points are worth $4,800. Add in the $2,242 value for the hotel and you have a whopping $7,042 in value for 330,000 Marriott Rewards points — or more than 2.1 cents per Marriott Rewards point!
But here’s the real kicker: The Companion Pass is valid for nearly two years. We did the transfer on January 8, and as of today, the account shows 120,000 Companion Pass qualifying points — 10,000 more than they needed to qualify for the Companion Pass. Plus, they’ll have the pass until December 2017! All in all, I can’t stress how amazing this perk is — it’s a no brainer in my eyes.
If you’re short on Marriott points, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points instantly at a 1:1 ratio, earned with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I value Chase points at 2.1 cents apiece and Marriott points at 0.7 cents each, so on the surface it doesn’t make sense to transfer. However, if you’re able to get as much value out of your Marriott points as I did here, transferring points over from Ultimate Rewards could be a good move.
I’m hoping my parents maximize the pass as much as possible — they certainly have the time to do it!
Have you booked a Marriott Hotel + Air package and received the Southwest Companion Pass as a result? How have you maximized the Companion Pass? Now that Marriott and Starwood have joined forces, you can transfer your points between the two programs depending on what makes the most sense for you. Each year after your anniversary date, this card will earn you 1 complimentary night stay at a category 1-5 location and you will earn 15 Elite Credits that will guarantee you at least Silver Elite Status.
Now that Marriott and Starwood have joined forces, you can transfer your points between the two programs depending on what makes the most sense for you. Each year after your anniversary date, this card will earn you 1 complimentary night stay at a category 1-5 location and you will earn 15 Elite Credits that will guarantee you at least Silver Elite Status.