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Update 1/5/17: Following a change in policy, it is only possible to use hotel transfers to qualify for the Companion Pass through March 31.
See the answers to your most pressing SPG/Marriott Rewards questions in our post-merger Q&A with the heads of both programs.
Very early this morning, Marriott closed its acquisition of Starwood — the combined chains now have a total of 5,700 hotels in 110+ countries around the world. Perhaps even more exciting than the number of properties at which you can earn and redeem rewards are the opportunities that Marriott’s new transfer option opens up — particularly when it comes to partners. We’ll be digging into the math here over the days to come, but we did want to highlight one opportunity right away: the Southwest Companion Pass.
Given that Starwood doesn’t partner with Southwest, this fantastic perk has eluded Starwood Preferred Guests. Marriott is a Southwest partner, however, and since you can now instantly transfer SPG points to Marriott, it’s possible to use your Starpoints to earn the Companion Pass. Even more exciting is that with Marriott’s Hotel + Air Package option, you can score a week-long hotel stay in addition to the points you need to earn the Companion Pass. TPG used this option to secure a Companion Pass for his parents earlier this year.
Here’s how Marriott’s packages break down:
So based on the above, 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points (10,000 points above the number you need to secure the Companion Pass) plus a seven-night hotel stay will run you 270,000 Marriott Rewards points. Factoring in the 1:3 Starwood:Marriott transfer rate, you’ll need just 90,000 Starpoints to secure this award. Those points are worth $2,250 based on our valuations, however you can easily get much more value out of the Companion Pass — not to mention the seven nights at a Category 1-5 Marriott you’ll receive as well. Of course, you’ll also end up with 120,000 redeemable Southwest points, and those are worth $1,800 based on our valuation.
There are plenty of interesting Category 5 Marriott hotels, too, ranging from the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown (normally $170 per night) to the Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit (which starts at $115 per night). Or, you can move up the list for just 10,000 more Starpoints per category.
When should you do it?
You can transfer Starpoints to Marriott and begin the process right away, but it might make sense to hold off a bit. If you wait until early 2017 to “earn” your 120,000 Rapid Rewards points, you’ll end up with the Companion Pass for the remainder of 2017 plus all of 2018. That means free flights for your companion for almost 24 months. Incredible! Of course you need to master the timing to get this to work out just right — if you start too early and have the points in your account in late December, your pass will only be valid through the end of 2017.
There’s also another reason you might not want to wait. Marriott has confirmed that it doesn’t intend to make any changes to partner redemptions without proper warning, but depending on how you interpret Southwest’s terms and conditions, a hotel transfer may not actually net you points toward the Companion Pass. Unofficially, these points do count for now, but there’s always a chance Southwest could correct the “bug” that’s currently making these specific transfers eligible. Though we certainly hope that doesn’t happen.
There seems to be no shortage of good news following this morning’s acquisition, and we certainly hope the good times keep rolling. If there’s a particular redemption opportunity that makes sense for you right now, it may not hurt to pull the trigger, given that the situation could always change in the future. In the case of the Companion Pass, though, it may be worth the risk to wait until just after the clock strikes midnight on December 31.
Will you be transferring Starpoints to Marriott to earn the Companion Pass?
Know before you go.
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