The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is by far my favorite thing in the entire points and miles world. It allows a companion to fly with you for FREE (plus minimal taxes) an UNLIMITED number of times during the length of the pass. To earn the Southwest Airlines companion pass, you need a total of 110,000 qualifying points. Points can be earned from multiple sources, but one of the easiest ways (aside from credit card sign ups) is by transferring hotel points to Southwest. Points transferred through this method DO count as qualifying points, but they must hit your Southwest account by March 31, 2017. So if you are looking to have your points count, I suggest initiating the transfer sooner than later. After this date, hotel transfers will no longer qualify.
To earn the pass, you must have 110,000 qualifying points within the calendar year. On January 1st of every year your qualifying points earned reset and anything earned the year prior do not cary over. Once you earn the pass, it is then valid for the remainder of the calendar year, PLUS the entire following calendar year. So if you earn the pass today, for example, it will be valid until December 31, 2018.
Overall, it is pretty awesome and I’ve been a proud companion pass holder for about 9 years now. You can also read my top 10 ways to earn the Southwest companion pass here.
1. Club Carlson
You can only transfer in increments of 2,000, 50,000, and 100,000 – all have the same transfer ratio:
- 2,000 Club Carlson Gold Points = 200 Southwest Rapid Rewards points
- 50,000 Club Carlson Gold Points = 5,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points
- 100,000 Club Carlson Gold Points = 10,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points
5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points = 2,400 Southwest Rapid Reward points; additionally for every 50,000 points transferred from Hyatt you’ll receive an additional 6,000 points (this is when transferring to any partner airline from Hyatt).
The more points you transfer, the better the ratio will be. However, Marriott has Hotel + Air Packages which ultimately end up being a better transfer ratio:
- 10,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 2,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
- 20,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 5,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
- 30,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 10,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
- 70,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 25,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
- 140,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
4. Marriott Hotel + Air Packages
Marriott offers Hotel + Air Packages which ultimately ends up being a better value for your points (if it works for you with redeeming a Marriott hotel). There are four different packages depending on the number of Marriott nights you need – you can check them out here. This will give you the biggest bang for your buck. The least expensive option that will get you the companion pass right off the bat is redeeming 270,000 Marriott points which will give you 120,000 Southwest points plus a 7-night stay certificate at a Marriott category 1-5 hotel
While you cannot directly transfer points from Starwood to Southwest, you can transfer Starwood points to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio. Once your points are part of the Marriott program, they can then be transferred to Southwest. You can either transfer points as suggested in #3 or #4. Since the Marriott Hotel + Air package is a better option, if you go this route it will only require 90,000 Starwood points to earn the Southwest Companion Pass in full. 90,000 SPG points = 270,000 Marriott Reward points. 270,000 Marriott reward points will earn you 120,000 Southwest points plus a 7-night stay certificate at a Marriott category 1-5 hotel. Of course if you do not need as many qualifying Southwest points, you can always transfer less Starwood points depending on your needs.
6. Best Western
5,000 Best Western points = 1,200 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
7. Choice Hotels
6,000 Choice Privileges points = 1,800 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
8. La Quinta
6,000 La Quinta Returns points = 1,800 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
9. Chase Ultimate Rewards
While you can transfer points directly from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest, the points being transferred over DO NOT count as qualifying points. So if you are looking to use these points, you’ll have to go a roundabout way and will unfortunately lose some value throughout the process. Since Chase points transfer to Hyatt or Marriott, you have those two options. If you are looking to use the least amount of Chase Ultimate Reward points, then you’ll want to go the Hyatt route. This will require you to transfer 195,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points to Hyatt. Those 195,000 points when then transferred to Hyatt (5,000 Hyatt points = 2,400 Southwest points, plus an additional 6,000 points for every 50,000 points transferred) will net you 111,600 Southwest points (which is enough for the companion pass). If you are okay with using a little more points, if you transfer 200,000 points (just 5,000 points more) that will actually allow you to earn an additional 8,400 Southwest points. It depends on if you are looking to earn more Southwest points to use for free flights, or if you’d like to use those extra Chase points elsewhere.
Using the Marriott transfer route will require 270,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points, but will also get you a free night certificate, so depending on your needs, it might be worth it. 270,000 Marriott points transferred to Marriott (using the Hotel + Air package) will get you 120,000 Southwest points, plus a 7-night stay at a Marriott category 1-5 hotel. While this will cost 75,000 more Chase points, you’ll receive 8,400 more Southwest points and the free night stay. I personally value Chase points to be worth about 2 cents per point, so I value this different at about $1,500. I personally would go the Hyatt route, but if you are going to stay 7 nights at a qualifying Marriott hotel and it would cost you well more than $1,500, it could be a better value for you.
10. American Express Membership Rewards
American Express no longer is a transfer parter to Southwest. They ended that partnership quite awhile ago, although it was one of the ways I earned my very first companion pass forever ago! From the above list, American Express is a transfer partner to Starwood, although the transfer ratio is pretty poor. Every 3 Membership Reward points = 1 SPG points. Since you need 90,000 Starwood points to make the companion pass work (by transferring to Marriott and then redeeming for a Hotel + Air package), this requires you to use 270,000 Membership Reward points. That is a ton of points in my opinion. If you value these points at about 1.8 cents per point, this is worth about $4,800. While this will get you 120,000 Southwest points + a Southwest points + 7-night stay certificate at a Marriott category 1-5, I suggest ensuring that the transfer will be worth it. The 120,000 Southwest points are worth approximately $1,800 and I’m putting a low $500 value on the Marriott certificate. That means to make the transfer worth it (based on my average valuations), you want to ensure that you’ll receive at least $2,500 value fro the companion pass.
S0…. which one is best?
The great thing is that you can use a combo of hotel points to earn the pass! So if you have some random points laying around from loyalty programs, you can put this towards the pass. But, if you are looking to earn the pass solely from one award program, chances are most of you are looking at either Marriott, Starwood, or Hyatt. With Starwood it will cost 90,000 points, Marriott will cost 270,000 points, and Hyatt will cost 195,000 points. While all three programs have points worth a different amount, using only 90,000 Starwood points is far better then the other two programs! After that, I’d recommend Marriott, and then Hyatt. And remember, with the Starwood and Marriott transfer you’ll receive the 7-night stay certificate.
Will you be taking advantage of that? Let me know if you have any questions about transferring points or the Southwest Companion Pass in general. I am a frequent user!