Using The New SPG/Marriott Transfer Rates to Get The Southwest Companion Pass

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. 

January 3, 2017 Update: Hotel points are no longer allowed to earn the Companion Pass. 

There’s already a number of great articles on how to best take advantage of the new Marriott/SPG merger and ensuing changes to their respective loyalty programs. I recommend reading up on this post by Frequent Miler, this one by Free-quent Flyer, and this one by View From The Wing (if you haven’t already). In this article, I wanted to focus specifically on how the new transfer rates from SPG to Marriott really help out folks trying to get the Southwest Companion Pass.

I see three major ways that this transfer helps out those people: 1) capping off small amount of Rapid Rewards; 2) earning large sums (~30K) of Rapid Rewards; and 3) earning the Companion Pass despite being blocked from Chase Southwest cards by 5/24. 

Capping off small amounts of Rapid Rewards

The Southwest Companion Pass requires 110,000 Rapid Rewards and if you’re able to get two Chase Southwest credit cards at 50K bonuses and meet their minimum spends (usually $2,000), you’ll probably still be in need of about 6,000 Rapid Rewards. For some people earning the additional 6,000 Rapid Rewards with natural spend is not a practical option and they need to transfer points from hotels to get their Rapid Rewards balance to 110K.

Before, there were two major ways to earn Companion Pass qualifying Rapid Rewards, which included funneling hotel points from Hyatt or Marriott/Ritz-Carlton to Southwest, since points transferred directly from Ultimate Reward accounts to Southwest do not count toward the Companion Pass.

For smaller amounts, they transferred at the following rates: 

Hyatt

  • 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for 2,400 Rapid Rewards Points (48%) or

Marriott

  • 10,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 2,000 Rapid Rewards Points (20%)
  • 20,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 5,000 Rapid Rewards Points (25%)

But now with SPG points to Marriott, there’s an easier way to earn 5K Rapid Rewards.

With SPG you could do the following:

  • Transfer 7,000 SPG points to Marriott for 21,000 points and then transfer 20,000 Marriott Rewards points to 5,000 Rapid Rewards. (Of course, you would be able to transfer the additional 1,000 Marriott points back to SPG for 333 points.)

This equates to 6,667 SPG points for 5,000 Rapid Rewards.

This retains about 75% of the points and the value exchange isn’t bad at all if you value Companion Pass Rapid Rewards at 3 cents per point. At 2 cents per point for SPG, this would be an effective exchange of $133.34 in SPG value to $150 in Rapid Rewards. Even if you valued SPG points a little higher at 2.5 cents per point, it’s still a reasonable exchange of $166 in SPG value to $150 in Rapid Rewards.

Compare that to Hyatt where 10,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points would net you 4,800 Rapid Rewards. Valuing Hyatt Gold Passport points at 1.8 cents per point, that would be an exchange of $180 of value for $144 in Rapid Rewards. So you could be losing more value for fewer points if you convert Hyatt points to Rapid Rewards instead of converting SPG points to Rapid Rewards. 

Having that gap of 5,000 Rapid Rewards covered makes hitting that 110,000 Rapid Rewards threshold much easier if you’re not able to put the spend naturally on your credit card.

Large transfers of points

In some instances you might find yourself in need of about 30,000 Rapid Rewards to earn your Companion Pass. This could happen if you’re only able to jump on one Southwest card with a 50,000 bonus and another one with a 25,000 bonus. That would leave you in need of about 30,000 Rapid Rewards for the Companion Pass and you might be left with the option of transferring large sums of points from Hyatt or Marriott to earn that last sum of 30,000 (assuming you couldn’t obtain a 3rd Southwest card). 

Before you’d be stuck with the following options for earning large sums of Rapid Rewards:

Hyatt

hyatt-logo

  • 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for 2,400 Rapid Rewards Points (48%) or
  • 50,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for 24,000 Rapid Rewards Points and receive a bonus of 6,000 additional Rapid Rewards Points for a total of 30,000 Rapid Rewards Points (60%).

*You can only purchase up to 55,000 Hyatt points in a calendar year.

Marriott/Ritz Carlton

Marriott-Hotels-Logo

  • 10,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 2,000 Rapid Rewards Points (20%)
  • 20,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 5,000 Rapid Rewards Points (25%)
  • 30,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 10,000 Rapid Rewards Points (33%)
  • 70,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 25,000 Rapid Rewards Points (35%)
  • 140,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 50,000 Rapid Rewards Points (35%)

*You can only purchase up to 50,000 Marriott points in a calendar year.

The bolded 50,000 Hyatt points to 30,000 Rapid Rewards was the best value offered for transferring points to Southwest.

However, now you can transfer 30,000 SPG points to Marriott which will convert to 90,000 Marriott Rewards points. With 90,000 Marriott Rewards, you could then transfer 70,000 for 25,000 Rapid Rewards and 20,000 for 5,000 Rapid Rewards. This would be an effective 1:1 transfer from SPG to Southwest. As already stated, I value Companion Pass Rapid Rewards at 3 cents per point so if obtaining the Companion Pass were a priority for you, I think this would be a very reasonable way to utilize 30,000 SPG points.

And again, if you compare the exchange in value between SPG and Hyatt, SPG comes out on top. Assume a value of 1.8 cents per point for Hyatt, so that 50,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points comes out to $900. Even with a 2.5 cents per point value on SPG points, 30,000 SPG points comes out to $750, so once again, your return of value after transferring will probably be better with SPG when trying to obtain 30,000 Rapid Rewards. 

Marriott Travel Packages to earn the Companion Pass

The final major benefit to this new transfer program comes to those who find themselves locked out of the Chase Southwest Cards due to the 5/24 Rule. In that situation, you’ve got to find a way to come up with 110K Rapid Rewards without relying on Southwest cards. 

With the new 1:3 transfer ratio from SPG to Marriott and the existence of 5 night and 7 night travel packages, there’s a new effective way to earn that Southwest Companion Pass even if you’re not eligible to be approved for any of the Chase Southwest cards due to 5/24. Here’s how it could work.

5 night travel package

The Frequent Miler wrote more about the Marriott 5 night travel package here so read up on that if you’re interested. One option with this package means that you would be able to convert:

  • 235K Marriott Rewards points into 120K Rapid Rewards and free-night certificates good for 5 nights at category 1-5 Marriotts.

This would require 78,333 SPG points (so 79,000) SPG points since they must be transferred in increments of 1,000.

There’s a possibility this option is limited to timeshare property owners and/or Platinum Elite status holders so it might not be available to everyone so keep that in mind.

7 night travel package

The other option is to take advantage of the 7 night travel package.One option with this package means that you would be able to convert:

  • 270K Marriott Rewards points into 120K Rapid Rewards and certificates good for 7 nights at category 1-5 Marriotts.

This option would require 90,000 SPG points.

Earning the Marriott points

You’re still going to have to do some work to earn those big Marriott point balances. For example, let’s assume you’re able to jump on the 25K offer for both the personal and the business SPG card, that means you’ll have close to 58K SPG points after meeting the minimum spends and earning the bonuses. This would translate to about 174,000 Marriott points.

In terms of Marriott points needed, you’d still need:

  • 61,000 for the 5 night package
  • 96,000 for the 7 night package

In terms of SPG points needed, you’d still need:

  • 20K SPG points for the 5 night package
  • 32K SPG points for the 7 night package

You could try earning those points with spend on your SPG credit cards, but you could also try to go for the Chase Marriott business credit card (not subject to 5/24) and earn a quick 80,000 Marriott points.

That would give you more than enough to meet the points needed for the 5 night package but still leave you short about 16,000 Marriott points short for the 7 night package. 16,000 Marriott Rewards isn’t terribly difficult to achieve and if you already had an Ultimate Rewards balance you could also transfer those out to Marriott to come up with that last needed sum.

Final word 

Transferring hotel points to earn the Southwest Companion Pass isn’t for everyone but if the Southwest Companion Pass is something you really want, utilizing the new transfer rates from SPG to Marriott can be one of the most effective ways to earn it given a few different scenarios. 

Cover photo by Pieter van Marion via Flickr

UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

2 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *