Disclosure: We get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. American Express, Barclaycard, Chase, and US Bank are Million Mile Secrets advertising partners. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners. Here’s our Advertiser Disclosure.
Update: After March 31, 2017, transferring hotel points to Southwest no longer counts towards the Companion Pass. But here’s how to earn Companion Pass points when booking paid nights at hotels.
Update: This method is no longer working! Here’s why.
Earning credit card sign-up bonuses is the easiest way to get Big Travel With Small Money.
That’s why it’s an amazing deal when two people can get 2 years of free flying with the Southwest Companion Pass AND a 7-night hotel stay by earning just 2 card sign-up bonuses each.
Here’s the deal: 1 Couple + 2 Cards Each = 2 Years of Free Flying (at least $3,600+) + 7 Nights Hotel (at least $1,400+).
That’s a $5,000 value!!
With the sign-up bonuses on Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Chase Marriott Premier Rewards card, a couple can earn more than enough points to get the best deal in travel!
I’ll explain the steps to earning enough points to book a Marriott flight and hotel package, which will earn you enough Southwest points for the Companion Pass! And a 7-night Marriott hotel stay!
Best Deal in Travel: Southwest Companion Pass
Link: Southwest Companion Pass
With the Southwest Companion Pass, your designated companion flies with you for almost free (just the cost of taxes and fees) on both paid and award tickets.
In the past, the Companion Pass saved Emily and me thousands of dollars on airfare!
Million Mile Secrets team member Keith has also used this fantastic perk to also save thousands of dollars. Since January 2015, he has used the Companion Pass to fly with his wife on 30+ flights to destinations in the US, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
Plus, I enjoy flying Southwest because:
- There are no blackout dates on award flights
- Award flight prices are based on the cash cost of the flight
- You get 2 free checked bags on every flight
- You don’t pay change or cancel fees on paid or award flights
And Southwest offers flights to and from most major US cities.
Companion Pass Requirements
To get the Southwest Companion Pass, you have to earn 110,000 qualifying Southwest points in a calendar year (January to December).
For example, if you earn the Companion Pass on January 10, 2017, it will be valid until December 31, 2018 (~24 months).
I’ll show you a way to earn the best deal in travel by redeeming 270,000 Marriott points for the Companion Pass AND 7 free nights at a fantastic Marriott hotel!
Here Is How You Do It…
Before we get started, be sure avoid these 3 common mistakes folks make when trying to earn the Companion Pass.
Step 1. You and Your Partner Apply for Chase Marriott Premier Rewards Card
First, you and your partner should each apply for the Chase Marriott Rewards card.
With this card, you can earn a sign-up bonus of 80,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account.
And you can earn another 7,500 bonus Marriott points when you add an authorized user who makes a purchase within the first 3 months of opening your account. I don’t suggest doing this because it counts towards Chase’s 5/24 rule, but I’m including it here for completeness.
This card has an $85 annual fee that is NOT waived the first year. Here’s my full review of the Chase Marriott Premier card.
If you and your partner apply for this card and add an authorized user, you’ll each have 83,000 Marriott points (80,000 points from the sign-up bonus + 3,000 points for completing the minimum spending). Or 166,000 Marriott points among both of you after you meet the spending requirements. You’re more than halfway to the amount you’ll need for the Companion Pass!
I recommend applying for this card first because of Chase’s “5/24” application rule. That is, if you’ve opened ~5 or more credit cards (from any bank) in the past 24 months (excluding certain business cards), it’s unlikely you’ll be approved for most Chase cards.
Step 2. You and Your Partner Apply for the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest Card
Note that it is very easy to get an AMEX Starwood hotel business card. See this post for more details on applying for an AMEX business card.
The sign-up bonus on the card is 25,000 Starwood points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening the personal card and $5,000 on purchases during the same time for the small business card.
Then, you can convert Starwood points to Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio. After meeting the minimum spending requirement, you and your partner will have 28,000 Starwood points each on the personal card (25,000 Starwood points from the sign-up bonus + 3,000 points from the minimum spending.
Or 30,000 Starwood points each (25,000 Starwood points from the sign-up bonus + 5,000 points from the minimum spending on the small business card.)
And you can convert 28,000 Starwood points to 84,000 Marriott points! Or convert 30,000 Starwood points to 90,000 Marriott points. We’ll show you how to convert the points below!
So you and your partner can earn 168,000 or 180,000 Marriott points by each getting this card!
For more points with this card, you can check if you’re targeted for the 2,500 bonus points for adding an authorized user.
The personal and small business version of the card have a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year. Here’s my full review of the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest card.
Keep in mind you can only earn the bonus on an AMEX card once per lifetime. But if you have the personal AMEX Starwood card, you can still apply for the small business version. Or vice versa.
Step 3. Complete the Spending on Both Cards
This means you and your partner will EACH have to spend $6,000 total on both cards. Or $12,000 total across all 4 cards.
You can check out my post on 40+ ways to meet minimum spending requirements.
One easy and convenient way can be to use Plastiq to pay bills with a credit card. Although you’ll pay a small fee, it can be an easy way to pay your rent, mortgage, or other bills that don’t accept a credit card.
And sometimes they offer promotions with lower fees that can make it a better deal!
If you and your partner aren’t able to meet minimum spending requirements at the same time, I recommend staggering your card applications.
Step 4. Link Your Starwood and Marriott Loyalty Accounts
You and your partner will need to link your Starwood and Marriott accounts before you can start moving points around.
First, go to the Marriott site. Then, select any one of the loyalty programs to get started.
After you log-in, you’ll have the option to link your Starwood account to Marriott.
Step 5. Convert Starwood Points
After your accounts are linked, you can then convert your Starwood sign-up points to Marriott points.
On the Starwood website, click “Transfer Starpoints to Rewards Points”.
Next, enter 25,000 Starwood points to transfer.
Before your Starwood points to Marriott points transfer is complete, you’ll see a summary of your transfer.
Review and click “Complete Transfer“.
Your Starwood points will instantly appear in your Marriott Rewards account!
Step 6. Combine Marriott Points With Your Partner
After you and your partner meet the minimum spending requirements and earn the sign-up bonus on both cards, you’ll each have 167,000 to 173,000 Marriott points.
You’ll each have:
- 84,000 Marriott points from the AMEX Starwood card (25,000 Starwood points from the sign-up bonus + 3,000 points from the minimum spending X 3 Marriott Points for 1 Starwood Point)
- OR 90,000 Starwood points each (25,000 Starwood points from the sign-up bonus + 5,000 points from the minimum spending on the small business card X 3 Marriott Points for 1 Starwood Point)
- And you’ll each have 83,000 Marriott points from the Chase Marriott Rewards card (80,000 Marriott Points + 3,000 Marriott Points for completing the minimum spending)
Or a TOTAL of 334,000 Marriott Points (167,000 Marriott Points X 2 People) or 346,000 Marriott Points (173,000 Marriott Points X 2 People) for the TWO of y’all.
But to get the Companion Pass, you’ll need to combine your Marriott points into one account to reach at least 270,000 Marriott points.
This isn’t a problem because you’ll have a combined total of 334,000 or 346,000 Marriott points. You’ll just have to share the points with your partner!
You can normally share up to 50,000 Marriott points each year with friends or family members.
But once per calendar year, you can exceed the 50,000 point limit if you have a specific Marriott redemption in mind.
To share Marriott points with your partner, you can call Marriott Rewards Customer Support at 801-468-4000.
Step 7. Book a 7-Night Marriott Hotel + Air Package
After combining Marriott points with your partner, you can book a Marriott Hotel + Air Package.
To get the Companion Pass with this deal, you’ll pay a minimum of 270,000 Marriott points for a 7-night stay at a Category 1 to 5 Marriott hotel. And, you’ll get 120,000 Southwest points, which is more than enough to earn the Companion Pass.
Remember, you’ll have a combined total of 334,000 Marriott points. So you can redeem a 7-night stay at a Category 7 Marriott hotel if you’d like to splurge!
To book the Hotel + Air package, call Marriott reservations at 888-236-2427.
Once you book, Marriott will deposit the 120,000 Southwest points into your account. And they’ll give you a certificate for a 7-night hotel stay.
Keep in mind, you do NOT have to use the Southwest points and 7-night certificate at the same time. But you do have to book 7 consecutive nights at the same hotel.
Timing Is Everything
To get the most out of the Companion Pass, it’s best to redeem your Marriott points for a Hotel + Air package early in the calendar year. A Calendar Year is the 12-month period from January to December
Because the Companion Pass will work from the date you earn 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points up to the end of the next calendar year.
So if you book a Hotel + Air package in January, you’ll have the Companion Pass for close to 2 full years!
Activate Your Companion Pass
Just fill out the online form to designate your companion and you’ll be on your way to 2 for 1 travel!
If you prefer to designate a companion by phone, you can call Southwest at 800-248-4377.
You can change your designated companion up to 3 times each calendar year during the validity of your Companion Pass.
Add Companion to Flight Booking
Now that you designated a companion, it’s time to start booking 2 for 1 travel!
Before you add a companion, you’ll have to book a paid or award flight for yourself first.
Afterwards, you’ll be able to add your companion in 3 easy steps!
Step 1. Log-In to Your Southwest Account
First, you’ll want to log-in to your Southwest account.
Step 2. View Your Trips
Scroll down on your account page to view your upcoming trips.
Then, click “Add Companion“.
Step 3. Pay Taxes and Fees for Companion
Your companion flies with you for just the cost of taxes and fees.
So the last step is to pay!
Taxes and fees can vary if you’re traveling internationally. But it’s still a better deal than paying full price for 2 tickets!
Redeem Your Marriott 7-Night Certificate
There are thousands of Marriott hotels you can choose from when redeeming your 7-night certificate from the Hotel + Air package.
To redeem your Marriott 7-night certificate, first find the eligible Marriott hotel you want to stay in.
You can search Marriott hotels by category.
Once you choose the hotel, you’ll see a list of the available room types.
Confirm your room preference, and you can attach your certificate for the stay.
If you prefer, you can also call Marriott at 888-236-2427 to book the reservation for you.
Stay 7 Nights at These Marriott Hotels
Here are a few good Category 5 Marriott hotels you can choose when redeeming your 7-night certificate. These hotels will be included when you choose the 270,000 Marriott point option. The cities are Southwest destinations!
1. Fairfield Inn & Suites Denver Downtown
The Fairfield Inn & Suites Denver Downtown is a ~30 minute drive from the Denver Airport. You can spend 7 nights at this hotel and make day trips to other nearby Colorado towns like Boulder and Fort Collins.
Football fans might like this hotel too! Because you’re only 1 mile from the Denver Bronco’s stadium.
You’ll also get free breakfast when you stay here!
2. Residence Inn Memphis Downtown
And the rooms at this hotel are suites with full kitchens and separate sleeping areas. So it would be a great place to relax for 7 nights.
At this hotel, you’ll also get free breakfast. And there’s an evening social.
On TripAdvisor, this hotel ranks #4 of all hotels in Memphis!
3. Fort Lauderdale Marriott Coral Springs Hotel
How about a visit to the Sunshine State? You can spend 7 nights at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Coral Springs Hotel, which is located right on a golf course.
If you don’t golf, you can still enjoy the pool, spa, or fitness center at the hotel.
The hotel is also just a few minutes from beaches and shopping areas.
Or Splurge at These Higher Category Marriott Hotels
Because you and your partner will have a combined total of 334,000 Marriott points, you use more points for a 7-night stay at a Category 6 or 7 Marriott hotel.
For the Companion Pass and a 7-night stay, you’ll pay:
- 300,000 Marriott points for the Category 6 hotel option
- 330,000 Marriott points for the Category 7 hotel option
1. Long Beach Marriott
And the hotel is a great central starting point if you’d like to take day trips to Los Angeles or Orange County.
This hotel is a Category 6 hotel.
2. CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort
Folks on TripAdvisor rank this hotel highly and say it’s an ideal place to travel with a partner.
There’s plenty to do at this hotel. But if you want to getaway for the day, you’re close enough to visit nearby Playa del Carmen like Emily recently did!
Couples can earn the Southwest Companion Pass and 7 free nights at a Marriott hotel with just 2 credit card sign-up bonuses each. This means a designated partner can fly for almost free for 2 years (just pay taxes and fees)!
After each meeting the spending requirements on the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest and Chase Marriott Premier Rewards cards, you can combine the sign-up bonus points to book a Marriott Hotel + Air package.
This will give you enough points for the Companion Pass AND a 7-night certificate to stay at terrific Marriott hotels!