Did Bloggers Kill Southwest Companion Pass Transfers? No, You Did!

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The Death of Southwest Companion Pass Hotel Transfers

The other day Southwest changed the rules regarding hotels transfers counting towards the Companion Pass. Basically, they used to count and now they don’t. It is a big negative change and one that affects many people including myself. It is also a change that came with absolutely no notice which is not the sort of behavior that I believe companies should engage in.

When I covered this news the other day several people commented on my post about how “bloggers” killed the Companion Pass. Of course I have shared my thoughts on the “You Bloggers” groupthink before, but it got me thinking. What actually killed this deal?

Obviously I am a blogger and perhaps I have a bias, but I think it is silly to blame bloggers for this one. Instead I blame you and I blame me. I’ll explain that in a minute, but first let’s look at a little history. You see, the Companion Pass is one of those deals that has been around a long time. For years and years every new blog that has come has had a primer on how to get a Companion Pass.

It is one of those low hanging fruit deals that is both easy to write about and fun to share with family and friends. And so it has been written about by blogs big and small for years and years and years and it didn’t die. So what changed?

Well, I think two things did. First, there are so many more people trying to take advantage of travel rewards than there were before. Some will blame blogs and bloggers for spreading the info and perhaps they have a point, but the reality is the internet is here. Information spreads one way or the other. 

But the big changes came from Chase. Prior to this past year I doubt very many people decided to transfer hotel points to get a Companion Pass. Yes, some people did but many more people opted instead for the much easier option of getting two co-branded Chase credit cards. But then the rules changed and something called 5/24 came. 

Suddenly many people who previously could get the Southwest cards were no longer eligible. Those people who had been hooked on that B1G1 magic needed another way. Marriott’s travel packages actually looked decent. For 270,000 points you could get 120,000 Southwest points, a Companion Pass and a 7 night stay at a category 1-5 Marriott. But who has 270,000 Marriott points laying around?

The answer was only a few people. Sure you could transfer Ultimate Rewards to Marriott at 1:1, but that is a TERRIBLE value. So things continued and my guess is not that many people had enough hotel points to make a dent. Then, the last key to the puzzle happened. Marriott bought Starwood and implemented transfers between SPG and Marriott Rewards. Suddenly 90K Starpoints equaled 7 nights in a Marriott, 120,000 Southwest points and a Companion Pass!

Yes, a few blogs covered this option when it became available, but I don’t believe it has been beat to death. The truth is that the combination of a market inefficient deal and a lot of people wanting to take advantage of it killed this deal. The bloggers didn’t.

Southwest was smart in ending points transfers from hotel programs on January 1. Some analyst in a room somewhere must have calculated how many of us were waiting to get a Companion Pass on January 1 in order to get two years of B1G1 flights. They should have told us ahead of time but knew also that we would all  jump on the deal. So it quietly went away.

Was Southwest wrong in not letting us know? I think so. Did bloggers kill this deal? No, people did. There are just too many “travel hackers”.  Good deals die quickly now and that is something we need to accept as a community.

Of course I didn’t write this to preach, so I would love to hear you opinions in the comments! What do you think killed this deal? Am I way off in my analysis? Did I miss something? Share your thoughts, but please be respectful of other commenters.


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33 COMMENTS

  1. You are obviously biased. But be real, bloggers killed it. To many unfocused people trying to get news from to many people trying to make money from taking trips and writing barely edited blogs. DEAD from bloggers, sorry buddy.

  2. Wow, a blogger doesn’t believe bloggers killed this deal. Let me go ask an executive of ExxonMobil whether s/he believes burning fossil fuels for energy causes climate changes.

    Bloggers may not have been the direct cause of killing this deal, but they were the major reason. Google ‘blog convert marriott points southwest companion pass’ (without quotes), set the dates to 10/1/16-12/31/16 and see just how many results pop up from big and small names alike.

  3. You are correct! We all killed the deal. I thought about getting this year, but I determined I don’t need it. I might consider another airline next year, unless others airlines follow.

    • I think you know little about motivation factors. Most bloggers will admit that blogging is not much of a business. Why would anyone be jealous of that? There are a lot of other reasons to hate what bloggers do. Their advice is often biased and bad, they are to blame for exposing exploitations like this that kill SW loopholes (despite this bloggers ostrich view on it), and they are not the master shephard that sheeple like you think they are.

  4. Just like we’re all upset at Southwest for not giving us notice, I think we’d be remiss not to blame the bloggers just a bit. I remember when I first got started out, I was told that the sign-up bonuses from the SW cards are not supposed to work – but they do – and at any moment, it could change. And I was fortunate to have it for 2 full years and take full advantage of the Companion Pass. That being said, I knew going in that for the 1-2 month period when I was earning my CP that it may not have worked… Sure, It would have been nice, but then everyone would have done their transfers earlier – defeating the purpose of SW trying to save the integrity of the Pass. The Pass isn’t intended for travel hackers – I don’t feel we can be entitled.

  5. Bloggers speed along the death of the best deals by pumping them so hard in the quest for page views and affiliate link usage. Now of course there wouldn’t be blogs if it weren’t making big $$$ for the bloggerati

  6. If bloggers did not talk about the deal then the number of signups would be limited to the number of people that figured this out themselves which would be a small number. I don’t think that number would have been large enough to preemptively kill the deal.

  7. Of COURSE bloggers didn’t kill it – they are as pure as driven snow and they only shill credit cards to “friends and family” because they get such a warm glow out of their altruism.

    Talk about self delusion and wishful thinking…

  8. Great article. I both agree and disagree.

    Your claim that the information is out there and readily available is true. But, this is where I partially blame the blogosphere. It isn’t as if Southwest wrote in big, bold letters on the Rapid Reward site that this was an easy way to earn the pass. No, the information was readily available via blogs. So, part of the blame lies with the blogs, but more of the blame falls on the people who actually took the information to heart.

    On a different note, it is naive to think a huge, public company like Southwest was oblivious to the loophole. As you point out, everything fell into place with mergers and 5/24, so they saw an influx in people using the loophole. So they closed the loophole.

    The point of a loyalty program, is to promote loyalty. So, it’s difficult to feel sorry for those who can no longer receive one of the best perks in the industry without ever setting foot on a Southwest plane.

    I believe you can still receive 120,000 Rapid Rewards points, just no Pass. That is still a crazy deal, especially given how fares on Southwest tend to be. You could easily get a half dozen round trips out of that.

  9. Unfortunately all the airlines, hotels etc now have staff monitoring the internet to uncover ways that people are “gaming” their systems. As soon as they find something, the staff member gets credit for uncovering a “leak” in their money making system. By plugging the “leak” the company either makes more money or loses less money. The loyalty programs and travel promotional world has become an adversarial “cat and mouse” game where the bloggers are trying to find new ways to game the system. Nothing wrong with this by the way.

    Unfortunately there are way too many bloggers and blogger wanna-be’s. The common mindset that everyone is special and can create a dream lifestyle for themselves pushes many to try their hand at travel blogging. In all fields, people aspiring to be bloggers soon realize that in order to make any amount of money they will have to have tons of readers and followers, which is never easy to do. So to try to attract as many readers as possible, many resort to creating sensationalist articles about the latest money saving trick/hack to try to attract readers. This in turn creates an “avalanche” of information on how to game the hotels and airlines, that in turn alarms the hotels and airlines who then take steps to prevent getting gamed by the public. The airlines and credit card companies, then turn the table on the bloggers and gamers by changing the rules, increasing award redemption prices, and making it harder and harder for consumers to get value from the loyalty program. The whole environment has become much more adversarial because the airlines and credit card companies now have the attitude : “scr** you! two can play the same game and we’re going to stick it to you.”

  10. There would be no “you” without the bloggers. The bloggers created “you”, and are thus responsible.
    -signed, everyone who operates in the game without bloggers.

    Thank goodness for Mozilla and Ad-Blockers. You don’t deserve a single cent from us.

    You’re vultures who capitalize on systems and and those who figure them out for personal gain.

  11. Bloggers can make material gains from referrals and some have a large platform to attract others including those outside the game. You are directly financially incentivized to breed the secrets of the hobby to attract new readers in hopes they will apply for CCs through your link. While you personally aren’t the most glaring with regards to circling and arrowing the hotel deal, many of your colleagues surely did push this. Just look around Boarding Area at all the easily digested and reproduceable information out there. Plus you should be self aware that you’ve published several articles pursing the CP via CC and mentioned that it’s obtainable with hotel transfers back in 2015. But don’t worry TPG double checked with WN agents to see if that’ll be left intact. Many readers just saw the opportunity and went with it while given easy aide and support. As one who realized it immediately and planned for it in advance, it sucks and many opportunities have dried up due to the blogosphere effect including leaked CC applications. If you think there are too many travel hackers, take your platform private or stop altogether and join a private group.

  12. Bloggers aren’t solely responsible but the increased publicity, including from bloggers but also FT and other forums, hastened its demise, yes. Everyone and his brother wants to be a P&M blogger now, yet the affiliate links and other monetization schemes (in the neutral sense of the word) are drying up. Loyalty programs are devaluing right and left. Card issuers are cracking down on churning and MS. So the “deals” that are still around get shouted about more and more, to try and drive traffic.

    WN would’ve done this eventually but I’d venture to say it happened sooner due to the publicity from blogs and online forums. (Disclosure: I don’t fly WN near enough to have ever cared to get the Companion Pass, personally, so I have no dog in this fight.)

    This isn’t a personal blaming of you – I don’t really know to what extent the loophole was publicized by this blog. But to say that bloggers are just “one of the boys” playing the game, and not a different level of publicity, is shortsighted and wishful thinking.

  13. You preach that bloggers didn’t kill it, and that there are too many travel hackers? Yeah, too many travel hackers. The difference between a travel “hacker” and a blogger is a blogger has an audience and creates more travel “hackers”, or anything for a click – it’s pure comedy this post starts with “Join over 5,000 people who are subscribed to receive a once daily email with all of our posts. Never miss out! Click here to subscribe.”

    • I never expressed my opinion about the fact that there are too many “travel hackers”. I simply made an observation. In other words I can have a blog and want to attract a large audience and still have an honest conversation about this topic.

      • In summary: You think it’s fine that bloggers spoonfeed the masses that kill deals because regurgitation, one-off deals generate more clicks than trip reports and original content just isn’t in your wheelhouse.

        • I find it amusing that people like you blame bloggers for killing a deal, but you and the other people who participate in the deal bare no responsibility. As I read your posts and the others like it, it becomes apparent that at some point in time you elevated yourself to some imaginary elite status within the travel hacking establishment. Apparently only the elite establishment is allowed read blogs and utilize information for personal gain. The fact you, and others like you, are commenting on this blog is evidence that you read the content of the bloggers you say you despise for “killing” your deals. You would have a hard time convincing me that you read the blogs just for fun and don’t utilize any of the information you gain from the posts. If you benefit from the work of others and provide nothing back in return (e.g., clicking on referral links or helpful comments), that makes you the vulture.

          Do you really think, even for a second, that the credit card companies aren’t aware of what they are doing with these promotions? Do you really think, again even for a second, that credit cards companies would spend millions on nation-wide promotional campaigns so the few elite travel hackers huddled in a private chat room could take advantage of their deal? Would a credit card company pay for an advertisement on a bloggers page and then offer a referral fee if readers of that page (more than likely a blog post describing how to take advantage of a particular deal) if they were concerned that more than just the travel hacking establishment would take them up on their offer?

          Because reality does not appear to be in your wheelhouse, the answer to the above questions should be “no”.

  14. I have always thought that the TPG TV show was going to kill the hobby. Not saying completely but a feeling it was going to change a lot… sad!

  15. I’ve been in this hobby for about 6 years. The one thing I can count on is change. Changes happen much more quickly now, I think because there are so many more blogs reaching a lot more people than when I started.

    I don’t think Southwest owed anyone any notice for the change. It was obvious that it would get shut down soon given how much coverage it received. Was there a travel hacking blog that didn’t cover the 90K SPG to Marriott package for a Companion Pass? How could any self-respecting blogger skip it?

    If anyone really wanted that Companion Pass, they could have pulled the trigger in 2016. Of course you could take a chance to wait for 2017 to get it for 2 years, but it was a gamble. So lots of people gambled and lost. Sometimes it pays not to be a sheep and do what you can when you can. My last two CPs were earned late in the year because that’s what made sense for me. I didn’t maximize the opportunity. So, shoot me.

    This will be my last year with a Companion Pass and that’s okay. Some years we used it a lot. Others not so much. Hubby and I are sitting on over a million points and miles with very little MS, no reselling anything, and very few sign-up bonuses. We traveled well and what felt like a lot to us last year, plus have most of 2017 already booked. There are still many opportunities to earn points and miles and enjoy them traveling the world. If every blogger in the U.S.hyperventilated about one deal and that over-exposed it, c’est la vie.

  16. Not to mention, just wasting time writing a post like this is very whiny and a waste of time. Just move on. Your email going to take some criticism as a blogger or online personality.

    • John I am sorry I came across as whiny. I really didn’t cover the Marriott transfer extensively here and didn’t feel attacked at all. Instead I wanted to draw out more of a conversation about this. Thanks for commenting.

  17. Respectfully, I think bloggers are at the root of the closing of many loopholes whether we are talking frequent graves programs or credit cards. Yes, there are folks who would research and act, but travels bloggers enable folks to easily understand how to exploit the system — loophole or not.

    At the same time, I have learned much from travel bloggers, and I enjoy reading about everything! But I can’t help but wonder if travel bloggers didn’t have such a readership, how many fewer rules might be in place from travels programs and cc companies?

    Bottom line…we all did it. The folks who blogged and the folks who did what the bloggers said. And we can’t blame these companies for protecting their revenue when folks try so hard to take advantage of regular policies and loopholes alike.

  18. Bloggers didn’t kill this. Heck, no one would have known about without the bloggers. It was too good to be true – and yes I did it last January and am now on my second CP year. This is how markets equalize things – when people are getting tons of free SWA travel without any direct on indirect benefits (SWA cards must provide some kind of benefit to SWA).

    Shawn is absolutely right – the traditional 2 SWA card method was blocked by 5/24, and the Marriott deal was the next best option to game the system. It’s been out there for awhile – it just wasn’t needed before. The SPG merger provided an even better method.

    SWA did not become the most profitable airline by being stupid. They had to close the door on this one. And if I were them, I would also have done it without notice. They were about to get killed by many wannabe travel hackers that didn’t spend a dime with SWA.

    It’s sad to see it go but it is part of the game – planning your cards and maximizing your options – just don’t sit on your points too long as they all eventually get devalued.

    • You’re wrong that no one would’ve known about it without bloggers. Some people figured it out on their own and others shared with folks in other ways.

  19. Sheesh, you really opened the door for whiny blogger haters. I first joined the game four years ago after hearing a story on NPR, of all places, and almost every time a deal dies, bloggers get blamed. People forget they would not have known about the deal in the first place if not for these articles so just keep doing what you do. Personally, I have no interest in SW or in their Companion Pass (it’s almost akin to getting Frontier, to me) so everyone just needs to move on….and continue reading the blogs.

  20. Agree with Dee. It was great while it lasted and I personally would not have known about it but for the bloggers. Shawn, you have dramatically improved the quality of my life the last few years and none of your detractors have. Thank you.

  21. Actually it was ALL of Us. Bloggers sure showed the way, many walked the path. And then came along CSR. Everyone lost their mind and Chase got so many new customers and gave away so many of those $600 in credits and 100k points, they actually incurred losses. They had to reevaluate every card they have including Marriotts, SouthWest, Hyatt and so on. Forcing the partners to ensure they aren’t leaking money either.

  22. The internet made and killed these deals. People share their knowledge all over the internet. Deals come and go. Keep on spending your miles and points and have fun!

  23. Pathetic article. What is up with you and Greg this week. He first links to TPG and now you post this nonsense. Cmon man I really like you two!

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