Reacting to the Latest SW Companion Pass News

I've written about Southwest's Companion Pass on several occasions in the past, since I think it's one of the best travel deals out there. Recently, Southwest had announced that hotel point transfers will no longer count towards qualification for the Companion Pass, a few days later, they made a partial backtrack, giving us until the end of the first quarter of 2017 to make the transfers. Here, I'll discuss what I decided to do with this information, with regards to the points I had stockpiled for a Marriott Hotel + Air Package.

The backstory

Even before Southwest put the dagger into the hearts of many miles/points churners on January 1st, I had been considering using my points transfer to receive Alaska or United miles as part of a Marriott Hotel + Air Package.

I was leaning heavily towards getting the Hotel + Air Package that included 120,000 Southwest miles on January 1st, since that would immediately qualify me for the SW Companion Pass for all of 2017 and 2018, but Southwest understood my plan (and presumably that of many others) to maximize the pass benefit for a full two years. They waited until the very day that would make the most sense to redeem for this package, leaving many scrambling for backup options.

Luckily, I had already written my previous post, where I identified what I feel to be the 2 best alternatives to the Southwest Companion Pass play. As I was forced to consider those alternatives further, I realized that they really weren't that bad. In fact, if you have no into of flying to any of the tropical destinations serviced by Southwest, or you're hoping to fly premium class products, there's really not much reason to have miles and the companion pass with Southwest.

What I'm doing

Despite the fact that I am looking to move into more business-class travel, there's no getting around the value-proposition of essentially doubling the travel-potential of miles with a companion pass. What's more, Southwest flights can be cancelled at any time leading up to the flight, allowing for speculative booking, last-minute adjustments, and general de-stressing of the award-booking process. Finally, I have found that Southwest often has the best redemption values for many routes across the US and the tropics (I just researched a spring break trip to Costa Rica for 2 people for 19k miles, round-trip!). It's an unbeatable combination of perks for me, so I just went all-in!

It took just three minutes by phone to convert my 270,000 Marriott points into a Hotel + Air Package that includes 7 nights at any Marriott Cat 1-5 hotel and 120,000 Southwest miles. The post I referenced earlier looks at the best Cat 5 and 6 redemptions, which is useful because you can always add an extra 30,000 Marriott points later to bump up to a higher award category.

The Bottom Line

If you have a stash of Marriott Hotel points, it's time to cash out for a Marriott travel package. My redemption netted me a SW Companion Pass for all of 2017 and 2018 + 120,000 Southwest miles. Combining the two benefits of this redemption generates $3,200 in free flights. Oh, and lets not forget the 7-night stay in a Marriott, from which I expect to extract about $1,000 of value. The total value of the package works out to about 1.5 cents-per-point, whereas typical Marriott redemptions are worth more like 0.5-0.7cpp!

New Year's Eve and Other Events that Make Hotel Points More Valuable

When valuing hotel points, it's often easy to accept that you won't be getting anywhere near the same redemption numbers as with airline miles. Hilton points are mostly redeemed at 0.4-0.6 cents-per-point and IHG at 0.5-0.7cpp, and so on. Where these values tend to skew favorably is when the hotel's rates are abnormally high because of special events occurring in the area. Today, we'll take a look at this opportunity for point-value maximization by sampling New Year's Eve options and list other potential event opportunities.

New Year's Eve Redemptions by Hotel Group

For our NYE sample, we'll look at a two-night stay from December 30th-January 1st and compare it to a January 20th-22nd stay. While this is by no means a perfect method for comparing the price-difference between a normal stay and a popular event stay, it's a decent starting point. Rather than follow a strict formula for picking properties, I'll try to use examples that best assess each hotel group's sweet spots and shortcomings.

Hilton Hotels

Hilton Hotels in New York City: NYC has the most notable, if not the best NYE celebration in the United States, and less than a month out, many Hilton properties are still available on points, even for our short stay of two nights (sometimes thanks to my Hilton Diamond status). For example, Hilton Time Square quoted me $2200 for our two-night sample stay or 160,000 Hilton Honors points. That may sound like a lot of points, but they're not really that hard to come by and this reflects a redemption value of 1.38cpp instead of the paltry 0.29cpp ($400/140k) offered three weeks later. It is hard to create a higher redemption value than that with Hilton points. There are half-a-dozen Manhattan Hilton properties still available on points.

Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City: Okay, so I said it would be hard to create a higher cents-per-point valuation than the NYC redemption, but this hotel is always a sweet spot on the Hilton award chart. For 10k HHonors points per night, you can locate yourself right in the center of the action, next to the main square of the largest city in the world. Price for our two sample dates were $300 (1.5cpp) for New Years and for the January dates, making this a great opportunity any time!

In the event that you need Diamond elite status to override minimum stay lengths for busy travel dates, know that it's pretty easy to status-match from another program. I did it through this method, although currently the offer is only for 90 days of status. Hilton seems to offer a few good opportunities per year, so keep your ear to the ground for those moments!

Hyatt Hotels

Cartagena Hyatt Regency: It's no secret I'm coveting a visit to this brand new property, since I wrote about it last month. At $696 or 16k Hyatt points, this hotel is an impressive 4.3cpp redemption for NYE! Even though Colombia is still in its summer high season, moving that stay three weeks into January reduces the price to $418/16k points or 2.6cpp, which is more in-line with typical Hyatt redemptions.

Hyatt Hotels in New Orleans: Both the Hyatt Regency and Hyatt House were going for more than $400 per night, but point redemptions were not available on those dates. It's not clear whether this is because we are so late to the game, or if they blackout those dates. I would guess the latter, since Hyatt Regency houses Big Night New Orleans (which I attended last year!). Hyatt Place was available on points when I searched, but is poorly located for festivities and isn't a great redemption value.

Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG)

IHG Hotels in San Francisco: It seems IHG hotels are not quite the NYE value that other hotel groups can be, with Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fisherman's Wharf coming in at $610/80k points (0.76cpp) for our NYE stay or $450/80k points (0.56cpp) in January. Both Intercontinental San Francisco and Mark Hopkins Intercontinental were going for just better than 0.5cpp, which I wouldn't even do as a normal redemption, although there's over $300 value to be had in using a free night certificate for one of those properties. In fact, the free night at any IHG property worldwide that every Chase IHG cardholder receives as an anniversary bonus is probably the best way to leverage any higher-end IHG property NYE award redemption.

One thing to note about IHG hotels, particularly the Intercontinental properties, is that I often found New Year's Eve to be sold out of points stays in multiple cities, while the days around it never were. This was not the case in our San Francisco example, but the general trend leads me to believe that these properties just capacity-controlled NYE to where very few people could take advantage of a points stay.

Marriott Hotels & Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)

Sheraton Times Square Hotel: This hotel, as is the case with a number of other SPG hotels in NYC is going for about 5cpp for our NYE sample dates. Normally, I'd expect 2-3cpp for SPG points, so this is definitely a good opportunity if you don't have a better use for those points (more on that later). Our January price-check saw the same properties, such as this Sheraton, going for about 1/3 the NYE rate, but then again, it is January in the Northeast!

New York Marriott Marquis: I went straight to the best redemption rate I could find, and it certainly is a good one for this NYE booking. At $2,200/90k points for our two-night NYE stay, this hotel is offers us more than 2.4cpp redeeming Marriott rewards points. Since Marriott has recently purchased Starwood and is offering 3:1 exchange for SPG points, you can directly compare the valuation of this Marriott hotel to the Sheraton Times Square. By transferring SPG to Marriott, you'd get $2,200/30k for a valuation of approximately 7.3cpp in SPG points and the Marriott Marquis also gets the better reviews online for what that's worth.

By using Marriott or SPG points, you could achieve 3x their normal value, but there may be an even better redemption. If you've been following along here at Thorpe Travel, you'll remember that I find Marriott Hotel + Air Packages to be just about the best deal in town. If not, go have a look at this post, where you'll learn how to parlay your hotel points into airline miles and still get yourself a nice week-long stay.

Wyndham Hotels

Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront: This hotel would make a strong 1.5cpp redemption at NYE prices ($450/30k points for our two nights), but the date is blacked out. It's quite possible that some people managed to snag the booking by planning further ahead, as 2 nights tied into 4th of July are readily available for $620/30k points for a redemption value of nearly 2.1cpp. That's a tremendous redemption value and one could argue that date is a better time to be in Chicago anyway! Just for kicks, I checked our January 20-22 dates and the property was bookable for $250/30k points, or a little bit less than 1cpp, so that 4th of July booking creates double the average value.

Wyndham International Properties: I looked at both all-inclusive properties in Cancun and several other locations without finding availability on NYE, so my guess is that the availability was probably there at some point, but is less than what these properties would make bookable on a run-of-the-mill evening. In general, it seems the key to maxing value on your Wyndham redemptions involves planning ahead.

For those of you not as familiar with Wyndham Rewards, it's a newer program, whereby most any property held by Wyndham is available for a flat rate of 15k points per night. Translation: great values at the higher end properties and terrible values at their lower brands like Days Inn or Super8. You can currently get enough points for three nights by signing up for the Barclay Wyndham Rewards credit card and if you need some inspiration, here's the DOC's list of Wyndham Properties.

Other ideas for high-value hotel award redemption opportunities

  • Major sporting events
  • Location-specific festivals
  • High-season tourism destinations
  • National holidays
  • Conventions and other shared-interest gatherings

The Bottom Line

While we've only just scratched the surface of maximizing our hotel point values by booking during high-occupancy occasions such as New Year's Eve, I think it's quite clear that there are some major opportunities to be found. Even with just 3 weeks until NYE, I was able to find award space at most of the major hotel groups for stays in high-interest NYE destinations and unearthed stays that would triple the value of your points.

Given this data, it seems prudent to consider booking cash on low-occupancy dates if you know you'll need a hotel during a big event. Of course, your valuations will change if you hang onto your points through a program devaluation, so keep that in mind, too.

 

How to Earn Major Free Travel Money with Barclay Travel Community

Recently, I was perusing my favorite travel hacker websites and came across a Milevalue post about the Barclay Travel Community. When you post short travel stories to the community board, you earn points redeemable for Amazon e-certs, but if you also have the Arrival+ credit card, you benefits can really start to add up. In this post, I'll go deeper to explain the potential of combining Barclay Travel Community stories with the Barclay Arrival+ card to earn serious travel play money!

The Travel Community Point-Earning Basics

  • Write a 100+ word story (+1 photo) and you receive 150 points
  • Add up to 25 "details" to that story for 10 points each
  • Every "kudos" you get from member is an additional 10 points
  • You can write up to 100 stories per month, but only 5 per city/state/country ever

The way it's typically been described by most bloggers who have written on the topic, you should write a story, add 3 details, and hope you get some kudos every once in a while. That's going to earn you about 180-200 points per story. Let's say you wrote 10 stories like that per month, you would earn approximately 2000 points, which equates to $20 in Barclay Arrival+ points, redeemable for travel charges to the card. Walking this equation out to 1 year, you would earn about $240 worth of free travel for an hour per month of reminiscing about your travels. Sounds pretty good, right?

Barclaycard Travel Community on Expert Mode

If you do as much travel as me, there is much more potential to this program than just a couple hundred dollars per year in travel credits. While other bloggers have written a bit about the program, I'm going to dig deeper and give you a specific outline for serious earning. Here's the system I plan to employ, step-by-step:

  1. Sign up for the Barclay Arrival+ if you don't already have it - This travel hack really only works well if you stack the participation points earned in the travel community with the credit card. In addition, the card has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus right now, so that's an extra $500 in travel money!
  2. Write 100 stories each month - Pick 20 cities you know best and start there. Write 5 stories per city, focusing on a specific topic so that as the months go on you will still have things to write about. The city/state/country limit makes this tough, but in practice I have been able to select counties and districts within the same area as the city I am talking about, so that's your workaround. If you complete just this step, you will earn 15,000 points or $150 in travel money per month for about 8 hours of work.
  3. Add value with details - After you have completed your stories, go back and add as many details as time allows. Since the stories take time, don't bother with the details unless you have more than 8 or 9 hours per month to spend (more on why later). I was able to bang out 2 details per minute and feel I could probably write about 6 details per story without working too hard. A good method for this would be to make a list of easy details to add to any story (every story could include info about which metro is nearby, where you ate and stayed, etc.). Adding six details per story equals 600 details per month for an additional 6,000 points.
  4. Build a kudos machine - Perhaps the most interesting possibility for adding value where other bloggers have not written is in the extra 10 points per kudos. You don't have to be an Arrival+ cardholder to have a Barclay Travel Community account, so there's no reason you couldn't enlist some friends, find other enthusiastic community members, (or let your multiple personalities chime in). If you got 10 kudos per story, that would add an additional 10,000 points per month, worth $100 in travel. How long would it take for ten accounts to sign in and essentially push the like button over and over? Not long at all.

Adding It All Up to Rake in the Arrival+ Points

Here's my math for the system I just suggested:

15,000 + 6,000 + 10,000 = 31,000 Arrival+ points per month

8 hours + 5 hours + 1 hour = 14 hours of work per month

31,000/14 = 2,214 points per hour or $22.14 per hour

And here's why I did the steps in that specific order:

15,000 points/8 hours = 1,875 points per hour

6,000 points/5 hours = 1,200 points per hour

10,000 points/1 hour = 10,000 points per hour

The least efficient point-earning opportunity here is adding details and the most profitable is getting kudos. Therefore, getting stories up quickly so you can maximize the kudos opportunity is the first priority and details are really just a lower-value add-on. However, if you are 100% sure you're going to hit 100 stories per month, it might make sense to add a few details while writing stories, just so you don't have to click back and re-acquaint yourself with the story later.

The Bottom Line 

While I think it would be difficult to keep this earning strategy up year after year, by combining the Arrival+ signup bonus of 50,000 points with the 31,000 points per month from the travel community, you could earn 422,000 Arrival+ points in the first year, netting you $4,220 in free travel credits, which could be used for flights, hotels, Airbnb, Uber, and on and on!

ht: Milevalue.com

Efficient Ways to Meet Minimum Spend on Credit Cards

Sometimes, good credit card bonus offers come one right after another. For others, normal monthly expenditures don't hit the required minimum spend needed to trigger credit card sign-up bonuses within the first three months. Whatever your scenario, this post will look into some common-sense methods for achieving minimum spend organically, and also what to do if your spending needs a little artificial boost to get over the hump!

How to meet minimum spend organically

This one might seem obvious, but start by using your credit card for EVERYTHING! Many people reach for their debit cards, thinking about their bank balances, but as long as you pay your credit card balance in full every month, they are functionally the same.

Even if you already use your credit card for regular expenditures like groceries and dining out, you could be leaving lots of "spend" on the table. Many recurring bills, such as cable, utilities, and insurance payments can be credit card without a fee.

If you've got a large minimum spend requirement to meet, you could even pay some bills ahead of time, or purchase gift cards for stores that you know you visit consistently (i.e. grocery stores, your favorite restaurant, gas stations, office supply and hardware stores). Often times, these gift cards can be purchased at a discount from sites like cardpool.com and raise.com, which will help you save money at the same time!

Another way to meet those higher minimum spends organically is to time signing up for that particular card to coincide with a large upcoming expense. About to order books for a new semester at school? Have an expensive dental procedure coming up? Off-set the pain by hitting that minimum spend and netting some serious miles and points!

How to increase credit card spend to earn sign-up bonuses

Exhausted all the "organic" methods for meeting minimum spend thresholds but still falling short? This is where you might need to consider a small expense for a big miles or points payday. While I generally operate on the principle that it's not good to spend money solely for the purpose of getting miles and points (which are not as valuable or flexible as cash), some opportunities are totally worth it.

For example, I recently paid a property tax bill for a 2.4% fee. This fee cost me $71 but I earned $460 worth of points towards travel. Since I had specific travel plans in mind for those points, they were about as good as cash to me, which means I profited $389 by meeting the minimum spend in one transaction.

An even better tax payment opportunity is income tax. There are several processing companies approved by the IRS to take your credit card payment of income tax for a fee of 1.87-2%. At that rate, it almost makes sense to pay that way even if you won't be hitting a sign-up bonus threshold, since some cards offer up to 2% cash-back.

If you don't have tax payments to make, you can buy gift cards issued by Visa, AMEX, etc. for a small fee. These cards essentially function like debit cards. In the past, it was easy to load those cards back into various accounts without ever using them, but now you'll probably need to just use them as your main form of payment in the month or two after you hit that tricky minimum spend.

A final option, which is easy, but a little more expensive (2-3%) is to send money to a friend or spouse via electronic payment systems like Venmo or Paypal, or to use Plastiq.com to pay your rent, mortgage, or other bills that typically require a check to be written. Plastiq periodically offers a 1.75% promo rate for using your Mastercard with their site, so that's something to watch.

The Bottom Line

While it's probably good to keep your credit card sign-up spend requirements to a level you can hit without thinking too much, there are times when the reward is worth the effort and sometimes even a bit of cash outlay. In these cases, you can rely on this list of options to increase credit card spend, both organically and artificially to get that big bonus.

Want to know more about getting miles and points by the thousands to reduce the cost of travel? Check out The Miles + Points Primer, a free guide I've written to help beginners on the path to travel freedom!

Best Options for Maximizing a Marriott Travel Package

Renaissance Tuscany Il Cioccio Resort & Spa

Renaissance Tuscany Il Cioccio Resort & Spa

Today, news is spreading across the miles and points community that Starwood's SPG points can be converted at a rate of 1:3 to Marriott rewards points as a result of the merger passing Chinese regulations. This means that if you've got a stockpile of SPG points, you have a good shot at maximizing their value by purchasing a Marriott Travel Package (Hotel + Air Package).

Marriott Hotel + Air Package Strategies

These packages allow you to convert Marriott rewards points into 7 nights in a Marriott hotel plus the airline miles you might need to get there. In practice, miles and points hobbyists have used these packages to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, which is granted to those who earn 110,000 or more Southwest miles in a single year. After nearly two years with the Companion Pass I have saved over $3,000 on Southwest flights and here's how I redeemed the Marriott Travel Package.

I believed the best value for these packages would always be triggering the Companion Pass by taking Southwest Rapid Rewards miles, but now, with a second opportunity to cash in Marriott points for a Hotel + Air Package, I'm having trouble deciding between three options:

  1. Redeem 270,000 Marriott points for 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards (which essentially becomes 240,000 miles because my companion will always fly free) and a 7-night stay at a Cat 1-5 Marriott.
  2. Redeem 270,000 Marriott points for 132,000 United Mileage Plus points (enough to fly internationally to a place where higher quality Marriott Cat 1-5's exist) and a 7-night stay at a Cat 1-5 Marriott.
  3. Redeem 270,000 Marriott points for 120,000 Alaska Air Miles (because I find them to be easier to use for flights I actually want) and a 7-night stay at a Cat 1-5 Marriott.

Another variation of these options I'm considering is adding 30,000 more Marriott points to stay at a Category Six Marriott instead, which opens up more luxurious options. In the next sections, I will provide some samples of what's available in these two categories of redemption, including starting prices as a means of estimating savings (most of the time these hotels will cost much more, resulting in even greater savings).

Category Five Marriott Hotels

Most Cat 1-5 Marriotts in the US are nothing to write home about and even abroad, only the Cat 5 properties really have any appeal to me. Here are some of the best finds I've made for my needs at the Cat 5 redemption level:

Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino - From $151 per night and a great option for a Caribbean getaway outside the hurricane belt.

Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino Panama City - From $130 per night in a gateway city with lots of cheap flights. The hotel is very modern and gets phenomenal reviews.

JW Marriott Hotel Bogota - From $180 per night. One of Bogota's leading hotels, the second-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor, and central to all the city attractions.

AC Hotel Cuitat de Palma - From $140 per night on the Spanish Island of Mallorca. Located right in the city center.

AC Hotel Ciutat de Palma

AC Hotel Ciutat de Palma

Category Six Marriott Hotels

In addition to a number of good international redemption options, Cat 6 on the Marriott hotel chart opens up some excellent domestic redemptions as well:

JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City - From $170 per night, well-located, and extremely highly reviewed. Mexico City has tons of tourist opportunities and is also a gateway to Central and South America as part of a longer trip.

AC Hotel Diagonal L'Illa Barcelona - From $160 per night and centrally located, although it does appear to be more of a business hotel.

Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel - From $150 per night with a stunning rooftop pool and easy metro access.

Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel

Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel

Courtyard Paris Boulogne - From $125 per night and very highly reviewed.

Renaissance Tuscany Il Cioccio Resort & Spa - From $145 per night, the perfect launch-point for a week of bike training in Tuscany and in day-trip proximity to Pisa and Florence.

Denver Marriott City Center - From $180 per night and well-located. An excellent value for a major US city with plenty to do for a week.

Renaissance Austin Hotel - From $185 per night and stunning. Austin has plenty to do and this represents another excellent redemption value.

MOXY New Orleans Downtown/French Quarter - From $115 per night, new and hip. We already used a Marriott Travel Package in NOLA to celebrate NYE, but Mardi Gras might be fun, too!

MOXY New Orleans

MOXY New Orleans

Hacking Hertz Points for Exponential Value + Why the Other Bloggers are Wrong

beach.jpg

Recently, a lot of miles and points bloggers have been writing about transferring Hertz rewards points to Southwest Miles. The new transfer option is 600 Hertz points = 1,200 Southwest miles. I have to say, I don't think this value is anything to get to excited about. This post will give you the math to prove it and provide better alternatives.

Assessing the value of Hertz points transferred to Southwest

Let's operate under the assumption that I have 5,500 Hertz points. If I transferred 5,400 points I'd receive 10,800 Southwest miles, which is definitely enough for some roundtrip flights. For example, I managed to snag a one-way fare from PDX to LAX for 2,500 Southwest miles over spring break week.

Theoretically, that's up to four segments of flying for free! Sounds good so far, right? Well, not exactly. Southwest miles have a relatively fixed value of about 1.5 cents-per-mile (since you got two Southwest miles per Hertz point, that's 3cpp in value for your Hertz points). At that valuation, 5,500 Hertz points is worth $162 in Southwest flights. Most flights are more than that amount, just for one segment, so unless you're flying short-haul or you jump on a great sale price like I did, you're unlikely to get anything appreciable out of this transfer unless you have a TON of Hertz points.

Now let's assess some regular Hertz redemptions in the US and see what values they yield

Beginning assumptions: We will only redeem Hertz points for "standard" as opposed to "everyday" redemptions. Finding obscure routes that offer good value is less important than creating good value from common routes.

  • Premium car for a one-week rental: 2,750

One great redemption value is the week-long rental of any compact through premium vehicle. In this case, a week rented from SFO later this month would cost $640 when all is said and done. Even the compacts were going for over $400 per week.

Instead, use Hertz points and you can have a week of these cars for free...twice! That's a value of up to $1,280 or 23 cents-per-point. 

  • Premium car for a one-way, one-day rental: 1,325

Let's say you booked a cheap international flight for a family of four, but you need to reposition from SFO to LAX after you land. A one-day, one-way rental would cost $325, which is much cheaper than four short-haul tickets between the cities. Instead, use 1,325 points from a premium rental and get 23.6cpp. Don't forget to stop in Santa Barbara along the way!

  • Premium car for a one-way, one-week rental: 5,500

The cheapest car I could find for a trip down the California Coast from SFO to LAX would cost $1,100. Instead, use those 5,500 points for a value of 20cpp. You'll also get a premium car instead of a compact, making your journey much more comfortable.

  • Convertible car for a one-week rental: 4,000

Even using the "pay now" option, which puts you on the hook should your plans change, means shelling out nearly $900 for a week in a convertible. Instead, use 4,000 Hertz points for a value of 22.5cpp. My wife and I did something similar on the California Coast a few years back!

  • Hertz Prestige/Adrenaline Collection for a two-day weekend rental: 3,300

After you make it down to Los Angeles, you'd still have enough points left over to splurge on a sexy vehicle from the Hertz Adrenaline or Prestige Collections. Although some cars are excluded, this 435 horse-power Mustang GT looks like fun! At 3,300 points for the weekend, this point redemption is less efficient (like the 5.0 liter engine under the hood), but still produces a value of more than 10cpp.

UPDATE 3/16/16: Reader "Bin" brought up an excellent point that had previously escaped my analysis. We must factor in paying for tax and fees out-of-pocket, as Hertz points only cover the vehicle cost. This changes our numbers, but not the initial premise. For example, the Mustang GT example was the lowest redemption value for Hertz points, but would still yield 9cpp, which is more than the best-case-scenario with Southwest transfers.

Why you shouldn't follow bloggers blindly

Having more options for redeeming points is always good, so yes, of course, we should be aware of the Southwest transfer option. However, let's take an example from the blogosphere to show the perversion of this particular idea.

Every spring, the US Travel Association puts on an event called "Daily Getaways," whereby a limited number of travel packages are put on offer at a discounted rate. The Hertz package has consistently been hyped as one of the better options (and I agree). Here's what was offered last year:

Using the prevailing blogger advice on this Daily Getaway and the Southwest transfer option would result in purchasing $162-worth of Southwest flights for $252. Thanks, but I'll pass.

The Bottom Line

We're all looking for creative ways to manipulate points and miles for valuable travel benefits, but this one just doesn't really make much sense unless you never rent a car (in which case, you probably don't have Hertz points). Even the least-efficient example of redeeming hertz points directly still worked out to be 9cpp versus the 3cpp for Southwest flights.

Let's go one step further and mention that, since I have the Southwest Companion Pass, my wife flies free. This effectively makes the Southwest redemption 6cpp, but still comes nowhere near the 20cpp+ we can do with a smart car rental redemption.

Beyond the inefficiency of using Hertz points for flights instead of travel, there are many more opportunities to earn free flights than there are to earn free car rentals. I haven't paid straight cash for a flight in almost five years, but at least once or twice a year I pony up for a car rental.

My goal is to create a balanced portfolio of miles, points, and other cost deferring options that will eventually allow my wife and I to go "cost-neutral" on our vacations. We're already getting tantalizingly close to this reality and to really make it happen, Hertz points are just too valuable to squander on flights we can get with other methods.