Reader Success: Chris & Jillian Nab 7-Night Aruba Honeymoon & Companion Pass

Dinner on the beach at sunset is just one of the events Chris and Jillian can look forward to for their Aruba honeymoon!

01 JANUARY 2017 UPDATE: Southwest has changed their policy such that points transferred from other loyalty programs (e.g. Marriott Rewards) will no longer count towards Companion Pass qualification, after 31 March 2017.

As I’ve written before, my favorite element of managing this site is learning of reader success stories.

Last month I shared Staci’s success story.  This month we have another success story to share and we’ll do it in the form of a guest post.

Here’s the background: Chris, a longtime reader from Maryland, made some strategic moves to turn an existing points stash and new credit card signup bonuses into an upcoming Aruba honeymoon for he and his wife, Jillian.  They got their flights and lodging nearly free, and they even earned a Southwest Companion Pass too!

I asked Chris if he would share with readers of The Honeymoon Guy the details of how he did it and he obliged!

After you finish reading Chris’ story, if you’re interested in visiting Aruba, check out my post The Ultimate Guide to an Aruba Honeymoon.

Without further ado, Chris, take it away….

As Michael wrote, my wife Jillian and I will soon be heading on an Aruba honeymoon!  We’re counting the days until we leave!

Once Upon A Time…

Marriott Rewards Credit Card
Chris acquired the Marriott Rewards card to maximize points received at Marriott hotels.

Accumulating points for our honeymoon actually started years ago, though at the time I didn’t realize it.  I hadn’t even met Jillian yet.

I was working  as a National Recruiter for Aerotek, a position which required me to travel about 90 percent of the time.

I had acquired the Chase Marriott Rewards Visa prior to starting the recruiter position.  Through the use of it for my hotel stays I was able to easily rack up Marriott rewards points.

In just a single year, I was able to accumulate over 700,000 Marriott points.

Note from THG (Updated 01 Jan 2017): As of writing, you can get the Marriott Rewards card from Chase with an 80,000 point signup bonus.

I used a significant portion of my accumulated Marriott Rewards points on a couple of small trips, a nice Tumi laptop bag and a 40 inch TV.

Note from THG: Redeeming loyalty points for products usually offers a low-value return.

Though I had used many of my points, I still had 241,000 of them.

We Started to Create and Execute a Plan

Fast forward to this year.  During the spring, as Jillian and I were planning our wedding, which was held in September, I suggested she sign up for the Chase Southwest Visa rewards card.  She acquired the card in April and we were able to easily meet the spending threshold to receive a bonus of 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

In August, I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa card.  We met the spending requirement for that card, yielding a bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points in my name.

Southwest Premier and Chase Sapphire Preferred
Jillian earned 50,000 Rapid Rewards points as a signup bonus for a Southwest card and Chris earned 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points as a signup bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Note from THG: Check out my page on The Best Travel Credit Cards for information on both the Southwest Rapid Rewards cards and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card!

Strategic Transferring Got Us a Marriott Hotel + Air Package

At this point I had started aiming for a specific Marriott redemption with a big-time payoff.  It is a combo deal of sorts – you can redeem Marriott points for the combination of a hotel stay and airline miles/points.  I had my eye on the Southwest version of that offer.
Marriott Southwest Hotel + Air Package
Marriott offers “Hotel + Air” packages that can offer great value. Chris set his sights on a package that included 7 nights lodging and Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

Here is where things got a little tricky…

Marriott was unwilling to transfer Southwest Rapid Rewards points to Jillian if I was the one redeeming Marriott points for the Hotel + Air package. I had all the Marriott Rewards points (241,000) and Jillian had all the Southwest Rapid Rewards points (60,000 at that point), so I had to figure out a way to get all of the points transferred into one of our names.

A Marriott Rewards representative informed me that I could do a one-time transfer to anyone without having to pay any fee.  So first I transferred 62,000 of my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to my Marriott Rewards account, raising that account to a total of 303,000 Marriott Rewards points.

Then I transferred all 303,000 Marriott Rewards points to an account that Jillian had just opened and she purchased an additional 17,000 Marriott Rewards points to get her to a total of 320,000 points.

eBags Cornflower Slim Packing Cubes and Anker Portable Lipstick Charger Thumbnail“Like” The Honeymoon Guy on Facebook for a 1:100 chance of winning a set of 3 eBags Packing Cubes and an Anker Portable Phone Charger.  It’s that simple!

She then redeemed those 320,000 Marriott Rewards points for Hotel + Air package!  That got us seven nights in a category nine Marriott and 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

We Also Earned A Southwest Companion Pass!

Since Jillian had already accumulated 60,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points through a credit card signup bonus and spend, the additional 50,000 Rapid Rewards points from the Hotel + Air package got her to a total of 110,000 Rapid Rewards points, the amount needed for the Southwest Companion Pass!  We had become well-versed on acquiring (and using) the Southwest Companion Pass by reading posts on this site on the topic.

01 JANUARY 2017 UPDATE from THG: Southwest appears to have changed their policy such that points transferred from other loyalty programs (e.g. Marriott Rewards) will no longer count towards Companion Pass qualification.

I Love It When A(n Aruba) Plan Comes Together

As were working toward the Hotel + Air package, we were also determining where we wanted to visit for our honeymoon.  We read The Honeymoon Guy’s post on Aruba as a honeymoon destination and realized it might be a good option for us.  As THG pointed out, Southwest flies to Aruba and there are several Marriott properties on the island.  In addition, we really liked that Aruba is far south, meaning it will be warm on the island while it is winter here in the states in January.  We have heard from THG and others that it is really laid back there so we are just looking to go to a warm relaxing destination with good options for dining out.

Marriott Stellaris Resort Aruba
Chris and Jillian are staying at the beautiful Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino for seven nights….free! Image courtesy of @narezanea

Taking all that into account we made the call for Aruba.  We booked Jillian’s flight using Southwest Rapid Rewards points.  I’m flying for free with the Companion Pass.  We’re going to stay 7 nights at the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino.  We are really excited for a top-notch and almost completely free honeymoon!

Aruba Palm Beach Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino
Chris and Jillian will soon be frolicking in the turquoise waters of Aruba! Image courtesy of @arhutchins

Commentary From The Honeymoon Guy

Chris and Jillian did an excellent job identifying their desired redemption and then smartly stepping toward it. I am very impressed!  To help others understand the approach they took, I created this graphic (click image for high-resolution version).

Marriott Hotel + Air Package Flow Chart 2 800
Chris and Jillian made strategic transfers to get them all the way to a nearly free 7-night stay at a Category 9 Marriott and a Southwest Companion Pass!

Thank you very much, Chris, for sharing your and Jillian’s story!  I wish you both sunshine and fun on your honeymoon!  I hope you enjoy every minute of it!

Have you redeemed a Hotel + Air package with Marriott?  Been to the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino?  Share your comments below!

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