Changes coming to hotels.com Welcome Rewards and the Marriott credit card?

By coincidence, two surveys from market research companies have crossed my desk in the last couple of days.  Both imply that changes may be coming to popular reward schemes.

hotels.com and Welcome Rewards

The most interesting relates to hotels.com and its Welcome Rewards loyalty schemeYou will find my introduction to Welcome Rewards here.  It is effectively ‘the hotel loyalty scheme for people who can’t be bothered with hotel loyalty schemes’.

Book 10 stays via hotels.com and their Welcome Rewards scheme will give you a credit equal to 10% of the total cost of those 10 nights.

You can use that against almost any room at almost any hotel that they sell – no black out dates, no restrictions.

(The downside is that bookings at chain hotels via hotels.com will not earn points in Hilton HHonors etc for your room rate.  Neither will you earn stay credit towards status.  Often your existing status will not be recognised either.  The only benefit you will get is points on food and beverage spend.)

A reader sent me a survey he had received from hotels.com.  It is very complex but the essence is that hotels.com is considering scrapping the current arrangement.

hotels.com

Some options suggested in the survey would require more than 10 nights to get a room credit.

In all scenarios proposed, you would NOT be able to use that credit to pay the full cost of a room.  It would only be valid for a certain percentage of the cost (say 50% or 75%).  You would be liable to pay the rest.  (You are already liable to pay the taxes and fees element of a Welcome Rewards free night.)

In return for potentially bumping up the number of nights required, hotels.com is considering allowing you to ‘buy’ extra nights.  If you had 17 nights credit and the target for a room credit was 20 nights, you could pay a fee to effectively top up your account.

Remember that, at present, this is only a proposal which hotels.com is sounding out with some members.  Given that the current scheme is arguable over-generous, I would not be surprised to see some changes.

Marriott Rewards MasterCard credit card

The Marriott Rewards credit card is the ugly duckling of the hotel credit card pack.  A poor 10,000 Marriott Rewards points sign-up bonus and a shockingly poor earnings rate of 1 Marriott point per £1 spent (equivalent to about 0.5p of value) means it has little attraction.

The only upside is the free Marriott Rewards Silver status – but that has no real benefits!  It does effectively make it easier to retain Gold or Platinum though.

marriott

The survey which I received suggests that Marriott has finally grasped the nettle.  Whilst the survey had a wide range of options, it appeared to be leaning towards a structure where the card would carry an annual fee but would come with a voucher for a free night at any Marriott property (category 1-5 only, so nothing too luxurious!).

As with hotels.com, I wouldn’t expect any immediate change – although it seemed fairly clear that change IS coming to this card.  I would not be surprised if it was taken away from Creation and handed to Barclaycard or MBNA to manage, with a full relaunch undertaken at the same time.

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Comments

  1. Not sure I would read too much into the hotels.com survey. I’ve had several over the years with various questions into which one may have read possible changes to the scheme and none of which came to pass.

  2. I really hope that hotels.com keeps their current scheme. I managed to save up 10 nights, which came in handy on holiday when we stayed at hotels off the beaten track.. ..including one hotel where our junior suite ended up being the presidential suite for two nights … it was 5,700 sq ft of pure opulence, including a dining room that sat 24.. there was only two of us :-)

  3. Massive fan of Hotels.com and its Welcome Rewards scheme; I would be deeply disappointed if there are changes made … have got a little stockpile (4) of room night credits that I would be looking to use …

    • Probably not the best idea to stockpile credits in that way, though I do tend to keep the higher value credits for use on bookings where I can get full value against them.

  4. The free Marriott night has been seen before, if obliquely.

    Raffles published a link to apply for the Marriott MasterCard with the possibility of a free night. I’ve had the 10,000 points bonus but no sign of a free night.

    Has anybody received the free night with this offer yet?

  5. I have never found earning cash back to be a problem when redeeming free nights – obviously only on the paid balance.

    I have been known to split bookings to force it use the credit against cheaper night(s) where the price varies over the course of the stay, but only to maximise the further free night credit from the paid nights and of course only where I’m still getting the full value of the credit.

    Hope they don’t devalue as it is currently my go-to option for leisure stays on the basis that it almost always offers best value without being tied to any particular chains.

  6. I was also invited to fill in the Marriott survey. Other ideas mooted were bonus points on certain categories of spend, gold status and fee-free foreign transactions. Other than the last of these none would interest me and I wouldn’t be willing to pay a fee for any of them.

    Unless the earnings rate is vastly improved then the card holds very little appeal. Maybe moving to Barclays or MBNA and becoming an Amex would allow this to happen.

    • I took the survey as well. The fee-free foreign transactions would be a very attractive addition for me, plus a bump to Gold status as I am not staying enough nowadays to qualify for Gold myself. The other items – free nights in a cat 1-5, extra points for certain types of spend – less so. I carry the card now to pay for Marriott when staying there, as it is free and thus costs me nothing to carry. Unless they go fee-free foreign transactions, might be hard to consider keeping the card if they charge a fee.

  7. Will be disappointed to see a change in Welcome Rewards for the negative. The scheme is indeed generous & a great reason to use Hotels.com for business & leisure. Have benefited from many free nights.

  8. Would be very disappointing to see the Welcome Rewards program change, as I like it a lot (and you can read the reasons why on my blog: http://wp.me/p4d1XU-1lg). I was also invited to fill in the Hotels.com survey as well, but it also included some possible changes that would increase the value of the program. So I guess we will have to wait and see what happens …

    • I received the Hotels.com survey (being conducted by IPSOS) but the version I received certainly didn’t contain any great positive changes, other than the ability to top up nights (and a proactive price guarantee, i.e. if your room rate drops they auto-refund the difference) but these were all offset by increases to the number of nights for a free room and a potential % redemption fee.

      As a reference point for others having completed older surveys this one was very specific about changes under consideration to WR, they presented perhaps 3 different options against 4 slides – 12 scenarios in all and asked for a % impact on your hotel buying decision.

      If I had to guess I would say hotels.com has grown to a point where it is having an impact its parent, Expedia, who don’t offer such generous rebates and therefore cannibalising profits.

      As you rightly say we will have to wait and see what happens but there is a real risk in stockpiling rooms (same as with any loyalty currency really!)

  9. They expire after 12 months of no activity.

  10. Depending what the spending threshold is, a night every year via the Marriott card could potentially be great. This is a massive advantage of the IHG card over the Hilton card at the moment – Hilton only give you status for £10k spend while the same spend on the IHG card can be worth a small fortune. If the scheme is ever handed to Barclaycard, I hope they do a better job than they have with IHG.

  11. I wonder what hotels.com could offer if they were to do there own credit card…

  12. Just for reference, the Hotels.com survey has done the rounds for over a year now. I’ve had something similar back in April 2013, September 2013 and again in April this year looking at my emails. If changes are looming, they haven’t exactly been swift!

  13. Likewise I am also a big fan of the Welcome Rewards scheme.

    I took part in a medium term online opinion project with them earlier in the year, and based on what the 100 or so participants were saying, WR was one of the key things that attracted them to choose hotels.com over others.

    Of course, there are no guarantees, but I think they would lose out big time if they significantly devalued WR. And that was also the vibe that the hotels.com facilitators were giving too.

  14. Lady London says:

    I’ve found Agoda to be excellent especially for Asia and in that region regularly beats hotels.com by a very decent margin. In Europe they seem to be less strong and their price lineup looks like it might be taken from another site similar to expedia.

  15. OT – have tesco stopped stocking 3v visa? My local and a few other i visited have been out of stock for 3 weeks…

    • They still stock them but they certainly aren’t being replenished at the rate they once were at the height of NS&I.

      Experience from the ‘old days’ says that they seem to print and distribute the cards only every few months – so if you are out locally you may be in for a wait in months rather than weeks until the next wave is distributed nationally. It sounds like you have one or more people local to you that is still able to put them to a profitable use.

      • Thanks Blenz, unfortunately i could do with a batch right about now :)

        Sadly i only found HfP in the Christmas holidays so i just missed out on the NS&I bonanza!