Why Hotels.com Rewards may be better for you than hotel loyalty schemes

Yesterday I reviewed a stay at the Park Hyatt Hamburg which I paid for using a Hotels.com Rewards free night.

I said that I would take a longer look today at Hotels.com Rewards and why, for some people, it may be a better option than focussing on chain loyalty schemes.

Each of the big hotel schemes (IHG Rewards Club, Hilton HHonors etc) offers a different mix of status benefits, points earning and points redeeming features. Which is the best for you is very dependant on where and how you stay and where and how you redeem.

There is another option, though.  A lot of people end up, by choice or by default, splitting their stays across a number of different chains. They do a lot of nights, but never enough to build up status or a decent number of points.  For these people, Hotels.com Rewards may be a better way to go.

Hotels.com Rewards reviewed

Hotels.com (which is actually owned by Expedia) will be familiar to most readers.  It should be, given that they gave me a £500 gift voucher to give away in a HFP competition a few weeks ago!

You won’t find hotels.com much cheaper than booking a hotel directly. When a property is part of a bigger chain with a ‘Best Rate Guarantee’, you can be certain it won’t be cheaper. However, the majority of the properties on the site count for ‘Hotels.com Rewards’ (285,000 hotels, which is about 10 times more than all of the ‘big seven’ loyalty schemes combined!)

Hotels.com Rewards (their home page is here) – previously known as Welcome Rewards – is an idiot-proof loyalty scheme:

You earn 1 point for every night you book, whatever the chain.

When you have got 10 points, you get a free night.

The value of the free night is the average price you paid for those 10 nights.

Your points don’t expire as long as you have one stay every 12 months.

There aren’t any catches when you redeem. You can pick any property on Hotels.com that takes part in Hotels.com Rewards (ie most of them) and you can pay the difference if you want to book a hotel which is more expensive than the value of your free night voucher.

There is a lot of upside here:

ALL of your stays (assuming the hotels you book are in Hotels.com Rewards and most of the 285,000 are) will count towards free nights. No more ‘wasted’ stays.

Your free night can be used to book any room on hotels.com. Most reward schemes restrict the ability to book club rooms, suites, family room etc. That is not a problem with Hotels.com Rewards.

When travelling, you are free to stay at the hotel which is most convenient for where you need to be – no need to mess around with badly reviewed properties or out of the way hotels purely to find one in your favourite chain.

What is the snag?

Well, the main one is that you will not earn points with the hotel itself (you may earn points on food and drink spend charged to your room).

Some hotels – Hyatt and Marriott are the most lenient – WILL usually, as a goodwill gesture, let you have your normal elite benefits.  Other chains will not. And, in any event, you would soon lose all of your hotel status cards if you shifted all of your spending to hotels.com.

(Hotels.com Rewards does have its own status programme, of sorts. Do 10 nights in a year and you become a Silver member albeit with no hard benefits. Do 30 nights and you become Gold which promises access to ‘exclusive deals’).

For a lot of travellers, it is also impractical. If you have a company travel agent, it is unlikely that you will be allowed to book via Hotels.com. You would need to be self-employed or working for a company which gives you a lot of flexibility in making your own travel arrangements.

The key point to take away about Hotels.com Rewards, however, is that you should have a serious think about whether you would be better off taking their free nights instead of collecting points in specific hotel schemes.

Bits: £10 cashback at Manchester Airport, double PartnerPlusBenefit points, Dinner In The Sky
Random thoughts: T5 Fast Track, Zipcar by the mile, why I'm moving to Paris for 5 days!
About Head for Points

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  1. Love Hotels.com

    I book a lot of rooms for myself & other people (Think im Silver), as I often get a ‘Secret Price’ which is usually 10% off.

    Unlike other promos they allow that to be used with their welcome rewards.

    So is a good win-win, I get 10% back (As rewards) / people I book for get 10% off.

    • The secret price is a marketing gimmick you get a similar discount by going though top cashbook where you can’t get the secret price as you’ve not clicked through the secret price link.

      That being said I use them a lot but only after they’ve been the cheapest or close to it, factoring the 1 night free discount, which is effectively 10% off your 11th booking.

    • Search led me here but no joy. I am on Hotels.com. I have 2 free nights. I have spent a half an hour just trying to figure out how to redeem a night. Seems they don’t want you to redeem your nights. THe help says to use the rewards filter, with no link to it, and I see no such filter. As if I even knew what a filter was. They are intentionally making it difficult so I cannot recommend them.

      • Book as normal, when you get to the pay part tick the use rewards box, it’s very easy and a great scheme. Often Avios have offers of using hotels.com for additional earning if you click through. Usually two offers, one for with rewards and one for without. Personally I much prefer it to a chain loyalty scheme, it just suits me, maybe not for all but it certainly works and I don’t accept it’s difficult.

  2. James A says:

    Also they are currently offering 12 miles per £ spent via Virgin shops away. That’s a lot of miles!

    • Genghis says:

      Good spot. Do we know if that stacks with the reward night offer though?

      • Yeah, it does. I’ve been waiting for the 12 points per £1 offer to book my hotels in Thailand for 3 weeks. It’s a good 12000 points and hotels.com rates are comparable to everywhere else so easy money.

  3. I got to 9 nights last year and couldn’t find a reason for a 10th.

    Just out of interest does the free night need to be used in the same year it was accrued?

    The Hyatt and Marriott status honouring may be a game changer for me!

    • Frenske says:

      Due to the birth of my daughter my 2 free nights were expiring and I just booked a £1 hotel somewhere in Vietnam to reset the expiration date. You can do the same to get to 10 nights.

      • I thought it was within a definitive 12 month period?

      • What’s to stop you booking 10x £1 nights in Vietnam then?

        • Genghis says:

          And getting a £1 night back?

          • Does it work that way? If so, how could you get (say) 9x normal UK rate hotels + 1x £1 Vietnam room = 1x free stay somewhere good?

            • Raffles says:

              That will work, if you have 9 x £100 nights and a £1 hostel you get a free night credit of £90.10, adjusted for taxes etc.

            • Harry – as in the article, “the value of the free night is the average price you paid for those 10 nights” so 9 x £1 Vietnam stays and 1 £150 UK stay might get you somewhere good…in Vietnam.

            • I see – if employer paying, you might go for (say) 6x £175 + 4x £1 to earn yourself a £105 credit

      • Don’t you have to actually make the stay? Or does a no-show still reset the counter?

        I let a pile of 8 nights expire last year because I figured it wasn’t worth paying for a night I didn’t need just to get 1 free night. Didn’t think of looking for something in Vietnam!

        • Raffles says:

          No-shows seem to be OK in odd parts of the world where hotels.com probably doesn’t fully rely on local IT – or where the owner checks you in anyway to ensure he is paid in full.

        • Hotels.com don’t care if you stay or not if you’ve pre-paid. No-shows would work anywhere.

  4. I have claimed under their price match scheme numerous times and they’ve always settled promptly and without any fuss. Definitely recommend.

  5. Frenske says:

    A word of warning not all hotels allow you to redeem the free night. Roughly only about 1 in 3 or 4 does.

  6. James King says:

    I agree with Frenske that redeeming is not as easy as you make it sound in that most of the smaller hotels do not allow you to redeem nights, only collect them. Having said that, I still think the hotels.com loyalty programme is good.

  7. Alistair says:

    It’s my first choice for out of the way places. Not all hotels allow redeeming the free night. Also carefully read fine print on voucher codes. Often using a discount code means no reward night credit, so a 5% voucher might not be worth it. On the other hand, I’ve seen a few “double reward nights” promos which is very attractive.

    • Raffles says:

      That is true. I have been messed about by hotels.com myself on that when they have encouraged me to mention a discount code on here without telling me it would invalidate readers free night credit (which HFP readers want!).

  8. Not a buyer myself. Hotels are increasingly holding back benefits if you don’t book direct and offer better/exclusive prices to their own members during sales.

    If you do want to go down this route, check out cheaptickets.com – also owned by Expedia but which offers a perennial 18% discount once you get on their mailing list. The hotels are priced in USD and exclude taxes on the first page but they have some bargains in there (I was offered South Place nr Moorgate for under £200 on a week night, before the 18% discount).

  9. Andrew Stock says:

    Dont forget Hotels.com is on Top Cash Back at present with 9.09% cash back via a mobile device.

  10. I have a feeling that hotels.com booking.com etc reservations get allocated the worst rooms at check-in – is that the case?
    I’m really talking about non chain older style hotels.
    Eg I recently stayed at Lygon Arms thru travelzoo and the allocated room was horrible. To be fair, they did move us to a much better room in the main building when requested.

  11. I stayed in Edinburgj last week with a booking via Hotels.com . I won’t be using them again for work as they do not issue VAT receipts on pre-paid rates, which I assume all are. Taxes and fees are listed. On my receipt, which I printed off from the Hotels.com website, it clearly states it is not a VAT receipt. The taxes and fees were 20%. Searching on the internet this is known by other travellers and only occasionally will a hotel issue a VAT receipt as you haven’t booked directly with them.

    Therefore the cheap booking for my employer has become more expensive than booking directly. Therefore I won’t be using Hotels.com again for work unless there is a significant discount where being unable to claim the VAT still makes it a good deal.

    • Raffles says:

      True. They make the booking from outside the EU so no VAT is generated. Kaligo etc have the same issue.

      Although, as you can then write off the whole room cost as an expense, the difference is not as big as it seems.

    • Genghis says:

      Or if your employer makes an exempt supply (e.g. a bank or an insurance co) then they can’t really claim the VAT back anyway.

  12. I like Hotels.com,
    especially booking via Avios website where you can gain 4-12 avios per pound spent, plus the avios earned on your amex plus the free night.
    I currently have 4 nights owed to the value of £489.
    All said and done it is best to check Kaligo if it avios you are after, book through Avios website as you can earn through Booking.com, and several hotel chains with the link on Avios website E Shop.

  13. I recently booked Hampton by Hilton in bournemouth via hotels.com.
    Upon checking I asked if my Hilton diamond status gets me anything and was given 2 bottles of water and a selection of chocolate bars, which is better than nothing.
    However, if booking a hotel where am likely to receive benefits such as lounge access I would then go direct, personally.

  14. Personally I tend to collect Orbitz awards (which are now also part of Expedia unfortunately) meaning I can collect on flights as well, and then use on hotels.

    I’ve had hundreds of dollars worth of credit in the past couple of years which was great.

  15. I agree ! – Hotels.com is up there with the best, on service and offers. I collect Virgin Air Miles each time and as long as I don’t use a hotels.com offer code I get a tick in the box towards a free night. we used our free night in January for a pre flight overnight stay at Sofitel Heathrow, usual price £165 we paid £65 – and the room was definitely not a second rate one !

  16. The_Real_A says:

    the hotel i booked on hotels.com (nr Gatwick) had gone out of business, i was proactively emailed and offered this hilton on the airport at no extra cost. Very good service.

  17. Rupert Witherow says:

    Redeemability is shown next to each hotel listed. My understanding is it relates to payment. Any participating hotel lets you earn as it’s not the property itself but hotels.com issuing the reward. Redeeming at a hotel is invisible to the property. The catch is if you can pre-pay. Some smaller places don’t do prepay (they don’t like Amex for example) and therefore want to see YOUR cash on checkout. Rewards thus cannot be redeemed. Any place that does accept prepayment is fine. I may be wrong, but have just redeemed a pile of reward nights this month and a fair few more over the last years. Perhaps the only structural disadvantage is you can only redeem one reward night per physical night. Whereas with chains you can redeem any number of points against a given night for a saving (eg 50k ihg pts for a £300 intercontinental night) you can only use 1 x reward night towards the stay. So if you’d averaged £150 for 20 nights you’d have 2 x reward nights at £150 each, but you can only cash in 1 reward night towards the £300 pn bill, so it would still cost another £150 cash. You also invariably get a cash bill for ‘taxes and fees’ on top of the reward. So a nominal £90 night redeemed with a £97 reward night will show as something like £85 saving + £5 cash bill. The £12 difference evaporates back to hotels.com: there is no change. Therefore you get the best reward deal if you can find a place about 10% or so more expensive than your reward value. As you process the payment it does show the detail, so you can pull out and change if it’s not working. It’s remarkably erratic!

    • Scallder says:

      +1 for the taxes points. Had a free night worth £262 and have booked a refundable night stay in Atlanta for April at the W. Cost £300, however after applying the credit it brought it down to under £3!

  18. OT hotel question – if you buy IC Ambassador status for $200, do the benefits apply to existing bookings or only bookings you make from then on?
    (i.e. would something trigger the hotel to upgrade your booking even though it went onto the system a while ago?)

    • It applies to existing bookings. The hotel should see it when it processes upgrades etc the day before you arrive. If not it shouldn’t be an issue to fix it on arrival – the benefits are guaranteed so it is the hotel problem and not yours to ensure you get them.

      • Thanks for the reply :-)

      • Barry cutters says:

        Raffles , in your opinion would you say it’s worth paying 200$ or 32k points . I’m thinking because of the weak £, the points may now just have the edge. Also you get 5k points straight back right? What is your experience of upgrades/perks at other ihg properties, I’m gold anyway so usually get the addition points/welcome drink and often an upgrade at crowne plazas etc

        • Don’t assume any benefits outside IC’s. Using points is a decent deal, you can buy them back for a similar sum if needed.

  19. With current Hilton bonus points (~22 HH per £) and miles (~6.7 Avios per £) promotions, virgin shops away (6 FC miles per £) and diamond status bonus (~5.6 HH per £) all stacking, I am making at least 25 to 30% back on bookings, not including points for credit card spend. Depends how much you value the points of course.

  20. Infinity Poole says:

    O/T – when is the next round of IHG Point Breaks due out ? thanks.

    • September 7th

      • Infinity Poole says:

        thanks – The last IHG PB (in April?) covered bookings in May, June and July
        – I was hoping there’d be one that would cover August but I guess they miss that out ?

  21. Shun Nam says:

    One stupid question – will I be able to earn both the free night and avios when booking through the shopping portal of avios.com? Thanks!

  22. The dedicated customer service for silver and gold has been amazing for me. For example, I phoned them to cancel a booking I made on a, advance purchase, non-refundable rate, just to inform them I wouldn’t be staying. The customer service rep voluntarily offered to refund the stay as a goodwill gesture. Likewise I’ve had price match refunds a couple of times.

    • I checked into my hotel in Florida to find it didn’t have the mentioned balcony. Phoned gold helpline and they asked if I’d like to wait or be called back. Opted to wait and after about 5 mins she came back and said hotel had no available upgrades to rooms with balconies, she would find a hotel that did and could switch me at their cost, or she’d credit the full cost of the stay if I could manage without the balcony. Took the freebie and true to the offer the original cost ( 5 nights) was refunded to my credit card within a couple of days.

  23. I came across another issue with Hotels.com on a property where I already hold a reservation (though that is incidental).

    The daily rate works out at around £300 a night and I have 11 days booked. However, though I can earn in this hotel on hotels.com, I cannot redeem in the room I want. So the idea of doing 10 plus 1 free went out of the window.

    Then you get to using the credit you have built up, in this case it would be £300. But to do so I would have to buy a room at say £360 (£300 plus 20% taxes) and stay 2 days so my cash cost would be £360 plus £60 or £420 to stay 2 nights.

    If I redeem at a hotel costing less than £300 a day then I only get the value of that hotel, not the £300 free night I have built up.

    This is as was explained to me on the hotels.com helpline which may or may not be correct – any clarification much appreciated.

  24. Jon Arnold says:

    I’ve been using hotels.com for nearly all my stays over the past 3 to 4 years and have received 2 or 3 free nights each year that I mainly use with the family. But what’s even better is that if you book via Virgin’s shopping channel (Shops Away) you get between 5 and 12 Virgin Flyer miles per £ spent on hotels.com. That adds up fast. So there’s double benefits. And as the article says your choice of hotels in any given location is very extensive, though not quite as many as booking.com but not far off (seems availability on booking.com is slightly better in my experience)


  1. linked webpage

    In-depth review of Hotels.com Rewards from Hotels.com