The reason that Agoda had become interesting is that it had started to offer frequent flyer miles with every hotel booking you make via a new service called PointsMAX.
When we wrote about it back in July, British Airways was not a PointsMAX partner. BA, Iberia Plus and avios.com have been added to the site in the last couple of weeks so it is worth discussing the service again.
In advance of British Airways coming on board, Agoda offered Head for Points a free credit to spend on their website to find out how PointsMAX works and whether or not it’s worth considering Agoda for your next trip.
I had a holiday booked in Croatia and still needed accommodation for one of the nights so I chose to use the Agoda credit towards it.
How Agoda PointsMAX works
The Agoda website seems pretty straight forward: you enter your destination, travel dates and number of beds required. Click on any of the images to enlarge:
If you do a search without signing in, you will see a list of available accomodations for the regular price:
By signing in as a member, you are often offered lower prices. This is because signing in means that Agoda is allowed to show lower rates at hotels where it has agreed not to undercut the official rate in public.
The new British Airways partnership was not yet live when I booked, although it is live now. Instead, I created my account and chose Etihad Guest as my PointsMAX program.
Not every accommodation listed on Agoda earns points or miles. I only realised that after having spent an hour trying to find somewhere suitable ….
In the end there was only one hotel in the whole of Split for my date that I could earn miles with: the Dioklecijan Hotel & Residences. To make the most of the credit, I decided to book a Junior Suite with balcony and sea view. If you click on this image, you can see the different prices.
For non members the price would have been $344.
The choice of miles earning options varied depending on whether you wanted to pay before arrival or pay at the property. For pre-paying, there were two options as you can see from the screenshot:
- $302.25 when earning 1,350 miles
- $271.56 when earning 278 miles
Paying on arrival would have been $304 and with no miles earned. As Agoda had given us $350 to spend, I booked for $302.82 + tax to get the maximum of 1,350 Etihad Guest Miles.
To be honest, in this example, PointsMAX was a bad deal. I paid an additional $30.69 in order to get an additional 1,072 Etihad Guest miles. That worked out at 2.86 cents per mile.
On the other hand, some properties ARE a good deal for ‘buying’ extra miles. Take a look at this screen shot taken yesterday using Avios as your mileage currency:
You can choose between:
- £116.14 when earning 699 Avios
- £117.82 when earning 2,400 Avios
In this scenario, it is a no-brainer to pay the extra £1.68 to earn the extra 1,701 Avios.
One other point to note about Agoda is that it works with airlines such as Qatar Airways where it is hard to accumulate miles as a UK resident. PointsMAX is one of way of picking up miles in these programmes.
Did the hotel live up to the promised expectations?
I also wanted to look at whether the Agoda site was offering accurate and honest descriptions of the hotels it offers. This is especially important when booking a remote property like the one I booked in Split where there is not necessarily a lot of independent information available online:
Here are two screenshots from the Agoda website. The room:
and the balcony:
In comparison here are some real life pictures. The balcony:
and the room – or rather one of the rooms as we got upgraded to a family suite!
The highlight – and certainly one of the reasons people book the Dioklecijan Hotel in Split – was actually the rooftop. It has a pool, jacuzzi, gym, sauna, steam room and bar with lots of deckchairs and sofas. Even for a one-night stay this was welcomed.
Obviously you can tell the difference between a professional and an iPhone camera picture. Nevertheless I was happy to see that the hotel with its rooms and amenities lived up to the pictures on the website.
PointsMAX is still a work in progress for Agoda, with new airlines being added regularly. Adding British Airways Executive Club means that there is a reason to keep an eye on it now.
The model, whereby you are in effect given the chance to buy airlines miles cheaply when you book a hotel with Agoda PointsMAX, has potential. You need to look carefully at the pricing though. In my example paying an additional 2.86 cents per Etihad Guest miles makes no sense. In the Avios screenshot I took yesterday, on the other hand, you are paying virtually nothing for the additional 1,701 Avios.
I should mention that the Etihad Guest points haven’t reached my account yet, but will hopefully at some point in the near future – I was told it can take 30 days from check-out. We are very close to that now.
Remember that any room booked via Agoda PointsMAX will NOT earn hotel loyalty points from the hotel itself as it will be treated as a third-party booking. You may or may not get your status benefits depending on the chain and the attitude of the individual hotel. That is not an issue with an independent hotels such as the one I stayed at.
You can have a play around with PointsMAX to check out the Avios – or other airline – earning potential here.