The alternative to hotel loyalty schemes – Hotels.com and Hotels.com Rewards

Today I want to review Hotels.com Rewards, previously known as Welcome Rewards, the loyalty programme for Hotels.com.

I have spent the last two weeks analysing the ‘big seven’ hotel loyalty programmes (all of the links are on this page).  Each of them 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 from Hotels.com is a better way to go.

Hotels com Rewards Review

Hotels.com (which is actually owned by Expedia) will be familiar to most readers. It is a huge hotel booking portal covering pretty much every corner of the planet.

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 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.  

The big chains have clamped down in the last couple of years and most will not now let you have your normal elite benefits either.  And, in any event, you would soon lose all of your hotel status cards if you shifted all of your spending to hotels.com.  You will probably also fail to earn points for any food and drink spending in the hotel

(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 from my review of 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.

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About Head for Points

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Comments

  1. I find that I am always lodging a claim when I use TCB for hotels.com. Really annoying. Just checked my account and I need 8 nights to get Gold by 6th July. 4 nights planned. Just need to put bookings thought their scheme. Anyone know if I get gold by the date, will it roll over to the next year?

    • As long as you hit the status by the date, you’ll get that status for the remainder of this reward year, plus all of the next 12 months too. Then to maintain Gold you’ll need an additional 30 nights in the 12mo period from renewal date.

  2. Graham says:

    Does anyone know what happens if you buildup more than one reward night. Can you average the value of the rewards across nights e.g. If I get a reward worth £300 and then another one only worth £100, can I then get 2 nights @ £200 each.

    • Callum says:

      No, each night is listed separately with their individual values.

    • Joe Mc says:

      No unfortunately not each night you earn is calculated separately and you can’t chop and change the value.

    • Klaus-Peter Dudas says:

      Just to add that while this is not possible if you redeem for a hotel that is expensive one night and cheap another then they will be used correctly, e.g.:

      You have two vouchers: £150 and £100

      If the hotel is £160 and £90 for two nights then you’d pay £10 for the first night and £0 for the second + taxes.

  3. Also my experience.

  4. Joe Mc says:

    I use hotels.com as much as possible for business travel. I recently found that my partner could book a hotel using my account (in her name (with a different second name to me) and using her payment card) for a seldom trip she had to take for work. I was able to gain the nights toward my ‘free’ night even though I had also had a reservation using my account at the same time somewhere else. This could be useful for couples as you are able to earn your nights on the same account and then redeem them together also obviously (for personal holidays etc).

  5. I tend to use Hotels.com as I don’t travel for business and I don’t want to be limited to hotels in a single brand. I prefer to stay in the hotel that appeals to me most for the particular area I’m visiting.

    Also, while the prices aren’t necessarily cheaper on the site, when you take into consideration the 10% Hotels.com reward credit plus the often 12% you can get from TCB, it feels like a good system to me.

  6. I recently got a Gold @ hotels.com

    the only issue I find with the websites where you prepay to the website rather than to the property is that you don’t get a VAT invoice for the stay. in this case, your stay essentially becomes 20% expensive (in the UK) as compared to the ones where you pay at the property and can get a VAT invoice from them.

    is there any workaround to get VAT invoice for stays booked through these websites?

    • the real harry1 says:

      not sure you actually paid any VAT to claim back

      • why not? the difference between the rates of hotel directly and one offered on these sites are not in a differential on the VAT amount hence I am sure VAT is also included in the price OR goes as a profit/margin to these websites.

        • the real harry1 says:

          well, VAT is certainly payable for the room

          but if another entity XYZ paid for the room – and claimed back the VAT as allowable – then you paid that entity XYZ for the room effectively paying them somewhere abroad/ non-UK – you couldn’t claim VAT back as you didn’t pay it

          • true and I agree to it. infact, this was the first point I made.

            I would still want to pay something extra to the hotels directly and use the provision of claiming VAT instead.

          • Correct. I went through all this with Kaligo a couple of years ago.

  7. Alex W says:

    I’ve never seen TCB and quidco mentioned in so many comments on one article! Anyone would think hotels.com is the only scheme to do cashback.

    With Hilton regular promotions, diamond bonus, plus Virgin shops away miles, i find I get 25% back. Probably more if I manage to redeem for Rangali.

    Marriott also seem quite generous on TCB and I have made some bookings with them to go for the very generous flight+hotel packages.

    • Alex W says:

      …So i don’t buy the assertion that hotels.com is the most generous scheme. Most convenient – agreed. But given Rob’s dislike of fixed value rewards, e.g. Nectar and Accor, I’m surprised he doesn’t mention the lack of arbitrage as a drawback here.

      • True, but I’d put that as secondary behind loss of status benefits. This is a decent scheme for people who can’t be bothered with hotel schemes, I think.

  8. Karen Bevan says:

    I use hotels.com for all my business stays c. 60 nights a year. I enter the website via Avios.com so that I get at least 4 Avois per £, sometimes up to 12. I pay using an Avios linked credit card, getting another 1 avios per £ spent.
    So 5 nights a month, average £600 spend, earns 3,000 Avios and a free night every 2 months

  9. Damien Keegan says:

    I’ve been using this for 4yrs now through my employee’s reward page. On top of the free night for every 10, I also earn between 6 and 12% cash-back on those bookings and still retain the paid for average. Over that time, the most annoying thing is the amout of spam they send with “exclusive” this and “special” that, however, 50% off a booking is not to be sniffed at. Wife and I are off to Greece for a week courtesy of this! On top of that, I usually try and book Marriott, Hilton, IHG then Hotels.com in order of preference and location.

  10. I run my own business and make my own travel arrangements. I’ve used Hotels.com for 90% of my hotel bookings for over 7 years now. In fact I actually get most of my Virgin Flyer miles buying nights at Hotels.com via the Virgin Shopping channel. Minimum 6 miles/ £ spent, sometimes as high as 12 miles/£. Then there’s the 1 night free per 10 nights booked (taking the average of all 10 nights, before taxes) and the fact that you can choose exactly which hotel you want at your destination is brilliant. Why would I want to be restricted to a Marriott or a Hilton etc when the better or more convenient hotel may be a different brand? I have been to so many amazing hotels (booked via Hotels.com) where I’d only stay in that brand of hotel once or twice a year at most. It means I would try a Belmond, Banyan Tree, Anantara, Mandarin Oriental or Peninsula hotel and still get great benefits. An alternative option is booking.com but there’s no free night option (as far as I know), the rewards on the Virgin shopping channel is only 4 miles/£, and they have a habit of displaying fees BEFORE tax for some of the properties which I find more than annoying. On hotels.com you see the total inclusive price.

  11. I wasn’t aware of putting a link in but maybe it treats the dotcom reference as a link automatically? I also wasn’t aware that T C B was considered dodgy/banned …. I obviously need to get more with it!

  12. Would be interesting to see a poll of your readers to see what schemes they prefer

    For me I love hotels.com for above reasons + much clearer pricing than hotels own websites

    Also as a Gold member, customer service will sometimes cancel non-refundable bookings

  13. TGLoyalty says:

    TCB is perfectly fine with hotels.com there are usually 2 options one for and one without rewards

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