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 scheme. You 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’.
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.
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.
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.