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

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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!

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  1. marcus says:

    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.

  2. Robert says:

    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.

  3. Snora says:

    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 !

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. Infinity Poole says:

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

    • harry says:

      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 ?

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. Talay says:

    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.

  11. Matthew says:

    I do the same and then use credit card for more points (avois)

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