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Why 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 Rewards free night.

I said that I would take a longer look today at 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, Rewards may be a better way to go. Rewards reviewed (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 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 ‘ Rewards’ (285,000 hotels, which is about 10 times more than all of the ‘big seven’ loyalty schemes combined!) 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 that takes part in 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 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 Most reward schemes restrict the ability to book club rooms, suites, family room etc. That is not a problem with 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

( 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 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 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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Random thoughts: T5 Fast Track, Zipcar by the mile, why I'm moving to Paris for 5 days!

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  1. Love

    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.

    • Mark B says:

      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.

    • Harry says:

      Search led me here but no joy. I am on 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 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. Danksy says:

    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.

      • Danksy says:

        I thought it was within a definitive 12 month period?

      • harry says:

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

        • Genghis says:

          And getting a £1 night back?

          • harry says:

            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.

          • Chris says:

            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.

          • harry says:

            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 probably doesn’t fully rely on local IT – or where the owner checks you in anyway to ensure he is paid in full.

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

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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 loyalty programme is good.

  6. 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 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!).

  7. 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 – 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).

  8. 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 rates are comparable to everywhere else so easy money.

  9. David says:

    I have a feeling that 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.

  10. Flyoff says:

    I stayed in Edinburgj last week with a booking via . 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 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 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.

  11. I like,
    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, and several hotel chains with the link on Avios website E Shop.

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