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What do you think of proposed changes to Hotels.com Rewards?

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Hotels.com is considering changes to the ‘free night for every 10 nights you stay’ benefit with Hotels.com Rewards.

The company recently asked selected members to answer a questionnaire on different reward options.  In general, the proposed options are worse than the current Hotels.com Rewards scheme.

(Yes, I know. Big surprise.)

Why do we like Hotels.com Rewards?

We rate Hotels.com Rewards highly.

It is a pleasingly simple scheme.  For every 10 nights you stay, you receive a free night.  The value of the free night is the average of the ex-tax price of those ten nights.

There is no time limit to how long it takes to earn your free night, as long as you do at least one stay in every 12 month period.

If you are about to hit your 12 month anniversary without a stay, a booking at a £3 hostel somewhere in the developing world will usually credit and reset the timer.

The only ‘snag’ is that you don’t get any change when you spend your free night, so you need to use it on a fairly expensive stay.  You will also not collect new Hotels.com Rewards credits on your reward stay.

Some Head for Points readers find Hotels.com Rewards BETTER than a standard hotel loyalty scheme.   Hotels.com has more hotels than every major hotel brand PUT TOGETHER.  You never have to compromise on location or hotel quality, as you often do if you are tied to Hilton, IHG etc.  You also get rewarded for ALL of your stays, even at independent unbranded properties.

The downside is that you don’t earn any hotel loyalty points or status benefits – no upgrades, no late check-out, no free breakfast – on your stays.

You can find out more about Hotels.com Rewards on its website here.

What is Hotels.com Rewards planning?

The survey coverered a number of potential scenarios.  Respondents were shown two different options side by side, chosen at random, and asked which they preferred.  For example:

Sample scenario:

You no longer need to do 10 nights before you redeem.  Instead, each stay earns you a credit of 10% of the ex-tax value which you can redeem against your next stay.

Ability to use credits towards breakfast, upgrades, spa etc.

Sample scenario:

Each stay earns you a credit of 7% of the ex-tax value

You can redeem at any point BUT you must have enough credit to cover the full cost of the stay

Credits can also be turned into Uber / Lyft credit or airport lounge passes

Ability to use credits towards breakfast, upgrades, spa etc

Sample scenario:

Each stay earns you a credit of 7% of the ex-tax value

Silver members (7 nights in a year) receive 7.35% whilst Gold members (25 nights in a year) receive 7.7%

You can redeem at any point BUT you must have enough credit to cover at least 75% of the cost of the stay

Credits can also be used on Hotels.com partner sites such as Expedia and VRBO

Ability to use credits towards breakfast, upgrades, spa etc

Sample scenario:

Each stay earns you a credit of 8% of the ex-tax value, with a selection of ‘top’ properties earning 16% credit

You can redeem at any point BUT you must have enough credit to cover 75% of the cost of the stay

Ability to use credits towards breakfast, upgrades, spa etc

Sample scenario:

Each stay earns you a credit of 7% of the ex-tax value, with a selection of ‘top’ properties earning 14% credit

You can redeem at any point BUT you must have enough credit to cover at least 75% of the cost of the stay

Credits can also be turned into Uber / Lyft credit or airport lounge passes

Ability to use credits towards breakfast, upgrades, spa etc

Sample scenario:

Each night earns you 1 free night stamp

Get a free night when you have collected 12 stamps, with the night worth the average cost of the 12 nights

Alternatively, redeem 6 stamps for a free night credit worth 40% of the average cost of your six nights

I should add that the scenarios also involved tweaking the number of nights required for status in Hotels.com Rewards.  However, in general I do not find that people take Hotels.com Rewards elite status, or its benefits, seriously.

changes to Hotels.com Rewards

Are any of these scenarios positive for members?

Put it this way, none are a major improvement.

The first one – 10% credit after every stay, redeemable immediately, IS better than the current ‘free night after 10 stays’ because you can redeem your 10% straight away.  This removes the gamification element from the programme, however, so I don’t see why Hotels.com Rewards would do this.

The other scenarios effectively cut the reward benefit from 10% to something closer to 7%-8%.   The company tries to dress this up but, in effect, you are getting less back.

Of course, the devil is in the detail – if it dropped to 8% but a high proportion of hotels were classed as ‘top’ properties earning double credits, you would be better off.

You may also, personally, prefer a 7% cashback credit to use on your next stay versus a 10% return which only turns up after doing 10 nights.  There is a trend in loyalty today to offer returns faster driven by the assumption that millennials have the attention span of a gnat.

Hotels.com needs to be careful ….

There is something key that Hotels.com needs to remember

Whilst technically sister companies, Hotels.com and Expedia are, fundamentally, the same business.  In general, they sell the same hotels at the same prices.  The ONLY difference, apart from Expedia also offering flights, is that Hotels.com has a very generous reward programme.

Expedia, on the other hand, has Expedia Rewards which we reviewed here.  It isn’t great.

Expedia also owns eBookers.  We reviewed ebookers BONUS+ here.  Again, it isn’t great but it is better than Expedia Rewards as it offers airport lounge passes for regular bookers.

The bottom line is that the whole point of Hotels.com is that it offers a good loyalty scheme.  Without one, it might as well cease to exist as it would literally be a clone of Expedia and ebookers.  Any attempt to water down Hotels.com Rewards could be a mistake.


Hotel offers update – February 2023:

Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.

Want to buy hotel points?

  • Hilton Honors is offering a 100% bonus when you buy points by 7th March. Click here to buy.

Comments (110)

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  • Mr Li says:

    What’s a “knat”?

  • John says:

    One important difference between hotels.com and expedia or ebookers is that you can pay hotels.com directly in a wide variety of currencies which they convert at what appears to be very close to the current interbank rate, but you should always double check this (if you care).

    When the Australian dollar was strong I used to pay for all my hotels.com stays in AUD which effectively let me transfer money out of Australia without paying any fees or a broker’s spread, as well as avoiding the Australian card’s 3% forex fee.

    More useful for most readers, you can use Amex on hotels.com without paying the 3% forex fee that would be charged if you paid a non-British hotel directly. You can prepay flexible stays in your currency of choice and refund them later without any forex loss or gain.

    When planning previous trips I noticed that it sometimes stiffs you on the rate for USD-pegged currencies, such as UAE, Oman, Jordan, Caribbean, Hong Kong. If you change the currency to USD it is sometimes a lot cheaper even though it shouldn’t be. I also have a Hong Kong credit card which charges 2% forex fees, but for Hong Kong hotels it is occasionally cheaper to pay in USD plus the 2% forex fee than to pay in HKD with no fee.

    • Mikeact says:

      I share @John many of the comments he has made. We have used them on and off since their scheme started and I for one will be sorry to see any changes made. We currently have two ‘free’ nights , £112 and £122 respectively .
      However, their prices quoted always need to be double checked in our experience. There is a nice sea front hotel near to us, which is sometimes used by the family. They always say…’call us direct for the best price’, as they do not like paying the Hotel.com commission (20+% ?)….but, they recognise that Hotel.com does generate a lot of business.
      If they do downgrade their loyalty scheme then we will continue to double check etc., and if that means an a change of direction, then so be it.

  • ChrisC says:

    If a millennial can’t spend even a few minutes looking for a good deal then that’s their problem and don’t change your loyalty program for a group that is far from loyal to you in return.

    Keep your scheme for your long term customers who will return again and again.

    • Paul Pogba says:

      I have a feeling that when most people say millennials, they mean Gen Z. Most millennials are mid twenties to mid thirties now.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Gen X?

        I don’t think it’s those in the thirties and below that don’t know how to use the interest to search for the best deals.

        • Paul Pogba says:

          No, Gen Z (1995-2000): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Z
          Millennials (1981-1996): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennials

          Seems to be some overlap but I get the feeling people say millennials when they mean “young people” and many actual millennials aren’t that young any more.

        • Peter K says:

          They know how to use computers to find the best deals but they don’t have the patience to do so, from what I’ve seen. Rather than put in effort themselves, they go with a vloggers advice.

          • Peter K says:

            I also think people mean gen Z when they say millennials. They are thinking those born after the millennium.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            Ah I see what you mean i was picturing all the Gen X who are “loyal” and sit on variable rate mortgages and don’t shop around to switch insurance / energy etc etc

          • stevenhp1987 says:

            Gen Z maybe, not millennial’s!

            People use the term “millennial” to cover all young people which is just wrong. I’m a millennial, I’m 32.

        • Fenny says:

          I’m Gen X. 55 in 3 months!

  • Dwadda says:

    “driven by the assumption that millennials have the attention span of a knat.”

    This is highly insulting. The fact is that millennials have little spending power because they’re suppressed economically by older generations that just won’t die. The actuaries worked out their pension contributions based on a lifespan of 72 and they’re living to 82.. on borrowed time. Hurry up and die already, pass your wealth and homes to the younger generation so they can raise families in security.

    3% of the UK population (2.2m) are over 75 and live in homes by themselves. That makes up 8% of the total households in the UK.

    Why do you think millennials aren’t having families nor seeking to buy their own homes. Because economics is stacked against them. They’re too polite to complain about their plight, and so it continues. Who do you think is straddled by the new corona debt.

    • Mike says:

      well perhaps if they stopped saying “woe is me”, stopped being so “woke”,stopped buying smashed avocado breakfasts and started focusing on the positives and moved out of London if they can’t afford London it would be several steps in the right direction

    • Paul Pogba says:

      This is the most repulsive entitled thing I’ve seen posted on here. The parents of millennials would have experienced unemployment of 12% and interest rates of 15% while they were having families and setting up home. Perhaps you’re struggling because you’re lazy, not that smart or just want a lifestyle you haven’t earned? Try looking in the mirror.

      • Ken says:

        Unemployment (12%) was very uneven.

        Negligible (less than 5%) in some places, up to 40% in some wards in Northern cities.
        Can never imagine anything being worse economically than late 70’s early 80’s than living in Liverpool- and I know we weren’t unique, and worse again in ex steel or mining towns.

        One curiousity is that ‘McJobs’ – low skill, low pay , low progression roles never been easier to find (probably since 1960’s), while competition for ‘graduate’ jobs (and even 1 year sandwich placements) never been more intensive.

        As far as 15% mortgage rates went, few people were on huge multiple of earnings, many people could buy a house on 1 wage, 15% didn’t last that long, the debt was eaten away by inflation , you got tax relief on your interest, and didn’t pay stamp duty.
        It was easy enough to buy a house aged 22 and be in your 3rd house by the time you were 30.

        • Paul Pogba says:

          Between 1980 and 1990 the population of the UK increased by 908k (total net migration over 10 years was 20k), during that same period we added 2.011m homes (net). Supply was exceeding demand, house prices fell.

          More recently, between 2000 and 2010 the population increased by 3.873m (net migration of 2.481m) and we built another 2.051m homes. Demand exceeded supply. While this massive demand was happening interest rates were falling from 6% to 0.5%. Not only did we have more people been chasing the same number of new homes but those that could get into debt found it cheaper than ever so had more money to inflate the market.

          • Genghis says:

            What if you rerun the numbers with households? It’s the households that live in houses. My guess is that the average household size has fallen.

          • Bagoly says:

            I deduce you are thinking that extra children under eighteen does not significantly alter demand for number of properties.

            But overall I suggest that the number of households is affected by the number of house/flats (there is arguably desire to spread out more in the uncoupled adults, prevented by lack of properties). so it’s more meaningful to look at the population.
            Population itself (especially the immigration component) is somewhat affected by number of properties in existence, but less so.

          • Paul Pogba says:

            Ghengis, shrinking average household size is another factor increasing demand for dwellings. It went from 2.69 (1980) to 2.5 (1990) and is now 2.36 (2017). My point was that the increased demand (population growth) is as much about immigration as people getting older, ageing is probably the second or third factor in the housing shortage. Also that the market characteristics were completely different a generation ago, I recall the fear being of buying at the wrong time and getting stuck in negative equity while now the worry concerns never being able to buy as prices rise out of reach.

          • Charlieface says:

            House prices seem to be mostly dominated by lack of supply, caused by strict planning laws, NIMBYs and difficulties for smaller house-building firms and self builds

    • Brian says:

      Millennials? Too polite????
      My father is 82 and shows no sign of dying soon to pass his wealth and home to me, but I don’t begrudge the fact that he should continue to use and enjoy what he worked years to gain.

      • Paul says:

        The financial problem is, is he receiving a state pension which is currently being paid for by Gen Z (and everyone else)

        Yes he will have paid for someone else’s state pension, but back when it first came about, people were only expected to receive it for 5-10 years.

        I don’t blame him for it, just one way I think things aren’t lined up, and maybe when Gen Z get to state pension age they will be able to screw a younger generation even more (but the shape of demographics, the baby boomers retiring is likely to be the biggest strain)

        • Paul Pogba says:

          At 82 he would have spent much of his working life paying a basic rate of tax between 30 and 38.75% and a higher rate of between 60 and 83%. Each generation faces different challenges.

    • Steve says:

      “Hurry up and die already, pass your wealth and homes to the younger generation so they can raise families in security.”

      That anyone would actually think or write this, let alone under the current circumstances, is shocking. You know, you may get your wish, and it may be someone close to you.

      Use this time in isolation to reflect on who you are, the meaning of life, and what is important to you. Perhaps you might then conclude a good use of some of this time would be to telephone buddy and provide companionship to some of those 2.2m elderly people living alone.

      • Cat says:

        +1

      • Ken says:

        And who would disagree.

        However we positively encourage old people to rattle round in large often unsuitable homes through a ludicrously regressive council tax system.

    • Rob says:

      This is not my view by the way! It is what I hear at loyalty conferences and from senior loyalty execs.

    • Mikeact says:

      @Dwadda. I’m really sorry, but I’ve outlived my three score years and ten, after 46 years of hard work.
      And according to my DeathClock app, I have another 6 years, 3 months and 6 days to go. My apologies for hanging around too long.

  • Jonny says:

    Isn’t the current benefit a discount of up to 9.1% not 10% as it’s the 11th night that’s “free” not the 10th?

    I’m not sure whether the 7% or 8% rates are calculated on the same basis as the 9.1% or the 10%.

    • Rob says:

      It is all on the same basis, so technically 7% is 6ish% if that is how you see it.

  • meta says:

    If you have a five night trip, just do separate reservations to earn credit on the rest of the nights.

    As a Gold member you do get perks at some hotels such as free breakfast, money off spa or dining, etc. Sometimes you also get access to big discounts. This is especially true for independent hotels. I got a huge discount in Thailand two years ago and paid only £60 for a beachfront pool villa in non chain hotel. The same villa was going for £200. Last year I also got 50% discount on a villa in Seychelles. It was a genuine discount compared to booking direct.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Yep. Can’t think of why anyone wouldn’t do that, it was my first thought the first time I contemplated booking a long weekend and only had two night credits.

      • Cat says:

        So they generally don’t combine two separate bookings of consecutive nights into one stay, in the way that IHG or Hilton would, if you were trying to game one of their promotions?

    • Sarah says:

      You do earn credit on the paid for nights when one or more nights are redeemed in the same booking, so no need to make separate reservations. I think that Rob’ point was that you will not earn credit on the nights where you are redeeming a reward – even if you part pay cash for that night.

      • Rob says:

        To be fair that wasn’t my point but I bow to the greater knowledge of the readers and have changed the article.

  • Nick_C says:

    “You will also not collect new Hotels.com Rewards credits on your reward stay – it makes no sense to use your free night as part of a five night trip as you are sacrificing five credits towards a new free night.”

    Are you sure about that? If you book a 5 night trip using one reward night, you used to earn 4/10ths. I’ve done this several times, but not since December 2018. Has this changed?

  • mr_jetlag says:

    “it makes no sense to use your free night as part of a five night trip as you are sacrificing five credits towards a new free night”

    Not true – you earn credit on the non reward portion of a stay. Even if it were true you could split the stay into reward and cash.

    As for these options, I dislike them all and it smacks of a new broom approach from some bored exec wanting to “enhance” their yearend bonus.

    • Rob says:

      Thanks, will edit.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      What is true is that if your night costs significantly more than your credit you won’t earn 10% back on the cash proportion.

      • Doug M says:

        Which is exactly why you don’t use the free night on expensive nights, you use it on one costing as close to the same as possible. The beauty of the hotel com scheme is simplicity, mess with it at your peril I say.
        Hotel schemes ‘devalue’ because the points have an arbitrary value, so the number needed for a hotel room needs to increase as inflation increases the cash price of the room. At that point it’s worth bearing in mind you would have also earned more points as the room price increased. I’m not sure that devaluing the hotel com scheme which has a hard GBP value can be dressed up as anything other than them offering less.

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