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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:

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Comments (110)

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  • David says:

    Am I missing something, it seems one of the biggest changes is that they will want your free night to be at least 75% or even full price of the “free night booking”. Currently I like using a £100-200 night to stay on a more expensive £400-500 and make it more reasonable, will that change?

    Also any idea what will happen to current free nights if things change?

    Thanks

    • Doug M says:

      Which doesn’t make any sense. When you use £100 or even £200 on a £400 to £500 night you’re getting nothing back for the £200 to £400 difference. If you value getting the best deal, always use the free night against one of similar value.

      • John says:

        Yes that’s why I have several hotels.com accounts, in order to have control over the value of my free night and for example avoid triggering a free night with high value when I haven’t planned exactly when to use it.

    • Rob says:

      Fair point David – in this case, you would lose out quite badly. I would imagine the number of people who do this is a minority although I accept that a nice way to use a redemption is to spend what you normally spend but use your credit to top it up and splurge.

  • MDA says:

    What is Hotels.com customer service email? I want to email them to see if they are willing to extend my stamps due to Covid-19

  • Doug M says:

    Another thing to bear in mind with hotels com is that on UK bookings they operate some scheme meaning you don’t get a proper VAT invoice, which on business bookings can be a real no no. Nothing to do with the reward scheme, but worth knowing.

  • Wz says:

    It’s a shame they will change it. Ive been Gold for four years with over 50 bookings a year. But I guess to most people they wont notice that’s it’s getting worse. As Rob said they will just dress it up as fantastic. It now seems to get devalued some way or another each year. If they are really worried about gaining more clients who book less nights then why not offer something for them while not offending their loyal members? Add the new “5 nights Get 7% immediately”, and keep the “10 nights get 1 night free“. Why does it seem like most loyalty departments create something new and loses lots of their core clients to try to gain new costumers? Keep them both. You would hope in the current and recovering travel environment that they want to encourage as many people as possible to use Hotels.com over other companies. Thanks for the comments on ebookers. I’ll go and look at that program once the “devaluation” comes in.

  • Alan says:

    Why bother with the rewards scheme when you can get cash when you book through the relevant sites?

    • Doug M says:

      Because usually the cash (or Avios/FC miles etc.) and no rewards is less than the rewards and lower cash option. But yes each to their own. So typically if e store have a special and it’s 10 Avios, then often it’s 4 Avios if you have rewards, for many 4 + the HR scheme is better.
      Also, if you go no rewards and don’t login you don’t build to the status which, whilst it has no hard value, I’ve previously found gets you treated better when trying to cancel a non-refundable booking.

      • Alan says:

        Fair enough. I don’t really book many hotels so can’t always keep the rewards scheme active without buying something I don’t need. Currently I can get 11% by avoiding the rewards scheme which is pretty good.
        As you say though, each to their own.

  • Noggins says:

    I was impressed that a non refundable booking for next weekend is being refunded.
    I have multiple (20+) bookings over the next few months – all non refundable – that I am hoping will be treated similarly. Especially as they involve trips away with friends and I’d rather they got their money back too!
    The email address they used was
    info@reply.mail.hotels.com

    • Rob says:

      If you read some of the hotel websites you will see that there is a LOT of anger amongst hotel owners because Hotels.com etc ARE refunding non-refundable rates – WITHOUT asking the permission of the hotel. The hotel is being told to get stuffed and the money deducted from other money owed to them by Hotels.com.

      • Doug M says:

        A point made many times, much easier to refund someone else’s money.

      • Nick_C says:

        Whereas Booking.com were refusing to refund money even where the hotel (or hotel group) agrees to a cancellation.

        Few hotels will be open for business right now anyway.

        It is tough for hoteliers, and everyone else in the travel business, but consumers will remember which companies treated them well if life ever returns to normal.

        • Alex Sm says:

          Same with Opodo on airline bookings – the airline (SWISS) is happy to provide a cash refund while Opodo sits on the money and doesn’t want to move a finger

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Cheek of the hotels getting angry when they can’t provide the service that’s been sold.

        Hoping people will give up and chase insurance companies instead

        • Doug M says:

          But we don’t know what dates or locations are being discussed. My understanding is that hotels in France for example have not been told to close. So you can’t get there, but they could argue that’s your problem, they’re open.

          • Lyn says:

            Hotels in France do seem to be closed though. Macron’s recent extension of current restrictions until May 11 anticipates schools opening in the next phase from May 11 but hotels, cafes, restaurants and museums remaining closed even after May 11.

          • Doug M says:

            https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52206832 Not suggesting always accurate, but it seems hotels in France have not been ordered to close, although many may have given the other restrictions.

          • Lyn says:

            That does seem confusing. This is what I read in Le Monde yesterday about Macron’s statements about the period from May 11. « Les bars, restaurants, cafés, hôtels, cinémas, théâtres, salles de spectacles et musées resteront fermés à ce stade », a annoncé le chef de l’Etat.

          • Lady London says:

            They’re closed
            In theory only pharmacies and food shops open, not much else

          • meta says:

            Yes, Intercontinental Lyon where I am supposed to stay end of May still open.

  • Paul says:

    It’s a rare opinion I suspect but I like Expedia rewards and choose it over hotels.com. For brands I’ll book direct as I have status at Marriott, but when staying at non chain hotels I’ve had some good upgrades and discounts thanks to being Expedia gold

    • Tom says:

      If you are Expedia gold- better become hotels.com gold if you plan to use it for hotels. Better options and at ‘vip hotels’ upgrades and free welcome gifts etc.

  • ChrisBCN says:

    I haven’t booked a hotel through an aggregator in YEARS. I use them to find the best price, then check the hotel website. If the hotel website is cheaper by about the amount I would earn in points/discount etc then I book. If it’s more expensive I call them, asking them to undercut the best price I have seen. They do, making it cheaper for me and better for the hotel as they don’t have to pay the extortionate comission.

    Hotels are one of the few things in the world now that you shouldn’t default to buying online.

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