I wanted to review Hotels.com Rewards today and explain 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 Honors 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 (which is actually owned by Expedia) will be familiar to most readers.
You won’t find hotels.com much cheaper than booking a hotel directly, although it will sometimes show discounts if you register for a Hotels.com account. (Like most online travel agents, it agrees not to undercut ‘official’ hotel websites in public although it can show lower prices to registered ‘members’).
However, the majority of the properties on the site count for ‘Hotels.com Rewards’ (500,000 hotels, which is about 20 times more than all of the ‘big six’ hotel 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 stamp for every night you book, whatever the chain.
When you have got 10 stamps, you get a free night.
The value of the free night is the average price you paid for those 10 nights.
Your stamps 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 500,000 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.
Is there a catch?
Well, the main one is that you will not earn points with the hotel itself. None of the major hotel loyalty schemes award points, or status benefits, if you do not book direct.
(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.