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Hotels.com launches a credit card in the United States – here’s how it works

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Hotels.com has recently launched a credit card in the United States. I should say upfront that I don’t have any news about a similar card being launched in the UK in the short term.

However, I thought it was worth covering because it uses an interesting rewards model.

How does the Hotels.com credit card work?

Hotels.com Rewards is a very good loyalty which, for many people, works better than traditional hotel loyalty schemes.

Put simply, for every 10 nights you stay, you receive a free night worth the average ex-VAT price of those 10 nights.

This idea has a lot going for it. Hotels.com features 50x more hotels than even the largest global chain. You can earn rewards without ever having to compromise on location, price or hotel quality to stay at a particular brand.

Redeeming is also easier. Your free night credit can be topped up to pay for a more expensive room, allowing you to book suites or executive rooms if you with.

The only downside is that Hotels.com bookings do not earn points or elite night credit with the chain where you stay. Your elite benefits are also blocked, so a Marriott Platinum Elite won’t get free breakfast or upgrades on Hotels.com bookings at Marriott properties.

It’s a trade off, but one that many are happy to make. You can learn more about Hotels.com Rewards here.

How does the hotels.com credit card work?

How does the Hotels.com Rewards credit card reward you?

Since Hotels.com Rewards is not points based, the credit card cannot give you points for every $1 you spend.

Instead, it has gone down a different route.

You receive 1 ‘stamp’ in Hotels.com Rewards for every $500 you spend on their credit card.

Each ‘stamp’ is the equivalent of a $110 hotel room.

Since you each ‘stamp’ is worth 10% of the value of the room, you are effectively earning $11 in Hotels.com Rewards credit for every $500 you spend on their credit card. This is a return of 2.2%.

What other card benefits do you get?

The card comes with other goodies on top:

a free night voucher worth $125 when you spend $1,000 within three months

Hotels.com Rewards Silver membership for your first 12 months of card membership (provides extra benefits at some hotels)

Would a similar card work in the UK?

There is, of course, no way that you would ever see a credit card which was so generous in the UK.

Interchange fees are capped at 0.3% here. In the US, retailers can expect to pay around 2% for accepting a Visa or Mastercard, with more for American Express, and that is before terminal fees etc.

That said ….. a card which offered you a free night ‘stamp’ worth £50 for every £1,000 you spent would work.

Hotels.com could probably break even on this basis, assuming they fully shared in the P&L of the card with the issuer. This is the model that Virgin Atlantic is using with Virgin Money.

Hotels.com would get extra upside from upselling redemption rooms (I doubt many people would be redeeming their 10 x £50 stamps for a £50 room) and driving additional cash bookings as cardholders tried to push up the average value of their free night.

Let’s see if anything emerges in 2021.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – September 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our September 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here.

The following offers will expire on 2nd November 2021:

  • 10,000 Avios on British Airways American Express
  • 40,000 Avios on British Airways American Express Premium Plus
  • 60,000 points on The Platinum Card from American Express

Here are the top current deals:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers.

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

60,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending:

Barclaycard Select Cashback Credit Card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (41)

  • BJ says:

    The guesstimate for a UK variant seems to be at the generous extreme. This, with any other benefits, would almost certainly require a fee variant. Although I appreciate its attraction, I’ve never really been convinced by the hotels.com scheme, even for independent hotels. With a little more flexibility and effort on a booking by booking basis, the potential for substantially greater returns exists.

    • Leo says:

      Such as? – Genuine question not sarcasm.

      • Doug M says:

        Offers direst from the hotel, and use of their loyalty programs. Use of [email protected] and e-shopping portals. Sites like Trivago or Hotels Combined. There are so many variables that you have to do your own research. As a usual solo traveller I don’t care about breakfast or hotel lounges. For a family of 4, included breakfast and switching one snack to a hotel lounge/reception type function might mean only paying for one meal/day and a huge saving. If you really want the best deal you have to work at it, and read sites like this, including the comments which can offer up some real nuggets.

      • BJ says:

        My approach for independent hotels is along the lines stated by Doug and Erico. I have top t8er in Hilton and IHG so will only rarely fail to book direct with those.

  • alex says:

    elite status with free breakfast for 2, lounge access and room upgrade is worth MUCH MORE than 10% credit. often worth more thna the actual hotel rate paid

    • Jonathan says:

      Only if you’ve got that status in the first place……….

      • Jonathan says:

        Exactly! Assuming diamond from the above benefits & that requires a decent spend to achieve plus it ties you to Hilton which can be dire outside big cities.

  • Mikeact says:

    When your touring around in off beat places I think it can make a lot of sense. We did two separate trips in 2018/19… three months in Australia and two months in NZ. Clocked up quite a few ‘free’ nights, which we then used in South Africa during late ’19.

    • meta says:

      If you’re paying for business trips/conferences, it can make sense too. I forgot how many times I actually paid for other people travelling with me or coming to UK on business. I do know that I used them on a nearly free week in Thailand (paid just taxes), five free nights in a Royal Suite at Le Meridien Mauritius for £100 couple of years ago and most recently six days on a beach villa in Seychelles for £200 after applying all the free night vocuhers.

  • meta says:

    You can get hotels.com Gold status for £50-60, so Siliver status is meaningless if there is an annual fee of £50 or more.

    • meta says:

      *Silver

    • Doug M says:

      What actual value in status with hotels.com though.
      I like the scheme, having never cared about breakfast or lounge access at a hotel it’s a very good loyalty scheme, but like IHG it’s reward based not benefit based.

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        I found the silver customer service pretty good. No experience of the regular one though.

      • meta says:

        I get upgrades most of the time when booking with hotels.com as Gold member and people who I book for often get upgrades as well. For a few of the last bookings, I also got refunds straight away. They appeared the following day on my Amex. I even got a refund for non-refundable booking for my parents. It was outside their refund/rebooking policy, but as a Gold member they said they’ll give the refund. Also I’ve been issued with refunds/vouchers whenever I had issues with the hotel and the hotel was unwilling to resolve the issue.

        Between my partner and I, we have status with most of the chains, but it’s good to diversify. This actually gives us much more options to choose from wherever we go.

        • Doug M says:

          Hotels.com gold since 2013, except one break of a few months. Never remember an upgrade. Have had upgrades at hotels, but not specific to hotels.com status. In my experience most hotels see Expedia and think dump him in the cheap rooms. Are you saying these are upgrades when you book, or on arrival they note your hotel.com status, I’d be amazed if they were even aware of it.
          One issue of a non-existent balcony on a room in Florida was handled very well, whether because I was gold, or because they didn’t give me what I pad for is anyone’s guess.
          I have a non-refundable booking for 7 days later this month in Florida, my future relationship and use of hotels.com may depend on how they handle it.

          • Prins Polo says:

            My thoughts exactly. No upgrades as Hotels.com gold since 2014. Often given the worst room as the front desk just sees this as an “Expedia booking”. I do stay a lot in places where there are no chains or chain hotel are not attractive, so use hotels.com quite a lot, but never use it if I can book eg a Marriott hotel directly.

          • meta says:

            Both on arrival and sometimes at the time of booking I get offered better rooms for the same price as standard rooms. I would say this happens 90% of the time. Most recently at Sofitel Abu Dhabi last year where I booked Luxury club room (base room) and got upgraded to Imperial Suite their top suite covering half of the floor. They said this is because of my hotels.com Gold status.

          • RussellH says:

            > In my experience most hotels see Expedia and think dump him in
            > the cheap rooms.

            Back in my tour operating days someone asked me for a quote for a complex itinerary. He did not take it up because he could get cheaper prices through HRS (rather than Expedia, but same idea). I e-mailed the hotels in question to cancel the options; one stated outright to me that they would only sell their bad rooms to their HRS bookers. They made a point of giving my clients their better rooms, making the point that the person in question was not comparing like-with-like.

          • Doug M says:

            I overcome this by simply booking the room I want. Part of the upgrade game is how frequently it works when I don’t care. City break for 4 days and get nothing, overnight at airport hotel when I’m going to sleep and nothing else and get some upgrade I couldn’t care about. Much prefer to book what I want.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      30 stays in £2 hostels in Cambodia?

      • meta says:

        Less than £2 sometimes. I don’t aways need to do 30 stays or any extra stays though as usually have 20 or more stays anyway. There are so many double nights and extra night offers every year that the credit card will need to do something really extraordinary for me to sign up for it. It will definitely have to be no fee.

  • Tony says:

    Probably a bit of a schoolboy comment … but are the interchange fees set to change due to the Brexit situation ? Sorry to bring the B word into your Sunday.

    • Rob says:

      It was the UK’s idea to bring in this law in the first place, so very unlikely.

      I’m sure politicians are queuing up to introduce a piece of law that is likely to lead to increased prices in the shops in order to enrich three massive US corporations.

      • Tony says:

        Thanks.

        So that’s prob why the Accor credit card has quietly died a death ?

        “I’m sure politicians are queuing up to introduce a piece of law that is likely to lead to increased prices in the shops in order to enrich three massive US corporations.” – you never know with this lot …

      • TGLoyalty says:

        It might change the Uk Amex situation though?

        • memesweeper says:

          in theory you could end up with different interpretations of the rules between EU and UK … but I’d not get any hopes up just yet. For the time being the rules stay consistent and I’d expect the implementation will be so too.

  • Ben says:

    It is very depressing to see the credit card market in the USA….

    Welcome bonuses right now:
    IHG card bonus 140k Welcome bonus
    Bonvoy card – 5 free nights up to 50,000 a night
    Amex gold – 60k MR
    Platinum – 75K MR

    Sigh…

    • Prins Polo says:

      In practice most of the good cards (Sapphire, BA, IHG, Hyatt, etc) are issued by Chase, which has a strict 5/24 rule, which in turn limits churning. Also no partial/pro rata refund of fees (unlike in the UK) when cards are cancelled. And a lot of the ones with high sign-up bonuses come with $500-600 annual fee.

  • Genghis says:

    Having such a low basis for a night (£50) wouldn’t appeal to me as I’d feel I’m not getting value for money (ie if a room is £150 ex VAT I’m losing out on £10 reward). I appreciate I’m very much in the minority of trying to extract as much value as possible. I’d much prefer a points system which convert to a free night of the value you request.

    • Doug M says:

      Minority maybe, but at least one other is with you. I’ve tried endlessly to explain to people how using low value nights on an expensive night is a sucker move. You want your free nights to equate as closely as possible with the room rate you’re using them against.
      I’d guess this makes the scheme cost hotels.com a lot less than it would seem.

      • memesweeper says:

        Correct — and I have the opposite problem, a hotels.com credit so damn expensive I can’t ever find anywhere to use it! Nearly four hundred quid… and I’ll never allow myself to use it on a cheaper room and loose the balance…

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Times like this you need a couple of hostel nights to bring the act value down.

          Maybe a suite somewhere in the countryside for a night? Early check in and late check out. Chewton Glen or Clivedon house or the like?

          • memesweeper says:

            Nice idea but too late. Booked a week in a bonkers expensive ski chalet through hotels.com hence the funky-high credit I can’t use.

        • Lady London says:

          I’m thinking spa to use that up

        • John says:

          You need to have several hotels.com accounts, as long as you don’t care about the status

  • memesweeper says:

    strangely, I’ve often found the opposite… factor in the Hotels.com rewards and , if they have the hotel and room I want, they are often the best deal. Where it falls downs they do not have the range of hotels you find on booking.com.

    I (usually) book direct with those hotels I have status with and actively collect the points (Marriot, Hilton, IHG), but occasionally even with these chains hotels.com makes sense (ie as a solo traveller on business not wanting an upgrade or breakfast and when there’s no points promotion ongoing). For chains like Accor it’s hotels.com every time for me.

    • Lady London says:

      Accor does, however, have their only globally lucrative promotion still able to be booked for the next few days.

      I have to pass as airlines have completely stopped flights on my most used routes so I can plan nothing.

      But for anyone who can see 3 stays of more than 1 night between now and 15th December and can use Accor the promo covered by Rob 2-3 weeks ago is a no-brainer.

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