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One Key to replace Hotels.com and Expedia Rewards from 8th July – what you need to know

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Expedia Group has announced that One Key, the new rewards programme, will launch in the UK from 8th July.

It will be a staggered roll out, with all Expedia Rewards and Hotels.com Rewards accounts converted to the new structure by 16th September.

This means that you shouldn’t book a Hotels.com stay for check-out after 8th July if you don’t want to risk having your rewards cut from 10% to 2% of the pre-tax room rate. If you already have a non-refundable booking, you’re stuck.

Details are available here.

One Key to replace Hotels.com and Expedia Rewards soon

For Expedia Rewards, which is already a weak scheme, the change is minimal.

For Hotels.com Rewards, it amounts to a gutting of the programme.

However, the change has one benefit – you can cash out the value of your accumulated Hotels.com Rewards now without having to wait until you hit 10 nights. You don’t even have to use the money for a hotel – you can redeem it against an Expedia flight booking instead. It’s a short term gain, but long term you will be worse off.

Why is (was) Hotels.com Rewards great?

We had been recommending Hotels.com Rewards to HfP readers for many years. You can see the details here.

For anyone who cannot commit to a specific hotel brand, or doesn’t do enough nights to earn a decent level of status or rewards, it is your best option.

It’s a very simple scheme. Whenever you complete 10 nights, you get a credit towards a future booking for the average ex-VAT cost of those 10 nights.

These means that you are receiving a 10% rebate on your ex-VAT spend.

Even better, the credit can be used as part payment if you prefer. You are not restricted, as you are with many hotel programmes, to booking a standard room as a reward. You can book a suite if you want, as long as you pay the difference.

Another benefit of Hotels.com Rewards is that you can book for anyone you want (with the bookings in their name) and earn the rewards for yourself. I have done this numerous times when booking hotel rooms for my in-laws.

One Key to replace Hotels.com and Expedia Rewards soon

One Key is far weaker than Hotels.com Rewards

One Key will give you a combined loyalty account account across Hotels.com, Expedia and vrbo.

You will receive 2% of your ex-VAT spending at Hotels.com as OneKeyCash. This means that rewards are being devalued by 80%.

You will also earn 2% on vacation rentals, activities, packages, car rentals and cruises booked via Expedia and vrbo. Flight bookings via Expedia will earn just 0.2% (£1 on a £500 booking).

What happens to my existing Hotels.com free nights?

The only bit of good news is that your existing free night awards are not going to be wiped out.

They will be converted into OneKeyCash at their existing value. If you have a free night worth $175 to use up, it will be swapped for $175 of One Key credit. The expiry date will remain the same.

What happens to part-earned Hotels.com free nights?

Don’t panic. You won’t lose the value of any existing stamps in your Hotels.com Rewards account.

The stamps you are currently collecting towards your next free night voucher will be turned into OneKeyCash based on their existing value, ie 10% of the ex-VAT cost of that particular night.

Let’s look at my own personal statement.

  • I have achieved 7 of the 10 ‘stamps’ required towards my next free night
  • the average spend to date across those six stays is $166.97

When One Key launches, I will receive a starting credit of ($166.97 / 10 * 7) $116.88.

As it turns out, I also have $1.50 in Expedia Rewards credit. This will be merged in, to give me an opening One Key balance of $118.38.

One Key to replace Hotels.com and Expedia Rewards soon

What happens to Hotels.com Rewards status?

One Key has its own status programme, which is based on your combined activity across Expedia, Hotels.com and vrbo. We will cover this in more detail once the programme has launched.

Your launch status in One Key will be based on your combined recent bookings at Expedia, vrbo and Hotels.com, as long as you used the same email address for all sites.

A switch date ‘between 8th July and 16th September’ is not helpful

To be honest, I was expecting a firm date to be announced for the One Key switch. Giving members a two month window is not hugely useful.

I suppose this is better than the original four month window though, which said that the switch would happen ‘between July and October’.

You can make Hotels.com bookings for stays up to 8th July with some certainly that you’ll get your 10% return via Hotels.com Rewards. (In fact, 5th July may be more realistic, because it may be that a stay which posts to your account after the switch date is treated at the new rate.)

You should NOT make a hotel booking for after 8th July if your main reason for making it is Hotels.com Rewards credit.

Let’s look at the upsides …..

To be fair, there are two upsides to changes:

  • once your existing free night vouchers are converted into OneKeyCash, you will be able to spend them at Expedia (for flights – but you must pay for the ENTIRE flight in OneKeyCash) and vrbo (for rentals) – you are not restricted to hotel room redemptions
  • anyone with a few Hotels.com Rewards ‘stamps’ who thought they would never hit 10 nights to trigger a free night voucher will release the value they have built up

Conclusion

I know many HfP readers are big fans of Hotels.com Rewards and put the bulk of their hotel bookings through it. I used it a lot myself, especially when making hotel bookings for family members.

Hotels.com is taking a gamble, hoping that the bookings it loses from ‘heavy stayers’ like our readers will be offset by occasional bookers who are attracted by a reward they can spend immediately. Let’s see if it works.

You can find out more on this page of the Hotels.com website.

Comments (106)

  • Aaron says:

    I was and have been Gold on Hotels.com for a few years and loved the benefits of it.

    I recently decided to change to Accor’s ALL.com as I paid for the IBIS and Voyageur and immediately got to gold status with similar perks. Not as much as a wide selection, but it works form me so far.

    I am very disappointed with this change to onekey, but hopefully business will drop and they will see sense and reverse some of the changes.

    Not that I hold much hope, sadly.

    • Peter K says:

      We live in an instant gratification world. That’s what this gives so it’ll probably do well.

  • Concorde says:

    It is a big shame as I almost exclusively only use hotels.com. Hopefully they don’t gut the quidco/TCB on top!

  • Voldemort says:

    Gaslighting in full force at Expedia Inc with them making it sound like they’re doing us a favour.

  • Simon says:

    Sometimes booking via an OTA is unavoidable. Last year Thai Airways had an economy fare OSL-BKK-SIN for £280 one-way – according to Matrix ITA you could add on MAN-OSL for £30 extra, but the Thai website wouldn’t let you include the MAN-OSL flight (codeshare with SAS). Expedia would happily sell you it, all ticketed on Thai on one e-ticket.

  • Joe says:

    I still don’t understand how this is legal.
    I booked numerous rooms on Hotels.com earlier this year on the proviso that l would receive reward nights. Many of these rooms are non refundable. l don’t understand why they are not obliged to provide OneKey credit equal to the reward night rate, for any rooms booked prior to 08/04 (when they emailed members to give a window in which the scheme was changing).

  • Matador says:

    Rob on the upsides: “once your existing free night vouchers are converted into OneKeyCash, you will be able to spend them at Expedia (for flights – but you must pay for the ENTIRE flight in OneKeyCash) and vrbo (for rentals) – you are not restricted to hotel room redemptions”

    Struggling to see how this is an upside for flights as you would have to accumulate a ton on OneKeyCash in order to be able to payl for a full flight. Surely there is a way to pay partially for OneKeyCash and the rest with a card?
    What a joke!

  • Amory says:

    I am hotels.com Gold via my AVIS Presidential status but I wouldn’t have booked enough normally to have Gold. If it’s based on nights booked and not your existing status, then would I be correct in thinking I’d not be upgraded to gold/plat with one key then?

    It’s annoying because it means I likely wouldn’t be able to ask for my Gold perks at check in

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