If you’re a hotel free agent and you like saving money on hotel stays, the new Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® credit card from Wells Fargo could be worth a look.
But it suffers from some big drawbacks, chief among them its inflexible, convoluted rewards.
Here's a quick look at the card's details and how it stacks up with other hotel credit cards.
Key details of the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa®
Annual fee: $0.
Sign-up bonus: Earn one reward night (worth up to $125) when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Ongoing rewards: Earn one stamp for every night you stay at any eligible property booked on Hotels.com, plus one stamp for every $500 spent on purchases on the credit card (10 stamps = one reward night).
Automatic Silver status with Hotels.com: When you open your new account, you’ll automatically receive Silver status for 12 months from date of opening. If you already have Silver status, it will be extended for 12 months thanks to your new card. Silver status entitles you to free breakfast, spa vouchers, airport transfers, VIP access lines and more at eligible properties.
Foreign transaction fee: $0.
Cell phone protection: Pay your phone bill with this card and you’ll be covered in the event of damage to or theft of your phone, for up to $1,200 per year ($600 per claim) after a $25 deductible.
Is it a good deal?
Relatively speaking, not really.
Hotels.com does boast listings of 500,000 properties in more than 200 countries. So if you’re not chasing elite status with a particular brand, the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® card could help get you free reward nights across a wide variety of properties, and for no annual fee.
But overall, compared with the competition, the card is underwhelming and needlessly complicated.
Dinky, inflexible Sign-up bonus
To fully maximize the card's welcome offer, you'd need to find a property that costs exactly $125 a night.
If it's more than that, you'll owe the difference; if it's less than that, you don't get the difference back. That's not how most hotel cards work.
Complex, hard-to-understand Rewards
Yes, any kind of spending can eventually qualify for rewards, which is nice. But you have to spend $500 first, and that earns you only one stamp. You need 10 of them for a free night.
And the tricky part is that not all stamps are created equal. Wells Fargo notes that the redemption value of stamps earned via the card "for the purpose of determining your reward night" is $110 per stamp. But that's not 10 times $110. Instead, the actual redemption value of your reward night is based on the average of the 10 stamps you've earned.
So if you spent $5,000 on your Hotels.com® Rewards Visa®, you’d earn 10 stamps, which based on the valuation above gets you one free night worth $110. (Not bad, but probably not enough for that bucket-list luxury hotel you've been eyeing for your anniversary.)
And credit card spending aside, you also earn stamps simply by booking hotel stays via Hotels.com, and those stamps are worth only what you paid for that hotel night. If, say, you found a bargain room for only $60 per night, that stamp is worth $60, not $110. Such a stamp would drag down your 10-stamp average, making your eventual reward night worth a bit less.
The bottom line
Richer and more straightforward rewards and bonuses can be found on any number of co-branded hotel credit cards, some with no annual fees.
Consider the Hilton Honors American Express Card, for example, which features the following welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after your first purchase on the Hilton Honors Card within your first 3 months. Terms Apply. (For more info, see rates and fees.)
NerdWallet values Hilton Honors points at 0.4 cent each, making the bonus alone worth about $375 you can use toward Hilton stays.
To view rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Card, see this page.