The Complete Guide to the One Key Rewards Program

One Key gives loyalists the chance to earn points and elite status via spending on Hotels.com, Expedia and Vrbo.
Sean Cudahy
By Sean Cudahy 
Published
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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Whether you’re thinking of renting a beach home or planning a multifaceted trip requiring a flight, hotel stay and car rental, you now have an opportunity to earn rewards, receive discounts and reach elite status through a new loyalty program.

Expedia Group brands including online travel agencies Hotels.com, Expedia and vacation rental site Vrbo are joining forces for a program called One Key.

One Key has replaced the existing travel rewards programs used by Hotels.com and Expedia. The inclusion of Vrbo makes it the first loyalty program among major vacation rental sites as well.

Note that there are some limitations around booking through an online travel agency, and previous Hotels.com Rewards loyalists may find earning a free night is more difficult under the new program.

However, for some travelers, One Key will provide an avenue to earn rewards for almost every element of their trip, from flights to hotels to vacation rentals to experiences.

Here are some things to know about the One Key program.

How the One Key loyalty program works

The One Key program combines the booking possibilities from three sites into a lot of earning potential. It’s probably most beneficial for the more infrequent travelers who may not stay or fly enough with one brand to earn perks but could use rewards on all of their travel spending combined.

In other words, it doesn’t matter which of the three sites you’re using. Loyalty currency you earn and elite status progress you make will all count toward a single program.

Like with most loyalty programs, One Key is free to join.

How to earn rewards on Vrbo, Hotels.com and Expedia

The One Key program will use a new loyalty currency: OneKeyCash. Members will be able to earn through:

  • Eligible stays on Hotels.com.

  • Eligible rentals on Vrbo.

  • Eligible flights, hotels, rental cars or activities on Expedia.

Members will receive 2% in OneKeyCash for every dollar spent on eligible hotels, vacation rentals, activities, packages, car rentals and cruises and 0.2% in OneKeyCash for every dollar spent on eligible flights. That means if you spent $100 for a hotel night, you’d earn $2 worth of OneKeyCash.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You can double dip and earn more rewards by using a travel credit card to pay for your booking and adding your frequent flyer account number to any flight reservations.

The earnings rates get higher for certain hotel reservations as members earn elite status in the One Key program.

In a nice benefit for families, whichever member makes the booking earns the rewards for their whole traveling party. So, a parent reserving flights and a hotel for the whole family would earn all of the OneKeyCash for the trip.

Can you transfer OneKeyCash?

You won’t be able to transfer OneKeyCash to another member’s account. However, you will be able to book travel for another member. So, if you have OneKeyCash in your account and no plans to use it, you can book a trip for a family member or friend with your rewards.

Redeeming OneKeyCash

OneKeyCash is equal to $1. For most bookings where you pay upfront, you’ll be able to apply the OneKeyCash you’ve earned toward the cost. For example, if you had $20 worth of OneKeyCash, you could apply it to your next hotel booking on Hotels.com for a $20 discount off the total price.

There is one key exception: For flights booked with OneKeyCash, you’ll need to have enough in your account to cover the entire booking.

OneKeyCash can be used on booking participating rentals in U.S. dollars.

Earning elite status through One Key

The earnings, discounts and perks improve as you earn status in the One Key program. And because the loyalty program encompasses flights, hotels, rental cars and more, it is possible to earn elite status in just one trip.

Trip elements

Many major loyalty programs are built around revenue-based models for elite status, but One Key uses what it calls “trip elements.”

A trip element includes any of the following:

  • One air ticket.

  • One room night.

  • One vacation rental night.

  • One night on a cruise.

  • One day’s car rental.

  • One round-trip ground transportation ticket — like a taxi, shuttle, etc.

  • One activity ticket.

Trip elements must be worth $25 or more (not including taxes or fees) to count.

How to earn One Key elite status

Members reach elite status levels by accumulating trip elements. Here’s what it takes to qualify for each tier:

One Key status tier

Requirements to earn

One Key Blue

No benchmark; entry level.

One Key Silver

Five trip elements within a year.

One Key Gold

15 trip elements within a year.

One Key Platinum

30 trip elements within a year.

You can see how it’s possible to quickly reach status levels. Let’s say a member books the following as part of a trip:

  • A flight for a family of four (on Expedia) = 4 trip elements.

  • A seven-day car rental (on Expedia) = 7 trip elements.

  • A seven-night rental property stay (on Vrbo) = 7 trip elements.

  • Two activities during the week (on Expedia) = 2 trip elements.

This fairly ordinary vacation booking totals 20 trip elements, enough for the One Key member to reach Gold status and be two-thirds of the way to Platinum.

For any of these trip elements to count and to earn status and loyalty currency, the member will need to book while logged-in to their One Key account.

One Key elite status

Clearly, earning elite status in the One Key program is easy. But what does it get you?

Members who join the One Key program (known as Blue members from the outset) enjoy some limited benefits like discounts on some hotel stays and free price tracking. The latter is a great tool for finding the best deal.

Like with any tiered loyalty program, as you work your way up the ladder, you’ll retain the lower-tier benefits but accumulate new perks along the way.

Here are the perks for One Key’s elite status tiers:

Elite status tier

Trip elements required

Perks (accumulated by tier)

One Key Blue

None; entry-level status.

  • Earn OneKeyCash on eligible bookings.

  • Free price tracking.

  • 10% member discounts on eligible properties.

One Key Silver

Five trip elements.

  • 15% member discounts on eligible properties.

  • 50% extra OneKeyCash on stays at VIP Access properties booked on Expedia or Hotels.com.

  • Priority traveler support.

One Key Gold

15 trip elements.

  • 20% member discounts on eligible properties.

  • 100% extra OneKeyCash on stays at VIP Access properties booked through Expedia or Hotels.com.

  • Extra perks at VIP Access properties like food and beverage discounts, late checkouts, early check-ins and room upgrades (when available).

  • Free price drop protection on eligible flight bookings made on the Expedia app.

One Key Platinum

30 trip elements.

  • 200% extra OneKeyCash on stays at VIP Access properties booked through Expedia or Hotels.com.

  • Platinum VIP support.

  • One-time Expedia launch discount of 10% (good for up to $100 in savings).

Some of the most notable benefits of elite status are the perks at VIP Access properties, which are a collection of hotels that "consistently receive the highest guest reviews on Expedia Group and meet stringent standards of quality." For flights, the price drop protection is a great way to ensure you're getting the lowest price. If your fare drops in price, you'll get the difference refunded to your account in the form of OneKeyCash.

Is it worth using the One Key program?

Though booking through an online travel agency or using the One Key loyalty program may not make sense for most avid travelers, it can certainly be helpful for others.

Here are a few of the benefits to consider.

Search a full range of options when booking

One of the compelling reasons to use an online travel agency like Expedia or Hotels.com is that it searches a wide range of brands. This can be helpful in finding the cheapest prices and, in some cases, alternative options like a small, family-run, boutique hotel off the beaten path.

Bundling your bookings

Another benefit of using a site like Expedia to book your trip is that it can help you keep all the details of your trip organized in one location, including the hotel stay, flight reservation and car rental. Sometimes, bundling can help you tap in to discounts, too.

Earn rewards for Vrbo stays

Even the most avid points, miles and travel enthusiasts will want to take advantage of Vrbo’s participation in the One Key program. Previously, there was no true way to earn rewards for stays at a Vrbo property (such as a beach house).

By logging-in to your One Key account when booking your Vrbo reservation, you'll be able to earn OneKeyCash, which you could use for a future flight, hotel stay, rental car, activity or rental property.

Great for infrequent travelers hoping to earn perks

Though online travel agencies often don’t make sense for frequent travelers who are pursuing elite status and points or miles with airline and hotel loyalty programs, the One Key program can be a great way for less frequent (or less loyal) travelers to get some return on their investment.

Don’t have any hope of reaching elite status with the likes of Hilton or Marriott but planning a trip or two for the family with a car rental, Vrbo stay and maybe even a flight?

A weeklong Vrbo stay with an accompanying car rental and flight is enough to earn you Gold status. This alone could help you potentially enjoy a room upgrade and perhaps a food and beverage credit at your next hotel stay, when available (provided it’s at one of the program’s VIP Access hotels).

Earn for one thing, use for another

Likely the most notable benefit of the One Key program is that you can earn loyalty currency for one booking activity and use the rewards on another.

Booking a rental car will help you earn OneKeyCash and make progress toward elite status you can redeem or enjoy during a hotel stay. Booking a flight could help offset the cost of a future Vrbo stay. And so on.

The interconnectivity of the program across Expedia, Hotels.com and Vrbo’s platforms makes it possible to earn and redeem in a variety of ways.

Drawbacks of One Key

Though there are some enticing reasons to use the One Key program, there are some clear drawbacks — when it comes to the program itself and to online travel agencies more broadly.

Earning free nights harder than with Hotels.com Rewards

For travelers who have used the Hotels.com Rewards program through the years, the earning and redeeming setup of the One Key program may well come as a disappointment.

With Hotels.com’s previous program, you earned a free night by collecting “stamps” — one stamp for each night stayed, and 10 stamps got you a free night. The free night was worth the average of the rate of the 10 nights you stayed. So, if you stayed five nights at a rate of $50 and five nights at a rate of $100 (a total of $750 in spending), your free night would be worth $75 — a 10% return on your investment.

Under One Key, you get 2% OneKeyCash for every dollar spent at hotels and Vrbo properties — a significantly lower rate of return.

Harder to earn and use other hotel loyalty program benefits

Oftentimes when you use an online travel agency, you’re not able to earn points or enjoy elite status perks with a separate hotel loyalty program.

So, if you’re a frequent traveler who has reached (or is pursuing) elite status with a major hotel chain, note that you may not earn any points or elite qualifying credit for the stay with the hotel’s loyalty program. For this reason, avid travelers may be better off booking direct.

It is worth noting, though, that when it comes to booking flights, you will earn both airline miles and OneKeyCash.

Reservation changes can be more complicated

Booking through a third party (as opposed to directly with a hotel or airline) can complicate reservation changes.

For instance, airline customer service representatives frequently have more limited ability to change a ticket booked through an online travel agency. While all of these booking sites do offer their own customer service representatives and, indeed, enhanced customer support for the higher-level elite status members, having a "go-between" can often be a headache.

Elite status perks limited to certain reservations

Another noticeable weakness of the One Key loyalty program is that some of the elite status perks are confined to certain types of reservations.

Sure, you can earn and redeem OneKeyCash (and earn elite status) for a hotel stay, a flight, a rental car reservation, a cruise or an activity.

However, to fully enjoy the program’s complement of elite status benefits like property credits and upgrades, you’ll need to book a hotel through Hotels.com and Expedia — and not just any hotel; it’ll need to be one of the VIP Access properties.

Recap of the One Key program

The new program is unlikely to be a groundbreaking option for the most experienced travelers. And Hotels.com Rewards loyalists may find the path to a free night a bit trickier.

But it does make it possible to earn rewards on one site and redeem on another — particularly for those who frequently rent vacation homes with Vrbo. And it figures to give even more infrequent travelers a path to elite status.

Regardless of whether you’re booking with Expedia, Hotels.com or Vrbo, be sure to use a travel credit card that offers bonus earnings categories for general travel purchases, which will allow you to rack up credit card rewards on top of your earnings in the One Key program.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

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Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

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Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-6.5%

Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

$300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
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