Is hotel loyalty even worth it anymore? That’s a question many frequent travelers have asked as major hotel brands devalue their programs and make earning and redeeming points more difficult.
For some, the perks offered at lower elite tiers from major hotel chains like Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Marriott are underwhelming. Do the extra points, occasional upgrades and free bottles of water really make up for the inconvenience of narrowing your hotel searches to a single brand?
Here are a few reasons the Hotels.com rewards program is worth considering.
The biggest selling point of the Hotels.com rewards program is its simplicity. You don’t have to track elite-qualifying stays, scramble to meet status challenges or try to find ways to “maximize” your points. You simply get one free night on any eligible property for every ten nights you book.
The value of the free night is determined by the average of the ten paid nights. You also have to pay taxes and fees, which makes the free night less valuable than it seems at first blush. For example, I recently stayed at the TWA Hotel at JFK and paid $243 total, $44 of which was taxes and fees. That’s not an insignificant amount for a “free” stay.
Still, knowing you have a Hotels.com credit worth a certain amount is much simpler than knowing you have 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
The Hotels.com rewards program offers more options and wider availability than any traditional hotel loyalty program.
Hotels.com boasts more than 500,000 hotels and growing. By contrast, the relatively enormous Marriott portfolio has only 7,542 hotels. So the Hotels.com program offers more than 66 times the redemption options.
What’s more, Hotels.com “reward nights” aren’t subject to the blackout dates and inconsistent availability of standard hotel reward nights, because they’re effectively cash bookings. If a room is available on Hotels.com, you can book it with your free night.
» Learn more: Travel loyalty program reviews
Return for your money
The Hotels.com rewards program offers a decent payback on its own. For example, a 10-night stay at the TWA Hotel mentioned above would cost $2,430 ($243 x 10) and yield a free Hotels.com night worth $199 (the average cost of each night, minus taxes and fees). That’s an almost 8.2% return.
The Hotels.com rewards program isn’t for everyone. Despite its advantages in terms of simplicity, availability and payback, it lacks features of standard hotel loyalty programs that some travelers value highly.
The rewards program doesn’t entitle you to any of the elite perks you might otherwise get with hotel chains, such as late check-out, suite upgrades and free breakfast. Those can be hugely valuable for some travelers, and the perks only increase the higher your status climbs.
It kills the fun of points maximization. Some of us enjoy the game of finding ways to maximize our hotel points, even if it's inconvenient.
The bottom line
Feel like you’re not getting much from your current hotel loyalty program? Interested in testing the hotel loyalty waters and not sure where to start? The the Hotels.com rewards program offers a good value for those who prefer payback over VIP treatment.
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 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card