Hotels.com Rewards Visa: Decent Rewards, but They’re Super Complex

​​It's a fine choice if you're already a devotee of the Hotels.com loyalty program, but most people will find the card’s rewards system too much effort.
Gregory KarpNov 19, 2021

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Our Take

2.8

NerdWallet rating 
Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card

on Wells Fargo's website

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99%-22.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick FactsView rates and fees

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • High rewards rate

  • Automatic elite status

  • Premium travel protections

Cons

  • Rewards have limited flexibility

  • Complicated rewards

  • Complicated redemptions

  • No free anniversary night

  • No bonus categories

Alternate Pick: Simpler rewards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Unlimited 2 miles on every dollar spent

For an annual fee, this card gives you a high rewards rate on everything. It has a sign-up bonus, and miles are redeemable for statement credit against any travel expense, including hotel bookings.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$95

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99%-22.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

15.99%-22.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

11.99%-22.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 14 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 14 months

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

The Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card offers decent rewards value for your spending, coupled with an annual fee of $0 and the flexibility of not being tied to one hotel chain.

Overall, it could be a good fit for those already using the Hotels.com loyalty program.

But what about aspirations of using rewards to book some plush room in a distant location?

Let’s just say that if this card's rewards program were a hotel, it'd be less like a beachfront luxury resort and more like a suburban office-park hotel right off the highway. And that's if you're willing to wade through the convoluted rewards program, which awkwardly marries credit card spending rewards with a "buy 10, get one free” system you’d find at a sandwich shop.

If you think you can pick a hotel group and stick with it, a co-branded hotel credit card would be a better fit, even if you had to pay an annual fee. Or a general travel credit card would offer versatility.

Key benefits of the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card

Card type: Hotel.

Annual fee: $0.

Sign-up bonus: Get 2 reward nights worth $250 total (max $125 per night), when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 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.

Redemption options: Accumulate 10 stamps for a “reward night” booking at Hotels.com. (Value varies; see details below.)

Foreign transaction fees: None.

Other benefits:

  • Silver status with Hotels.com for 12 months from date of account opening.

  • No redemption fee. (Potentially saves $5 per redemption.)

  • Cell phone protection.

  • Travel protections, such as rental car insurance and trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

Why you might want the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card

Decent rewards rate

This card has a confusing rewards system (more on this below), but essentially you earn rewards equivalent to 2.2% of your spending, according to NerdWallet calculations:

  • You’ll need to spend $5,000 to earn 10 “stamps” that can be redeemed for a "reward night."

  • When earned with the credit card, 10 stamps have a value of $110.

  • $110 worth of rewards divided by $5,000 in spending comes out to 0.022 or 2.2%.

That is a competitive rewards rate compared with some hotel cards. But, nowadays you can find credit cards that pay 2% in cash back with less complicated rewards systems. With the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card, you get only an extra 0.2 percentage points to earn rewards that are far more restrictive than cash.

Automatic elite status

You get automatic Silver status with Hotels.com for 12 months from the date of account 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.

Note, however, if you already have status with a branded hotel chain like Marriott or Hyatt, you forgo your status benefits and elite night credits with that hotel chain if you book through a third party like Hotels.com.

Perks and travel protections

  • No redemption fee: If you’re a Hotels.com loyalty member, you must pay a $5 fee for each redemption unless you use the app. However, the fee is waived if you have the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card.

  • 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.

  • Travel perks: Like any self-respecting travel card, the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card charges no foreign transaction fee for making purchases abroad. It also comes with some travel protections, such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance, and rental car insurance, which is secondary, meaning your own car insurance applies first.

Why you might want to go with another card

Baffling rewards

You can definitely figure out this card's rewards program. You can. But after this description, you might not want to try.

1. Earning:

  • Even without the credit card, the Hotels.com loyalty program lets you earn a “stamp” for every night you stay at any eligible property booked on that site. That’s a stamp like you might get on a loyalty wallet-card at a sandwich or coffee shop.

  • With the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card, you earn a stamp for every $500 spent on purchases with the card. All spending counts the same. No bonus rewards for spending on restaurants or gas stations, for example — not even for booking at Hotels.com.

But what are the rewards stamps worth? You’ll have to remember the number $110. Here’s why.

2. Redeeming:

You need to accumulate 10 stamps for a “reward night.” No partial redemptions for, say, seven stamps.

So 10 stamps, and you can book any hotel room on Hotels.com? Uh, no. Not all stamps are created equal:

  • Stamps you earn by racking up $500 in spending on the credit card are assigned a value of $110.

  • But stamps you earn by booking through Hotels.com are worth whatever you paid for the room.

The value of your 10-stamp “reward night” is the average of your 10 stamps — again, with credit card-earned stamps worth $110. So, if you didn’t book any rooms through Hotels.com and earned your 10 stamps only with the credit card, then your reward is worth $110. But if you have a mix of bookings and credit card stamps, your reward could be more or less than $110, depending on how expensive your bookings were, which affects the average of the 10 stamps.

Whew.

Nerdy tip: For rewards earned with the credit card alone, don't get your hopes up for booking a luxurious 5-star hotel, where rooms cost far more than $110. You can book a more expensive hotel and still use the reward, but you’ll have to pay the difference.

Want a simpler credit card that earns rewards you can use for hotel bookings? Try a general travel card that earns a flat rate back on all spending and lets you use your rewards for multiple forms of travel, including hotels. For example, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns 2 miles per $1 spent, and you can redeem rewards for any hotel or flight.

Weak sign-up bonus

With an annual fee of $0, you don’t expect a massive sign-up bonus. But even still, some might be a little disappointed with this one.

The current bonus: Get 2 reward nights worth $250 total (max $125 per night), when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. (The reward night excludes taxes and fees, which you'll have to pay.)

To maximize this bonus, you'd need to find a room that costs exactly $125 a night. If it costs more, you'll owe the difference. If it costs less, you don't get back the difference. That’s less than you get with most other major hotel credit cards, even ones with no annual fee.

A running theme here: The card's bonus, like its rewards, is not so much a "free night," but more like a dollar credit to use at Hotels.com.

Poor flexibility

Granted, Hotels.com boasts 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® Credit Card could help get you free or discounted reward nights across a wide variety of properties.

But unlike cards offering flexible rewards, the stamps you earn using this credit card are redeemable only for Hotels.com bookings. Plus, you can’t redeem the rewards you’ve earned until you earn 10 stamps.

Also, it has no travel partners to transfer rewards to.

For more flexibility, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It offers bonus rewards in several popular categories, including travel and dining. Those points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to several desirable hotel loyalty programs: Marriott, Hyatt and InterContinental Hotels Group (Holiday Inn, Staybridge, Crowne Plaza, among others).

It also comes with a great sign-up bonus: 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®. The annual fee is $95.

No anniversary reward

Many co-branded hotel cards come with a free anniversary night. While those cards typically come with an annual fee in the $100 range, using the free night can easily make up for the fee.

An example: The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card. With an annual fee of $95, it offers a Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after your account anniversary.

No bonus categories

The rewards rate might be decent overall, but there’s no way to earn extra points, not even for Hotels.com bookings. Hotel cards typically offer bonus rewards for hotel bookings and often other spending, such as restaurant dining.

Rewards expire

Rewards expire after 12 months of inactivity, meaning you didn’t earn a stamp or redeem a reward during that time. So make sure you spend at least $500 a year on the card to earn a stamp and reset the expiration date.

Is the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card right for you?

In the end, the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card is a way to earn credit for booking rooms on Hotels.com. Its rewards value for spending on the card is decent and would be a good addition for those already immersed in the Hotels.com loyalty program. But for most people, a co-branded card with a name like Marriott, Hilton or Hyatt might serve them better if they can commit to one hotel chain.

Methodology

NerdWallet reviews credit cards with an eye toward both the quantitative and qualitative features of a card. Quantitative features are those that boil down to dollars and cents, such as fees, interest rates, rewards (including earning rates and redemption values) and the cash value of benefits and perks. Qualitative factors are those that affect how easy or difficult it is for a typical cardholder to get good value from the card. They include such things as the ease of application, simplicity of the rewards structure, the likelihood of using certain features, and whether a card is well-suited to everyday use or is best reserved for specific purchases. Our star ratings serve as a general gauge of how each card compares with others in its class, but star ratings are intended to be just one consideration when a consumer is choosing a credit card. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.