One of the first loyalty programs that really turned me on to points-hoarding was the Hotels.com Welcome Rewards. Why? Because it was extremely simple.
Understanding these programs can sometimes be complicated. Negotiating the intricacies of points value is as tough as tracking currency exchanges. When you have Club Carlson doling out points like they’re going out of style with seemingly fat 85k point bonuses, American Express appears stingy when they’re offering 25k with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. Yet, when you really look into it, the SPG points will get you further because you’re only looking at 3-4k points to book a category 2 reward night, whereas it will cost me 15k for a similar reward with CC. I always like to think of bonuses in terms of how many category 2 nights they will get me – that simplifies it a bit, and that’s generally how I like to use them. I’m cheap. That’s why I do this.
Anyways, back to the WelcomeRewards program and its simplicity. There’s not big whopper of a bonus at the moment, and there’s no credit card which will help you accumulate WelcomeReward points, but there is an offer for a rebate when you book multiple-night stays, and it’s a solid program for a few key reasons.
- Simplicity: Buy 10 nights, get 1 free. The free night is worth the average of the 10 stayed.
- Versatility: You can book hotels almost anywhere – large chains, small chains, bed and breakfasts.
- Flexibility: In most cases, you can cancel reservations without a penalty – watch this closely, though.
- Affordability: Many times you’ll be able to find the same hotels at better rates than if you book directly – unfortunately, though, you forego accumulating loyalty points. (This is not a huge deal for me because if I had to earn hotel points by actually staying in hotels, I’d never have any significant amount of them).
- Friend Bookability: This is my favorite differentiation. Most loyalty programs require that you be the individual who is staying. Hotels.com only cares that you’re the one booking the reservation. As such, it becomes extremely easy to pile up these rewards.
Using Hotels.com Welcome Rewards Program
I’ll give you an example.
Let’s say you and two other couples are booking a 3-night trip to Vegas. You put yourself in charge of making reservations. I always browse by putting in my dates and narrowing the location, isolating 3-star or above, reviews of 3.5 or above, and then sorting by lowest price.
When I do that, I get a few that I just throw out like “The Quad” (what the hell is the Quad in Las Vegas?), and I’m choosing between Circus Circus ($49), Riviera ($53), Excalibur ($60), Stratosphere ($61), and Luxor ($72). I’m instantly intrigued by the Luxor, because it’s a little nicer for not a lot more money. Circus Circus is older and a lot of fun to visit because of the free mini-shows, but it, Riviera, and Stratosphere are far from the center of action.
Then I see that Excalibur is also offering a $20 food and beverage credit for each room. They also have free internet, no cancellation fee (until 2 days before arrival), and it’s very well-located for what we want to do there. I book all 3 rooms for 3 nights for a total of $607 toward the minimum spend on my Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. My friends each pay me $202 a couple and we plan our Vegas Vacation.
After booking 9 nights I’m only one more night from getting a free night with Hotels.com. Each of us will get a $20 rebate, and if my friends need to cancel, I can do that without a problem. We’ve saved a little money over the rate on the Excalibur site
and gotten a $20 food credit.
The WelcomeRewards program is an important weapon in your arsenal in the war against travel expenses. Signing up is as simple as entering your name and address. And right now they’re offering up to a $100 rebate when you book at Hotels.com.