The complete guide to the Hotels.com Rewards programme
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I look to maximise every hotel stay with both the benefits I receive on-property and the hotel points I earn for my booking. Typically, that means booking directly with a large hotel chain on its website to ensure I earn elite status-qualifying nights, enjoy my elite-status benefits and earn points. For those reasons, I haven’t delved much into Hotels.com and its rewards programme. However, the site has a loyalty structure that is as simple as it is lucrative, and it’s great if you find yourself staying at hotels where you don’t have any status.
Here’s everything you need to know about the programme.
Hotels.com Rewards basics
Hotels.com is an online accommodation booking platform with thousands of properties in 200 countries worldwide. It’s not a hotel chain, and nor does it have its own properties. Instead, it just lists hotel properties that you can book, similar to Skyscanner or Google Flights for flights.
While Hotels.com Rewards may not have much of a wow factor on first glance, it certainly thrives with its simplicity. When you book 10 nights through the website or app (you must be logged in to your account), you’ll earn one free night with a value equivalent to the average cost of your 10 paid nights.
It’s as simple as that.
You can earn a free night with 10 one-night stays, a single booking of 10 nights or any combination leading to 10 nights. Once you reach 10 nights, you’ll get a free night that you can apply at checkout. You can earn multiple free nights by continuing to book with Hotels.com and accumulating 10 additional paid nights per free night.
The free night value will never cover taxes and fees, though these may be minimal outside the U.S., so you’ll still be on the hook for those even if your free night average value is higher than the cost of the night you’re covering. If you want to use your free night for a hotel that’s more expensive than the value of your free night, you can use it and pay the difference in cost.
If you have multiple free nights in your account, you can redeem them on a multi-night booking. For instance, if you have four free nights and a six-night booking, you can use all four and pay for two nights.
Beginning 27 November 2019, Hotels.com began charging a $5 redemption fee per free reward night redeemed through the website. However, no redemption fee will be charged on free nights redeemed through the Hotels.com app.
Caveats to earning and redeeming free nights
Because no rewards programme could ever be caveat-free, here are some things you need to know about earning and redeeming Hotels.com free nights:
- You can’t redeem multiple free nights to cover a single, expensive night. You must redeem one free night per night.
- You won’t earn a night credit toward a free night if you book a hotel with a coupon code on Hotels.com, if you do not complete the booking (i.e., if you don’t actually check-in and checkout of the hotel), when booking a free night or when booking a hotel as part of a special promotion you received.
- You’ll earn a night credit towards the 10 nights if you pay with a Hotels.com gift card, which you can find discounted at a variety of online retailers.
There are also two levels of status with Hotels.com: Silver and Gold. You’ll reach Silver status after booking 10 nights in a membership year (based on the date you join the programme) and you’ll earn Gold status after booking 30 nights in a membership year.
As a Hotels.com Rewards Silver member, you’ll receive:
- Priority customer service when calling in for assistance;
- Silver Exclusives like free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, airport transfers and spa vouchers where you see the gift box icon at selected properties;
- A price guarantee where if you see a better price on exactly the same day, Hotels.com will match it and refund you the difference; and
- Hassle-Free Travel Guarantee, where if you have to change your travel plans, it’ll help minimize hotel charges and cancellation fees.
While all this sounds lovely for only a 10-stay threshold, don’t get too excited. I’ve been a Silver member for some time and never noticed any tangible benefits. I strongly suspect the Silver Exclusives are offered to all guests at these properties and just packaged up to look like a status benefit. I’ve never booked a room and then discovered I randomly received a free airport transfer based solely on my status. It’s also never been mentioned by the property during my stay.
Hotels.com Rewards Gold members receive all Silver benefits plus a complimentary room upgrade as well as early check-in and late checkout, subject to availability.
When to use Hotels.com
What’s nice about Hotels.com Rewards is the ability to use free nights at properties that typically offer no avenue for getting free stays, besides using fixed-value award points or cash-back earnings. Four Seasons properties, on-property Disney resorts, boutique hotels and ski resorts are all on Hotels.com. With no blackout dates, you can use your free night credit toward any of these properties.
If you’re going to stay regularly at large hotel chains like Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Radisson, then I believe it’s still best to book directly with those properties and earn hotel elite status, benefits and points. It’s best to use Hotels.com when looking at remote destinations, if you want to book a boutique hotel or a unique property or if you know you have a one-off stay at a chain you’ll never (or almost never) utilise again. Remember, if you’re looking to book a luxury property, it could be best to utilize a Virtuoso agent or Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts and compare the benefits you’ll receive over any savings toward a future stay with Hotels.com.
Earn Reward nights + Avios
You can also double-dip on Hotels.com Rewards by stacking the 10% Reward Night offer with the ability to earn British Airways Avios. By booking through the Hotels.com Avios portal, you can earn 4 points per £1 spent on each booking. Based on TPG U.K.’s current valuation of Avios, that’s worth around a 4.4% discount on your booking and you can still earn your nights towards a Hotels.com free night. Avios does offer bonus Avios on Hotels.com bookings from time to time, which can earn up to 6 Avios per £1 spent.
There’s a lot of flexibility in using those Avios — you could use them for flights or for hotel stays.
Combined with the 10% discount offered by the free night, you can get around a 14%+ discount on each and every hotel booking is an excellent offer.
If you book enough of the big-box chain hotels to carry elite status and earn hotel points, Hotels.com may not make sense for you. Remember that for bookings made with online travel agencies like Hotels.com, in most cases, you won’t earn hotel points or elite credits and the properties don’t have to honour your existing elite status (though some do anyway). I also find upgrades to be less generous and room assignments poor when booking through online travel agencies compared to booking direct.
The elite status levels in the Hotels.com Rewards programme are, I think, more marketing fluff than tangible benefits, but the free night offer, especially combined with the Avios eStore make this a great option to book accommodation.
Additional reporting by Ben Smithson
Featured image courtesy of the Grand Barrail Chateau Hotel
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