Travel Series: The Hotels.com Rewards loyalty program explained.
Being a member of a hotel loyalty program is one of the easiest ways to get free nights, score upgrades, and receive free VIP experiences at luxury hotels. I previously published the details, with pros & cons, of the loyalty programs of the world's most famous hotel brands, and how to take advantage of them:
- Starwood Hotel Group: Starwood preferred guest
- Hyatt Hotel Groups: Hyatt Gold Passport
- Hilton Hotel Group: Hilton Honors
- Marriott Hotel Group: Marriott Rewards
- InterContinental Hotel Group: IHG Rewards Club
- Jumeirah Hotel Group: Jumeirah Sirius
- Fairmont Hotel Group: Fairmont President's Club
- Global Hotel Alliance: Discovery
- The Leading Hotels of the world: Leaders Club
Today, I have a look at Hotels.com Rewards, the loyalty program of Hotels.com, one of the largest hotel booking engines in the world. It's also one of my 4 preferred websites to book luxury hotels, and saves me lots of money while traveling. In this overview, I explain the Hotels.com loyalty program:
- Membership benefits & tiers
- Pros & things I like about Hotels.com Rewards
- Cons & things I don't like about Hotels.com Rewards
- My reviews of luxury hotels booked via Hotels.com
- Key points
- Poll: what's the best hotel loyalty program?
HOTELS.COM REWARDS : MEMBERSHIP TIERS & BENEFITS
Hotels.com has a very simple but rewarding loyalty program, called Hotels.com Rewards. When you book and stay 10 nights at eligible hotels via Hotels.com, you'll get 1 night free to redeem at another. Hotels.com works out the average value of all the 10 nights you've collected and gives it back to you as a free night.
Hotels.com recently added some membership tiers to its loyalty program, although the benefits are not that great. It's the one free night for every 10 booked nights that is the program's main strength. You qualify for our Hotels.com Rewards Silver or Hotels.com Rewards Gold tiers when you collect enough nights in a membership year. A membership year runs for a year from the day you first created an Hotels.com Rewards account to each anniversary after that.
To qualify for Hotels.com Rewards Silver you need to collect 10 to 29 nights during your current membership year. Hotels.com Rewards Silver benefits include:
- Early access to deals and promotions.
- Dedicated agents available by email or phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Hassle-free travel guarantee: If you need to change your booking, or if you have a problem with your stay, Hotels.com agents can help you make new travel plans and minimise any hotel charges or cancellation fees.
To qualify for Hotels.com Rewards Gold, you need to collect 30 or more nights during your current membership year. Hotels.com Rewards Gold benefits include:
- All the benefits of Hotels.com Rewards Silver.
- Exclusive access to special deals and promotions.
PROS & THINGS I LIKE ABOUT HOTELS.COM AND ITS REWARDS PROGRAM
- Registration for the Hotels.com Rewards loyalty program is free, very easy and can be done here.
- You can redeem your free night for a night of greater value and pay the difference.
- You can redeem multiple free nights when you book a multiple-night stay. For example, if you're booking a 7-night stay and have 5 free nights to redeem, you can use all of your free nights in the same booking and pay for only 2 nights, plus taxes and fees.
- If you cancel a refundable booking before the hotel's cancellation deadline, your free night will be returned to your account within 1 hour.
- The coupon(s) you receive through the Hotels.com Rewards program (after accomplishing 10 eligible nights) can be used for bookings at almost the large chain hotels, including the world's most exclusive hotel brands. This is especially a lucrative business when you use Hotels.com for both company & leisure travel: you collect Welcome Rewards coupons through business stays, while you spend them on personal travel.
- Hotels.com also has an excellent Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) program: If you find a cheaper price for a night, Hotels.com will match that rate (and refund you the difference). All you need to do is submit an online BRG form. Finding a cheaper price is not difficult nor time-consuming at all: just use the aggregator websites Hotelscombined and Trivago, which both verify hotel prices at hundreds of other sites (e.g. Expedia, Otel.com, Booking.com, etc) and show where you can book the cheapest rate.
- The Hotels.com BRG is available only for exact itinerary matches, including property, room type, and dates of travel (as is the case with all other BRG programs). The BRG also includes an identical cancellation policy (which can make it harder for your BRG claim to be approved).
- A major and unique advantage of the Hotels.com BRG program is that you can submit a BRG claim from the moment of reservation until 23:59 (PST) the day before your stay (this large time span is unique in the world of BRG programs).
- Another advantage is that hotel bookings that were matched for a better price remain valid for the Hotels.com Rewards program.
- Tip: Use the UK or USA site to submit a BRG claim since their response rate is remarkably faster as compared to Hotels.com websites of other countries.
- Hotels.com gives freedom in your hotel choices. Member of hotel loyalty programs (such as Hyatt, SPG, Marriott, ) tend to stay at hotels of those brands in order to receive the extra perk associated with their elite status, but that way they often pay more and miss the opportunity to stay at the very best hotel in the area. And while elite status perks are great, they can often be achieved using other tricks.
- Hotels.com has almost permanently discount coupons available (subscribe to their newsletter or simply search for them on google). Discounts on hotel bookings vary from 10% (most of the time) to a rare 15%. Unfortunately, almost all of the world's most luxurious hotel brands are excluded from the list of hotels for which you can use a discount coupon. However, surprisingly, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is the only ultra-luxurious hotel brand that is most of the time eligible for discount coupons on Hotels.com (almost guaranteeing you a 10% discount on every Four Seasons booking). Keep in mind that when using a discount coupon, your booking will not count towards a free night in the Hotels.com Reward program.
- Hotels.com allows payment in your own currency (the choice of currency can be adjusted at the top of the website). As such, you avoid paying the sometimes heavy foreign currency taxes (up to 3%) that come with most credit cards (a hidden cost that many are not aware of).
CONS & THINGS I DON'T LIKE ABOUT HOTELS.COM REWARDS
- The value of a Hotels.com free night does not include taxes and fees. So it's never actually completely free.
- You can redeem only one free night for each night of your booking. So you cannot use two or more reward coupons for one and the same night.
- If you cancel your booking after the cancellation deadline, you will forfeit your free night.
- There are some restrictions for redeeming free nights through the Hotels.com Rewards program. You will not collect Hotels.com Rewards nights for:
- Free nights that you redeemed through Hotels.com Rewards
- Free nights that you received as part of a special promotion
- Booked nights that you do not complete due to a change or cancellation
- Bookings made when not signed in to your account (although you can attach them to your account before you complete your stay)
- Booking made using a Hotels.com coupon (which are widely available on the internet).
- Bookings made before you joined Hotels.com Rewards
- Hotels.com cannot reward or redeem points for hotel loyalty programs or frequent flyer programs.
- You will not get any free VIP perks at a hotel when booking your stay via Hotels.com, even when you are a Silver or Gold Hotels.com Rewards member. If you like to get free VIP perks at a luxury hotel (who doesn't?), you should always book your stay via Virtuoso or become an elite member of one of the large hotel chain's loyalty programs.