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Is Hotels.com "free night" better than rewards program?

Is Hotels.com "free night" better than rewards program?

Old Mar 2, 15, 7:06 am
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Is Hotels.com "free night" better than rewards program?

Hi all - here is my situation: I travel all over the world and while I can select the chain I stay in, I don't always have a fair selection when I'm traveling to a specific event.

Since my int'l travel isn't limited to a certain region and I only truly have a free choice about 50% of the time, I've started using hotels.com to book.. granted it's pre-paid, which probably isn't great, but I get one free night for every 10 that I book.

My question for the hotel experts here, is this a good deal or are there better ones? The only other hotel chains I have had status with are Starwood, which I found totally unimpressive and IHG, which I currently have status with and like a little bit more than Starwood.

Would love to hear your thoughts..

Last edited by burbuja0512; Mar 2, 15 at 7:14 am
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Old Mar 2, 15, 7:38 am
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1 free night (of roughly the same value) for every 10 booked is very roughly the metric used for hotel programs too. But that's before any promos. The earning with promos (if you can stay to take advantage of the promos, that is) can be much higher. For example, 3/4 of the year Choice has a promo stay 2 separate times and earn 8000 points. $200+ hotels in Scandinavia are only 16k points typically, so if you're planning to go to Scandinavia, 4 cheap suburban stays at Comfort or Quality in the US will get you one free night at one of those expensivish hotels in Scandinavia. That's obviouslly way better than 1 free night (of the same cost) for every 10. But it only works for destinations in certain parts of the world as rewards stays, and only works for paid stays that are one night ("hotel hopping"). I'm just using it as an example of how much better than 1 free night (of the same value) for every 10 that you can get with a good promo at a hotel program. (Now, of course, not all promos are this good. But even a more typical "double points" promo changes the earning / redeeming ratio.)

It is true that no one hotel program covers the whole world well, and if you want to use hotel programs while roaming the wide world, you may need to belong to many of them (not just 2). For example, only Club Carlson, Choice and Best Western tend to be good useful in Scandinavia (beyond the capitals, anyway). But only Marriott (due to its purchase of Protea) is good in certain African countries. And only WynhamRewards is good in some cities in Argentina. Etc, etc.
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Old Mar 2, 15, 9:00 am
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Hotels.com's reward system is internal cash back. Your "free" night is base on the cost of the 10 nights that accumulate that free night. So if you stay at 10 budget hotels your free night credit might only be $50.
You also do not get the non-reward amenities of a chain's program.

But for travelers who due to business, locale, travel pattern and destinations cannot be commuted to one program it is a good alternative.
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Old Mar 2, 15, 11:11 am
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Good advice thank you... I believe that I can expense some of the non-reward amenities such as the lounge. I'm sure that not all places allow this, but I have paid for lounge access in the past. Many other amenities (from what I can tell, though I'm probably clueless) just include free water in addition to the lounge. Since I am not traveling on my own dime, I really don't care.

I also didn't know that the 1 free night per 10 was the metric used by rewards programs, though I hadn't thought about the bonuses..



One other point to note is that I'm fairly cheap when I stay in Europe, but stay only in 5 star when I'm in emerging markets. This probably makes a difference and I should evaluate how this affects my points.

Thanks again for your comments.
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Old Mar 2, 15, 5:38 pm
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Remember you can combine hotels.com with topcashback to get another 7%. Plus they often have coupons/rebates that can be used on top of that as well (recently it was a $20 bonus on stays of three nights+ for example).

Other option is venere which is 10% cash back through TCB and currently has another 10% off coupon.

I do that a mixture of direct bookings based on large bonuses they are offering. I find chains are more loyal to me when I stay with them intermittently, they really want to win my business. Whereas people that always stay at the same chain often don't get the same targeted bonuses.
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Old Mar 3, 15, 2:28 am
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Originally Posted by Doctor of Credit View Post
Remember you can combine hotels.com with topcashback to get another 7%. Plus they often have coupons/rebates that can be used on top of that as well (recently it was a $20 bonus on stays of three nights+ for example).

Other option is venere which is 10% cash back through TCB and currently has another 10% off coupon.

I do that a mixture of direct bookings based on large bonuses they are offering. I find chains are more loyal to me when I stay with them intermittently, they really want to win my business. Whereas people that always stay at the same chain often don't get the same targeted bonuses.
That's the kind of thing I do. It's a big part of my hotel booking mix, especially in places where the major chains are rather weak/non-existent or otherwise poor value in my view.

With the Hotels.com program, I have a much more certain idea of what value I will be getting from directing my business via hotels.com.
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Old Mar 3, 15, 2:36 am
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Don't forget you also have Marriott Gold with your United status.
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Old Mar 3, 15, 6:09 am
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Originally Posted by Doctor of Credit View Post
Remember you can combine hotels.com with topcashback to get another 7%. Plus they often have coupons/rebates that can be used on top of that as well (recently it was a $20 bonus on stays of three nights+ for example).
Is this the best shopping portal for hotels.com these days? Any other decent options? I need to find a new one now that Chase doesn't seem to have hotels.com on their portal anymore.
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Old Mar 3, 15, 6:18 am
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The 10% back from Hotels.com is a solid play for mid-range redemption. Not the best but far from the worst when it comes to evaluating hotel loyalty value. And if you're saving money along the way by paying less for hotels anyways then you're getting more than the 10% in real money, though the accounting to get there might be a bit fuzzier.

I do appreciate the flexibility of much broader earn and redemption options, especially with international travel.
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Old Mar 3, 15, 6:48 pm
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Originally Posted by jacped View Post
Is this the best shopping portal for hotels.com these days? Any other decent options? I need to find a new one now that Chase doesn't seem to have hotels.com on their portal anymore.
Cash back monitor makes it easy to compare. 7% is the best cash rate, but SavingStar also offers 7% so you'd get better value there if you had their credit card for example.

Barclaycard boost is 4x, so could be worth up to 8% I guess. I think the Venere deal is better at the moment, but I am waiting for a good Hotels.com coupon to appear.
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Old Mar 5, 15, 6:00 am
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Originally Posted by Doctor of Credit View Post
... but I am waiting for a good Hotels.com coupon to appear.
Keep in mind that using a coupon often kills the rewards credit. Check the fine print. The % saved usually makes that worthwhile, but worth knowing.
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Old Mar 5, 15, 5:05 pm
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Originally Posted by burbuja0512 View Post
...only other hotel chains I have had status with are Starwood, which I found totally unimpressive ....
Were you unimpressed by the Starwood Preferred Guest program, or by the hotels which vary by brand within the chain.

Last edited by mia; Mar 5, 15 at 6:19 pm
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Old Mar 5, 15, 6:13 pm
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Originally Posted by davie355 View Post
Don't forget you also have Marriott Gold with your United status.
Very true, I'd say this is a big thing to consider as well. Marriott gold is pretty good, free breakfast, lounge, points multiplier.. adds up nicely. They also have a pretty big footprint.
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Old Mar 5, 15, 7:24 pm
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Originally Posted by burbuja0512 View Post
The only other hotel chains I have had status with are Starwood, which I found totally unimpressive and IHG, which I currently have status with and like a little bit more than Starwood.
I'm assuming you only had the first level of status at Starwood (Gold)? It is a minimal level; it doesn't get you breakfast or lounge access. It used to get you internet (as one of a choice of check-in options), but that's now (very recently) become free for all SPG members as long as they book through their SPG account! (Though from a points earning perspective, it earns you 50% more points than no status.)

IHG status isn't much better, but IHG has more hotels, more of a variety of hotels, and more modestly-priced hotels (than SPG) and so perhaps you like it better because you like their hotels better or the rates at their hotels better. Or perhaps you get that status through the Chase IHG credit card, and you like the features of the credit card better. But even the top IHG status (Platinum) doesn't give you free breakfast (at brands that don't give breakfast to everyone).

Hilton HHonors, by contrast, gives you free breakfast (at all brands) with Gold status (second level up), which you can get with a $75/year credit card (Amex Hilton Surpass) or with a $95/year credit card (Citi Hilton Reserve).

Marriott gives lounge access / free breakfast (at most brands) but only to the second level up, which requires 35 more nights a year even after getting the credit card. So unless you stay quite a few nights a year in hotels, Marriott status may be too hard to achieve.

Each hotel program has multiple levels of status, so it's not very useful to just say "I had status", without specifying which status level you had.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 5:41 pm
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How does booking a free hotel room work regarding leftover credit?

IE: You get the average of the past 10 hotel nights as credit, let's say $200. If you book your next room for $175, do you get to keep the next $25 as extra credit or do you lose it?

Also AFAIK the credit doesn't cover taxes/fees, which are generally included in points bookings.
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