Infrequent hotel guest, or just infrequently in a city where your preferred hotel chain exists? Or is it all just too frustrating and complicated to keep up with?

Hotel loyalty can be a frustrating and complicated matter, particularly with all the red tape around how you book your stays, if you want to earn the points and elite perks, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

One program is easier than the rest, and also, sometimes more lucrative too. It’s Hotels.com Rewards, and for some travelers, maybe even you, it can make a lot of sense and offer an easier path to rewards, with the simplest loyalty program around. It’s as close to buy 10 coffees, get one free, as hotels come.

Hotels.com Loyalty Program Is Different

For most traditional hotel loyalty programs, like World Of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, IHG Rewards or Accor Live Limitless, you need to stick to the hotels in their chains to earn points. It can limit where you can stay in any city, or whether you can pick the hotel you’d “really” like to stay at.

With these traditional hotel loyalty programs, you also need to book direct with the brand or loyalty program to earn points which can unlock free nights, or night credit towards elite status perks, like room upgrades or free breakfast. If you don’t, you miss out.

That can be extra frustrating, since booking with an online travel agency (OTA) like Hotels.com or Expedia can sometimes offer lower rates, so you’re forced to choose between earning points and future perks, or saving some cash.

The same problem goes for things like booking through Chase Travel, where the Sapphire Reserve Card earns 10X points, but won’t let you earn your elite status perks or hotel points.

It doesn’t seem entirely fair to have to choose!

In the end, you have to choose because traditional hotel reward programs pay much larger commission than airlines do, so they can’t fund commission to Expedia and rewards for you too, if you don’t book direct. It’s one or the other.

With Hotels.com Rewards though – all that matters is where you book, not really what you book. If you book with Hotels.com, you can stay at a Marriott one night, a boutique hotel another night, a Hilton the next and still earn perks and free nights in the loyalty program all the same, with all counting toward one goal.

You don’t earn points with Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott or any of the major chains, but you can move from brand to brand, still earning free nights and perks with Hotels.com. By Using other loyalty programs, each of those nights would be working towards separate programs.

How You Earn Rewards With Hotels.com

Think of Hotels.com Rewards like a card punch from your local coffee shop.

You come in 10 times, you get the 11th coffee free. That’s exactly how it works for hotel nights, well almost. When you book hotels through Hotels.com Rewards – you need to create a free account – you get a night in your account. After 10 nights, your 11th night is free, minus the cost of taxes on the stay.

Best of all: you get the credit, and perks for each night and each room you book. If you book five rooms for two nights, you’d have 10 rooms, or two rooms for five nights, the same. Many other loyalty programs only give you credit for the first, or first and second rooms. If you have more, you lose out – ugh!

Don’t Forget 2X Nights!

One fun element of the Hotels.com rewards program is the double nights offers. This is where, for a limited time, you can earn credit for two nights, for every one night you stay. This allows you to earn a free night after staying just 5 nights, or booking 5 rooms rather than the usual 10!

How much is the Hotels.com free night worth?

It’s worth exactly the average of what you paid for the first 10 nights. You just pay taxes and fees. So if you booked 10 nights at $100 a night, you’d have $100 towards a free night. If you paid different amounts for each night, the amounts average out with the total paid divided by 10.

I got really lucky once and had work cover a $1700 night, which really helped my 10 night average price! I then averaged about 300 per night, which gave me a $440 “free” night voucher.

If you don’t already have elite guest status, like Platinum or Gold, with a hotel chain, Hotels.com Rewards offers the most generous rebate on hotel stays of a major loyalty program. That’s not hyperbole, it’s a mathematical fact.

The most rewarding hotel loyalty programs for a general guest offer a best in class rebate of 7%, via points which often come with restrictions. Hotels.com Rewards offers between an 8-10% rebate, with no restriction on when you cash in.

When You Don’t Earn Rewards With Hotels.com

There are a few circumstances where you won’t earn rewards nights with Hotels.com, which are worth noting. No one wants to book a vacation only to find out that they trip didn’t count, so keep in mind that you won’t earn rewards nights from towards a free hotels.com reward night when you…

  • book a package – aka flight and hotel, or flight and car rental.
  • use a promo code to book a stay, such as a limited time discount code.

Since you don’t want to lose any rewards you’ve earned, make sure you use your free night within 12 months of earning it, or be sure to continue booking stays. According to Hotels.com, “Stamps and reward nights collected will expire if you have not made and completed a booking with your Hotels.com Rewards account in the previous 12 months”.

What If The Stay You Want To Book Is More Expensive Than Your Reward Night?

If the stay you want to book is more expensive than the value of your reward night you’ve earned for your 11th night, fret not. If a hotel you want to book costs more than the credit you have for your 11th night free, you can still use the amount towards the cost of any booking.

So, let’s say you did 10 nights at $200 each, and you have a voucher of $200. But – the room you want for your free night is $300 all in. No problem, you have $200 to use toward the $300, and pay $100.

This is handy particularly if you want to book multiple nights, and just want to use the money from your 11th night free to offset the costs. It’s extra nice when you can bill work stays, and pay for them using your Hotels.com account to earn free nights from work travel.

Hotels.com Rewards Elite Status & Perks

Yes, Hotels.com Rewards has elite status tiers, and they’re pretty simple too. Book 10 nights in a year, you earn silver status, book 30, you earn Gold. Both elite statuses with the Hotels.com Rewards program offer perks like Price Guarantees, Exclusive Prices and Priority Customer Service.

Gold is where the real benefits kick in, with the Hotels.com Rewards program though. At Gold, guests can enjoy room upgrades, VIP access at certain hotels, including wifi and other amenities. You can learn more about the elite status here.

Should You Use Hotels.com Rewards Instead Of Other Hotel Loyalty Programs?

That’s up to you. If you typically stay more than 30 nights a year, and can stick to one chain, you’ll arguably earn better perks as a mid to top tier guest at one chain.

If you don’t stay that many nights in a year, or don’t care about minor perks here and there, Hotels.com Rewards is the easiest way to get a solid rebate on your hotel stays, with no pressure to stick to one brand, or hotel type. It’s rewards on your terms, and that can be really good.

You can join Hotels.com Rewards and start booking here.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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11 Comments

  1. Missing link at the end of this paragraph:

    Gold is where the real benefits kick in, with the Hotels.com Rewards program though. At Gold, guests can enjoy room upgrades, VIP access at certain hotels, including wifi and other amenities. You can learn more about the elite status *HERE*. (emphasis mine)

  2. I had a flight to London scheduled for May, 2020. It was canceled due to the corona virus and the airline gave me a refund. My hotel had been booked with hotels.com and I was using three free nights I had earned by booking with them throughout the previous year. They cancelled my hotel reservation but did not give me credit for the three free nights I had earned. I doubt I’ll use them again.

  3. Consideration needs to be given when redeeming the reward nights, rather like when redeeming air miles.
    It’s not very efficient using a £100 reward voucher in part payment of a £250 a night stay as you effectively forfeit £25 towards another reward voucher. It’s always better to match the voucher as closely as possible to (but under) the actual cost of the room after taxes.

    1. @Andy – I think you got it reversed. One shouldn’t use a 250GBP voucher on a 100GBP per night booking, since you would forfeit 150GBP. But I agree about closely matching. Sometimes if I am about to forfeit $20+ I will book a higher grade room, or just add breakfast.

      Having booked over 400 nights through hotels.com over the past 5 years, I have learned ALL of the tricks and there are many.

      As a Gold member, you get many things when a hotel messes up. They are sometimes very good with compensating up to 70% of the hotel price that has an issue. 95% of the time they have canceled a room with full refund on a non-refundable stay.

      You can book others through your account and still receive the points. I have probably booked about 100 nights this way. My Gold status gets better rooms, upgrades and perks for my co-workers and friends (something my Hyatt Globalist and Marriott Plat does not). Hotels always honor the perks, since hotels.com and Expedia are their biggest third party booker and they do not wish to anger them.

      Last week I booked a hotel for $500 total. The price dropped to $460….something I noticed when I was checking something else. I called the GOLD line and they refunded the $40.

      They’ve been pretty good to me.
      So it can be worth it.

  4. Has anybody had this problem with the Locked night and trying to get it unlocked?
    I’m a gold member and have not had any success in doing so and to add insult to injury when you call the 800 number here in the United States they don’t know whether you’re with expedia.com or Priceline so there is no real advantage here in the United States of being a gold member

  5. I would recommend keeping away from any OTA. Theyre all good when things go well, but when the poop hits the fan, the customer always ends up being the loser.
    Instead of booking through an OTA, use a Virtuoso travel agent. Great benefits across chains, and Virtuoso agents really come through when there are hiccups.

  6. So I guess hotels.com has expired my stays? If that is so you have a horrible rewards I have stayed often enough to where I believe I should be allowed to keep my stamps. I stay at so many hotels every year I’m a Platinum member at Hilton on the diamond member at best Western and I am a gold member at Marriott I had started to start looking at hotels.com again but since my hotel stays are not coming up I will no longer book with you unless you want to get my stamps back

  7. You have a lot of info about the rewards program they offer. Now I would suggest you do some research and an article on the rewards program they actually honor. I was told I had a free night and my free night was not honored. Doing research, I am seeing a lot of other people with very similar experiences. It’s left a very bad taste in my mouth. I would have been very happy with their booking program with no rewards. But offering me a reward and not honoring it has really turned me off of hotels.com

  8. I am a big fan of hotels.com and have been using them for about the last 10 years for between 50-100 nights a year up until covid struck and currently have 6 or 7 free nights. I always check the price for the place i want to book on other sites and with the property directly and pretty much always find it is the best price taking all the terms and conditions into account.

    I like the choice they give in that I can book a room at a big chain like Hyatt, Accor or Hilton but also a room at a tiny 5 room hotel in the Loire Valley plus I only have on account to manage and make sure my nights or status doesn’t expire.

    Being in Australia an unable to travel overseas at the moment an easy way to protect any free nights is to book a stay at the cheapest place you can find which for me is a A$16 night in an 11 bed dorm room at a backpackers in Brisbane which is eligible and will protect my free nights worth about A$1000 for another 12 months

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