Travel

Hotels.com Rewards to Ditch “Stay 10, Get 1 Free” Program

Last year, it was announced that the separate loyalty programs from partners in the Expedia Group will merge in 2023 to become a single unified program known as One Key. Of the brands in the group, one of the most notable and valuable programs has been Hotels.com Rewards.

We’ve just learned some of the details of the new program, and unfortunately, Hotels.com Rewards will be very negatively affected by the change. In the latest downward change to a loyalty program this year, Hotels.com Rewards will see a devaluation of up to 80%, which is significant.

As you might expect, the changes are being touted as positive by One Key and Expedia Group, but a quick peek at the details reveals a much different story.

Hotels.com Rewards to Become Part of One Key

Later this year, we’ll see the loyalty programs from a number of brands under the Expedia Group become a singular program called One Key. When it happens, Expedia Rewards, Hotels.com Rewards, Orbitz Rewards, and other programs under the Expedia umbrella will all follow the same earning and redemption structure.

It’s important to note that One Key will debut in the United States first, and then in other countries. Dates for the roll out have not been confirmed, so until then, it’s business as usual.

As of now, each program has a different earning and redeeming structure, and bringing them all together is meant to streamline the rules amongst all the different programs. 

Arguably, Hotels.com Rewards has offered the strongest return from any of the included programs, but unfortunately, that will change significantly for the worse once the transition to One Key takes effect.

As a reminder, the current format of Hotels.com Rewards is that you get a free night for every 10 nights you stay at properties booked through the website. For each eligible night, you collect a stamp, and once you have 10 stamps, you can redeem them for a free night that’s worth the average value of the 10 nights from which you earned stamps.

For example, if each of your 10 nights cost $100, you’d get a free night worth $100. If your redemption stay costs less, you wouldn’t get to retain the difference, but if your redemption stay costs more, you can top it up, which offers better value.

The new program, One Key, will have a unified earning structure for all the programs, which will be as follows:

  • One Key members will earn 2% OneKeyCash per dollar spent on activities, cruises, hotels, packages, rental cars, and vacation rentals
  • One Key members will earn 0.2% OneKeyCash per dollar spent on flights
  • One Key Silver members will earn a 50% bonus (3% return), Gold members will earn a 100% bonus (4% return), and Platinum members will earn a 200% bonus (6% return) at eligible VIP Access properties

Members won’t have to wait until they reach a certain threshold of stays to be able to redeem their OneKeyCash, which can be taken as a positive development; however, this comes at the expense of losing up to 80% of the value they’ve been earning through Hotels.com until now.

When the transition from Hotels.com Rewards to One Key happens, members will have their balance converted to OneKeyCash at a 1:1 ratio, and after that point, they’ll be subject to the 2–6% return for stays, depending on their status and whether or not the property is a VIP Access property.

The full details of the upcoming changes can be found on the VRBO website. At the time of writing, the One Key portion of the Hotels.com website was unavailable.

Hotels.com Rewards Will Be Devalued by Up to 80%

It isn’t difficult to see that this is a significant blow to the value offered by booking through Hotels.com. Once the changes kick in, you’ll go from earning 10% back on hotel stays to earning 2%, unless you happen to have the program’s top-tier status and are staying at a VIP Access property.

For example, if you were to spend $100 10 times at properties booked through Hotels.com in its current form, you’d receive a free night worth $100. Under One Key, you’d get $20 in OneKeyCash for that same $1,000 spent on hotels, or up to $60 if you’re a top-tier member staying at VIP Access properties.

It’s unfortunate that this change will happen later on this year, as booking through Hotels.com can be useful in the absence of other properties to book with points or cash. Hotels.com Rewards is fairly popular due to its simplicity and its possible benefit for booking hotels that don’t belong to any chains. 

Hotels.com has been useful for booking hotels in the absence of availability with major loyalty programs

Many of us elect to book with major hotel chains to earn points and status that give kickbacks in the form of free nights and extra perks. When planning out a trip, the first step is to usually see if Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, or any other programs have properties available.

In their absence, websites such as Hotels.com offer a very reasonable alternative, since you can predictably get a 10% return on your stays. This is much better than other alternatives to major hotel brands, such as Airbnb, which doesn’t have a loyalty program or any rewards at all.

Conclusion

Later on this year, Hotels.com Rewards will become part of One Key alongside other programs from the Expedia Group umbrella. It’s expected that the merger will take place in mid-2023, although there isn’t an official date set just yet.

One Key will first debut in the United States before it rolls out in other countries. Until then, it’s business as usual, but once the merger takes place, the Hotels.com portion of the program will be devalued by up to 80%.

If you’re planning to book any hotel stays through Hotels.com, be sure to do so as soon as possible to benefit from a 10% return. Once the program becomes part of One Key, you’ll be bumped down to a much lower 2% return, and at that point, it might be better to look elsewhere.



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