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Hotels.com Free Night and Elite Status

by on June 4, 2011 · 15 comments

in Hotels.com

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I’ve never booked a hotel stay through Hotels.com, but I have several family members who swear by it and who have earned free nights through their Welcome Rewards program. However, my name is The Points Guy, so I just can’t imagine booking through sites that could possibly invalidate my point earning. I can usually find discounted rates or use my corporate rate to find competitive prices. Additionally, my travel plans are usually fickle, so I don’t do non-refundable bookings and I generally like booking with hotel chains directly.

However, Gary Leff’s recent post about Hotels.com‘s new “Great Unloyaling Promotion” piqued my interest. Basically, if you’ve stayed with three hotel chains from January 1, 2010 (not 2011 like I originally thought) to present and were a member of their loyalty programs, then Hotels.com will give a free night when you book a night through them. All you need to do is email/fax them statements that show activity from three different hotel chains. There’s nothing in the rules excluding award stays and I bet they will be lenient with the interpretation since the whole point of this promotion is to bring in more members – not to make people angry. Also, Hotels.com’s program is based on simplicity, so I bet they won’t be sticklers on what exactly constitutes activity. This is for new members only, but I imagine if you used a new email and address you’d be eligible.
Seems like a pretty solid deal. Per their normal loyalty program, you get a free night after you pay for 10 nights. Your free night is capped at the average nightly rate of your 10 paid stays, but you can pay the difference if you want to redeem for a more expensive night.
Additionally, you get hotels.com elite status, but there doesn’t appear to be any tangible benefits of Fivestar status, beyond enhanced customer service. I have a couple nights coming up where I will be staying in cities with no major chains, so I will probably use hotels.com for it so I can get the free night. What are your thoughts on hotels.com and its loyalty program? I’ve heard rumors you can still get points (hit or miss) and elite recognition (standard) when using hotels.com – anyone with first-hand experience out there?

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  • Susan Griffin

    My husband and I have a trip this summer to SHA on Delta with exit row seats. They are offering me am upgrade to Ecomony plus for $120. Please check out the seats and let me know if it’s worth it.

  • James

    Hotels.com has worked pretty well for me. You don’t always have to get a non-refundable rate, though typically that offers the lowest price.

    Also probably of interest to you, Mr. Points Guy, is that sometimes you can get points out of it anyway. When I stayed at the Westin Minneapolis and booked via Hotels.com, I got Starwood points. This may have been a fluke, but worth noting.

    The real advantage of the site, for people who aren’t happy unless they’re earning (somehow, someway!) is that it’s a nice fallback to have. I’m staying 2 nights in Dublin this year and didn’t find anything good from my preferred hotel chains. But because of Hotels.com (stay 10, get 1 free night) I’m at least earning something from my stay at the decidedly-not-a-Hyatt-or-Hilton Gresham Hotel.

    So all things considered, it’s worth keeping in the back of your mind I think.

  • David

    Awesome find. I just sent my proof of stays in.

    The terms state you can redeem for up to $400, but there doesn’t seem to be a minimum amount you need to spend on your one hotels.com night — so obviously, I’ll find something really cheap! :)

  • Dave

    @David: something to keep in mind is that finding somethig really cheap will only earn you a free night of that price. Thus, if you book a $99 rate, your free night is only valid for that average ($99). You can, of course, pay the difference so still a “free” $99.

  • MJL

    Do you think they would care if you had booked, say a Radisson, through an Expedia discount rate, or Hotwire or Priceline rate?

  • Jessica

    My boyfriend and I have used hotels.com for our stays in Spain and London. They were small European chains. We have been impressed with the quality and location of the hotels. However this was before I discovered the points game. I did get points for a stay at says inn in Baltimore. Just emailed them and it was there in a few weeks.

  • Jaimes

    I used Hotels.com on my travels through Oz and New Zealand and they generally met my needs. I actually stayed more then their ten nights required for a welcome reward and earned their now free Five Star status. Their prices are very competitive when compared to local market prices.

    I’ve been to to places like Cambodia and Laos where no “evil empire” American chains have made their pressence. It’s hard to believe places like that still exist. My Marriott Platinum, SPG Gold and Hilton Gold cards aren’t worth the plastic they’re printed on. It actually feels good to know my money didn’t go to feed the rich.

    I would reccomend using a site like Agoda.com in Asia, their definitely the best.

  • Earl – Atlanta

    I use Hotels.com for the past 2 years and I have to say I have been extremely happy with their wide range of hotel selections and no errors. Although your credit card is charged immediately, if I had to cancel the credit came through much faster than I thought it would. I have used over 20 free room nights in both the U.S. and Germany.

  • Lauren

    Thanks for this tip! I have an upcoming trip to a city with no major hotel chains so I will be booking via hotels.com. I wanted to let you know that I got an e-mail saying I got accepted to the hotels.com promo today. All I did was send 3 screenshots of my Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood pages showing a past stay so it was pretty quick and easy.

    Dear Customer,

    We have received your application for The Great Unloyaling™, and you have been accepted!
    You should have received an email when you registered containing:

    · A Coupon Code for 1 free night when you make and complete your first booking by November 15, 2011. You apply this when you make a booking either online or by phone.
    · Your FiveStar Account Number.
    · The FiveStar Service Telephone Number.
    Please save that email as it will be your only confirmation. If you did not receive it, please check your SPAM folder. If you cannot find it, please let us know by emailing [email protected].

    Thank you,

    welcomerewards®

  • David

    I also received confirmation of approval.

    A tip for everyone — I only had points-earning stays at Hilton. My IHG and Choice Privileges stay activity was all non-earning stays from Hotwire/Priceline or award redemptions. They accepted this!

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  • Rob Perelman

    So if I book one night at $49, my free night will only be allowed to be $49? But then when I book 10 nights to get another free night, my free night will be the average of the 10 nights?

  • Doug

    Hotels.com often has competitive prices and a friendly cancellation policy, but for those of us who spend our own cash out of pocket it is still useful to compare with Hotwire, Priceline etc (the “hidden” resellers). A loyalty program is only worth the 10% you get back for it. Sometimes hotels.com is competitive with the hidden resellers or even below them, given the high final-page fees the hidden resellers impose. But other times the hidden resellers are way lower.

    Examples from my vacation last week:

    Bakersfield 2*, Thursday 6/30: Hotwire, $42 + fees = $55. On Hotels.com, rodeway in including all fees was $60. I chose the Hotels.com because it wasn’t worth the risk to me of not knowing what kind of room or location to save $5, given that I was traveling with family.

    Las Vegas 3*, Friday 7/8: Hotwire, $48 + fees = $60 for non-casino hotel with 95% recommended rating that served breakfast. Similar hotels in the areas I wanted (not downtown) were all over $80, plus resort fee = about $95 total. This time I went with Hotwire and the hotel turned out to be a very comfortable HI express and it was great. Plus, the breakfast, which the casino hotels do not include, saved us at least $25 for family of 4. Definitely worth postponing earning points for. If I had looked Mon-Thurs, I’m pretty sure Hotwire would not have been a comparatively good deal since there are so many great hotel deals in LV then.

  • Brendan

    +1 “The real advantage. . .” paragraph! Since I learned about hotel points in 2000, I was reluctant to stay at indie hotels because I would earn nothing! I finally used points.com to earn something in St. Maarten where very few chain hotels exist & in Ann Arbor MI to enjoy the fine 4* Kensington Court Hotel & Weber’s Inn at a price below what chains charge for such amenities. So now after spending $1700 on those 10 nights, I have a night at a hotel in Penticton BC next August priced at $160 kinda free– I’ve paid $18.71 tax on it.

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