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When it comes to booking hotel stays, you have a lot of choices in how you maximize your points and miles – from choosing the best site for the lowest prices, to paying with a credit card that earns you bonus points on hotel bookings like the Ink Bold or Ink Plus, to elite status considerations and other points bonuses and promos.
One of my favorite strategies for maximizing the points I earn on hotel bookings is to triple dip using my Chase Sapphire Preferred – which earns 2.14X points per $1 on all travel – the Ultimate Rewards online travel portal, which regularly offers points bonuses on top of the usual category spending bonuses at merchants including online travel agencies (OTA’s) like Travelocity and Hotels.com, and then also earning OTA loyalty program points or credit.
Right now, the Ultimate Rewards portal is offering a lucrative bonus of 5X extra points per $1 at Hotels.com, which adds up to a total of 7.49X points per $1 if I use my Sapphire Preferred to make the booking including the card’s annual 7% points dividend. Despite recent devaluations from partner programs including Hyatt and United, I still value Ultimate Rewards points at about 2 cents apiece, so in my estimation you’re earning about 15% back on your spending off the bat.
To get the bonus, be sure to log into your Ultimate Rewards account, then click on the Earn Faster tab and select Travel from the merchant categories, and you should find Hotels.com listed. Then simply click on Hotels.com and you should automatically be redirected to the site, where you can make your booking (just be sure to double check your statement at the end of the month and make sure your points were properly credited).
Not only that, but you can still earn Hotels.com Welcome Rewards, where for every 10 nights you book through Hotels.com you earn one night free at the average cost of your other 10 nights, which is a 10% “rebate”. When you take that into consideration, you’re earning a pretty impressive 25% back on your spending – a value that far outweighs any potential elite status benefits you’d earn by booking with your chain of choice (you forgo elite stay/night credit by booking through Hotels.com and not directly through the hotel).
That’s the other beauty of booking through Hotels.com, though – you don’t have to be loyal to a particular brand or chain to rack up those points and chase elite status by mattress running since you’re earning credit towards those free nights no matter where you book, and you are still raking in the Ultimate Rewards points by clicking through the shopping portal.
I also like that Hotels.com’s 10% bonus is based on nights, not just stays, as well as the amount of money you spend, so you know you’re getting a constant, easily anticipated return on your spending. Not only that, but you can also book across chains and brands, giving you tons of flexibility. Unlike with many revenue-based airline frequent flyer programs, in this case a revenue-based hotel program can reap a consistent, good value from your travel spending.
To take a quick example, let’s say you had 10 hotel nights coming up with an average cost of $200 per night. After spending $2,000 on your stays, you’d have $200 credit with Hotels.com towards a future hotel stay as well as 14,980 Ultimate Rewards points, which I’d value at just about $300 for a total return of $500 in value back on your spending, which I’d say is pretty great.
Although you might still have some mattress running to do before the end of 2013, and I understand that some people derive more value from the personalized service and benefits of elite statys, if you’re all set for elite status qualification for this year, this could be a great deal to take advantage of. Or you can start booking 2014 stays if you have not yet determined your elite status strategy and are just looking for a decent return on your hotel bookings.
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