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Several major media outlets (beginning with The Wall Street Journal) are reporting that Priceline has plans to acquire hotel booking website Rocketmiles for about $20 million, as part of an effort to develop a more robust loyalty program.
Rocketmiles is a hotel search engine and booking app that offers customers both wholesale room rates and and the perk of earning miles for each booking with any of 26 airline partners, including American Airlines, Southwest, United, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines. Priceline may be feeling a little pinched after the recent moves by Expedia to acquire Travelocity and Orbitz. Since Expedia launched Expedia+ Rewards last year, Priceline might need a meaningful rewards program to stay competitive.
Rocketmiles has been a lucrative way to rack up bonus miles on reservations where you wouldn’t normally earn hotel points or status. In some cases, these bonus miles can be more valuable than whatever points or elite status you’d earn with the hotel loyalty program. For example, I searched Rocketmiles for a mid-week hotel in Las Vegas for April 6-9, 2015. Search results included the Palazzo for $196 per night, which came with 9,000 AAdvantage miles.
Expedia was also pricing out at $196/night on those dates, while Priceline was listing the same room for $195. I list AAdvantage miles at 1.7 cents apiece in my most recent monthly valuations, so those 9,000 points would be worth over $150 — almost as much as one of the three nights. That’s a no-brainer for spending an extra $1 per night on the room.
Rocketmiles frequently offers bonuses for first-time users, so if you haven’t tried it yet, I would do so sooner rather than later. I suspect that Rocketmiles may become less lucrative if Priceline really takes over and expands the program for all of its customers.