Hotels.com Free Night and Elite Status
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?