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Today, Orbitz announced the launch of its new loyalty program, Orbitz Rewards. Among the major online travel agencies (OTA’s), Orbitz has lagged a bit behind competitors including Expedia, Travelocity and Hotels.com, which already have rewards programs of their own, so this is a welcome addition to the travel-booking sphere that should help consumers earn even more value back on their travel spending.
Customers earn “Orbucks” based on what kind of travel they purchase:
Flights: You will earn up to 1% of the cost, excluding taxes and fees up to $5,000 ($50 in Orbucks) annually per member. You will only earn Orbucks on the amount paid.
Hotels: You will earn a up to 5% (3% for computer bookings, 5% for app bookings) of the amount paid to Orbitz for your eligible hotel booking, excluding taxes and fees. You will not earn Orbucks on any charges collected directly by the hotel, i.e., Resort fees, room service.
Eligible Packages: You will earn a 1% of the cost of Your Package booking, collected by Orbitz for your entire package booking. You can earn for the price difference due to an exchange. For example: member adds a room night to the reservation, so they earn an additional amount in Orbucks. You will not earn for any fees associated with a post-purchase update to the itinerary (change, cancel, etc.). Also, you will not earn Orbucks on any additional charges collected by the hotel i.e., Resort fees, room service. You will earn a percentage of the cost of Your Hotel booking.
Download the Orbitz app here.
The program also includes a Refer-A-Friend feature that gives members who refer friends and family as well as the person they refer $25 credit (in the form of an Orbucks referral promo code) toward future travel up to $1,000 per year (so refer 40 of your closest friends stat!).
Orbitz Rewards will also be fully integrated with Google Wallet’s new Loyalty program feature so you can keep all your loyalty program information in one place.
Orbucks expire 12 months after they are earned and they cannot be reinstated.
Orbucks can then be redeemed for hotel bookings made through Orbitz but not flights. You can use them towards eligible hotel bookings subsequent to the booking for which the Orbucks are earned. Eligible hotels are designated by an Orbucks “earn” amount with the “O” symbol.
When booking, You will have the option to use all your Orbucks to pay for part or all of the booking (if Your Orbucks balance is greater than amount due). If You choose to use your Orbucks, the amount of the Orbucks you are redeeming will be subtracted from the total amount due for the booking. If you choose not to use Your Orbucks, they will remain in your account for future use.
If you make a multiple room booking and you choose to use your Orbucks, your Orbucks will be deducted from the total cost of the booking. Orbucks applied to multiple room bookings cannot be selectively applied to any one selected room but are applied to the overall total cost of the hotel booking. In this event, if you subsequently cancel one or more rooms in the multiple room booking, and if you are entitled to a refund, the amount refunded to you will be the cost of the particular room canceled less the amount of Orbucks proportionally applied across all rooms which will be refunded to your Orbitz Rewards account.
If you choose to redeem Orbucks, then the Orbucks are deducted from your Orbitz Rewards balance immediately. You will earn Orbucks on the portion of your booking not paid for with Orbucks.
If you cancel an eligible Booking paid in part by Orbucks, the Orbucks used for the eligible booking may be re-issued to your Orbitz Rewards account with their original expiration date. Orbucks cannot be used to pay or offset any cancellation fee.
Orbitz is also introducing an elite status aspect of the program with the following tiers:
Star Members: Book 4 hotel room nights
SuperStar: Book 12 hotel room nights
Benefits include a special VIP line to handle travel needs, concierge service, help booking events and entertainment while traveling.
SuperStar members will have access to an exclusive concierge service to help with not only travel needs but also to arrange restaurant reservations, scheduling meeting spaces and activities such as golf tee times and other benefits.
A collection of exclusive hotels badged “All-Star” will also offer added benefits such as free upgrades, Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast and other perks.
New Member Bonuses
There will also be a number of money-saving benefits for the first month the program is live including:
Zap that Bag Fee: Members who use the Bag Fee Zapper in the mobile app can take a pic of their baggage fee receipt and Orbitz will give you $25 in Orbucks now through November 30 (and outbound Thanksgiving travel is included).
An extra 15% off hotel deals through November 22
Earn 2x rewards on flights with Orbitz’s apps – double Orbucks through November 22
Earn an extra $10 in rewards on your next flight through November 22
You must have an account on Orbitz.com in order to register for Orbitz Rewards. Upon enrollment, you will be issued an Orbitz Rewards account and Your member ID that is linked to Your Orbitz account will be your login email address. To earn Orbucks for a booking on Orbitz, you must have a valid Orbitz Rewards account and be signed in to Orbitz.com at time of booking. No Orbucks will be earned for bookings made on Orbitz.com when you are not signed in to Orbitz.com. Registered members of Orbitz.com are not automatically enrolled into the Orbitz Rewards program and will require a separate join.
Check out the rest of the terms & conditions here.
I think this is a great move (finally!) by Orbitz that can add a bit more value to booking through the site and its app and puts Orbitz on a par (or at least closer) to some competitors like Hotels.com and Expedia.
While I’d still choose Hotels.com’s rewards system of earning 1 free hotel night for every 10 nights you book that is equal to the average value of all those nights as a great value since you’re getting a 10% bonus on your spend, I’d still consider booking through Orbitz both because you can now earn 1-3% credit on flight bookings (that’s in addition to the airline miles you’ll earn and any airfare purchase bonuses depending on the credit card you use), and the 5% back on app-based hotel bookings is still a decent value in my book – especially if you make your purchase with a card that earns a bonus on travel like the Sapphire Preferred.
I see this as being potentially lucrative in a few ways, and here are 2 quick examples, one for flights and one for hotels.
In terms of flights, for now you get 1% back on purchases. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus, you can go through the Ultimate Rewards portal to earn 1X more points per $1 (which I value at 2 cents per point) currently on your Orbitz purchases by clicking through. Then paired with a card that earns a bonus on airfare like the Amex Premier Rewards Gold’s 3X points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines (which I value at 1.9 cents per point) or the Sapphire Preferred‘s 2.14X per $1 (which I value at 2 cents per point), you’re looking at a return of up to nearly 8% on your flight spending.
In terms of hotels, to get the full 5% back, you have to book through the app, so going through the Ultimate Rewards portal is not an option, though you could still do so and forego the extra 2% back to earn an extra Ultimate Rewards point per dollar (which I value at 2 cents anyway, so you’re breaking even), and then use a card like the Sapphire Preferred that earns you 2.14X per $1 on travel (the Ink Plus and Ink Bold’s 2X hotel category spending bonus won’t apply to charges made through an OTA) to earn a total of around 9-10% back on your spending.
In my opinion that could even be slightly better than Hotels.com’s program normally (right now, the UR Portal is actually offering 5X points per $1 on Hotels.com, which can translate to huge value) because you’re earning your value back in a combination of fixed-value Orbucks to use at hotels, but also Ultimate Rewards points which you can use on various airline and hotel awards as well as fixed-value pay-with-points, which gives you even more options.
Orbitz’s earning rates are also much better than Expedia Rewards’, which are just 2 points per $1 on hotel bookings and packages, and a mere 1 point per $5 on flights – all redeemable at 1 cent apiece when it comes time to book.
I’m going to explore the program’s ins and outs some more with some comparisons to its competitors, but in the meantime, there is definitely some value in this program and the rewards it offers, so I’m glad that Orbitz has finally put a rewards program in place that we can all benefit from.
In the meantime, check out this most on Maximizing The Best Sites and Credit Cards For Booking Hotel Stays.