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TPG reader Denise tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy– “When booking a hotel stay, is it  better to go directly through SPG, or should I book on a third party website like Orbitz or Expedia? Will I earn elite benefits if I book through a third party site?”

Just like with airfare, there are plenty of options to consider when booking a hotel stay. However, with hotel stays there’s usually a higher profit margin, so many sites offer ways to get some benefits back as well as cheaper rates.

It’s best to look at the big picture when booking. If you book through a discount website, like Priceline, or new sites like Hotelied, typically you won’t get any hotel points or elite credit. If hotel elite status is your goal, then you don’t want to book through online travel agencies. Hotels may recognize your existing elite status, but generally won’t reward you for booking through third parties–they want you to book directly through them.

You usually won
You usually won’t get elite benefits if you book your hotel stay through an online travel agency. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

One exception to this is for American Express Platinum cardholders, who can book through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program and still receive elite status credit because it’s technically just a travel agency, not an “online” travel agency (even though it is online). Plus, booking there can give you other perks like early check-in, late check-out, spa credits, and more. If you do have the Amex Platinum card, I would at least price check through Fine Hotels & Resorts to see what you can get.

I generally recommend booking directly through the hotel website (or on Amex FHR) in order to get your elite benefits unless you can save a large amount by booking elsewhere. In that case, you can try taking advantage of the best rate guarantees offered by most major hotel brands. Remember to factor the value of the points, miles and elite status into your calculations. If prices are close, those benefits may justify spending a few extra dollars to book with the hotel directly. But if you’re paying a $100 premium for $20 worth of points, just book elsewhere. After all, cash doesn’t devalue nearly as quickly as some of these hotel loyalty programs!

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.