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TPG reader Ellie sent me a message on Facebook to ask about hotel booking sites:

“What do you think of using Rocketmiles to make hotel reservations?”

One important step in maximizing hotel stays is deciding how to book your room in the first place. There’s certainly no shortage of options, as dozens of online travel agents and aggregators compete for your clicks. Many of them have their own loyalty programs that offer discounts on future travel, but Rocketmiles (as well as PointsHound) allows you to earn miles with a number of frequent flyer programs based on how long you stay and how much you spend.

For example, I looked at a two-night stay in Miami on a Friday and Saturday in April. Booking through Rocketmiles could earn you 8,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles at the Hyatt Centric South Beach, 4,000 miles at the Intercontinental downtown, or 15,000 miles at the Doubletree Ocean Point Resort. I list those miles at 2 cents apiece in my most recent monthly valuations, so you’re getting a substantial return on your spending, and you can boost that by taking advantage of the bonuses Rocketmiles offers to new members.

The big tradeoff is that you typically don’t earn hotel points for stays booked through a third party. Depending on your elite status and how you pay (for example, if you use a co-branded hotel credit card), those points could be more valuable than the airline miles. Furthermore, any elite status you have might not be recognized by the hotel, so you won’t receive upgrades, free breakfast and other benefits. In many cases, you’ll come out ahead by booking directly.

There are other concerns. While Rocketmiles seems to have increased its portfolio since it was acquired by Priceline, the site doesn’t always have the best prices. Using the example above, you can save about $35 per night at the Hyatt South Beach by booking through the Hyatt website instead of through Rocketmiles, which makes the prospect of earning miles over hotel points much less appealing. That’s not always the case, but as hotels increasingly try to improve profit margins by pushing out the middle man, third-party booking sites may struggle to offer both worthwhile rewards and competitive rates.

You
Try to maximize your rewards, but first make sure you’re getting a good rate.

One place where Rocketmiles comes in handy is at hotels that don’t offer a loyalty program. Ordinarily, your best chance to earn rewards at those properties would be from the credit card you use to pay your bill. However, Rocketmiles lets you earn miles as well, and in these cases there’s no tradeoff with other points or elite benefits. So long as you’re getting a decent rate, you might as well take the extra rewards.

For more on maximizing hotel stays, check out these posts:

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

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the 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.

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