Should I Use a Card Travel Portal or Hotels.com to Book a Room?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Chase Sapphire Reserve
"Reader Questions" are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.
There are a plethora of ways to book a hotel room — online travel agencies, bank travel portals or even with the hotel itself. So TPG reader Nick sent us a Facebook message to ask about the value of one specific option over another...
[pullquote source="TPG Reader Nick"]Should I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve through the Chase portal to book hotel rooms or use the hotels.com website? Is it more valuable to get the free night after 10 bookings at hotels.com or extra points through the portal?[/pullquote]
With all the booking options out there, things can definitely get a bit confusing when you're trying to determine how to maximize your return on a hotel reservation. The good news is that since the Chase Sapphire Reserve card earns 3 points per dollar on all travel expenses — and that travel category is broadly defined — you should be able to earn credit card points no matter how you book.
But when it comes to earning extra rewards for booking a certain way, assuming the price of the room is the same both ways, which of Nick's two options is best? By booking through the Chase travel portal, you can earn 1 extra Ultimate Rewards point per dollar you spend on a hotel reservation. That means on a $100 hotel room, you'll earn an extra 100 points. Based on TPG's most recent valuations, those 100 Ultimate Rewards points are worth $2.20 in future redemptions.
Now let's take a look at Hotels.com, which is an online travel agency that offers its own rewards program. After booking 10 nights via its website or phone agents, you earn one free night (except for taxes and fees). The value of the free night is based on the average of the 10 paid nights, so it's easy to think of it as a 10% return on your bookings. So for a $100 hotel room, you'd be earning $10 in rewards toward a future free night.
Clearly, from a pure dollar standpoint, the return from Hotels.com is significantly better than the return for booking at the Chase travel portal. But there's one other consideration here: In order to actually get your Hotels.com Rewards, you'll have to book 10 paid nights over time. There's no deadline to do so, but you have to earn at least one night every 12 months or your existing night credits will expire.
On the other hand, getting the extra points from booking at the Chase travel portal doesn't require making any additional purchases. So even though you'll get less in rewards, you'll be able to redeem them much more quickly. And depending on your needs, that might be a fair trade off.
So, Nick, if you're committed to booking reservations at Hotels.com for a while before you see your free night, it's the better value in the long run. But if you're more interested in getting your rewards immediately, go for the Chase portal. Thanks for the question, and if you're a TPG reader who'd like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at email@example.com.