The complete guide to the Genius loyalty program

Jul 11, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

I look to maximize every hotel stay with both the benefits I receive on-property and the hotel points I earn for my booking. Typically, that means booking directly with a large hotel chain on its website to ensure I earn elite status-qualifying nights, enjoy elite-status benefits and earn points. For those reasons, I haven’t delved much into the loyalty program called Genius.

That said, it does exist. While it might not be as rewarding as some of the other third-party booking sites, such as Rewards, it is an option. Here’s everything you need to know about the program.

Having your accommodation organised ahead makes things easier.(Photo by Andrea Rotondo/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Andrea Rotondo/The Points Guy) Genius basics is an online accommodation booking platform with more than 28 million total accommodation listings. The site is available in 43 languages and has almost 200 support offices in 70 countries. It’s not a hotel chain, and nor does it have its own properties. Instead, it just lists hotel properties that you can book, similar to Skyscanner or Google Flights for flights.

It also owns Priceline, Kayak, Agoda, RentalCars and OpenTable.

You won’t receive your normal hotel program points or elite status nights when you book through a third party, so why choose rather than booking directly through the hotel?

If you complete any two stays booked through within two years, you will earn Genius Level 1 for life. While this is a very low threshold to meet, and lifetime membership sounds awesome, the only benefit of Genius Level 1 is a 10% discount on select properties that are part of the Genius program. promises that these properties that have joined the Genius program have a rating of at least 7.5/10, so you can expect a quality property.

Related: 17 of the best hotel gyms in the world

Where you see a Genius logo next to a property, you can claim the discount. I logged in to my Genius account to check how many select properties were included that 10% discount. On a sample search for properties in Westminster, London, only 14 of the 36 available included the Genius discount. I also performed the same search without logging into my Genius account and the prices for those 14 Genius properties were around 10% higher when not logged in, so this is a genuine discount where available.

If you complete five stays within two years you will move up to Genius Level 2, where you will receive:

  • 10%-15% discount at select properties
  • Free breakfast at select properties
  • Free room upgrade at select properties

Though I don’t use much, my account says I’m Genius Level 2. I logged in to my account to perform a search to see just how many properties included these listed benefits. Using the Westminster, London search, of the 14 out of 36 with Genius benefits:

  • All 14 properties offered at least a 10% discount
  • Only two out of 14 offered the higher 15% discount
  • None offered free breakfast
  • Only 1 out of the 14 offered a free room upgrade

While only a small sample size, I would expect a 10% discount on some of the properties with Genius Level 2 with the very occasional room upgrade, 15% discount or free breakfast, though this will be rare and unexpected. I would not consider these to be regular benefits you can rely on receiving.

Related: How to avoid booking a bad hotel

(Photo courtesy of The Westbury Hotel)
(Photo courtesy of The Westbury Hotel, Dublin)

There are only two levels of “status” with Genius: Genius Level 1 and Genius Level 2. Even if you use the program much more than five stays within two years, your benefits will be capped to the above at the Genius Level 2 tier.

When to use

If you’re going to stay regularly at large hotel chains like Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Radisson, then I believe it’s still best to book directly with those properties and earn hotel elite status, benefits and points. It’s best to use when looking at remote destinations, if you want to book a boutique hotel or a unique property or you know you have a one-off stay at a chain you’ll never (or almost never) utilize again. Also, if you’re a “free agent” with no loyalty to any one particular hotel chain or program and will never stay enough to earn elite benefits with an individual hotel loyalty program, can be a good way to receive some benefits (like that 10% discount) at lots of different, unaffiliated properties.

Remember, if you’re looking to book a luxury property, it could be best to utilize a Virtuoso agent or Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts and compare the benefits you’ll receive over any savings toward a future stay with

Bottom line

If you book enough of the big-box chain hotels to carry elite status and earn hotel points, may not make sense for you. Remember that for bookings made with online travel agencies like, in most cases, you won’t earn hotel points or elite credit, and the properties don’t have to honor your existing elite status (though some do anyway). I also find upgrades to be less generous and room assignment poor when booking through online travel agencies compared to booking direct.

I do like the very low thresholds to reach the two different Genius levels, though note that unlike with the Rewards program where you can receive your 10% discount on virtually all properties (via its 11th-night-free deal), the discounts as a Genius are only on a limited number of properties. Genius Level 2 additional benefits like room upgrades and free breakfasts are a bit misleading, as not every property actually offers them, so this should be looked at as an occasional perk.

Featured photo courtesy of the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.

The All-New United Quest℠ Card

WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
  • $250 Annual Fee
  • Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
  • Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
  • Earn 2X miles on all other travel
  • Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.
Regular APR
16.49% to 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

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.

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.