The complete guide to the Booking.com Genius loyalty program
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 Booking.com 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 Hotels.com Rewards, it is an option. Here's everything you need to know about the program.
Booking.com Genius basics
Booking.com 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 Booking.com rather than booking directly through the hotel?
If you complete any two stays booked through Booking.com 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. Booking.com 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.
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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 Booking.com 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.
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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 Booking.com
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 Booking.com 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, Booking.com 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 Booking.com.
If you book enough of the big-box chain hotels to carry elite status and earn hotel points, Booking.com may not make sense for you. Remember that for bookings made with online travel agencies like Booking.com, 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 Hotels.com 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.