The complete guide to the Expedia Rewards loyalty program

Jul 25, 2020

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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 Expedia loyalty program called Expedia Rewards.

While it might not be as rewarding as some of the other third-party booking sites, such as Hotels.com Rewards, it is a points and miles option. Here’s everything you need to know about the program.

Related: TPG staff’s 15 favorite hotel pools

(Photo courtesy of Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort)
(Photo courtesy of Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort)

Expedia Rewards basics

Expedia is an online travel booking platform with more than one million accommodation listings. The Expedia Group employs more than 24,000 people in 30 countries and also owns platforms including Hotels.com, VRBO, Orbitz, Trivago and Wotif. It’s not a hotel chain or an airline, and nor does it have its own properties or flights. Instead, it just lists hotels, flights, cars and experiences that you can book, similar to Skyscanner or Google Flights. The site booked 352 million hotel room nights in 2018.

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

Unlike its competitors/subsidiaries in the hotel space such as Hotels.com, which offers a straightforward 11th night free, or Booking.com, which offers discounts on room rates and the occasional bonus perk to loyal customers, Expedia Rewards has a traditional points-based loyalty program.

You’ll earn 2 Expedia Rewards points for every $1 you spend with the program for hotels, cars, packages and things to do, and 1 point per $5 spent on flights. This makes the program unique because you can earn points for both hotel stays and flights. You will receive double points when you book through the Expedia App.

So, if you booked a $1,000 flight and $1,000 hotel through the Expedia App, you would earn 4,400 Expedia Rewards points for the purchase.

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As a base member, you’ll have access to discounts of up to 10% on certain VIP Access properties (further details on these properties below).

On a dummy booking for a hotel in Bali, Indonesia, I saw a 67% discount, which seemed amazing as an Expedia Rewards member, given I’m only supposed to receive up to 10% off.

Checking the same hotel across other booking platforms though, the discount didn’t seem quite as exclusive.

To its credit, the Expedia price is around 10% cheaper than the hotel’s own website — so its promise to me, in this case, is legitimate. Searching in Bali, there were dozens of VIP Access marked and discounted properties, so while not every hotel may have the discount of up to 10%, plenty did.

Once you have either stayed seven hotel nights booked through the program or spent $5,000 in a year on anything, you gain Silver member status, where you will receive 10% more points for each booking thereafter. Once you’ve stayed 15 hotel nights or spent a huge $10,000 in a year, you become Gold, which gives you 30% more points.

Courtesy of The Stones Legian Bali
Courtesy of The Stones Legian Bali

You can only earn these points for booking when you are logged into your Expedia Rewards account on desktop or mobile. Points will not be retroactively awarded if you forget to login. Points will hit your account between 30 and 90 days after the end of your stay — you don’t earn anything if you cancel the trip.

Redemptions are very straightforward. For every 140 Expedia Rewards points you redeem, you’ll save $1 on a future booking — so each point is worth around 0.7p each.

Another way of looking at it is by using the $2,000 flight and hotel booking example above. Those 4,400 points you would earn from the booking would be worth around $30. Compared with saving 10% off each hotel room with Hotels.com (via the 11th night free), only earning $30 worth of value on a $2,000 booking isn’t great — it’s like 1.5% off rather than 10%. What is attractive about this program is that you can use your points toward flights, car hire and experiences rather than just hotels. It’s just that the earning rates in this program are really low.

Your points won’t expire unless you go more than 18 months without earning or redeeming any of them.

Related: Bali hopes to reopen to tourists by October — here’s what you need to know

The program also has a benefit called “VIP Access hotels,” which promises:

  • A curated group of hotels with high-level service and guest reviews;
  • Free Wi-Fi and breakfast for Silver and Gold status members with some room upgrades available for Gold members; and
  • Double the points value for redemptions toward VIP Access hotels — i.e. if you are redeeming $50 worth of points, you’ll receive a $100 discount.

Look for the VIP Access logo next to participating hotels. A word of warning, though: Free Wi-Fi should be standard in hotels worldwide, and I would expect free breakfasts and upgrades occasionally if I was a Silver or Gold member, not for every stay.

Photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton Bali
(Photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton Bali)

When to use Expedia Rewards

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 Expedia 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, Expedia can be a good way to receive some benefits (like that up to 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.

Related: From Bali to Brazil: 2020 will be a big year for this hotel brand

Bottom line

If you book enough of the big-box chain hotels to carry elite status and earn hotel points, Expedia Rewards may not make sense for you. Remember that for bookings made with online travel agencies like Expedia, 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.

Separately, the up to 10% discount on some properties combined with the poor points-earning rates don’t look compelling. Combined, it’s a decent, though fairly complex, loyalty proposition. I prefer the simple clear value of the Hotels.com loyalty program, though if you are booking large amounts of different types of travel (hotels, flights, car hire and experiences), and can reach Silver or Gold status, you could find some real value in focusing on the Expedia Rewards loyalty program.

Featured photo courtesy of the St Regis Bali.

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