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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Over the last few years we’ve seen an increase in high-value credit card bonus categories. First, the Chase Sapphire Reserve came on the market with 3x points on travel and dining, equivalent to a 6.3% return based on TPG’s latest valuations. In response to the premium competition, Amex updated The Platinum Card® from American Express to include 5x points on airfare purchased directly with the airline, and on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, giving cardholders a 9.5% return.
The most recent and highest value addition has been the partnership between hotels.com and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Venture cardholders get 10 miles per dollar on Hotels.com bookings made at Hotels.com/venture and paid for with the Venture card. Since Venture Rewards points are worth 1 cent each, this is a consistent 10% back on hotel reservations.
This partnership between Hotels.com and Capital One makes a lot of sense; both brands are generally best for “free agent” travelers, those without loyalty to a single airline or hotel chain. Venture Rewards miles can be used to erase travel charges from any airline or hotel you choose while the Hotels.com Rewards program lets you jump between Hyatts and Marriotts and non-chain properties, still earning one free night for every 10 paid nights no matter what brand you choose.
The one downside of Hotels.com is that you generally won’t earn points, elite night credits or elite benefits when booking through it — that rule holds true for other third-party travel agencies as well. You might think this gives travelers with hotel elite status a real incentive to book directly with the hotel — but that’s overlooking one huge factor.
Hotels.com Can Have Much Lower Rates Than Hotel Websites
While major hotel chains like to claim that they offer the lowest rates on their own rooms, that’s not always the case. A little comparison shopping can save you a lot of money.
Let’s use the London EDITION as an example. This Tier 4 Ritz-Carlton property is not cheap, with cash rates generally starting at $450 a night. Hotels.com charges the same amount as Marriott.com for a base room, but things start to get interesting when we move up a few categories and try and book a chic and spacious loft room.
For a three-night stay from July 2-July 5, Marriott is charging 2,529 GBP (~$3,370 USD at the time of writing).
For the same room on the same dates, Hotels.com is charging $2,700.84
Although Marriott offers a best rate guarantee, which claims to match lower rates found within 24 hours of booking, when I submitted a claim for this rate they were only wiling to knock ~$150 off the price. Multiple follow-up emails and screenshots of the Hotels.com website got me nowhere, so I unfortunately can’t recommend that as a realistic option.
A $670 savings is exciting on its own, but the savings get even better when we factor in the Venture Rewards miles you’ll earn.
Below is a summary of the cost and earnings for each booking avenue. I make two assumptions here, namely that an SPG Platinum elite is making the reservation, and that they’re paying with a Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
|Booking Website||Cost||Credit Card Rewards ($ Value)||Hotel Points ($ Value)||Net Cost|
|Marriott.com||$3,370||6,740 ($181.98)||10,110 ($272.97)||$2,915.05|
|Hotels.com||$2,700.84||27,008 ($270.08)||27,008 ($270.08)||$2,160.68|
While booking directly through Marriott would earn you a respectable haul of ~17,000 Starpoints, you end up paying a nearly $750 premium for that privilege. Meanwhile, by using the Venture Rewards Card you’d start with a $670 savings, but end up $750 ahead once you factored in the 10x miles on Hotels.com bookings and the Hotels.com Rewards loyalty program, which gives 1 free night for every 10 paid nights (essentially another 10% back).
This strategy isn’t for everyone, as you’re choosing to forego elite night credits and other benefits in exchange for cash savings. But if you’re already re-qualified for status for next year, or hold lifetime elite status, price-comparing at Hotels.com can help you save big on your next vacation. And, in this example, if you were still gunning for elite status, you might consider spending the $750 you saved toward as many nights as possible at a cheaper property to help you meet an elite status level’s required number of nights.
Note that not every hotel and not every room type will offer savings this large, but it’s certainly worth doing some research before you book.
Know before you go.
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Earn unlimited 10x miles on hotel stays booked and paid through hotels.com/venture. Pair that with the Hotels.com Rewards program and you'll essentially be getting 20% off of hotel bookings! With the 50,000 mile sign-up bonus you can get up to $700 in value based on TPG's most recent valuations and you'll have the flexibility to transfer those miles to participating airline partners or redeem those miles on any purchase for airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and more.
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that