Why I think Hotels.com reward nights are the easiest free nights to use

Nov 1, 2021

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I’ve spent hours over the last few weeks maximizing expiring free night certificates from several major hotel loyalty programs. After all, there’s a ton of potential value lurking in these free nights.

However, even before spending hours on my quest to maximize expiring free night certificates, I’d already wanted to write a story about why Hotels.com Rewards reward nights are the easiest for me to actually use. After all, I used a Hotels.com reward night earlier this year to stay in Naxos, Greece – and in doing so, I remembered just how simple it is to get value from them.

In light of all the changes happening to hotel loyalty programs, here’s how and why you might want to earn and redeem Hotels.com reward nights, including info on my own recent redemption in Greece.

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In This Post

Hotels.com reward night basics

I booked two nights at The Farmington Hotel in Liberia through Hotels.com. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

The ease of earning and redeeming with the Hotels.com Rewards program is undoubtedly one of its strongest points. Not only is the program straightforward to use, but you can also get good value from it.

For each night that you book and stay through Hotels.com, you earn one “stamp.” Once you’ve collected 10 stamps, you get a reward night worth the average value of the 10 stamps (excluding taxes and fees). So, you’ll get slightly less than 10% back on each night you book and stay through Hotels.com.

When you’re ready to redeem your Hotels.com reward night, you’ll pay just the taxes and fees at properties that cost less than or equal to your reward night (excluding taxes and fees). If the night costs more than your reward night, you’ll need to pay the difference on top of the taxes and fees. For reasons we’ll get to in a minute, I try to book reward nights that are slightly more expensive than the value of my reward night.

Most nights you’ll book and stay with Hotels.com will be eligible for earning stamps. However, some discount codes and package bookings are ineligible. Also, note that you’ll forfeit your stamps and reward nights if you don’t make and complete an eligible Hotels.com stay at least once every 12 months.

Related: Why infrequent travelers shouldn’t book with hotel chains

How to maximize Hotels.com reward nights

Skamania Mountain Lodge great room with view of the mountain.
You could redeem a Hotels.com reward night at Skamania Lodge in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Hotels.com)

The primary reason I believe Hotels.com reward nights are the easiest to use is that it’s simple to ensure you get full value from these nights. I don’t fear that I could have gotten significantly better value on a later redemption because it’s simply worth what it’s worth.

To get as much value as you can from a Hotels.com reward night, aim for a stay with an average nightly rate that’s slightly greater than the value of your reward night. After all, you won’t retain any value if you book a night that’s less costly than your reward night. On the other hand, don’t apply your reward night toward a night that’s significantly more expensive than you usually book. After all, reward nights don’t count toward earning your next reward night, so you’ll be better off paying yourself for a costly night – and thus increasing the average value of your next reward night.

Second, you’ll want to avoid the redemption fee. Hotels.com charges a $5 redemption fee per reward night. However, you can avoid this fee by booking reward nights through the Hotels.com app or having an open Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card (rates & fees). Check out our review of the Hotels.com credit card if you’re interested in adding the card to your wallet.

Finally, if you have elite status with one or more hotel loyalty programs, you’ll usually only want to book with Hotels.com when you are staying with hotels outside of these programs. After all, you won’t typically get elite benefits and earnings when you book through an online travel agency such as Hotels.com.

Related: Top 5 reasons to get the Hotels.com credit card

How I used a Hotels.com reward night in Greece

I usually use Hotels.com to book stays at independent properties and hotels in programs where I don’t have (or want) elite status. For example, here’s a look at how I earned 10 stamps (including nights at The Farmington Hotel in Liberia and even the Hooters Hotel in Las Vegas) for the $92.18 reward night I used this summer in Greece:

Stamps for a Hotels.com reward night
(Screenshot from Hotels.com)

I knew I’d book with either Airbnb or Hotels.com for my stay in Naxos, Greece. After all, there are no hotels in major loyalty programs that fall within my budget on the island.

Eventually, I booked two nights at the Sun Beach Hotel through Hotels.com. I could have earned two stamps on my stay and paid $241.97 for two nights:

Booking a room through Hotels.com
(Screenshot from Hotels.com)

Instead, I decided to redeem my $92.18 reward night through the Hotels.com app. Doing so dropped the total for my two-night stay to $149.79. On this two-night stay, I got the full $92.18 value from my reward night. On top of that, I still earned a stamp worth $89.57 for the other night, which will count toward earning my next reward night.

Related: The best Hotels.com properties for your fall trip

Bottom line

I love earning and redeeming free nights from major hotel loyalty programs because of the outsized value I can obtain when the stars align. For example, my husband and I have used Hilton free weekend night certificates to stay at aspirational Hilton hotels, including the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. We recently used up to 35,000-point Marriott Bonvoy free night awards to enjoy the new Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa.

Although using the annual free nights that come with select hotel credit cards takes planning and strategy, I enjoy maximizing these nights and dreaming of where they can take me.

Le Meridien Maldives. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Still, this pursuit of maximization requires time and also leads me to hold on to our free nights for the “perfect” redemption – which is likely why we have so many expiring free night certificates to use up right now.

In contrast, Hotels.com reward nights have a set value. As long as I redeem one for a night that’s slightly more expensive than my reward night and avoid the redemption fee, I’ll get good value each and every time without lots of time or strategy required.

As such, Hotels.com Rewards nights are the easiest free nights for me to actually use. I can get full value from the reward night and not regret that I should have waited and used it for a different stay.

Featured photo of The Farmington Hotel in Liberia by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

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