An ideal hotel card for a brand-agnostic traveler: A review of the Hotels.com credit card
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Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card overview
The Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card (rates & fees) offers flexibility for travelers who aren’t loyal to a specific hotel brand. And with no foreign transaction fees and travel protection benefits, this no-annual-fee card has some decent perks going for it. However, the lack of category bonuses and an unorthodox redemption process hamper this otherwise solid offering. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Frequent travelers are generally best off booking hotels directly to earn points and status. However, those who are newer to the world of travel rewards — or those that are free agents and brand-agnostic — may prefer to use a third-party website.
Hotels.com, part of the Expedia Group, is one of the largest online travel agencies (OTA) that specialize in accommodations, and they also offer a travel rewards credit card.
If you prefer the simplicity of booking hotel stays through an OTA, specifically Hotels.com, the card may be a fit for you. However, know that there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. Let’s dive in.
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Who is this card for?
The Hotels.com credit card is best for those that already book through the Hotels.com platform and are familiar with its rewards program. However, infrequent travelers — and those who don’t care enough about a specific chain — may also find this card valuable.
This card allows you to earn Hotel.com rewards on everyday spending while bouncing between brands and even when staying at non-chain properties. Cardholders have over 500,000 properties worldwide they can choose from when booking a trip through Hotels.com. There are no blackout dates, either.
However, you can only redeem for hotel stays through Hotels.com — there is no option to cash out your rewards any other way.
New cardholders will earn two hotel reward nights worth $250 total (max. $125 per night) after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. If you treat the $250 in reward nights as if it was $250 in cash, this is a solid sign-up bonus considering the $1,000 in spend required.
Here’s how the reward nights work.
First, you must have an open and active Hotels.com Rewards membership to receive the reward nights. Also, like all reward nights with Hotels.com, you are responsible for taxes, fees and other charges. Note that this can add up, especially if a hotel charges a resort fee, destination fee, etc.
If you do end up booking a hotel night that costs more than $125, you pay the difference. If it costs less than $125, you lose the difference.
How to earn
The major benefit of this card is the ability to earn additional Hotels.com rewards from everyday spending. Unfortunately, there are no category bonuses to speak of — and no bonuses for booking through Hotels.com. However, Hotels.com does offer a solid, albeit slightly confusing, loyalty program.
Hotels.com rewards function as a “stamp” system whereby 10 “stamps,” — essentially 10 paid hotel nights — get you one free hotel night.
The credit card offers the ability to earn stamps from spending. By spending $500 on the Hotels.com credit card, you earn one “stamp”. That means, by spending $5,000 on your credit card, you’ll earn enough for one free hotel night.
You can also choose to mix and match some card spending and some paid hotel stays to earn a free night. (i.e. $2,500 in card spending and 5 paid nights or any combination).
That’s all simple enough, but here’s the slightly tricky part. When you book 10 nights through the website or app, and you’ll earn one free night, with the value of the free night equivalent to the average cost of your 10 paid nights.
The stamp you earn for spending $500 isn’t based on a hotel booking, so Hotels.com values one stamp from card spending at a fixed value: $110. That doesn’t seem like much, but if you redeem a reward night you earned solely from purchases, your reward night is equivalent to a 2.2% rewards rate ($110/$5000).
Main benefits and perks
Besides the ability to earn free nights from card spending, the Hotels.com credit card has some solid perks, especially for a no-annual-fee card.
- Cellphone insurance coverage: If you pay your monthly cellphone bill with the card, you get up to $600 protection against damage or theft (with a $25 deductible). This benefit does not cover lost cellphones.
- Trip cancellation, interruption or delay: Your spouse and children are covered up to $2,000 each if you paid for the full cost of the trip with your card.
- Travel accident insurance: If you pay for a trip with this card, you and your immediate family are insured up to $150,000 for a covered loss.
- Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
- No foreign transaction fee
- Hotels.com Silver status for one year: Status with Hotels.com gets you priority customer service when calling in for assistance, early access to deals and promotions and sometimes even perks such as free breakfast or room upgrades (but these benefits aren’t often seen)
Related: Best credit cards with no annual fee
How to redeem
The best part about redeeming a free night with Hotels.com is the ability to use it for almost any hotel stay on any date. Once you reach 10 nights, you’ll have a free night which you can apply at checkout.
However, remember that the value of the free night is the average value of your 10 paid nights. If any of your stamps were earned from credit card spending ($500 = 1 free night), then the value of that stamp is fixed at $110.
The free night value will also never cover taxes and fees, so you’ll still be on the hook for those even if your free night average value is higher than the cost of the night you’re covering. If you want to use your free night for a hotel that’s more expensive than the value of your free night, you can use it and pay the difference in cost.
Which cards compete with the Hotels.com credit card?
There are other hotel rewards credit cards from specific brands that compete with the Hotels.com credit card. There are no-annual-fee options from Hilton and Marriott, for instance.
The Hilton Honors American Express Card is an entry-level hotel card with no annual fee (see rates & fees). It’s a card that is ideal for beginners and offers an array of perks for those that want to be loyal to the Hilton portfolio of brands. Meanwhile, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card is the no-annual-fee card option in Marriott’s lineup and offers a way to start earning points and a jump start to elite status.
In addition, a no-annual-fee card such as the Chase Freedom Flex offers an impressive return across a number of spending categories, and the card becomes even more valuable when you pair it with a Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card that has an annual fee.
While it doesn’t make sense for frequent travelers who book directly through a hotel’s website, the Hotels.com credit card does fill a niche for a certain demographic. That niche includes people newer to the world of travel rewards or those that are completely brand agnostic towards a specific hotel chain.
Remember that for bookings made with online travel agencies like Hotels.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.
However, the 2.2% return you get is solid and all in all, the Hotels.com card is a decent option and worth investigating if it fits your specific needs.
Apply here: Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card
For rates and fees of the Amex Hilton card, click here.
Featured photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
- Get 2 reward nights worth $250 total (max $125 per night)*, when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. *Excludes taxes and fees. If a night costs less than $125, you won’t get the difference.
- Collect 1 stamp each time you spend $500 on purchases with your card and collect 1 stamp for every night you stay at any eligible property booked on Hotels.com. When you collect 10 stamps, you'll get 1 reward night to redeem on future bookings through Hotels.com.
- Choose from over 500,000 properties in 200+ countries around the world.
- $0 Annual Fee.
- For the first year, you'll enjoy Silver membership exclusives such as free breakfast, airport transfers, free WiFi and more at select properties.
- Pay your monthly cell phone bill with your card and get up to $600 protection against damage or theft (subject to a $25 deductible).
- No foreign currency conversion fee.
- Offers reimbursement for non-refundable passenger fare if your trip is interrupted or cancelled for a covered reason, when you passenger fare is booked with your card.
- See Rates & Fees