The ability to get good deals on non-chain hotels is a must for anyone who travels outside of big cities. Many times I’m searching for the biggest savings on hotels in places that don’t have my regular hotel chains’ rewards programs. Thus, I want to go over the best hotel booking sites, and their rewards programs.
There are ways to get deals beyond the price that Kayak and Expedia show you. There are deals to be had. And I’ll go as far as to say that there is a goldmine section of this post.
A few things to know before we get started:
1) Booking sites’ rewards programs are rarely as good as a good hotel’s rewards program
The benefit of flexibility, and including the ability to book cheaper hotels, is not better than a good promotion. With big promotions with Club Carlson and IHG we are able to live out of 4/5 star hotels for well under $30 a night. This isn’t because we travel to specific places, this is because we’re very calculated with our rewards.
However, IHG doesn’t have hotels in the Galapagos.
2) Cashback sites
Don’t forget to check and click through sites like:
Often, at least one of the sites has 6% or more cashback. Although, hotel chains have the same thing. This isn’t a unique benefit, but it exists.
3) Best price guarantees
Check out our post, The Complete Guide to Hotel Best Rate Guarantees. You’ll see that many of them offer $50 as a benefit.
4) Check for promotion codes
Better than best price guarantees, are promo codes. If you’re looking to book a farflung hotel only with an OTA, check the forum thread I check here. This thread has a list of coupon codes. Earlier this year this is where some of us discovered a coupon code that gave $200 off bookings (although my reservations ended up canceled). Just check the wiki, although I check it… often.
Refer a friend.
Orbitz’s Refer A Friend program is quite generous. You can sign up via my link here, and you’ll get a $25 coupon. But the real benefit is referring people, as you get $25. But you could always refer your SO and get $75 in benefits.
- $25 sign up for person referred
- You get $25 for referring someone who spends $50 or more (excluding taxes + fees), within 183 days of enrolling
The rewards program is very simple. 1 Orbitz points (“Orbuck”) equalls $1. If you have 100 points, you’d get $100.
You earn 5% in Orbucks for booking via the app, and 3% for booking via the desktop. I assume that in order to book through one of the cashback portals you’ll need to book via the desktop. You’d lose 2% in Orbucks, but could potentially earn 7% via a portal like topcashback.
Best Price Guarantee
- New Orbitz Rewards members receive Orbucks equal to the price difference + $50 in Orbucks
- Silver members receive Orbucks equal to the price difference + up to $100 in Orbucks
- Gold members receive Orbucks equal to the price difference + up to $150 in Orbucks
- Platinum members receive Orbucks equal to the price difference + up to $200 in Orbucks
Total bonus Orbucks issued are limited to the total amount spent on the booking. If the amount spent on the booking is less than the amount of bonus Orbucks you are eligible to receive, then the bonus Orbucks will be capped at an amount of Orbucks equal to the amount spent on the booking.
How to get Orbitz status:
- Silver: signup
- Gold: “4+ room nights”
- Platinum: “12+ room nights”
It sounds to me like a Silver member would get $100 in Orbucks, good for $100 toward any hotel, for finding a verified BRG. If the price you end up paying is less than $100 though, they give you up to that amount.
If this is what it reads, that’s basically 50% off any hotel up $100-$200 hotels. It’s basically a 100% refund (up to $100-$200) that can only be used on hotels.
I have tried getting the coupons from the OTA then using it and filing another BRG to get another $50 coupon, and it didn’t work. I haven’t tried with Orbitz, but I’m guessing they are the same. What happens is that they don’t look at the price I booked, but the final price I’m paying after the $50 coupon. Which is to say it’s not a potentially endless loophole of free nights like Best Western’s BRG.
Either way, this is gold.
Let me break these earnings down.
- My wife refers myself who signs up Orbitz Rewards and I get $25 off. My wife will end up getting $25 back.
- I book a hotel via topcashback, which is offering 7% cashback on Orbitz.
- I book a cancelable hotel I know is cheaper on Expedia (for example) and file a valid/verified claim and get $100.
- I get 3% rewards points for booking on the desktop
If my hotel was $100:
- I’d get 7% of $100 from TCB, which is $7
- I’d get 3% via the Orbitz rewards, which is $3
- I’d get $100 for my next booking via the Best Price Guarantee
- I’d still have the $25 coupon to also add to the next booking, for being referred
- and my wife would get a $25 coupon
That $100 would net me $160 for later use: $110 in Orbucks, a $25 coupon, and another $25 coupon. And that is how the game is played at its best.
The Hotels.com rewards program is very simple. You book 10 hotel nights and you get a free night. Which sounds really great until you learn that the free night has a maximum value of the average night.
Very literally, it is a 10% rebate in the form of a coupon. You can not get anymore value out of this program than 10%.
Expedia Rewards (not very rewarding)
- Earn 2 points per dollar on hotels
- Earn +250 points for “Vip Access” hotels
- redeem 2x value on “VIP Access” hotels
- redemptions start: 3,500 points = $25
- 3,500 points = $50
- 7,000 points = $100
- 10,500 points = $150
- 14,000 points = $200
- and so on…
There’s no benefit to redeeming higher amounts on the value side. However, I think you’re only able to apply one coupon at a time.
Basically, you’re earning $50 coupons after spending $1,750 cash. That about 2.8% cashback… which is absolutely terrible. This is not even worth thinking about really.
You can earn slightly faster after being an elite (which costs a lot of money), and there are other perks. But even these slight benefits are worthless. 15% more of 2.8% isn’t a noticeable bump.
Other rewarding options:
I’m a little miffed at RocketMiles since my miles didn’t post. But I think they are the most overrated booking site. I hear a lot about them, and it still doesn’t beat a good ole rewards program.
That being said… The first time bonus can be amazing. Or randomly I was emailed an offer for 5,000 AA miles and quickly found a $150 hotel that would pay out the 5,000 AA miles. Now this is a great bonus, especially if you’re already spending the $150 and not going to be using a chain with a great rewards program. And 5,000 AA miles for $150 is great, but it’s rare.
Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts
Actually, I now remember the most over rated booking site. I kid. But Amex FH&R is loved by lots of luxury travelers, and like the Platinum card it requires… I don’t get it.
I don’t even have access to it because I don’t have an Amex Platinum card. But this is about luxury perks for those who aren’t worried about saving money, and like vain perks. For example, one common perk is a credit towards food. For many, a $100 credit towards food is amazing.
For me a $100 credit is not $100 cashback. I wouldn’t have spent $100 a day on food. So it’s really just extra amenities you get. If you have the Plat card and like luxury hotels, check it out.
Visa Signature Hotels
The Visa Signature Hotel’s booking is the poor man’s version of the Amex FH&R. It usually gives complimentary wifi, possible upgrade, 3pm check out, breakfast and a $25 food credit.
However, the dollar price on the hotels usually on this list are insane and you should be getting more than $25.
My assessment for booking hotels at non-chains goes like this:
- If it’s an expensive stay, I’m looking through the promo codes for a big discount. Then I worry about the rewards.
- None of the rewards programs are too rewarding that they would make up for a big promo code.
- RocketMiles is good if the hotel prices aren’t insane (which they likely are) and you’re able to get a 5,000+ miles bonus (which is unlikely)
- Orbitz BRG is… insanely awesome if you can get it to work for you.
- Orbitz is pretty good for first time users with the refer a friend for cheaper stays. For BIG stays, go for promo codes.
- Stack things! Check the rebate sites.
Hopefully, I’ve provided your desired (likely non-chain) hotel with a number of options to save more than the advertised rate on Kayak.