Point By Point: How to Win Travel Reward Programs

Apr 17, 2017Reading Time: 7 min

Getting the best deal is a process for any traveler: finding the cheapest flight followed by snagging the hotel with the most amenities for the lowest cost as well as a rental car, activities and more. It can be overwhelming! But what if you could tailor your travel plans based more on what you would be receiving back rather than what you would be spending?

This is the world of travel reward programs.

To save you some time, we've done a lot of the research for you already. Yes, there are a million rewards programs out there but we are going to focus specifically on travel websites that give you the best options for an all-inclusive booking.

I’ve graded these rewards program based on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the highest attainable score. Rewards programs were rated based on these factors:

  • Usability
  • Percentage back (whether in actual cash or rewards points/bucks)
  • Catalog of participating locations
  • Level of ease to redeem rewards

EXPEDIA
Overall Score: 4.5

Known for being a one-stop-shop, Expedia goes above and beyond for its reward members. While they have adopted Orbitz’s price guarantee ($50 if you find a better rate within 24 hours of booking), Expedia+ memberships offer Unreal Deals for those who show their loyalty. However, to gain elite status (gold and silver), you’re going to have to spend some major dollar first.

+blue membership: Your automatic membership status just for signing up secures you price guarantees, 2x the points when you book at a +VIP hotel plus these killer benefits:

  • 2 points per $1 spent on hotels, cars, activities and cruises
  • 1 point per $5 spent on flights (on top of airline miles)
  • 1 point per $1 spent on flight + car packages
  • 140 points = $1 off hotel bookings

+silver membership: After you’ve coughed up $5k in bookings, your membership gets bumped up to silver status and the benefits continue to get better. Silver memberships include all blue membership perks plus:

  • Spa discounts and free drinks at certain +VIP Access hotels
  • 10% bonus points on bookings
  • 250 bonus points for +VIP hotel bookings
  • Exclusive concierge benefits

+gold membership: $10k later and you’ve reached the top-tier of Expedia+ memberships. This elite title reaps all the benefits of lower tiers plus room upgrades and flexible check-in/check-out at VIP+ hotels.

Expedia’s reward program really focuses on the benefits more than the immediate saving money deals, which pays off in the long run if you’re an avid traveler.

PRICELINE 
Overall Rating: 4.3

I am all for the Bonus Cash reward system and Priceline has got this program down. Plus, Priceline offers a little more flexibility with the chance for the traveler to “offer” a price rather than just deal with what has been presented to them. This lets budget travelers only see deals that they are comfortable with rather than being pressured to go beyond their limits.

Priceline Bonus Cash works in two ways:

  • Hotel Bookings: If you write in $50 per night as your price for a hotel and you’ve earned enough Bonus Cash rewards to equal $5 per night, your price will go up to $55 per night which equals more choices!
  • Vacation Package: Bonus Cash is subtracted from the total like a store coupon

Bonus Cash can be used on any single or combined package; however, it cannot be combined with promotions or discounts.

Priceline’s credit card offers amazing benefits such as:

  • 1 point on all eligible purchases
  • $50 cash back or up to 5,000 bonus points when you sign up
  • Earn double, triple or quadruple points on Priceline purchases

Priceline’s membership is basic and relies heavily on the credit card to reap the most benefits; however, the Name Your Price tool definitely gives Priceline a bump in scoring!

PromoCodes works with all of these travel reward programs and more! Be sure to check out our website to learn more ways you can save on your next vacation.

ORBITZ
Overall Score: 4.2

Orbitz first put itself on the map when it offered to send you a refund if a flight you booked was later selling for less than the price you originally paid. Bonus points for offering their customers a security blanket!  They’ve kept up the trend by promising customers up to 10% back on their travel purchases with extra perks for bookings using the Orbitz credit card. Orbitz works on a tiered member scale:

Silver Members: This bottom-tier membership snags you exclusive deals and the price guarantee tool that pays the difference plus $50 Orbucks to be spent on the site.

Gold Members (Stay 4+ nights per year): These members get to skip the line when needing to chat with customer service and can score freebies such as wi-fi, free breakfast or waived resort fees when staying at Orbitz VIP hotels.

Platinum Members (Stay 12+ nights per year): Top-tier members get all benefits of tiers below it plus reimbursement via Orbucks for two checked bags and a covered enrollment fee for TSA Pre-Check.

All memberships include 5% back on hotels booked through the Orbitz app, 1% back on flights and vacations, ability to earn Orbucks on top of other deals, and price guarantee. Enhance your membership with an Orbitz credit card for 10% back on hotel stays and more.

CHEAPTICKETS
Overall Score: 3.5

Rewards programs have picked up on the marketing word “cash” and CheapTickets is no exception.  Allowing customers the flexibility to use their rewards like cash is the best way to keep members loyal and let them control how their rewards are spent. Even better? CheapTickets keeps its system simple:

1 CheapCash= $1 in Savings

CheapTickets doesn’t used a tiered system but does cap rewards out at $100 CheapCash per year. This “cash” can be used to save money on flights (though not all flights are eligible for the same amount of “cash” discount) or redeemed immediately on qualifying hotel stays. CheapCash can be combined with other promotions so if you’re looking to pile on a few discounts, this is the way to go.

Be sure to pay attention to your CheapCash expiration date!

HOTELS.COM
Overall Score: 3.2
Who doesn’t love a free night? Hotels.com keeps their rewards members happy with a straightforward membership perk of “Stay 10 Nights, Get 1 Free.” The best part is that these nights don’t have to all be at one hotel or with one hotel chain; if it’s booked through hotels.com, it goes towards your free night! The website also has access to lower prices and last-minute deals as well as a huge catalog of participating hotels. If you’re an active traveler, gold and silver memberships are available that include fast track offers and front-of-the-line customer service priority.

Hotels.com scored a little lower on the scale due to the fact that they didn’t offer much else beside a standard Buy 10, Get 1 Free reward system.

TRAVELOCITY
Overall Score: 3.0

There is something about getting the “member discount” that just makes you feel awesome and Travelocity knows the way to a traveler’s heart. Once enrolled in their rewards program, Travelocity members can see exactly how much they are saving as well as gain a sneak peek at upcoming sales and discounts. All Travelocity members also enjoy an additional 50% off select hotels

Travelocity membership is best for those who travel fairly often and have a lot of flexibility in their dates and destinations. Unfortunately, Travelocity doesn’t offer reward points or cash to use later, but it doesn’t hurt to join the program for free if it means saving on your vacation!