Welcome Rewards is the 4-year old hotel loyalty program for Hotels.com booking site, an Expedia affiliate company. The loyalty program is very simple. Book through Hotels.com and after you stay 10 nights at any partner hotels. you earn one free night credit at any partner hotel. The program is a 10% rebate program for every hotel stay that you can redeem after 10 hotel nights booked through hotels.com as a Welcome Rewards member.
The value of hotels.com is you earn hotel stay credit regardless of the hotel chain. Stay 2 nights at Hilton, 3 nights at Marriott, 2 nights at independent hotels, 2 nights at Starwood and 1 night at Best Western and you earn a free night credit. Your paid nights carry over from year to year so you earn a free night credit even if it takes 30 months to reach 10 nights.
The value of the Welcome Rewards free night is the average rate of the 10 paid nights. If your room rate for 10 nights is $1,300, then your free night room credit is $130. You can even stay at a more expensive hotel than $130 using your free night credit and pay the difference for the higher rate room.
What are the disadvantages of Hotels.com Welcome Rewards?
You must have purchase or redemption activity at least once every 12 months to keep your paid nights credits from expiring. One of the primary disadvantages of the free night credit is taxes are not included. Also, only properties marked with welcomerewards™ qualify.
Your free night using a $130 credit for a $130 room may still cost $20 in hotel taxes and fees for a hotel in a city like San Francisco with 15.5% hotel tax. Reward nights using points in most hotel loyalty programs like Marriott Rewards and Hyatt Gold Passport also cover the hotel taxes for the room night.
Another major disadvantage of Welcome Rewards are bookings through hotels.com for a chain hotel with its own loyalty program like a Sheraton Hotel in the Starwood Preferred Guest program will not earn points or loyalty credit with SPG.
Hotels.com negotiates discount room rates with hotels and even though the room rate you pay will be the same or higher on hotels.com than booking through spg.com, a portion of the room rate goes to hotels.com. Basically, you pay the same room rate at hotels.com or more than you would have paid at the hotel chain’s site, the hotel property gets less money than if you booked directly with them on their site, and hotels.com gets about 20% or so of the room rate as their profit.
This is why hotel loyalty programs like Hilton HHonors and IHG Priority Club do not give loyalty points for bookings made through third-party online travel agencies like Hotels.com.
FIVESTAR status rolls over into new Welcome Rewards elite tiers.
Hotels.com Welcome Rewards introduced an elite loyalty program called FIVESTAR in February 2011 to provide additional benefits to heavy users of hotels.com. As of last week, October 25, 2012, the FIVESTAR program was rolled into the new Welcome Rewards program offering Silver and Gold elite tier membership.
The FIVESTAR benefits are the same as the Silver (10 nights in a membership year) and Gold (30 nights) elite tiers with the main change being the new Welcome Rewards elite tiers are based on a 12-month year and not the calendar year used for FIVESTAR members.
For every ten nights you book and stay at any of our partner hotels, you get one free* night at any partner hotel.
Welcome Rewards Silver:
If you book and stay ten or more nights in a membership year** on Hotels.com, you will become a Welcome Rewards Silver member. In addition to the free* night that you get for every ten completed bookings, you receive Silver priority customer service available by phone or e-mail, hassle-free travel guarantee^ provided by your dedicated Welcome Rewards agent, and early access to promotions and deals. You can find additional Welcome Rewards information here.
Welcome Rewards Gold:
If you book and stay 30 or more nights in a membership year** on Hotels.com, you will become a Welcome Rewards Gold member. In addition to receiving the benefits listed above, Gold members receive dedicated Gold priority customer service and exclusive deals and promotions. You can find additional Welcome Rewards here.
Please remember to sign in to your account whenever you book. Bookings made prior to enrollment in the Welcome Rewards program do not qualify for credits or Silver or Gold status.
Current FIVESTAR members can find more information about the FIVESTAR program combining with the newly enhanced Welcome Rewards program here.
* Free night does not include taxes and fees.
** Each membership year runs for a year from the date on which you joined the Welcome Rewards program, and each anniversary after that. Go to your Accountpage to see on what day you became a Welcome Rewards member.
^ Hassle-Free Guarantee: If you need to change your reservation for any reason or if you have any problem with your stay, our agents will help you make new travel plans right away while aiming to minimize any hotel change or cancellation fees.
Welcome Rewards Hassle-Free Guarantee
The hassle-free guarantee has been cited by some Welcome Rewards elite users as enabling credit for nonrefundable room rates which is really quite a valuable benefit if that is offered as an option when needing to change a prepaid hotel reservation.
Welcome Rewards is a loyalty program alternative for frequent guests who need hotel stays, but do not want to concentrate loyalty on any specific chain. You will get a 10% rebate on the cost of 10 hotel nights.
Loyalty travelers who do have chain preferences can also benefit when needing independent hotel stays. Spending $2,000 on a Hawaii vacation at an independent hotel resort that can be booked for the same price at Hotels.com may provide more rebate value than you will find booking directly with the resort.
Related Post: Hotels.com Welcome Rewards Major Program Changes March 9, 2010 (Loyalty Traveler)
The Wandering Aramean – A Rather Worthless Hotel Status Feb 2012. The comments on this post reference credit on prepaid, nonrefundable bookings.