All good stories come to an end, and sequels rarely match the original offer. Hotels.com launched WelcomeRewards in July 2008 with a simple proposition: Book and stay at any Hotels.com property partner with a Price Match Guarantee sticker and a base rate of at least $40 and the member earns a free night for any hotel up to $400 value after accumulating 10 nights within 18 months. Qualifying hotel night credits expire after 18 months.
My initial review of the Hotels.com WelcomeRewards program launched July 10, 2008 was highly favorable.
“WelcomeRewards is the first loyalty program I have seen to emerge from the online travel agencies that holds significant value comparable to the corporate chain frequent guest programs like Marriott Rewards, Hilton HHonors, and Starwood Preferred Guest. I look forward to seeing how the hotels.com program evolves.” – Loyalty Traveler, July 25, 2008
The potential to leverage 10 cheap hotel nights into a luxury hotel night worth $400 is definitely a great deal for some travelers. A $40 night here and a $60 night there over the course of 18 months had potential for a high value rebate on your total Hotels.com hotel spending.
Here are the program details highlighting the major features of WelcomeRewards and changes.
Welcome Rewards Program Current Rules for Bookings made before March 9, 2010
1. You receive one loyalty credit for each qualifying night’s stay booked on Hotels.com at a Price Match Guarantee property priced at $40 or more before taxes and fees.
2. Bookings must be made on US hotels.com site.
3. Package bookings and bookings using a coupon do not qualify.
4. Hotel credits expire after 18 months.
5. Maximum of 10 free nights (100 WelcomeRewards credits) can be earned in a calendar year.
6. Maximum value of free night is $400 before taxes and fees and must be a Price Match Guarantee hotels.com partner property.
WelcomeRewards Changes Effective March 9, 2010
1. Any loyalty credit earned before March 9, 2010 will be subject to new rules.
2. The minimum room rate for earning loyalty credits is removed, but must be more than $0.00.
3. Hotel credits expire after 36 months.
4. Any loyalty credits earned before March 9, 2010 which have not yet expired will receive a new expiration date of March 8, 2013.
5. There is no limit on free nights earned in a calendar year.
6. The value of the free night will be valued at the average daily rate paid for the 10 qualifying nights.
7. The reward night can be used for a higher priced room than your WelcomeRewards credit value, but member must pay the room rate difference.
Sources: Hotels.com WelcomeRewards webpage on March 9, 2010 program changes
Hotels.com Terms & Conditions for WelcomeRewards
In effect, WelcomeRewards has removed the leverage factor whereby a member could get great reward value from low priced hotel stays. Currently a person can stay 10 nights in a $40 per night room and then redeem the credits for a $400 per night hotel. Spending $400 and receiving a $400 credit was the potential leverage factor that made WelcomeRewards a viable alternative to hotel loyalty programs for the frequent traveler desiring flexibility in hotel choice.
Next month the rule changes mean the $40 per night average rate paid by a hotel.com guest will only earn a $40 hotel value credit after 10 nights.
And you thought the Hilton HHonors changes were bad!
Here is a positive note in the 2010 hotel loyalty program scene. Carlson Hotels GoldPoints Plus program has eliminated FlexNights Premium award levels for free nights. The program also lowered the cost for a free night at nearly 30% of their 1,000+ hotels.
Loyalty Traveler will take a closer look at the GoldPoints Plus program later this week. In this tough hotel economic climate there are programs making consumer-oriented changes and there are programs repositioning their value through loyalty member takeaways.
Thanks to Jeff B. for bringing the WelcomeRewards changes to my attention.