Hotelclub.com came to my attention when I was browsing through evreward to see which sites were offering the most generous Cash Back, and they were top of the list, offering 8.4% Cash Back offered by Bigcrumbs immediately this looked like a good place to do my shopping, so I thought I would take a closer look.
I’ve never heard of Hotelclub.com before, they are owned by Orbitz and have a similar look, feel and purpose to Hotels.com. I was excited to learn that they also have their own internal Loyalty Program that is similar to the Welcome Rewards program from Hotels.com I have found great value in these third party programs, particularly when I am booking a non-US Chain hotel. Of course, the base price for both sites is critical, and I found them Identical for the searches I performed.
A word of Caution if you have Chain Loyalty Program Status
When booking a large Chain hotel that has its own loyalty program such as Hilton or Marriot you typically will not get the perks of your status, nor the stay credited towards future status if you book through a third party site. Depending on the level of your status and the location of your hotel this might make it not worth the savings – EG in the Rome Cavalieri where our Hilton Gold Status entitled us to free WiFi and free Breakfast the value of those two items was quite large, as the Hotel is a resort and far from other sources of Breakfast, so there was a real benefit there.
I have heard that people are sometimes able to scoot around this rule by booking through Hotels.com etc and then later calling the Hotel directly to confirm their reservation, and asking to have their Loyalty Card number added to the reservation – sometimes that makes the hotel think you should qualify for the stay and the perks – certainly worth a shot but not guaranteed. Best advice would be to do this anyway, as you can earn still on your incidental expenses at the hotel, and if you get the perks of your status or the stay credited think of it as a bonus, rather than an entitlement.
Hotelclub.com Member Rewards
Hotelclub.com did manage to annoy me somewhat by plastering 7% Cash Back from their Members Rewards program over all the marketing material, but in actuality it is a tiered program, that starts at 4% for your first 2 stays, then goes to 5% for stay 3,4,5 and finally reaches 7% at 6 or more stays. Still decent, but I don’t like the lack of transparency here, and wish these sites would just put this on a splash page about the rewards program rather than bury it in the Terms and Conditions.
Hotels.com Welcome Rewards
In reality the free night is now a credit to your bill, and the amount of the credit is the average cost of the 10 nights divided by 10. Simply put its 10%. The big difference here is that until you hit 10 nights you cannot use your credit – so 9 nights at $200 per night would be worth zero until you stay one more time.
Personally I tend to book hotels for 2-5 nights at a time, as such using the Hotelclub system if they were on the longer side, or for people booking a high average number of days the program is not so favorable, because your first 10 night stay with Hotelclub would earn you Cash back through the Member Rewards Program of 4%, and only one tier credit towards their Gold Tier 5% Cash Back level.
However, if you were to book two weekends using both Programs you could be better off with Hotelclub, because whilst it pays less, it pays sooner.
Lets take a 2 night stay in The Chatwal New York (a high end Starwood Property) in September 19th-21st.
As you can see below, the 10% value from Hotels.com is a lot more in real dollars than the 4% offered by Hotelclub, however the current reward from Bigcrumbs is a lot higher, almost double, for Hotelclub. I did include a ‘sum of cash back’ line here, but in fairness the Bigcrumbs cashback is a lot more valuable than the Member Rewards or Welcome Rewards cash back – this is because Bigcrumbs gives you actual money, where as the Rewards programs give you future credit that you must spend on a subsequent reservation, and which can expire (I much prefer real money that doesn’t expire…)
So even at 4% I think determining the best value between the programs is tight.
The real value I see would be on booking #2, and onward; lets do another scenario, same hotel, and I’ll use the same $735 price per night for simplicity.
The ability to use the Hotelclub reward immediately means that you can bring down the base price of Stay #2 if you use Hotelclub, whereas with Hotels.com you need another 8 nights to be able to cash in. Furthermore, when you book stay #3 you are now Gold Status and your earning rate with Hotelclub rises to 5%
I am going to fastforward now by making stay #4 4 nights, this brings the Hotels.com Welcome Rewards program into play, as you are now able to redeem a free night on stay#5.
As you can see, once you have the Hotels.com award triggered the value is huge, and makes it better than Hotelclub, but the fact that you have to get to 10 nights before you can redeem it makes it not the best solution for everyone. I think it is good if you have a longer trip planned.
It remains subjective to compare a tiered 4-7% program with a 10% + 4.55% Program, and the best value would depend on your booking trends, for the casual booker, staying less than 10 nights per year I would rather go with Hotelclub, any higher and I might lean towards Hotels.com. Once you get to Platinum status with Hotelclub and trigger the 7% Level you are better off with Hotelclub when the Bigcrumbs Cash back levels remain where they are currently.
It is worth noting that the Bigcrumbs cash back level changes, so if they stop offering so much for HotelClub.com it would shift the balance back in favor of Hotels.com, I think the benchmark for Cash back should rest at around 5% so it might be something to watch, in case they are offering more now to lure in new business. The good thing about this though is that you get to cash out immediately. If on the other hand Hotels.com offered the lure rate of cash back your Welcome rewards would require the 10 night stay level in order to redeem.