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They say a girl’s purse tells a lot about who she is. If you open mine, among the flotsam and jetsam you’ll find a whole bunch of rewards cards. I especially like getting those punch cards from coffee shops – you know, ten coffees and you get one free.
The Hotels.com Welcome Rewards program is a lot like a coffee shop punch card, and I think it’s the simplicity of it that makes it one of the best travel rewards programs out there. Let me break it down:
Signing up for Welcome Rewards is super easy, free, and takes about 2 minutes. It’s also a very straightforward program to understand: you stay 10 nights in eligible Hotels.com hotels, you get a night free. There’s no calculating points or anything like that. Redeeming your rewards is easy, too – on the payment page when you’re reserving your stay, you just select “Redeem Welcome Rewards.”
Individual hotels have their own rewards programs, which is great and can save you money, but with the Hotels.com program you can earn free nights at any eligible hotel by staying in any hotel you booked through Hotels.com. And the site has over 100,000 different affiliated hotels, so you shouldn’t be hurting for options.
Unlike many other travel rewards programs, Welcome Rewards doesn’t have blackout dates, so you can redeem your free night anytime you want to.
4. Silver & Gold
Welcome Rewards also offers you room to move up to Silver or Gold status. For Silver you have to stay 10 nights or more during your membership year, and for Gold you have to stay 30 nights or more. With Silver and Gold status come perks like exclusive deals and a special dedicated customer service phone line.
Unfortunately, your free nights actually do expire (unlike the coffee shop punch card). Welcome Rewards expire 1 year from your last account activity. That means 1 year from the last time you either used rewards or booked a stay at Hotels.com.
2. Value of “Free”
I was pretty disappointed to learn that you actually can’t redeem your free night on any hotel. Basically, the value of your free night is equal to the average value of the 10 nights you stayed to earn it. So if you’re staying at 3-star hotels, you’ll have to redeem your free night for a hotel of a similar price.
Compared to other travel rewards programs, Hotels.com Welcome Rewards is definitely in the lead for simplicity and freedom. For comparison, Expedia.com Rewards lets you earn points on anything you book through their site, including flights, vacations, and hotel stays, but the points are based on the number of dollars you spend. So you’ll have to spend more to get more points, whereas with Hotels.com Welcome Rewards you can still get a free night even if you stay in the cheapest hotels you can find.
Sites like Travelocity.com and Priceline.com also offer rewards programs, but they are credit card rewards programs. The good thing about credit card rewards is that you can earn points toward travel on anything you buy, from groceries to gas. The bad part is, well, it’s yet another credit card and yet another monthly payment. If you ask me, I’d say: No, thanks.
As far as reviews go, Welcome Rewards seems to be well-liked by frugal travelers. The travel blog FourJandals.com featured an article about saving with Welcome Rewards, in which Cole Burmester praised the program for helping him get a sweet stay at a 4-star hotel in Oslo.
Overall, if you’re a frequent traveler, I’d say it’s 100% worth your time to take the few minutes and sign up with Welcome Rewards. It’s free, so you have nothing to lose, and only free nights to gain.