With airlines devaluing their loyalty programs left and right, the door is wide open for OTAs to benefit—and we’ve certainly seen them try. Orbitz has recently introduced a rewards system (enhanced by their credit card) that offers instant cash back on every purchase—as much as ten percent on certain purchases. Hotels.com offers a free night for every ten you book. And now Expediais jumping back into the game, with a refreshed loyalty program that aims to compete. But does it? Here are the basics you need to know.
With every booking you make on Expedia.com, you’ll now earn one point for every $5 spent on flights, or two points for every $1 spent on cruises or bundled bookings (flights and hotels together, if not necessarily packaged).
There are three levels of status: blue, silver, and gold. Each tier is relatively easy to attain: to qualify for silver, you need to spend $5,000 annually on Expedia.com or book seven qualifying room nights; for gold, it’s $10,000 or 15 room nights. A spokesperson confirmed that qualifying room nights could include budget stays, making that an accessible route.
By attaining silver or gold status, members earn extra points for each purchase (10% bonus points for silver; 30% for gold) and receive bonus amenities at participating hotels (dubbed VIP Access properties)—for gold members, hotel upgrades are offered when available.
It’s a lovely start, but given that Expedia has always been rather opaque about loyalty point conversion and redemption values, we dug in a bit further. Here’s how the math breaks down:
It takes a minimum of 3,500 points to redeem a reward. That amount of points nets you a $25 certificate to use towards any hotel booking.
You can’t use reward coupons for flights. Airfares are given a points value according to their cost. For example, a sample weekend flight from NYC to MIA that was listed at $350 would cost 56,000 Expedia points.
Booking packages and cruises is most lucrative when it comes to points, but it will still take $1,750 in purchases to get a $25 hotel coupon.
Points are also redeemable for experiences such as Broadway theater tickets (5,000 points/$2,800) or an 8-course dinner at Daniel in the private Skybox (100,000 points/$56,000).
For a customer that only books flights on Expedia, it will take $17,500 in purchases to get a $25 coupon.
That same customer who only books flights will need to spend roughly $280,000 before getting enough points to redeem one free flight.
*All calculations are based on blue member status.
The takeaway: Expedia is targeting the hotel agnostic by offering easy status tiers—but the chance of an upgrade (or free bottle of wine) will prove more valuable than the loyalty currency itself.
Nikki Ekstein is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.