The battle of the OTAs is heating up—first there was a wave of loyalty programs, and now, they’re each outdoing one another when it comes to credit cards. The latest move comes from Orbitz, whose fee-free Visa-backed card was announced earlier this week as a direct challenge to Expedia’s Citi cards. Our verdict? The Orbitz Rewards Visa is about a good a travel card as you can get. Read on for details.
Intended to work hand-in-hand with Orbitz’s existing rewards program, the new card offers transparent rewards in Orbucks currency. One Orbuck equals one dollar, eliminating the need to calculate your return or figure out what your points are really worth. There won’t be any blackout dates, nor will there be restrictions on types of booking—you can use Orbucks for hotel, rental car, package deal, or flight bookings, and they can be combined with other deals and offers for stackable rewards. Smartly, the card carries no foreign transaction fees, includes Visa benefits such as lost luggage reimbursements and hotel burglary coverage, and produces a 2% return on every purchase—making it one of the best travel cards now available, not just from OTAs but in general.
Getting the most out of the Orbitz Rewards Visa requires some (extremely) simple strategy. Travel bookings themselves are the most profitable (expect 5% back across the board), but add on the bonuses you get for using Orbitz’s rewards program and mobile apps, and the payback climbs up to 10% for hotels, 7% for flights, and 6% for package deals. That’s no chump change.
To see how it all adds up, take a look at the average four-person family’s spending habits. For a group that spends $10,000 on their card annually—plus roughly $3,000 on travel expenses—the card will yield almost $400 Orbucks. The same spend translated to roughly 18,000 Travelocity points, 24,000 Priceline points, or a combination of 7,000 Expedia points plus 15,000 Citi Thank You points when using each competitor’s respective card. Translate those points to dollar value, and the Orbitz card yields roughly 60% more than its rivals.
As far as our research can confirm, the only travel card currently giving Orbitz a run for their money is the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard, a strong contender with similar returns (for a manageable $89 annual fee) and occasional sign-up bonuses that pay for themselves. Want to compare them head to head? Take a look here for more information.
Nikki Ekstein is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.