By Nikki Ekstein
October 21, 2013

There’s a new currency in the travel industry, and it’s called the Orbuck. Today, Orbitz launches its long-in-the-works Orbitz Rewards, a loyalty program that’s smart, transparent, and a hell of a business move for the popular OTA.

Here’s how it works: Book any flight on, and you’ll immediately be rewarded with at least 1 percent cash back (in Orbuck form); hotel bookings will yield at least 3 percent in returns. Book on the mobile app, and you’ll get bonus Orbucks—each Orbuck translates to a dollar off any future booking. Book a special deal, and you might net even more. The Orbucks show up in your account as soon as your transaction goes through, meaning you don’t have to wait to rack up tens of thousands of points before they’re redeemable. On the contrary: the cash you get back from a flight booking can be immediately applied when you book the hotel fifteen minutes later.

The program has been piloting with a select group of users since March, giving Orbitz plenty of time to maximize the benefits. Among the features we’re digging:

Stackable rewards: Use Orbucks, coupon codes, and outside loyalty programs for combined discounts and perks.

Referral bonuses: Members can earn an extra $1,000 a year by referring friends and family to the program.

Superstar membership status: It only takes 12 room nights a year (booked on Orbitz, of course) to reach the highest tier of Orbitz Rewards status, and the added value includes year-round concierge service—even when you’re not traveling.

As part of the launch promotion, Orbitz is offering a “free checked bag” for any flight you book between now and November 30—scan your bag fee receipt and 25 Orbucks will show up in your account. The eventual hope for Orbitz? That it always becomes cheaper to book on their site than anywhere else—an enterprising move in the battle of the OTAs that could potentially send them to the front of the pack.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.