If you regularly stay at hotels – particularly if you’re loyal to a certain brand – it makes sense to join the hotel’s loyalty program. Not only can you earn points for each stay, but frequent guests can enjoy elite status benefits such as complimentary room upgrades, late checkout, free breakfast and more.

But there is a key difference between airline and hotel programs. When you take a flight, you can earn frequent flyer points regardless of whether the booking was made directly with the airline or a third-party travel agent. This isn’t the case with most hotel loyalty programs, which only award points when you book directly with the hotel. In addition, stays booked via a third-party website generally do not count towards achieving status.

Booking hotels through a third-party, however, can be cheaper. For example, hotels(dot)com offers a 10% rebate on all hotel bookings through its “Collect 10 nights get 1 free” deal. These savings can add up over time, but do they make up for the loss of hotel loyalty program benefits?

I have been using Hotels(dot)com offers for most of my stays. Basically, it gives me 10% in return as credit for my private booking and they are not limited to any hotel chain. On the other hand, i know that I could get a better rate and QFF points by dealing directly with the hotel. The number of nights i am away would easily make me Gold if i stick to a loyalty program.

Should I stick with hotels(dot)com offers or start a hotel loyalty program?

There’s no “one size fits all approach”, and our members use a variety of different strategies. Very frequent travellers tend to be happy to stick with a hotel loyalty program as they gain considerable value from their status. The points – which can be redeemed for free nights or converted to airline miles – also come in handy.

It never hurts to start a loyalty programme, most are free anyway. But for me its the loyalty programme by far as it is now paying off big time. I joined MR about 15 years ago and now Pt life, to me worth more than any airline programme as I never loose it. I get the cheapest room rate, then 99% of the time I’m upgraded (the suite last week in BKK), access to lounge, breakfast free, very early/late check in’s/out’s, etc, etc,. I worked out with a mate that the value of the benefits is generally around 25% value of the bill. The rewards points now stand well into seven figures and with the SPG group merging, looking forward to a great travel retirement!

But remaining loyal to a particular hotel chain does have its limitations. For example, not every chain has a hotel in every city. If your preferred hotel chain does not have a property in the destination you’re visiting – or perhaps you can find a much better rate elsewhere – it can pay to use Hotels(dot)com offers for the 10% rebate.

For me, hotels(dot)com offers is perfect. As I’m unable to stay loyal with one particular chain due to lack of accommodation in a variety of locations. Recently booked 10 free nights in Hong Kong for the family and in the past have received free or cheap nights in the US. Rates are reasonable as well.

Many members find a “happy medium” using a combination of both methods when booking hotels.

Share your hotel booking strategy HERE.

P.S. Don’t forget that AFF members can currently save 10% and earn frequent flyer points on any hotel booking until 30 April, 2017! Find out more HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]