Complete Guide To Saving Money On Hotel Bookings Using Hotels.com (Save 33%+)

If you don’t care about hotel elite status/benefits or want to book a hotel that doesn’t have a rewards program I’ve found that using Hotels.com and stacking discounts is the easiest way to save money and is my personal preference for hotel bookings. Keep in mind when booking:

  • You will not earn elite stay/night credits
  • You will not earn hotel loyalty points
  • You will not have your elite status recognized (e.g free breakfast/late check out)

Now that we have that out of the way let’s look at how we can save money by stacking discounts.

Rewards Program – Every 10th Night Free

Hotels.com has their own rewards program and most properties let you earn (and redeem) a free night after every ten nights. For example if you stayed 10 nights and all were $100 per night you’d receive a free night for $100. If 9 nights were $100 and the last night was $1,000 you’d get a free night worth $190 etc). I believe you need one night of activity per year to keep your rewards.

Gift Cards

Hotels.com sell gift cards and third parties often have these gift cards at a discount. The best discounts are usually 20% off (plus any other stacking you can do with that site). You can only use one gift card per booking but you can combine multiple gift cards into a single giftcard. Click here to see if there are any current Hotels.com gift cards on sale.

Not all hotels can be booked with gift cards, the hotel must accept a prepaid booking to be made.

Credit Cards

If you don’t have any discounted gift cards then you can use a credit card to make your booking. Some cards offer a category bonus on travel purchases, the other option is to use a card that earns a 4%/4x+ category bonus and purchase a gift card from a retailer in that category (e.g use Chase Ink Cash/Plus to purchase Hotels.com gift card from an office supply store to get 5x/5%). If you don’t have one of those cards available to you then use a card that earns at a high rate on every day purchases.

Shopping Portals

Most shopping portals offer cash back/points/miles for Hotels.com bookings. You can use cashbackmonitor to view the best current rates. Keep in mind the rate you receive is dependent on the type of booking your making. Currently you get the following via Topcashback:

  • 12% cash back for a completed stay (excludes any amount that is paid with a gift card) when you don’t use the rewards program
  • 8% cash back for a completed stay (excludes any amount that is paid with a gift card) when you use the rewards program
  • 2% cash back for gift card purchases

iBotta is currently working for bookings made with a gift card and is offering 4% cash back as well. If you don’t already have an Ibotta account you can use my referral link and you’ll get $10 for joining (I’ll also receive $5).

Miscellaneous Tips

  • Always make sure you’re logged in to see the best pricing.
  • They sometimes send out discount codes for 8-10% off. Keep in mind these usually exclude earning free nights and often exclude earning portal cash back as well.

Our Verdict

Let’s see how much you can get by stacking:

  • One free night every ten nights (worth ~9% back, but only if you can complete the ten nights)
  • Discounted gift cards (~20% discount + plus credit card rewards)
  • Shopping portal (~4% cash back)

The biggest problem I usually have is running out of discounted Hotels.com gift cards. Things get even better value when Amazon sells these gift cards for 20% off and you can stack discounts over there for even more value. Even when you’re not using gift cards though you can still get:

  • One free night every ten nights (worth ~9% back, but only if you can complete the ten nights)
  • Credit card rewards (~2% back)
  • Shopping portal (~8% back)

For a discount of 19%. You should always make sure you do a price comparison between Hotels.com, other online travel agencies and also booking directly. In my experience Hotels.com is usually priced the same (apart from when booking with some chain hotels directly with member pricing). It also helps to check rates when you’re logged into your Hotels.com account.

Have I missed any other ways to save? What’s your preference when booking hotels?

 

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qmc
qmc

One thing of note is that hotels.com free night progress expires after 11 months of inactivity. Some say a $2 hostel in SE asia is a good way to extend it… trying to decide if it’s worth it for my 2/10ths of a free night at a $143 average…

Sam
Sam

would you not have to actually go to the hostel?

Michael Denner
Michael Denner

You can no longer combine second-party GC’s, so that kinda kills hotels.com for me. They make you call customer service now, and CS asks questions like “When was this card activated.” But, of course, you cannot know that info if you bought the card on a second-party site like Raise.com. So, now you’re left with a bunch of un-consolidated cards with smaller amounts, and you can ONLY use one card per transaction. Kills it. And CS knows it’s a problem (a feature, not a bug). Don’t go down the rabbit hole. I tried.

Jonathan
Jonathan

Actually I just bought three gift cards on raise.com ($250, $100, and $100). I called the customer service number and combined all three onto one. For the activation date, I just told them the date of my purchase from raise.com (8/1/19). I was able to use the consolidated gift card on hotels.com today without any problems. While I’d prefer to just combine via a website, the customer service call only took about five minutes and was fairly painless.

Christopher Smith
Christopher Smith

Purchased several from CardCash. Called to combine, told the CSR where I got them, and she merged them for me with no problems.

Zachary Chaltiel
Zachary Chaltiel

do any cash back portals currently pay when redeeming a gift card, they all used to but now it seems like either the terms exclude it or they just don’t track.

Nick
Nick

From their own FAQ:

“Your gift card will never expire, but after 3 years, we will deactivate it and transfer the balance to a new card.”

Any idea on how would one get hold of the ‘new card’ if purchased the original from 3rd party? Or is the GC essentially only valid for 3 years in that case?

Rich
Rich

While it’s clearly YMMV and not guaranteed, and you will pretty much never accrue accrue points on the stay, I’ve usually had my elite status recognized at check-in when staying with OTA bookings including Hotels.com – specifically Hilton almost always, but at both Marriott and Hyatt as well, I’ve gotten room upgrade, late checkout, free breakfast etc. At Hilton I’ve even had the stays count towards my night total sometimes (this seems to consistently happen when I make a small charge to the room, just a drink or something – and I got points on that part) – not something to COUNT on for sure, and something like suite night upgrades might not really be doable – but something to keep in mind.

points r poo
points r poo

RebatesMe and TopCashBack have both updated their sites to disallow cashback rebates on any amounts paid using a gift card.

RebatesMe has been crediting me 0 while TCB has added “Please note – cash back is calculated on the value of the transaction after gift card redemption.”

Where are people still getting CB on Hotels.com using GCs?

Lip
Lip
TheMonkeyTech
TheMonkeyTech

I tried booking through ebates and topcashback, i got no cash back when paying with gift card. Swagbucks didn’t even recognize that a transaction had occurred.

Redacted
Redacted

AARP (which you can join no matter how old you are) currently has a promo where you can buy a $50 Hotels.com Gift card, get another one free, and pay only $5 cash plus 4500 AARP rewards points, which I’ve never figured out a good redemption value for. I had 8100 points, so I took a couple surveys to get me over 9000 and then bought 2 2-for-1 $50 GC’s netting $200 in GCs for $10 plus my otherwise near-worthless AARP points.

Josh
Josh

Just noticed Ibotta changed the T&C to:
Earn 4% csah back on Hotel Stays WITHOUT Reards
Earn 1$ cash back on Hotles Stays WITH Rewards.

Trifectaguy
Trifectaguy

I use hotels.com with all these stacks even when prices are better elsewhere I then submit the price match guarentee after I book to get matched to better price. Extra step but well worth it in some cases here is the form link if you wanted to add https://www.hotels.com/customer_care/pillar/price_guarantee.html

Andrés
Andrés

That’s a great tip, thanks!

TC
TC

I would just save the hassle and book through Expedia, and then price match for 15% and then get a coupon of $50 for next time. When you make a new booking via using the $50 coupon, price match again and get another $50 and so on this game of price match will keep go on

Gabriel
Gabriel