Posted by William Charles on June 26, 2017
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Published on June 26th, 2017 | by William Charles

33

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?

 



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

  1. E* says:

    Two more tips:

    Always be logged in to your hotels.com account when searching – rates can often be lower for some reason.

    Hotels.com often sends out coupon discounts like 5-10% off. Sometimes for booking via mobile, etc.

    • mk712 says:

      Don’t use these coupons: they almost always mention in the fine print that using them will make your booking ineligible for the loyalty program (which effectively negates the effect of the coupon since it’s essentially a 10% surcharge), and you could have issues getting cashback from the portals.

      • Yup, made this clear in the post

        • Audrey says:

          True but on the other hand the portals often feature a coupon code so that using it doesn’t make your booking ineligible for cash back. And as I mentioned I prefer 10% now vs 1/10 of my booking off some time in the future. I only skip the coupon if it’s less than 10% or it’s a chain hotel and I can’t use it anyway. Or maybe if you don’t travel much and you’re only short one night to make 10, it could make sense.

  2. Prasanna says:

    Another tip. If you use any promo codes for any reservation, that booking would not count towards the 10 night accumulation.

  3. Filip says:

    The actual rates are a little bit lower in the end as the cash back is counted from the amount of hotel stay without tax, which I found to be on average 10% (worldwide). It makes 8% CB only 7,2%.
    Also, the amount of the reward stay is deducted from the pre-tax amount of the night. Moreover, it is sometimes difficult to find a redemption for the exact amount you need (without making irrational decisions). Therefore, I value the reward nights as 7% discount.
    With the gift cards, I also often run out of them. Usually willing to buy them even for 10% off.

    However, nice article! I use the same stacking for last few years and am very happy with them.

    • Keep in mind you can use your free night for a room that is more expensive than your free night and pay the difference, you just don’t earn another night towards your next free night for that stay.

  4. Abey says:

    Idk why but i always only book the cheapest room with points or even with cash at a hotel that i have staus with (marriott, hyatt, hilton, spg, wyndham) with the hope of a nice room upgrade. I once got a free upgrade to a suite in the Mirage vegas because i have MGM gold status thru Hyatt.

  5. Ferris says:

    How do you toggle to use Hotels.com rewards or NOT use hotels.com rewards? In the post, it looks like the free night every 10 nights thing is not the rewards program as it is included in both scenarios, where as the cashback (click through) is 4% and 8% implying using and not using hotel.com rewards.

    Can someone clarify this for me or am I over-complicating this?

    • mk712 says:

      I’m not sure I understand the question, but when you have free night(s) and you go book another stay, on the order page below the price breakdown you have checkboxes for each of your free nights and you can choose which one to use, or to use none of them for that booking.

        • Audrey says:

          I don’t think so, I think it means if the booking earns a night towards the 10 nights, that’s earning hotels.com rewards. The 1 night free for 10 nights is the rewards program. The actual language on topcashback is a booking that EARNS hotels.com rewards, not one that uses them.
          As to how to avoid it, don’t sign in. You won’t earn any rewards. Not worth an extra 4% though.

  6. Audrey says:

    I always use coupon codes if they are at least 10% as I value that more than a future award night. Usually chain hotels aren’t eligible but for some reason Best Western often works. Also not every booking can be made with gift cards, you have to be able to prepay it (didn’t see that mentioned above).

  7. Matt says:

    How do you combine multiple gift cards into one?

  8. Travis says:

    You can only combine like gift cards. For instance, I couldn’t combine an e-card with a gift card I bought at Staples. I could also not combine two hard gift cards that were bought at different stores (they had different graphics on them).

  9. kirikanankiri says:

    if i book through hotels.com, can i use the prestige 4th night benefit?

    • Jeremiah says:

      No, since it’s an OTA.

      I ran into this for a four night stay at a resort in Turkey this week. The resort was sold out through their own site, and the only rooms available were blocks set aside for OTA’s like Hotels.com.

      The Prestige concierge couldn’t book it for me, but I’m ending up likely saving almost as much due to the stacked discounts for the Hotels.com booking I made (no gift cards, but I’m booking two rooms and only one would have counted for the Prestige free night).

    • No, have to book through the Citi concierge.

  10. Phill says:

    Also, Hotels.com Welcome Rewards Only Applies to Nights, not Entire Stays.
    http://www.jeffsetter.com/hotel-discounts-hotels-welcome-rewards/

  11. Paul says:

    My biggest gripe was that there are a lot of hotels that will NOT allow you to book with them when using gift cards. I found this out on my trip I am taking in a few weeks to Switzerland. Look up the hotels that allow gift cards to be used to book. There is a toggle switch. Otherwise youll end up buying $200 worth of gift cards, and then realizing that the only hotel available is one that is $350. No money saved. Nicer hotel. But more out of pocket than saved.

  12. travellight says:

    Don’t forget Amex offers on Hotel.com purchases. Worked for $10 a $50 GC for me; appeared across several cards.

  13. Jake says:

    Just use Priceline to find a good deal and skip all the hoop jumping with this

  14. Teddy says:

    For some reason I wasn’t able to select gift cards as payment method when booking through their app and their site. Do I have to go through a special page to do so? If through a special link, will it be stackable with portals?

  15. J. Grant says:

    I’ve had more problems with Hotels.com than any other booking website especially when using gift cards. For whatever reason, it’s been hit or miss actually being able to apply the gift card balance to the booking – there were times where there isn’t even an option to pay with a gift card. No idea, never took the time to look into it. And then there’s using cashback portals cancelling out free nights. Meh. Aint’ nobody got time for dat.

  16. Tom says:

    Couldn’t you just save more with priceline? And avoid all of the hassle. I have booked hotels that were half of the cost of hotel.comprises and Expedia on priceline.

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