Unless you're traveling constantly, are ultra-loyal to a single brand, or love the comfort of a big name hotel, you probably haven't had the opportunity to cash in on a hotel loyalty program.
Whatever the reason, it's difficult for most leisure travelers to cash in hotel points the same way they would flight miles. More often than not, we brand-hop when it comes to accommodations and end up with a few scant points scattered across a half-dozen programs.
Those are precisely the frustrations that the new Expedia+ Rewards program, just re-launched today, hopes to dispel. First and foremost, it's set up so that members can achieve status quickly. It also lets members enjoy a host of additional perks -- and offers varied ways to earn points. The revamp comes at a sensitive time, too, when airlines are devaluing miles faster than you can type Expedia.com into your browser. Here's more on how the new program works and why it might be a good choice for you:
1. It's flexible.
Thanks to the incredible diversity of Expedia's inventory, you won't have to change your travel habits to earn points. You can book that boutique hotel or choose the property with the most convenient location. You can even stay at a different hotel every night of your trip, if you so desire. And the points that you get can all go toward one future trip. (Even business travelers, who might be under corporate constraints to stay at specific chains, can accrue points to be used toward non-corporate travel.)
2. Achieving status is actually possible.
There are three tiers of status, "+blue," "+silver," and "+gold." After getting enrolled as a +blue member, you can then get higher status in two ways -- it takes either 7 nights or $5,000 annually to achieve +silver status and either 15 nights or $10,000 to achieve +gold status. If being an elite member sounds out of reach, think about it this way: You might not spend a whopping ten grand on travel in a year, but a week or two of hotel nights might be very possible.
You can also earn earn points for cruise and related excursion bookings, at two points per dollar spent. Plus, once you advance beyond the basic status, you'll earn even more quickly -- an extra 10 percent for +silver members and an extra 30 percent for +gold.
3. Realistic access to perks.
For a +silver or +gold member, these include: a dedicated 24/7 customer service team; an additional 250 points stays at 700 VIP Access Hotels (a collection of upscale, boutique properties); and exclusive amenities like a bottle of wine or a spa voucher at those hotels. With +gold status, you'll also be eligible for upgrades at 1,400 VIP Access Hotels around the globe.
4. Speaking of which, the VIP Access Hotels collection is pretty cool.
You don't have to be a hotel geek to appreciate the industrial chic digs of the Refinery Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, the celebrity-approved privacy of L'Ermitage Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, or the trendy vibe of The Mira Hong Kong Hotel. If you gravitate toward smaller properties with thoughtful decor, you'll be pretty pleased with this collection. Here's the full list.
5. You can make Expedia your one-stop shop, if you want it to be.
Like booking your vacation all in one place? The new system definitely rewards users who book hotel and air packages. Basic account holders can earn 1 point for every $5 with stand-alone hotel bookings -- but they'll earn 2 points for every $1 spent on packages. The savings here can be significant; while packages on average cost nearly $1,600, travelers would typically spend an average of $540 more if they were to book the components separately. (That said, it is more difficult to make any changes to flights booked through third-party web sites like Expedia. We understand if you're feeling torn on this one.)
Expedia also works with local operators to offer on-the-ground activities and excursions. And if you need help with the details, +silver and +gold members have access to a concierge team in a few cities like Hawaii, Las Vegas, and Orlando.
And to answer your final burning question:
Previously earned points and account history remain intact. You'll still be able to use your accrued nights.