These days, many loyalty programs are being scaled back and points or miles being "devalued." But Orbitz is bucking that trend in a major way with its latest announcement: Rewards members are now able to earn cash to spend on travel by dining out. You’re probably wondering what the catch is, but, truthfully, there isn’t one.Orbitz Rewards is free to join, and each time you book travel on Orbitz.com you earn Orbucks -- which are just U.S. dollars that can go toward future travel spendings on the site. It’s a built-in cash back system, in a sense. With the expanded system, you get a percentage of Orbucks are added back to your account each time you enjoy the 11,000 North American restaurants in the network. As you may expect, larger cities have a far greater number of participating eaters than rural towns.
To test out the new program, I had to register at orbitzrewardsdining.com, but the whole process only took a few minutes. I simply punched in my name, added the email address already associated with Orbitz Rewards, and added two of my credit cards to its system. Which means after my next eligible meal, 5 percent of my next eligible meal will be automatically be added to my Orbucks account a few weeks later -- including tax and tip! -- so long as the card I've registered. Up to five major credit cards can be added per account.
Looking to squeeze even more out of those meals? Those linking an Orbitz Rewards Visa card will get a slightly larger 7 percent bonus. If you don’t have one of those, however, there’s still another way to double-dip: If your credit card gives you extra points for dining out, just link that card to your Orbitz Rewards Dining account, getting you the credit card company's bonus points as well as 5 percent back in Orbucks. (I’m a big fan of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which awards double points at any restaurant and triple points on the first Friday of every month.)