Want points for your hotel stay? Avoid third-party booking websites

By Chris C., April 1 2014
Want points for your hotel stay? Avoid third-party booking websites

Want to earn your full serve of points with your favourite hotel rewards scheme? Avoid 'third party' booking sites and make your reservation directly with the hotel or its parent company.

Unlike frequent flyer programs – which let you earn points regardless of who you booked your ticket with – many hotel loyalty programs won't provide any per-night points or per-stay credits on bookings made through the likes of Expedia, Wotif and Hotels.com.

This includes Hilton HHonors, IHG Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and Accor’s Le Club,

Hilton HHonors

Hilton makes this restriction quite clear in the HHonors Terms & Conditions: “types of ineligible stays: ... third party websites bookings (irrespective of rate paid)”, and “HHonors Points (or stay credit) may not be earned … for or during ineligible stays, including without limitation, folio charges incurred during ineligible stays.”

When quizzed on exactly why this is the case, Hilton Worldwide's Mark Weinstein, Vice President Commercial Services Strategy, Loyalty Programs & Partnerships told Australian Business Traveller that "miles and points are only offered to members who book directly ... as we want to encourage and incentive (sic) consumers to book directly with us. When consumers book directly with us, this eliminates the need for third party involvement."

Weinstein went on to highlight the chain's 'Best Rates Guarantee', which offers travellers a US$50 rebate if they've booked directly and subsequently find their exact room and package available for less elsewhere, provided the better rate is found within 24 hours of making the original reservation.

A win-win situation for consumers and Hilton alike, hotel guests can enjoy the benefits of shopping around for a cheaper rate while still earning points and miles through HHonors.

Starwood Preferred Guest

In a similar way, SPG classes an ‘Eligible Stay’ as “one or more consecutive nights at the same SPG Participating Hotel by an SPG Member who: … pays an Eligible Rate” – defined as “the rate an SPG Member pays … unless the guest room was booked through … (an) online travel channel or other third party channel including, without limitation, expedia.com, hotwire.com, priceline.com, orbitz.com, booking.com, travelocity.com, ctrip.com, and elong.com."

A senior representative of Starwood highlighted that Starpoints can be earned on "'eligible' rate plans" for bookings made "directly with the hotels or your preferred travel agency".

"The reason behind this is to grow loyalty for Starwood, as third party channels generally have their own loyalty programs to compete with the hotel companies", they underlined.

We did some research, and quickly discovered Expedia Rewards, Hotwire Express and Orbitz Rewards, amongst others – essentially, you can only earn rewards with one loyalty program at a time, which seems reasonable enough.

IHG Rewards Club

Like Hilton and Starwood, IHG has a similar clause in the T&Cs: "Points are not issued for stays at the following reduced room rates (Non-Qualifying Room Rates; Non-Qualifying Stay): ... most rates booked through most third party web sites”.

This caveat means non-qualifying points won't help you climb the status ladder in the IHG One Rewards loyalty program.

When approached for comment, an IHG spokesperson advised that "when a member books directly on our website, reservations centre or directly with a hotel, we are assured that ... their experience is the best it can be."

The representative admits that the chain's Best Price Guarantee was introduced "to drive more guests to book through our direct websites" – the guarantee sees IHG price matching any competing sales channel, while offering a free night to customers that find a better price for the same exact room and package type elsewhere.

"By booking direct, guests will receive a consistent brand experience and benefit from the Best Price Guarantee ... and are rewarded for their loyalty with IHG Rewards Club points", we're advised.

Le Club Accorhotels

Accor’s policy wording is much more straight-forward for Le Club members: “Stays booked via a reseller, a tour operator or an online third party travel agent (such as Expedia.com, Booking.com, etc.) will NOT enable a Member to accumulate Points."

Explaining this, an Accor spokesperson noted that "Le Club Accorhotels is about rewarding our loyal guests who book directly through our distribution channels, i.e (sic) Accorhotels.com or direct with the hotel.

"Our loyalty program platform has been specifically developed for our direct distribution channels to cater for our 3,000 plus hotels globally and not for third party booking websites."

Earn points in other ways...

If you'd like to shop online for the best price while still earning points with Qantas or Velocity, consider using Qantas Hotels or Agoda – Virgin Australia's hotel partner.

These websites both offer travellers three points per A$1 spent on hotel rates at home and abroad, which can sometimes be more generous than the hotels would have provided directly.

After all, if you're going to use a third-party website, you'd better make it count!

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 738

I often book using hotels.com -- they have their own buy ten, get one free night (up to the average cost of the previous ten nights) program which I reckon works out better value than most chains' programs for anyone who isn't staying 50+ nights a year in the same chain.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Nov 2011

Total posts 244

Yea - learned this the hard way when I booked a Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport few years back using Expedia AU. Shouldn't have signed up for IHG membership.

Though Expedia was offering rates almost $30 cheaper than directly through their website at that time.

22 Mar 2013

Total posts 28

A lot of third party booking sites offer all sorts of promotion code which can up to 20% discount on the quoting price. For example, currently ratestogo has a campaingn with 20% off, and I'm about to book Conrad in Singapore for June's long weekend. The two nights stay from the hotel itself comes to something like $570 AUD, but if using above promo code, it will down to $470 AUD, that's about $100 saving. Even though there will be points, bonus points for my Gold HH status and some more benefits, but are they worth $100?

British AIrways

08 Feb 2011

Total posts 21

I have also moved to various 3rd party sites, whoever is offering the best deal. Over the recent year we've travelled a lot around and I've ended up booking quite a few places through hotels.com.  Their rewards are basicly a 10% discount (every 10 nights) but often there's a 10% discount coupon available as well (e.g. currently on the Android App).  I'm currently their Gold member (!) although it has yet to give me any perks :-)

If I have status with a chain, I often give the details on the notice to the hotel.  I'm not sure if I've ever received any points but I have received the other perks occasionally, or part of them. 

Recently I needed three rooms in New York and contacted a few hotels about it.  One never bothered to reply, and the others didn't give a competitive offer.   I ended up booking the rooms through hotels.com, I'll get the 10% discount, I pay less, and the hotel still has to pay commission to hotels.com.  I wonder why the hotels don't bother attracting direct customers?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 477

This is an interesting topic Chris,

I've used the aggregator sites a lot in the past - wotif.com, hotels.com etc - i've had some hits and misses!

I spend north of 160 business days per year on the road so I tend to have my favourite hotels and hotel groups - I have a preference for Starwood and Accor as any loyalty points I accumulate go towards family weekends away at resorts in Queensland. 

I've stopped using the aggregator sites unless I'm travelling to a new destination or my destination doesn't have a hotel from my preferred groups.

The reason being is that I will be able to find an equivalent rate on the group site and I've found I score more room upgrades when I book direct. I've also noticed on the booking form that is kept at reception that it will notate how you booked the hotel - is this being used to determine what room you get? Or whether you get a room upgrade? I'd suggest it is...



06 Nov 2012

Total posts 46

I often use hotelclub.com. It has its own points (dollars) scheme which provides reasonable discounts on subsequent bookings. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Dec 2011

Total posts 12

As a Platinum cardholder with ANZ, I frequently use Agoda.com/anz to book my hotels. They will offer 7% off all prices of all hotels, including Hilton etc. which are usually excluded from special deals on Expedia, for example. I also then bag my AMEX 1.5 Qantas Points per $ without having to pay any credit card surcharge, which many hotels pack on these days.

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