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 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...
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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