A Review of Expedia’s Loyalty Program
If you’re not familiar with Expedia, they’re one the major third-party booking platforms that aggregate deals for flights, hotels, rental cars, and other travel packages. There are definitely disadvantages to booking through online travel agencies like Expedia, but we won’t be discussing those in detail in this post. If you’re curious you can read about the drawbacks of OTA’s here.
Back in 2014, Expedia updated their rewards program, calling it “Expedia +“. The idea was to create a tiered membership program similar to what you might see with airline loyalty programs like Delta SkyMiles. When you book travel through Expedia (flights, hotels, rental cars) you earn points that allow you to A) progress towards the next membership tier, and B) redeem points when you book travel. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of the program.
Expedia’s program has three tiers: Blue, Silver, and Gold. Everyone starts off as an Expedia+ Blue member when they sign up for a free account and has the ability to graduate to Silver after booking $5,000 worth of travel through Expedia or by staying 7 nights in qualifying hotels. You can reach Gold status by spending $10,000 on eligible bookings through Expedia or staying 15 nights in qualifying hotels.
What does it mean to have Silver or Gold status? When it comes to earning points, having Silver status allows you to earn 10% more points on bookings, and Gold status gives you a 30% boost. Other than the point accelerator, the majority of the benefits aren’t all that impressive. Basically you get access to “exclusive” travel deals, and Expedia starts treating you like an actual human being. The tiers are summarized below:
Here’s how you accumulate points through Expedia +:
- 2 points per $1 spent on hotels or vacation packages, activities, cars, or cruises.
- 1 point per $5 spent on flights.
As you can see, you earn way less when you book flights than you do for other bookings. Like we mentioned earlier, your ability to earn points accelerates as your membership status advances. If you book travel through the Expedia app, you double your points earned. This seems like a no-brainer if you plan on using Expedia.
Redemption is what makes or breaks most travel loyalty programs. Earning points always seems straightforward, but redemption is oftentimes a ridiculously convoluted process and points are rarely worth as much as you would expect. This is why we’re big fans of Chase, since their redemption process is a pleasant, intuitive process and the points are actually worth something.
Expedia’s program is mediocre when it comes to redemption. If you want to redeem your points to book a hotel, you can use points to cover a portion of the cost or the entire cost. If you want to use points to book a flight, you need enough points to cover the total cost of the flight and then you need to complete your booking over the phone with an agent (this seems a bit archaic). You also have the option to exchange points for vacation package coupons (flight + hotel combo) or donate them to charity.
So what are these points worth anyway? The answer is somewhere between Monopoly money and real currency. According to The Points Guy, each point is worth about one cent. So if you have 50,000 points (this would probably take a while), you’d have $500 to redeem. Remember, you can’t combine points and cash when booking flights so the flight you book could cost no more than $500. If you’re redeeming your points for a travel coupon, 3,500 points can be exchanged for a $25 coupon. So in this case the points are only worth about 0.7 cents.
Even though the points aren’t worth a whole lot, the main benefit of Expedia is that you can effectively double-dip with your other rewards programs, at least when it comes to flights. So if you link your travel credit card to your Expedia account you earn points through your card and Expedia. In this sense, it’s a good way to add to your treasure trove of points without giving anything up. When it comes to booking hotels, Hotels.com has a better rewards program. Plain and simple. It’s just better (luckily for Expedia, Hotels.com is one of their many brands so they could care less). You also need to consider that you’d be sacrificing the perks from a specific hotel loyalty program. With this in mind, the best way to take advantage of Expedia+ is probably to use it when you book rental cars, flights, cruises, and possibly vacation packages if there’s a really good deal available. You won’t be blown away by the rewards, but it is a way to earn incremental points at the margin. Every little bit counts.