The Hotels.com Credit Card fails to make reward earning simple. Instead of offering points per dollar spent or cash back, this card offers “stamps” toward Hotels.com’s rewards program for each $500 spent on the card. (Yes, like a smoothie or froyo shop.)
There are two main ways to earn stamps—one available only through the credit card, and one available to any member of the Hotels.com rewards program. First, for every $500 spent on the card, a cardholder earns one stamp. When stamps are earned this way, each stamp is valued at $110. Second, any member of the Hotels.com rewards program earns stamps when booking eligible hotels. In this case, the stamp is valued at the cost of the night booked at the hotel. If a one night hotel stay booked by a member of the Hotels.com rewards program through the Hotel.com rewards program costs $100, the stamp earned is valued at $100.
In any case, ten stamps are needed to redeem for a reward night through Hotels.com’s rewards program and the value of the reward night is the average of the value of each of the ten stamps.
Because stamps in quantities less than 10 are not redeemable for anything, credit card spending without additional use of the Hotels.com Rewards program must be done in multiples of $5,000 to be eligible for rewards. If paired with the Hotels.com Rewards program, spending in increments of $500 and eligible hotel stays must add up to 10 stamps before rewards will be redeemable. We’ll discuss how this devalues reward potential in several ways in the next section.
Hotels.com requires 10 stamps to redeem for a reward night at a participating hotel. The value of the reward night is the average value of the 10 stamps collected. If only redeeming the “stamps” with this credit card were as easy as “the tenth coffee is free.”
For cardholders who earn stamps only through spending on the card, one reward night hotel stay will be earned from $5,000 in spending—enough spending to earn 10 stamps. This one reward will be worth a maximum of $110 toward a hotel night. If a hotel night costs less than this amount, the difference will be forfeited. If the hotel night costs more than this amount, the cardholder must pay the difference. Though it’s called a “reward night,” it’s essentially a $110 credit toward one night.
If cardholders only use this first method of earning and redeeming, spending $5,000 to earn one reward night and subsequently using the full $110 value of the “reward night” the card’s rewards will yield 2.2% back. If spending ultimately doesn’t match a multiple of $5,000, the reward yield is less. If the reward night stay costs less than the full $110 value, the reward yield is also less.
The second method of earning can be done with or without the Hotels.com credit card, but its existence complicates redeeming rewards earned with the Hotels.com credit card.
Booking eligible hotels through Hotels.com as part of the Hotels.com Rewards rewards program will earn a stamp or stamps valued at the cost of each night of a stay. The value of the reward night is an average of the value of all ten stamps. If stamps are earned only using this second method and each of the ten redeemed stamps is worth $100, the reward night will be worth $100.
Ten stamps of either kind are required to earn one reward night. Account holders cannot choose which stamps to use toward a reward night in a hotel—the first ten stamps earned are the first ten stamps to be redeemed.
Combining stamps earned through credit card spending in amounts equal to multiples of $500 and stamps earned with hotel stays means a mixture of stamps worth $110 and stamps valued at the cost of paid hotel nights and complicates the value of the reward night.
If five nights are earned through the credit card (valued at $110 each) and five nights are paid with Hotels.com where a hotel stay costs $200 per night, the reward value per night would go up to $155.
Either way, if the room rate is higher than the value of the reward night, you’ll have to pay cash for the difference. If the room rate is lower, you will not be able to save any of your additional reward for a future reward night. You’ll get maximum value from your reward certificate by redeeming for a hotel that costs exactly as much as your reward night certificate, but redeeming for a hotel that costs slightly more offers more value than redeeming for one that costs slightly less.
The value of this credit card really shines in allowing cardholders earn rewards nights through the Hotels.com program more quickly—by supplementing those earned from actual stays with more earned from credit card spend.
This card also offers a welcome bonus: Cardholders earn a reward night worth $125 when they spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months.
To determine the rewards potential of the Hotels.com Credit Card we have to consider what an American household might spend on a credit card each year. Forbes Advisor uses data from various government agencies in order to determine both baseline income and spending averages across various categories. The 70th percentile of wage-earning households bring in $100,172 annually and we base spending on that number.
Forbes Advisor estimates that the household has $26,410 in expenses that can be reasonably charged to a credit card. Assuming all of this spending is put on the Hotels.com credit card, the cardholder will earn 52 stamps in one year.
Without considering paid stays at hotels booked through Hotels.com, these 52 stamps would result in five rewards nights valued at $110 each with two stamps counting toward the next reward night. The five rewards nights are worth a maximum of $550 in value if they are always used for hotels costing at least $110 per night.