Reader Question: Should I Ditch Hotel Loyalty Programs And Go For Best Price Through Hotel Portals?

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Today we received an interesting Reader Question from a LoyaltyLobby subscriber who is contemplating to ditch his hotel status and start booking based on price and convenience again.

Is it wise to give up loyalty status benefits that have a certain cash value attached in favor to save on the base rate of your hotel stay?

Those in the status game know the drill that it’s like groundhog day having to requalify over and over again which is becoming increasingly difficult as the loyalty programs are tightening the screws more and more.

What are the benefits of your hotel loyalty program really worth and do you actually need them in order to have a more comfortable stay?

Here is the question our reader Kyle sent us:

Hi guys,

for the first time in more than a decade I consider getting rid of my Hilton HHonors Gold and Hyatt Diamond status. Chasing after nights has become too expensive and the promised benefits are often weak or simply unnecessary for me. Especially at lower end hotels.

Hotel sites such as hotels.com, Expedia, Orbitz and others always have discount codes out there, price match with generous coupons and you can even earn cashback. Orbitz even offers VIP hotels that offer certain small benefits.

Is this an option for me to save some money and finally break loose from the overpriced and sometimes inconveniently located chain hotels?

This isn’t easy to answer everything considering but let me say right off the bat: Money is always the bottom line. What are your benefits of participating in a loyalty program?

If a loyalty program starts to cost you money that you don’t want to or worse can’t afford to spend that it’s going the wrong direction. You always want to make sure that it is working in your favor and not for the company. With hotels that’s often easier said than done especially when a few stays or nights are still missing and you start to fill them up on your own, unnecessary expense.

What are the advantages of websites such as Orbitz or Hotels.com?

Generally you can book whatever you feel like and whatever is most practical for you in terms of price and location. There are also various discount options such as coupons that are always floating around online for 10-15% off.

On top of that the sites have their own loyalty currency as well. Orbitz lets you collect “Orbucks” which is a somewhat cashback of 5% for app bookings and 3% for desktop bookings. The advantage: You can earn Orbucks even when you apply a coupon (unlike hotels.com which gives you a free night after every 10 booked nights on the average rate only if you don’t use a coupon).

You can also access them through various cashback sites such as Topcashback, Ebates etc and earn another 3-5% (obviously not for app bookings, I guess that’s why they have them stacked higher to begin with). So you’re always able to save between at least 15-22% off the advertised hotel rates on these websites. That’s really not bad and doesn’t even take price matches into account where you can earn plenty of extra vouchers such as $50 Orbucks or $50 coupons in Expedia’s case.

Breakfast, Internet, Upgrades and Late Check-Out have a value too – but how much?

That’s the golden question and there isn’t a blanket answer for that. Some people don’t eat breakfast or simply don’t want to go. Others don’t like Executive Lounges and don’t drink alcohol. I like Suites while some friends of mine don’t care about a suite at all.

I value my Elite status at hotels because it helps to solve difficult situations and it’s also good to have the option of very early check-ins in case your travel sometimes gets you to a destination very early (happens to me quite often especially in Asia).

But that’s me and there is not universal rule that says Elite status is worth value X because it depends on your travel pattern. Someone who usually stays at lower end hotels might find that going independent is saving a lot of money.

Last week I was looking to stay in Seoul and had a quick search. Starwood came up with this:

At the same time I found the following on Orbitz:

After discount and including tax I was able to book the Golden Tulip in the same area (3 minutes walk) for $73 inclusive breakfast which is half of what the Aloft would have been. Even though they treat SPG Platinum members quite well at the aloft (have received a Breezy Suite every time I went there) I didn’t want to spend double the money for a quick stay.

Conclusion

All I can say about this topic is always watch your bottom line. If you feel like you can squeeze the loyalty programs for what they offer you in benefits then fine. Should you feel you come up short though then it might be time for another strategy.

It’s always possible to keep a status such as Hilton Honors Gold which can be had via a 4 Stay fast track (John wrote about it here) or by applying for a credit card in some markets and keep it on the side for stays where you feel a status is beneficial. I consider Hilton Gold the most valuable and easiest to obtain mid tier status of all the programs.

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