One of the main drawbacks of booking a hotel through an OTA is that you don’t qualify for any elite benefits or points under the hotel’s own loyalty program. That’s understandable- since OTAs take up to 20-25% of the total stay value as commission, hotels want to incentivise people to book direct.
OTAs do run their own loyalty programs, however. For example, Hotels.com offers you 1 free night with every 10 nights booked through their site. Expedia and Orbitz have their own programs too.
In the Masterclass presentation on hotels I distinguished between an OTA loyalty program and a hotel loyalty program as follows- OTA programs give you rebates but no recognition, hotel programs give you rebates and recognition.
That’s a simple way of distinguishing the two, but Expedia is trying to blur the lines with the recent(ish) introduction of the +Gold rewards tier. Expedia +Gold members earn Expedia points just like all other tiers, but they also receive complimentary room upgrades and early check-in/late check-out at selected +VIP Access hotels, subject to availability.
It’s certainly a welcome feature, although since all benefits are subject to availability I have no idea how it plays out in real life.
Expedia Rewards has are no brand standards like those you’d find within a hotel chain, so I can imagine that the experience will vary dramatically from property. Some will take +Gold membership very seriously and may even go above and beyond to offer you unpublished benefits, others will have front desk staff who go “huh?” when you mention your status and give you the sum total of nothing. In other words, consider this a nice-to-have benefit if you qualify, and don’t expect great things.
Hotels which participate in the +VIP program will have a tag next to their name, as this sample search from Bangkok shows.
Free +Gold Status for HSBC Premier Mastercard holders
Expedia +Gold status normally requires 15 nights OR S$10,000 of annual spending, but if you hold a HSBC Premier Mastercard, you can get complimentary +Gold status for 12 months simply by registering here.
Expedia doesn’t have the most robust of verification procedures to ensure you’re actually a HSBC Premier Mastercard holder- the form simply requests the first 6 digits of your card. People have been posting numbers online; I won’t link to them here but there’s very little stopping you from finding one if you wanted to (jiminy cricket, jiminy cricket!). The account upgrade is instant.
There’s also a 15% off hotel coupon for HSBC Premier Mastercard holders, should you need it as well.
I’m certainly not going to switch away from SPG for an OTA loyalty program (no matter what 1 August holds), but there will be times when I have to book off-chain properties. In those cases, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some sort of status.
Remember you can book your Expedia stays through portals like Shopback to earn additional cashback.