Watch Out: Hotels.com is Adding $5 Fee to Some Free Night Redemptions


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If you’re a fan of the Hotels.com “free night” rewards program like the rest of us – where you get a free night for every 10 hotel night stays you make – we’ve got bad news.

Starting Nov. 27, Hotels.com will add a $5 fee when redeeming free nights, One Mile at a Time reports. You can avoid paying the fee by booking your free night stay through the Hotels.com smartphone app. 

Hotels.com defends this new fee as a way to recoup some of the costs of running the free rewards program. But with such an easy way to avoid it, this move makes little sense. Especially for such a popular and easy-to-use rewards program.

For many who don’t travel enough to hitch their wagon to one hotel chain or rewards program, the Hotels.com rewards program makes a lot of sense. It’s simple and straightforward to earn and use: for every 10 nights you book with Hotels.com, you get a free night’s stay to use at any hotel. That free night reward is worth the average of what you spent at the 10 previous nights.

Along with the lucrative Capital One Venture Rewards card and Hotels.com partnership that earns you 10x miles on bookings, it makes for a pretty sweet rewards program (without the need for brand loyalty).

Thrifty Tip: Did you know you can use Venture miles on more than just flights? Redeem your miles on hotels, Airbnbs, tours, rental cars, and more.

When using your free night(s), you’ve always had to pay taxes and fees. But with this new $5 fee, it just got a bit more expensive – unless if you book through the app, of course.


Our Analysis

Why, Hotels.com, why?

Unfortunately, adding fees to a rewards program has an adverse effect. Instead of rewarding customers that buy more than ten nights in a hotel (often over $1,000 spent, of which Hotels.com gets a decent cut), the booking site is punishing with fees.

Perhaps this is a move to push users towards their app. But this scare tactic may have the opposite effect and turn users off of racing to earn those free nights.

While $5 per free night redeemed isn’t much at all, it really dulls the allure of earning a (not so) “free night.”


Bottom Line

It’s a bummer to see Hotels.com pass on fees to the one thing that makes them stand out as a booking site: their awesome rewards program. Though it’s only $5 (per free night), this change sends the message a reward for Hotels.com loyalty doesn’t come for free.


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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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