#Travel140: Don’t limit your rewards to hotels and airlines. It pays to sign up for OTA loyalty programs, too.
You have probably heard it as often was we have: Airlines have gutted their loyalty programs so that only the most elite and extremely frequent flyers get perks. Don’t get us wrong, it’s still worth saving up those miles. Someday you will be able to take that free flight! But the days of easy free rides are long gone.
Hotel loyalty programs are (mostly) a little better, but it can still take a while – and cost a lot – to save up those points for a free night at your dream locations. That is, if you can use your points at that swanky hotel. Then there are blackout dates where you can’t use your points/miles at all. Again, though it can be frustrating, it’s one way to get a little something extra for your time and money.
Another way to get a little lagniappe is to sign up for rewards programs from three of the big OTAs (Online Travel Agencies): Expedia, Orbitz, and Cheap Tickets. While many people stay away from the OTAs because you frequently earn fewer points/miles (or none at all) with the airlines and hotels, there are some distinct advantages:
- Depending on program, the rewards you earn can be used virtually anywhere; any hotel, any airline, even cruises and vacation packages.
- There are no blackout dates.
- You get other additional perks with status: Room upgrades, free Wi-Fi, additional amenities.
Here’s a brief overview:
- How to Earn: Get one point for every $5 spent on flights; two for every $1 spent on hotels and cruises.
- How to Spend: Points can be applied to flights, hotels, and packages purchased on Expedia.
- Status Perks: Spend $5,000 or book seven room nights to attain silver status. Spend $10,000 or book 15 room nights for gold status. Status gets you bonus amenities (like upgrades or complimentary wine) at 1,400 hotels, and bonus points on eligible hotel bookings.
- How to Earn: Get Orbucks on every purchase: Flights and vacation packages earn 1% back, 3% back on eligible hotel bookings done online, 5% on mobile. You can earn 10% back using the Orbitz Rewards Visa Card, and 5% back with Orbitz Rewards Dining.
- How to Spend: One Orbuck is worth one dollar. You can apply your balance to any purchase made on the site.
- Status Perks: Gold members (people who book four room nights a year) get perks such as upgrades and free in-room Wi-Fi at partner hotels. Platinum members (those who book 12+ nights per year) get reimbursed for checking up to two bags (up to $50), and for the $85 TSA PreCheck enrollment fee.
- How to Earn: Earn CheapCash when booking eligible flights, and use it toward future qualifying CheapCash hotel bookings. $1 CheapCash = 1 USD in savings. You can only earn up to $100 CheapCash per year.
- How to Spend: CheapCash credits can be used to pay for all or part of an eligible CheapChash Hotel booking.
- Status Perks: CheapCash has no membership tiers, so no bonus perks for achieving status.
Are you a member of these OTA reward programs, or others? We’d love to hear about your experiences and travel tips in the comments! We’ll re-post the best tips, so be sure to include your Twitter handle and a link to your blog, if you have one. Or click for more #Travel140!