There are numerous online travel agencies (OTAs) available. Websites such as Orbitz, Priceline, Amex Travel, and Costco Travel provide a plethora of options for booking flights, hotels, cruises, or vacation packages the latter being one of the best ways to save money when using an OTA. Hotels.com is one of the more user-friendly and straightforward OTAs available. Hotels.com has a large selection of hotels, as well as a search function and customization filters that can be compared to Google Flights. Furthermore, Hotels.com offers members discounted “secret prices,” as well as an in-house loyalty program, which helps to compensate for the fact that you can’t collect a hotel’s points or elite credits for nights booked through an OTA.
Why Book Through Hotels.com?
There are several reasons to book with an online travel agency such as Hotels.com. The first is customer service, which can be a two-edged sword. On the one hand, booking through Hotels.com means you can contact their customer service and have them advocate for you to try and find a solution in the event of an issue such as an overbooked hotel or a maintenance emergency in your room. This may be easier than dealing with the hotel on your own. However, it implies that there is a middleman between you and the travel provider. This can actually make it more difficult for the hotel to re-accommodate you, and it may even mean that there is an extra step to take when attempting to work out a solution. The second reason is to find a lower hotel rate, or to book a vacation package to save money on both the hotel and the flight. OTAs frequently offer the same price for hotels as booking directly with the hotel, especially if the hotel offers price matching. In many cases, however, an OTA such as Hotels.com may be able to secure an additional discount for its customers.
Hotels.com Loyalty Program
The Hotels.com rewards program is simple and easy to understand. Other hotel program, such as Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy, have complicated award charts with point earnings tied to your membership level. When you stay 10 nights at any hotel booked through Hotels.com, you will receive one free night. There are no blackout dates or properties, so you can use your free night whenever and wherever you want. The only restriction is that the value of the free night cannot be greater than the average of your previous ten nights collected. Simply put, if you stay five nights in a $200 hotel and five nights in a $400 hotel, you can use your free night in a hotel that costs up to $300. This effectively earns you 10% off all Hotel.com bookings. If you want to use your free night for a hotel room that costs more than the maximum redemption value, you can simply pay the difference. Still, that means you’ll get a discount on that night. You must also pay any applicable taxes and fees. As of November 27, 2019, there is a $5 redemption fee for each reward night redeemed. While this isn’t ideal, there is a way to avoid paying this fee. When redeeming reward nights through the Hotels.com app, there will be no redemption fee.
With the Hotels.com app
Get instant access to better pricing — an extra 10% off
Earn 1 reward night* for every 10 nights you stay
Search, book, and save on the go
Hotels.com, like Orbitz Insider Prices, provides “secret prices” to its rewards members. While these are typically small discounts, they can theoretically amount to up to 50% off the otherwise advertised rate on other sites. We discovered 5%-10% discounts in sample searches.
Elite Tiers of Reward
Hotels.com does offer its own version of elite status for frequent travelers, though the perks aren’t as generous as those offered by a hotel’s in-house program. Even the top-tier gold status on Hotels.com, for example, does not include popular perks like late check-out or complimentary breakfast. Having said that, there are still some advantages. Silver and Gold are the two tiers of elite membership. Stay 10 nights within one calendar year to qualify for silver status; stay 30 nights to qualify for gold status. Priority customer service, early access to some deals, and more involved price guarantees than regular members can get are all included in both tiers. Gold members have access to a few additional deals and room upgrades.
Searching for Hotel Rooms
To begin your hotel search, go to the homepage. In the upper-left corner, there is a search box. Choose your destination, arrival and departure dates, number of guests, and number of rooms. There’s a drop-down menu for selecting the number of rooms and guests; if you are v booking for a large group, you may need to select “more options.” When you’re finished, click “search.”
The search results will be displayed on the following page. By default, hotels are sorted by “Featured,” which is determined by an algorithm that takes into account price, reviews, location, and other factors.
Unless you have a specific hotel property, price, or neighborhood in mind, the “Featured” list is fairly reasonable. This makes it easier to sort through dozens, if not hundreds, of options in a big city. Just make sure to do your homework, because Hotels.com receives compensation for hotels that appear higher up in their search results, though this is not the only factor.
Use the tools above the list of hotels to reorder the results. The results can be sorted by price, star rating, or guest rating.
If you are staying in a big city, sorting by “Distance” can be especially useful, as it provides a long list of famous landmarks as well as “City center.” If you don’t know where to stay and are unfamiliar with the city, this provides some excellent options.
You can filter results as well as reorder them using the options on the left side of the page. Popular filters include free breakfast, a pool, and free parking. When browsing the results, look for any terms under the listed price — if the hotel offers free cancellation or pay-at-check-in, it will be listed here. Also, log in to your Hotels.com account or enter your e-mail address to see the “secret prices.” Hotels that offer this feature will display a purple button above the listed price that reads “Your Secret Price.” To see what’s available, click the button.
When comparing secret prices to non-member prices, you can typically find discounts of 5%-10% per night. The majority of those hotels offered non-members discounts, but they were much smaller than the secret prices.
As you scroll through the results, click the “Choose Room” button to learn more about the hotel or make a reservation. The following page contains a wealth of information about the hotel featured in the photo slide shown. Scroll down to see the various room types that are available. Read the information in the “Options” column thoroughly, including the cancellation and prepayment policies. Next to the room and rate you want, click “Let’s Book.” If prepayment is not required, a window with prepaid vs. pay-on-arrival rates appears. Choose your preferred option and click “Pay Now” or “Pay at Hotel.” Fill out your personal information, enter your payment information, and read the terms and conditions, which include information about the cancellation policy. When you’re ready, simply click “Book.”
Hotels.com, like many other OTAs, offers a best price guarantee. Hotels.com will refund the difference if you find a lower, publicly available rate on another site after you’ve made your reservation. While many sites, such as Priceline, require you to submit a price-match request within 24 hours of booking, Hotels.com will honor requests made up until 11:59 p.m. the day before check-in.
Remember that the price match applies only to rates that are available to the general public. Loyalty member-only rates, AAA or AARP rates, and opaque booking rates are not included (like what you could find from Priceline Express Deals).
While there is a best price guarantee, it is much easier to simply pay the best rate from the start. So, how do Hotels.com rates stack up against those of other sites? looked at a few different hotels and dates across several different services to find out. Take a look at the following comparison for 5 nights at the San Francisco Marriott Union Square. These include the best available cancellable rate but do not include estimated taxes and fees, with prices rising in ascending order:
Priceline provided the best rate by a significant margin in this case. Hotels.com was, in fact, more expensive than any other website (though only by a few cents in most cases). Price differences this large are uncommon, so it’s likely that Priceline was offering a special rate or deal. In other searches, Hotels.com will typically have prices that are similar or identical to other sites, and in some cases, the lowest rate.
Vacation Packages, Flights, and Activities
The promotional tagline for Hotels.com is “the obvious choice.” Another obvious thing is that they are all about booking hotels. Unlike other OTAs such as Priceline and Orbitz, the website does not provide rental cars, cruises, or similar services.
Despite its name, however, they do offer flights and vacation packages — with a package, you can save money by booking a flight and a hotel at the same time. The hotel packages are less comprehensive than those offered by Costco Travel, but they are still valuable. Certain cities may even have a limited number of activities.
One caveat: even if you include a hotel, package, flight, and activity bookings are not eligible for Hotels.com Rewards credits. As a result, there do not appear to be any advantages to booking through their site rather than directly with the airline.
Click the “Menu” text in the upper-left corner of the homepage to search for vacation packages, then click the link for packages and flights. On the next page, select “Flight + Hotel.” Enter your origin and destination, departure and return dates, number of travelers, and room count. Then, select “Search.”
The results page begins with hotels, which are listed in “Featured” order. You can also filter results by price, guest rating, or distance from downtown. Additionally, you can filter results by property name, star rating, neighborhood, amenities, property type, or popular locations using the tools on the left side. Each result shows a price per person that includes the cheapest available flight, the lowest available hotel rate, and all fees and taxes. To learn more about a hotel, click on its name. When you find one you want to book, scroll down to see what rooms are available. Some rooms may have a per-night charge in addition to the rate shown on the results page, but there will be at least one “+ $0.00” option. Choose your outbound flight first, then your return flight. These are sorted by additional price — the top results include the quoted price, while any flights with an additional cost are further down. They will priorities nonstops whenever possible. Examine the information on the following page, then click “Book Now.” On the next page, enter your information, followed by payment, and you’re done!
Hotels.com has a good vacation package portal, but their prices are comparable to other OTAs and you can’t use their Rewards points. Keep in mind that, while more convenient, bundling may not be the cheapest option. Always compare multiple websites before making a reservation!
Hotels.com provides a portal through which you can book tours and purchase admission tickets. When comparing prices across a variety of products, they appeared to be the same as booking directly with the providers or any other ticket seller. If you want to look at options, go to the “Flights and Packages” section and then click on “Activities.”
Hotels.com provides a powerful hotel search engine as well as a simple, user-friendly rewards program. If you only travel a few nights per year, it may be worthwhile to book with Hotels.com. If you are a fan of a particular hotel chain or have elite status through a hotel credit card, you’re probably better off booking directly with the hotel to earn hotel loyalty points and advance your elite status. Always compare prices before making a reservation. Hotels.com provides an excellent price guarantee, and you are protected if you find a lower rate elsewhere up until the day before check-in.