Hotels.com – Guide to Booking Travel and Saving Money (2023)
Hotels.com is a popular hotel booking website as you can find the best prices for multiple hotel brands with a single search. There is also a free loyalty program to earn rewards nights and pay member-only prices.
This Hotels.com review gives you an in-depth look at how you can save money on hotel rooms.
What is Hotels.com?
Hotels.com helps you book hotels, vacation rentals, and car rentals at competitive prices. You may also decide to book a vacation package to save money by bundling.
This platform is part of the Expedia Group which also includes Expedia, Vrbo, Orbitz, and Travelocity, among others.
Consider using this service to stay at hotels and resorts for less.
This service can also be worth it if you usually use hotel booking sites to compare prices instead of going directly through the hotel. The primary reason is that you can receive a free night reward after 10 paid nights at participating properties.
Typically, not being loyal to a particular hotel loyalty program means you can’t receive free night credits or exclusive savings. You can also enjoy price protection benefits to prevent overpaying.
Before starting, see our guide on how to find and book cheap hotel rooms.
How Hotels.com Works
Here is a glimpse at how to book a hotel room through Hotels.com.
No Account Required
It’s free to use Hotels.com com and you can book same-day stays or a future itinerary. You don’t have to create an account to finalize the reservation.
However, making a Hotels.com® Rewards account is free, only requires a few minutes, and lets you earn loyalty rewards and qualify for special discounts.
Having an account can also make it easier to track your travel history and contact customer support if you encounter reservation problems.
Hotel Search Engine
You can search for places to stay across the United States or the world with an easy-to-use website or mobile app.
You can submit these initial details to compare hotel rates:
- Travel dates
- Travel party size (number of adults and children)
The search results will populate with properties from various brands. An overhead map pinpoints each available property so you can be near a specific road or landmark.
It’s also essential to know that the default recommendations typically pay Hotels.com the most money if you book a reservation. It can be worth applying additional search filters to find the best property for you.
Advanced Search Filters
Multiple search filters can make it easier to sift through hotels and resorts.
Some of the available filters include:
- Distance from downtown
- Guest ratings (1 to 10, with 9+ being wonderful)
- Star rating from (1 to 5 stars as assigned by Hotels.com)
- On-site amenities (i.e., free breakfast, Wi-Fi, airport shuttle, etc.)
- Accessibility (i.e., wheelchair-accessible parking, roll-in shower)
- Traveler experience (business-friendly, family-friendly)
The hotel search engine also lets you only look at properties that are fully refundable or offer a “reserve now, pay later” feature.
Unfortunately, you cannot filter results by hotel brand through a menu. However, you can type the name of a hotel to see relevant listings. For example, typing “Holiday Inn” displays Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express properties that are part of the IHG One Rewards loyalty program.
It’s possible to compare rates from many budget-friendly hotels and upscale hotels. Depending on the destination, you can find these property types:
- Condominium resorts
- Apartment hotels
The site partners with the largest hotel brands such as Hilton, Marriott, and Holiday Inn. You can also stay at boutique hotels and independent brands that are easy to overlook.
You can quickly view the best property features to see what’s included in the room rate and what other premium on-site amenities are available.
Most properties let you either pay online in advance or directly at the property when you check-in.
Consider paying online through Hotels.com as you can redeem coupons and free night rewards to save money.
The Hotels.com payment methods include:
- Credit card
- Debit card
- Apple Pay
- Google Pay
- Hotels.com gift cards
The cancellation and refund policy varies by property and can be similar to booking directly from the hotel website.
Typically, you can cancel up to 24 to 48 hours before check-in and receive a full refund.
As always, there are exceptions and you may only get a partial refund even if you cancel well in advance. The hotel cancellation policy can be easily found on each property page and when before you pay.
How to Cancel Hotels.com Reservations
If you need to cancel your reservation, visit the booking page from your online account or confirmation email.
You can also look up your reservations by providing your phone number or email address to the Virtual Agent chatbot.
After that, click the “Cancel Booking” button and follow the accompanying instructions.
You should receive your refund after the hotel reimburses Hotels.com. However, vacation rentals may require contacting the property manager to issue a refund.
If you’re unable to cancel your reservation due to technical difficulties, it’s necessary to contact the Hotels.com customer service by phone, chat, or email.
Customer Support Options
There are three different ways to reach Hotels.com customer service:
- Live chat: 24/7 automated virtual assistant
- Phone: Call 800-346-8357 for 24/7 help
- Email: Send an email to [email protected] for non-urgent matters
You can also browse the online FAQs to find answers for simple topics that are easy to resolve by yourself.
Hotels.com® Rewards Program
The Hotels.com Rewards program is free to join. You need to be at least 18 years old and have a valid email address to qualify.
There are two main reasons to join this program.
Free Night Rewards
Loyalty members receive a stamp for each qualifying night. Most properties issue stamps and accept free night rewards. Properties will display a “Collect stamps” icon if you can earn credit for your stays.
Every $500 in purchases with the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card is the second way to earn stamps.
Accruing 10 stamps lets you get a free night reward even if you’re not loyal to a particular brand. Essentially, paying for 10 nights makes the 11th (mostly) free.
Redeeming Hotels.com Free Night Stamps
Your free night certificate is worth the average value of your 10 stamps. For some perspective, the hotel website says the average nightly value is $125. Unfortunately, you’re responsible for paying the fees and taxes.
This benefit can be less hassle than accumulating hotel rewards points with fluctuating value.
You can redeem your rewards on multi-night stays. The platform automatically applies the night rewards and you pay cash for the remaining nights plus fees and taxes for the entire stay.
Unfortunately, a $5 redemption fee can apply unless you redeem your free night rewards through the mobile app or hold the Hotels.com credit card.
Enjoy discounted member-only rates at eligible properties. You can also enjoy special pricing by booking through the Hotels.com mobile app instead of the website.
The discount is usually up to 10% of the standard nightly rate. However, the maximum savings are potentially 40% in some instances.
Hotel listings will have a “Secret Price available” label. You must log into your account to see the lower price.
|Loyalty Level||Stamps Required||Key Benefits|
|Hotels.com Rewards||0||Collect stamps|
|Hotels.com Rewards Silver||10||On-site amenities|
Price Guarantee Plus
Priority customer support
|Hotels.com Rewards Gold||30||Room upgrades|
Avis Preferred Plus status
There are three membership tiers and you can climb the rungs by collecting stamps.
The entry-level tier lets you collect free night stamps and pay discounted Secret Prices. You won’t receive complimentary on-property amenities and upgrades like the other tiers.
Mid-level Silver members can enjoy complimentary on-site amenities and additional travel protection benefits.
- Silver Exclusives: Participating hotels may offer free breakfast, Wi-Fi, spa vouchers, and VIP access.
- Price Guarantee Plus: Receive price match refunds until check-in time if a competitor offers a better rate. The standard cutoff time is midnight local time the day before arrival.
- Priority customer service: Customer agents will speak to you first when there’s a waiting line.
Instead of waiting until you receive your first free night voucher to upgrade to this status, you can automatically receive it through the Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card. This card doesn’t have an annual fee and you can earn a free stamp for every $500 in card purchases.
The Gold level resembles most hotel elite status programs.
- Complimentary room upgrades at VIP Access properties (when available)
- Early check-in at VIP Access properties
- Guaranteed two-hour late check-out
- Automatic Avis Preferred Plus loyalty status
Avis Preferred Plus status benefits include complimentary car upgrades, earning bonus Avis points, and priority customer support.
Hotels.com Travel Protection Benefits
Booking hotel stays through a third party can be frustrating if you encounter problems with checking in or paying a fair rate as you can’t negotiate directly with the hotel.
These protections can provide peace of mind in several ways.
It’s possible to receive a partial refund if the standard nightly rate for your travel dates drops after you book your stay. Rates for AARP discounts and similar programs are ineligible.
Thankfully, Secret Price bookings are eligible for price refunds.
The Price Guarantee benefit extends up to midnight before the check-in day for standard rewards members and non-rewards guests. So, you have until Sunday night to file a price protection claim if you’re checking in on Monday afternoon.
Hotels.com Rewards Silver and Gold status members have until the scheduled check-in time to claim a difference, thanks to the enhanced Price Guarantee Plus benefit.
It can take up to 30 days to receive your refund.
For non-refundable bookings, you receive the price difference as a spending credit to redeem on a future stay.
Fully Refundable Bookings
Many properties are fully refundable when you cancel before a certain deadline. The cancellation timeline is on the property listing and booking page before you reserve your stay.
The refund amount returns to the original payment method such as a credit card or debit card. You will receive a new gift card if you used a Hotels.com gift card for the stay.
You can purchase add-on hotel insurance for your itinerary through AIG Travel Guard. The booking protection price quote and coverage benefits are covered on the checkout screen before paying for your stay.
Your coverage benefits differ for domestic and international stays.
|Domestic Trips||International Trips|
|Hotel Coverage Limit||Up to $3,000 for covered reasons||Up to $3,000 for covered reasons|
|Additional Travel Protections||Baggage delay expenses||Medical and emergency evacuation expenses due to sickness or injury|
It’s possible to cancel this insurance policy within 15 days of the original purchase date if you find a better policy or decide you don’t want it.
Tip: Purchasing a separate travel insurance policy can be worth it for expensive trips or if you want additional coverage for non-hotel travel expenses. There are also numerous credit cards that include travel insurance if you do not want to pay extra.
24/7 Customer Support
You never know when you will run into a challenge with canceling or modifying your reservation. As a result, you need to be able to contact customer service at any time.
The 24/7 phone support is helpful for domestic and international trips where there can be several different time zones and you don’t have time to wait for the support desk to open.
Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card
The co-brand Hotels.com credit card makes it easier to earn free night credits. This product is one of the best hotel credit cards if you’re not loyal to a particular program and still have the opportunity to book free nights.
Here are the card’s best benefits:
- Collect 1 stamp for every $500 in card purchases
- Hotels.com Rewards Silver elite status
- Travel protection benefits
- Up to $600 in cell phone protection (after a $25 deductible)
- No annual fee
- No foreign transaction fee
New applicants also have the opportunity to earn two free night rewards by completing the initial spending offer. Each reward night is worth up to $125 off the nightly rate.
Related: Find the best credit card offers using the CardMatch tool.
There are several ways to spend less on hotel stays on Hotels.com besides the Secret Pricing rates for loyalty club members.
The free Hotels.com newsletter offers exclusive discount codes that can reduce the nightly rate. This digital publication also features some of the best rates for popular destinations.
Unfortunately, the discount codes may prohibit you from collecting Hotels.com stamps. You must decide if the upfront savings or future rewards are more valuable.
The Vacationer Tip
Before finalizing your booking with Hotels.com, check out our list of the best websites to book cheap hotels.
Hotels.com Mobile App
The Hotels.com mobile app (Android and iOS) can provide a 10% discount that website visitors won’t see.
This app also stores your reservation details offline which can be useful if your destination doesn’t offer data service.
Use a Cash Back Portal
Instead of heading directly to Hotels.com to book your stay, you can earn bonus cash back through a rebate site like Rakuten. For example, you could earn 3% back on Hotels.com booking.
Unlike discount codes, it’s free to join these rebate programs and you can also enjoy the Secret Price rates and collect stamps.
Hotels.com Pros and Cons
There is a plethora of information in this Hotels.com review. Here is a summary of the platform’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Price comparison tools: You can quickly find the best price, amenities, and location for hotels and resorts in a single search. Otherwise, you must open tabs for multiple hotel chains to compare rates.
- Loyalty program: The free loyalty program still lets you earn free nights without being loyal to a specific brand. You can also enjoy exclusive discounts and on-site benefits.
- Price guarantees: Hotel rates between travel booking sites can differ widely. You can receive a price difference refund to avoid overspending.
- Rewards credit card: The co-brand Hotels.com credit card makes it easier to earn free nights. It’s also an exciting no-annual-fee credit card.
- Less negotiation power: As Hotels.com is the middleman, it can be more challenging to correct billing issues and reservation discrepancies as they reserve the room on your behalf.
- Hotels.com stamp restrictions: Many but not all properties earn free night stamps. Additionally, discount codes can void earning stamps.
- Won’t earn hotel loyalty points: This booking site can help you save money but you most likely won’t earn points from a hotel loyalty program. If you’re trying to earn elite hotel status, booking directly from the hotel can be worth the additional cost.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts
Hotels.com can be an excellent option if you’re trying to find the cheapest or most convenient hotel for your trip. The in-house rewards program and co-brand rewards card also make it easy to receive free night credits if you regularly stay in hotels.
Additionally, you can earn bonus points with many travel credit cards when booking your next room.
While you have many booking options and several travel protections, you’re still using an online travel agency (OTA). Going directly through the hotel or vacation rental owner can provide more peace of mind for price protection and getting the correct room type.
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