Don’t Forget Online Travel Agency Loyalty Programs This Year

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While airlines and hotels keep adding difficult criteria and higher tier qualifications for achieving elite status, some online travel agencies (OTAs) have simple and rewarding programs. If you are the kind of traveler that spreads your travel spend across different companies to search for the lowest price rather than climb the elite-status ladder, this news is for you.

Expedia, Travelocity, and Priceline have great programs of their own, but Rewards and Orbitz Rewards deserve particular attention for value. Rewards Loyalty Program

Let’s start with the simplest loyalty program of them all – Rewards. It is easy to understand and ideal for leisure travelers looking to score a free night without the confusion of points levels. The way it works is that for every ten nights you stay, you receive a free night. The value of the free night is calculated by taking the average of the ten nights you accrued to earn it.

This keeps people from booking ten nights at a Motel 6 for $50 and redeeming it for a room at a Ritz-Carlton. In some ways, this dilutes the aspirational value that many loyalty programs created by allowing you to redeem points for lavish experiences you may otherwise not be able to afford. But, the simplicity of the loyalty program deserves kudos.

Keep in mind that you have to sign up for the loyalty program before accruing nights, and some promotional bookings using coupons or through affiliates may not count. The good thing is that makes this all very clear in its hotel search results. Also, when you redeem the free night, choose a hotel that uses all of your free night credit. You won’t receive credit if your hotel is less than the average of your ten nights (if it’s more, you have to pay the difference).

There are elite status tiers within the program including some new perks for its most loyal members. Earn Silver status for booking ten nights and Gold status after 30 nights booked via Silver comes with free wireless Internet and breakfast at VIP Access-designated properties among other perks. Gold members enjoy bonuses like room upgrades and early or late checkout depending upon availability at VIP Access hotels (on top of the Silver member perks).

The best news is that if you use the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card you earn 10x miles per dollar spent on purchases. This can be quite a lucrative bonus if you travel frequently. This promotion lasts until Jan. 31, 2020.

Orbitz Rewards Loyalty Program

This Orbitz Rewards program has added a few nice perks for its elite members recently. But, some may find it buried in the fine print. Let’s bring it to the surface.

First, the program rewards members in “Orbucks,” which is essentially cash that you can use to offset the cost of future travel booked through You earn 1% on flight purchases up to $50 per year (the limit is higher if you achieve elite status with Orbitz Rewards).

Hotel bookings are more rewarding with 3% of the cost (no limit) being rewarded in Orbucks. But if you download the Orbitz app, you can earn 5% of your hotel rate in Orbucks. Vacation packages (bundles of air, hotel, and other services) earn 1% of the total cost.

Unlike Rewards, you can redeem Orbucks for part or all of future bookings and keep the rest to use for future trips.

There are two higher elite status levels – Gold and Platinum. But the real perks clock in with the latter especially thanks to recent changes. For starters, you can earn as much as $400 in Orbucks per year on flights. New perks have been added as well. This includes the option for Platinum members to choose between a free credit to TSA Pre-Check or one free pass to a LoungeBuddy participating lounge. This is a tremendous value and is on top of the traditional Orbitz Rewards perks.

Platinum members can also be reimbursed in Orbucks for up to $50 each year per checked bag, inflight/airport WiFi, pet, and even preferred seat/upgrade airline fees. Simply snap a photo of the receipt and complete the online form to have the Orbucks credited to your account. Many frequent fliers may be leaving perks on the table by not taking advantage of these generous benefits.

Ramsey Qubein

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About the Author

Ramsey Qubein
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist and correspondent for Northstar Travel Media covering the hotel and airline industry from every corner of the globe. He has traveled to 144 countries (many more than two dozen times) and lived in both Madrid and Paris. His work has appeared in numerous consumer and industry publications including Travel+Leisure, Premier Traveler, Islands, Business Traveller, Singapore Airlines' Silver Kris, and US Airways magazines. He is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and completed a Master’s Degree thesis researching various aspects of marketing/branding in the travel industry. Ramsey is highly recognized as an expert in travel loyalty programs, business travel and the luxury travel segment. He flies nearly 350,000 miles per year and estimates he has circumnavigated the globe more than 80 times. He is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio programs and contributor to USA Today, Fox News, BBC, Frommers, and AirfareWatchdog. Ramsey enjoys participating on travel panels or roundtables and is frequently quoted on travel-related subjects. Interested editors are welcome to contact him for any freelance writing needs related to business travel, aviation, or the hotel industry.

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