Hotels.com’s New Credit Card is Confusing But Intriguing

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Earlier this week, Hotel.com unveiled a new rewards card being issued by Wells Fargo named the Hotels.com Rewards Visa. Although I’ve never actually used the site, as a growing credit card enthusiast, I was interested in seeing what it had to offer. Yet, what I found as I looked at the press release was confusion — which is ironic since the site’s mascot is literally named Captain Obvious. So what about this new card hurt my brain and led me down a rabbit hole in order to understand it?

What is the Hotels.com Rewards Card?

Captain Obvious holding the Hotels.com Rewards Visa Card
Captain Obvious holding the Hotels.com Rewards Visa Card

Let me start with the parts I do understand — namely the sign-up bonus. When you spend $1,000 on your Hotels.com Rewards Visa within your first 90 days, you’ll earn a voucher good for a free hotel night that costs up to $125. Of course, you’ll need to book this free night through Hotels.com and, if your room is less than $125, you won’t be given the difference. Bummer. Other handy perks include complimentary Silver status with Hotels.com, no foreign transaction fees, cell phone insurance, and more. Plus, the card carries no annual fee.

Where the confusion comes in is in regards to the regular rewards structure. Let me quote from the press release: “Each time you spend $500 on purchases anywhere Visa is accepted, you’ll collect a stamp valued at $110. Plus, you’ll collect one stamp for each night you stay at any eligible property booked on Hotels.com” It also states, “After collecting 10 stamps, you’ll get a reward night to stay at one of the half a million properties Hotels.com offers — it’s that simple.” Yeah… “simple”… that’s the word I was looking for.

Is it just me or does this sound as if each stamp is worth $110 and, thus, the 10 Stamps would be good for up to $1,100? Well, lest you assume that you just earned 20% return on spend and will be on your way to a stay in the sweetest of penthouse suites, that’s not actually what this means. Instead, it means that the Stamp you earn will be equivalent to one you’d have received if you stayed a night at a hotel that cost $110. See, the way Hotels.com Reward redemption works is that the value of your 10 stamps is averaged, giving you the total amount you can redeem for your “free” night. In other words, you can’t stay 10 nights at a Motel 6 and cash in your Stamps for a night at a Ritz Carlton — well, you could… but you’d have to pay the difference.

Hotels.com Stamps valuation
Hotels.com Stamps valuation

What it comes down to is that, since Stamps you accrue through credit card spend co-mingle with those you’ve earned from hotel stays under Hotels.com’s program, it’s necessary to assign a value to them. In this case, that value is $110, with your eventual reward being higher or lower than that depending on how you earn your subsequent nine stamps. Hopefully that helps clarify things and not make them more complicated.

Is the Hotels.com Rewards Visa Card a Good Deal?

So, with all that preamble out of the way, is this a good deal? Let’s look at it this way: if you did earn all ten of your Stamps through credit card transactions and not through hotel nights, you’d earn a reward worth $110 for spending $5,000. Running the numbers, that essentially equates to a 2.2% return. That’s pretty strong as a flat rate (since you’re getting 2.2% on everything you buy) — although there are plenty of cards with multipliers that best that. Of course, the other factor is that you can only redeem your rewards for hotel stays via Hotels.com whereas other cards offer many more options.

Quite honestly, even after writing all of this, I still don’t know what to make of this Hotels.com Rewards card. As mentioned, I’ve never even personally booked using Hotels.com as I typically use Expedia or, more recently, Amex Travel — which actually seems to use Expedia as its backend — if not booking directly. Meanwhile, while I now at least seemingly understand this whole Stamps program, I’m not sure how much I like it. That said, at least the card comes without an annual fee, making it much easier to swallow.

Overall, if you’re a regular Hotels.com user or plan to be, this card may make sense. At the same time, if you’re like me and enjoy more flexibility, it may be one to skip. Either way, you’ll want to consider these aspects before applying (Thanks, Captain Obvious).

Originally published at Money@30.

Kyle is author of “The E-Ticket Life” and “Write, Print, Publish, Promote” as well as a regular contributor to Dyer News, Moneyat30, and The Laughing Place.