It is getting more and more difficult to earn enough airline miles for a free flight these days: Airlines like United or Delta have moved to revenue based earning and on top of that increased the miles needed for a free flight. If you don’t fly very often, you can try to consolidate your earning to one airline by using an affiliated credit card, shop and dine with their program – and now even by booking hotels!
How does it work? You used to earn hotel points or a cash discount when booking your hotel rooms, but now you can also earn them via hotel booking portals that give you airline miles of your chosen program instead of a cash discount or points in their own currency! There are three main portals: Kaligo, Rocketmiles and PointsHound. All of them allow you to book hotels through their site and earn miles from their airline partners, based on the amount you spent and ongoing promotions!
When I tried out these sites, I found that they typically have a smaller selection of hotels than hotels.com (my gold standard for booking hotels) and often higher prices on the same hotels. Between hotels.com, their 10% discount through their WelcomeRewards program and a 7% discount by going through the TopCashBack portal, their prices are hard to beat. Also keep in mind that, compared to booking directly through the hotel web site, you won’t earn hotel points or status nights!
The one way I was able to get a better deal is during sign-up promotions or for existing customers: The high number of bonus miles offered can outweigh the higher price, resulting in a good deal and valuable miles to fill up your program!
Each of the programs offers sign-up bonuses (from 1,000 to as much as 10,000 miles) or promotions for specific hotels that will earn more miles! Considering that I value airline miles generally at 1.5 cents/mile, that can be a bonus of $15-$150! Because the hotel prices vary greatly when compared to hotels.com, agoda.com or the hotel web sites, whether that miles bonus or miles earned from regular bookings are a good deal, takes a little more research!
I will be testing Kaligo, Rocketmiles and Pointshound with sample searches in different cities, for different dates (months, weekend vs weekday) and different room requirements (single or double occupancy). I will report on my findings and compare the three portals against other big hotel bookings portals as well as the hotel websites themselves, with their frequently promised “best rate guarantees”. Come back to check on those reviews!