Let’s have some travel real talk. Travel loyalty programs, as rewarding as they can be, can be so confusing that they leave travelers feeling less than confident that they are mastering the art of savvy travel. The equations behind these programs often feel like something of a multistep algebra problem. Not to mention that many programs have changed in the last few years or months, leaving you wondering how you earn points, where you can use them, and when you can cash them in.
Having our own Expedia rewards program, we’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not always easy understanding these programs. We’re here to help break it down. On the heels of a newly overhauled rewards program, we wanted to take some time to get you acquainted with the refreshed Expedia+ rewards program we’re announcing today and tell you precisely how you can maximize your earning potential.
Over the last 18 months, we’ve spent a lot of time studying what travelers really want in a travel points program. Most travelers, we’ve found, are relatively loyal to a single airline, often going out of their way for the airline of their preference. On the other hand, most travelers don’t tend to be nearly as loyal to specific hotel programs, usually placing more importance on star rating, price, location, and amenities over earning potential when they’re choosing a hotel.
As we’ve heard from customers, that means there are really three real gaps in travel loyalty programs that we’re aiming to fill with this program:
1. Confidence in air travel. With Expedia+ rewards, we strive to be the icing on the airline cupcake. Travelers who are members of airline loyalty programs can continue to earn their program points while, as a bonus, earn Expedia+ rewards points over and above that program. This helps consumers feel confident that they are maximizing their travel dollars amidst an ever-evolving loyalty travel landscape.
2. Save money and earn points. Many customers tell us that they feel like they have to choose between saving money and earning points these days (even The Points Guy, founder Brian Kelly, says so). One of the top reasons to book with Expedia to begin with is saving money by booking your flight and hotel at the same time as a package (saving, on average, up to $540). Instead of making customers choose between that kind of savings and maximizing their rewards points, we reward customers by giving them ten times the points on airfare that they book as part of a vacation package than airfare that they book as a standalone ticket. And, of course, they’re earning points on the rest of the vacation package at the rate of 2 points per $1 spent.
3. Make the most of the travel that means the most. It’s funny how counterintuitive we are as travelers. Even I, someone who talks about travel all day long, did a mileage run to Las Vegas on Christmas Eve last year to make sure I got my airline status. It’s a crazy example of how we’ll go out of our way to optimize for the four hours we’re going to sit on a plane to get to a destination yet often ignore the four days we’re going to spend once we’re there when it comes to how we make decisions about loyalty programs. That’s why, for the Expedia+ rewards program, we want to help travelers not only have a good experience high above the clouds, but, even more importantly, to really optimize for what happens when they’re on the ground. There are a couple of ways we’re working to achieve that goal of getting a great experience when they’re on their trip:
- Helping customers earn points faster through the introduction of cruise to our program.
- Introducing new tiers with multipliers to earn points faster and priority access to concierge service and customer support.
- Providing the opportunity to reach status through either dollars spent or room nights stayed so that travelers have more flexibility.
- Extending hotel amenities at our +VIP Access hotels to +silver members, as well as hotel upgrades to +gold members.
- Ensuring travelers can earn and redeem points on activities on the ground.
Expedia+ rewards is aimed at filling in these gaps by offering a more streamlined, user-friendly, and enhanced customer loyalty experience. The updated program is a response to your feedback; you told us what you wanted out of an exclusive rewards program, and we listened. One of the most significant new features, as I mentioned, is the multi-tiered level of membership: +blue, +silver, and +gold (see the graphic below that outlines each tier).
All levels give customers the same great benefits of earning points on hotels, flights, activities, packages and now also cruises. Also +gold enables you to get upgrades at +VIP Access Hotels, of which there are over 1,400 all over the world. These hotels tend to be great boutique hotels or small chains–the kinds of hotels our customers tell us they love when they are exploring a new city or heading to a posh resort market.
What trip do you want to take with your rewards points?