Do you travel a lot? If you do, you might use an online travel site to book. Like credit cards, travel sites offer rewards points as an incentive to stay loyal. Two of the biggest players in the online travel business are Expedia and Orbitz. Their programs are more different than you might imagine
Expedia: More Options
Little known fact: Expedia (EXPE) started in 1996 as a division of Microsoft. Three years later, Expedia became its own publicly traded company and is now the largest online travel site in the world. It also owns hotels.com and hotwire.com.
But what about the rewards? The program is called Expedia+ Rewards. There are three levels: blue, silver and gold. The blue level is awarded to anybody who books on the site. Once you spend $5,000 in a year or stay seven nights, you receive silver status; spending $10,000 or 15 nights raises you to gold.
Each level awards you 2 points for every $1 spent on hotels, packages with a hotel, cruises and other activities. You receive 1 point for every $5 spent on airfare, plus any frequent flyer miles you’re eligible to receive.
Along with the base points, silver members receive 10% in bonus points and gold members earn 30%.
Finally, you earn 1 point for every $1 spent on flight-plus-car packages. There are no blackout dates on any travel bookings when redeeming points.
Other benefits for silver and gold members include free amenities at participating hotels, dedicated customer service reps, free room upgrades and exclusive travel offers.
You can redeem points for hotel discounts or credit toward airfare – or donate them to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The redemption rate varies, depending on your travel arrangements.
Orbitz: Save on Hotels
Another little-known fact: Orbitz (OWW) was formed in 1999 by a group of leading airlines including American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines and United Air Lines. It launched in 2001 and in 2004, Cendant acquired the company. It owns cheaptickets.com and hotelclub.com in addition to its flagship, orbitz.com.
Its rewards program is called Orbitz Rewards and, like Expedia, has three membership levels: silver, gold, and platinum. Unlike Expedia, membership levels are based on how many hotel-room nights you book. You become a silver member free of charge. After booking more than four room nights, you become a gold member, and more than 12 gets you platinum status.
But you also earn what the company calls Orbucks. One Orbuck equals $1. Earn 5% on any eligible hotel booking on an app, 3% on hotels booked on a desktop, and 1% on a flight or vacation packages. You can also refer a friend and get $25 toward a hotel and earn airline miles on top of rewards.
Remember those membership levels? Once you become a gold member, you get access to a priority customer service line and free perks at participating hotels, such as free Wi-Fi, room upgrades and breakfast. Platinum members receive up to $50 per year in Orbucks on checked bag fees.
Unlike Expedia, Orbitz only allows you to redeem your Orbucks for hotel rewards. Except for those platinum-member bag fees, you can’t use them for airline or other travel redemption.
The Bottom Line
If you have more use for airline rewards over hotels, Expedia is the clear choice. If you’re OK using your rewards for only hotels, Orbitz is a simple, few-frills program. Now you decide.
For more on online travel, see Websites That Save You Money On Hotel Rooms and Alternative Travel: Discount Hotels And More Online.