The loyalty programs of the online travel agencies (OTAs)—Hotels.com Welcome Rewards, Orbitz Rewards, Expedia Rewards)—haven't gotten much traction with frequent travelers.
Late to the game? Sub-par value? Too much competition from airline, hotel, and credit-card programs?
For whatever reasons, the OTA programs have been viewed more as afterthoughts than as primary (or even secondary) rewards programs by most travelers.
In a bid to establish itself as the frontrunner among the OTA programs, and as a worthy contender among airline and hotel programs, Orbitz this week introduced a credit card linked to its Rewards program. The Orbitz Rewards Visa card rewards travelers with Orbucks, which can be used to book hotel stays through Orbitz.
With different earn rates for different types of bookings, as well as different rates for bookings made on mobile devices versus computer bookings, it quickly gets complicated. In simplest terms, the card awards Orbucks as follows:
- 2% on non-Orbitz purchases
- Up to 6% on package bookings
- Up to 7% on airline bookings
- Up to 10% on hotel bookings
There's no annual fee for the card, and Orbucks don't expire as long as the card is used at least once per year.
The current sign-up bonus is a 50 Orbucks statement credit after spending $200 within 90 days.
Cardholders automatically receive Star status, the program's entry-level elite tier which includes customer service "priority access," and hotel benefits "which may include upgrades, free WiFi, breakfast, etc."
An Orbitz Rewards Card in Your Wallet?
As the major airlines and hotels continue to devalue their programs, it increasingly makes sense to simply disengage from the programs and buy exclusively on the basis of price, especially if you don't travel frequently enough to earn elite status. So this may be a good time to consider participating in an OTA program.
Some thoughts about Orbitz Rewards and the new card:
- If you already use Orbitz, the card adds an additional 5 percent to your Rewards earnings. Do it.
- If you already use an OTA for most of your travel bookings, the new card certainly makes Orbitz worth a look, if it's not already your go-to app.
- Most hotels don't award points in their own programs for bookings made through OTAs. So booking Hilton through Orbitz means foregoing HHonors points (and the possibility of earning HHonors elite status) in favor of Orbucks.
- On the other hand, booking flights through Orbitz doesn't preclude earning miles in the airlines' programs. So you can earn both AAdvantage miles and Orbucks for an American flight booked on Orbitz.
Reader Reality Check
Do you participate in an OTA loyalty program? How does it fit in with your airline- and hotel-program participation?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.