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Expedia Upgrades Its Loyalty Program

SmarterTravel

When Expedia launched its Rewards program in 2011, we headlined our coverage with a somewhat hyperbolic query: “Will Expedia’s New Rewards Program Change the Face of Travel Loyalty?”

The answer, it now can be confidently affirmed, is a resounding “no.” In the crowded world of rewards programs vying for the hearts and minds of travelers, Expedia Rewards has been an also-ran, if that.

So it’s no great surprise that Expedia just launched its “all new” Expedia+ Rewards.

Although there has been some tweaking of the previous program, Expedia+ Rewards is neither new nor innovative.

Carried over from the original program: Members earn two points for every $1 spent on hotels, packages, and activities, and just one point per $5 spent on flights.

Newly added is the option of earning two points per $1 spent on cruise bookings.

So, not much new on the earning side of the program.

On the program’s redemption side, points can be cashed in for travel (including flights and hotels), exclusive local experiences (for a limited time only), and charity redemptions.

Again, not much new or exciting.

For frequent buyers, Expedia has added an intermediate elite tier, +silver, between entry-level membership, now dubbed +blue, and what used to be called Elite Plus and is now known as +gold.

+silver status is earned after booking seven hotel nights, or spending $5,000 in a year. The perks include a 10 percent bonus on purchases, 250 bonus points when booking rooms at any of 1,400 +VIP Access hotels, and assorted perks at around 700 +VIP access hotels.

As before with Elite Plus, +gold status requires 15 hotel nights or $10,000 in annual spend, and rewards members with a 30 percent earning bonus and upgrades at 1,400 +VIP hotels.

The enhancements are decidedly modest, hardly calling for the program to be renamed and falling far short of the company’s “all new” designation.

Expedia+ Rewards – a Game-Changer?

As before, even with the paltry points payout, there’s no reason not to book flights through Expedia, since travelers can earn miles in airline programs and points in Expedia+ Rewards simultaneously, as well as miles from rewards credit cards and shopping portals.

However, for hotel bookings—which is where Expedia makes most of its money—travelers generally must choose between earning Expedia points and earning points in a hotel loyalty program. So, is Expedia+ Rewards rewarding enough to overcome consumers’ loyalty to the likes of the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs?

If the old program wasn’t a game-changer, there’s no reason to expect the new one will be either.

Reader Reality Check

Will you be booking more with Expedia on the strength of its new program?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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