The Hotels.com Rewards Visa from Wells Fargo offers decent rewards value for your spending, coupled with an annual fee of $0 and the flexibility of not being tied to one hotel chain. But what about aspirations of using rewards to book a free plush room in an exotic location?
Not so much. Let’s just say if the rewards program were a hotel, it’d be less like a beachfront luxury resort and more like a suburban office-park hotel off the highway — and that’s if you’re willing to wade through the convoluted rewards program. It awkwardly marries credit card spending rewards with a “buy 10, get one free” system you’d find at a sandwich shop.
It could be a good fit for those already using the Hotels.com loyalty program. But if you’re willing to pick a hotel group and stick with it, co-branded hotel credit cards might be a better fit, even if you have to pay an annual fee. And a general travel card can offer even more versatility.
Here are five things to know about the Hotels.com Rewards Visa.
1. The sign-up bonus is just OK
With an annual fee of $0, you don’t expect a massive sign-up bonus. But even still, some might be a little disappointed with this one.
The current bonus: Earn one “reward night” worth up to $125 when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. (The reward night excludes taxes and fees, which you’ll have to pay.)
To maximize this bonus, you’d need to find a room that costs exactly $125 a night. If it costs more, you’ll owe the difference. If it costs less, you don’t get back the difference. That’s less than you get with most other major hotel credit cards, even ones with no annual fee.
A running theme here: The card’s bonus, like its rewards, is not so much a “free night,” but more like a dollar credit to use at Hotels.com.
2. Rewards are baffling …
You CAN figure out the rewards program. But after this description, decide whether you WANT to.
Even without the credit card, the Hotels.com loyalty program lets you earn a “stamp” for every night you stay at any eligible property booked on that site. That’s a stamp like you might get on a loyalty wallet-card at a sandwich or coffee shop.
With the Hotels.com Rewards Visa credit card, you earn a stamp for every $500 spent on purchases with the card. All spending counts the same. No bonus rewards for spending on, say, restaurants or gas stations — not even for booking at Hotels.com.
But what are the rewards stamps worth? You’ll have to remember the number $110. Here’s why.
You need to accumulate 10 stamps for a “reward night.” No partial redemptions for, say, seven stamps.
So 10 stamps, and I can book any hotel room on Hotels.com? Uh, no. Not all stamps are created equal:
Stamps you earn by racking up $500 in spending on the credit card are assigned a value of $110.
But stamps you earn by booking through Hotels.com are worth whatever you paid for the room.
The value of your 10-stamp “reward night” is the average of your 10 stamps — again, with credit card-earned stamps worth $110. So, if you didn’t book any rooms through Hotels.com and earned your 10 stamps only with the credit card, then your reward is worth $110. But if you have a mix of bookings and credit card stamps, your reward could be more or less than $110, depending on how expensive your bookings were, which affects the average of the 10 stamps.
Lastly, rewards expire after 12 months of inactivity (meaning you didn’t earn a stamp or redeem a reward during that time). So make sure you spend at least $500 a year on the card to earn a stamp and reset the expiration date.
Nerd tip: For rewards earned with the credit card alone, don’t get your hopes up for booking a luxurious 5-star hotel, where rooms cost far more than $110. You can book a more expensive hotel and still use the reward, but you’ll have to pay the difference. And as with the bonus offer, your free night doesn’t include taxes and fees.
3. … But reward values can be decent
Because of the confusing rewards system, it might seem difficult to assess the value of earning those rewards. But it’s essentially 2.2% back. Here’s how:
Considering only rewards earned with the credit card, you’ll need to spend $5,000 to earn 10 stamps worth $110. ($110/$5,000 =.022 = 2.2%)
Put another way, each stamp earned with the Hotels.com Rewards Visa credit card is worth $11. (But they’re worth nothing until you have 10 of them.)
That is a competitive rewards rate compared with some hotel cards. But, of course, there are 2% cash-back credit cards available. With the Hotels.com Rewards Visa, you get only an extra 0.2 percentage points to earn rewards that are far more restrictive than cash, which brings us to the next point.
4. It has flexibility pluses and minuses
Hotels.com boasts listings of 500,000 properties in more than 200 countries. So if you’re not chasing elite status with a particular brand, the Hotels.com Rewards Visa card could help get you free or discounted reward nights across a wide variety of properties, and for no annual fee.
On the downside, unlike cards offering flexible rewards, the stamps you earn using this credit card are redeemable only for Hotels.com bookings. Plus, you can’t redeem the rewards you’ve earned until you earn 10 stamps.
And it has no travel partners to transfer rewards to.
5. It offers a few perks
Silver status: You get automatic Silver status with Hotels.com for 12 months from date of opening. If you already have Silver status, it will be extended for 12 months thanks to your new card. Silver status entitles you to free breakfast, spa vouchers, airport transfers, VIP access lines and more at eligible properties.
No redemption fee: If you’re just a Hotels.com loyalty member, you must pay a $5 fee for each redemption unless you use the app. The fee is waived if you have the Hotels.com Rewards Visa.
Cell phone protection: Pay your phone bill with this card and you’ll be covered in the event of damage to or theft of your phone, for up to $1,200 per year ($600 per claim) after a $25 deductible.
Travel perks: Like any self-respecting travel card, it charges no foreign transaction fee for making purchases abroad. It also comes with some travel protections, such as rental car insurance (secondary) and trip cancellation and interruption insurance.
In the end, the Hotels.com Rewards Visa is a way to earn credit for booking rooms on Hotels.com. Its rewards value for spending on the card is decent and would be a good addition for those already immersed in the Hotels.com loyalty program. But for most people, a co-branded card with a name like Marriott, Hilton or Hyatt might serve them better if they can commit to one hotel chain.
Information related to the Hotels.com Rewards Visa has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.