A Lucrative Hotel Rewards Strategy is Hiding in Plain Sight

I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).

The Capital One – Hotels.com Offer Is Now Expired

The most valuable rewards for hotel stays seem to me a function of where you book and how you pay rather than where you stay. That’s surprising to some because we’ve been taught to stay on the hotel loyalty program treadmill. And because hotels are trying so hard to get customers to ‘book direct’ you’d expect their loyalty programs to offer the best rewards for staying at their properties. But that isn’t always the case, as I’ll explain below.

Capital One Venture launched a partnership with Hotels.com that’s a new competitive offer to what the hotel chains are doing because you can earn 10% back towards travel when you book at Hotels.com/Venture (though January 2020) and that’s stackable with Hotels.com’s own program that effectively offers a 10% return towards future stays when you reach a total of 10 nights booked and stayed through their site.

Taken together — the card and the loyalty program — you can get up to 10% back from two different sources: from the 10x miles you earn when you book at Hotels.com/Venture with your Venture card and up to a separate 10% through the Hotels.com loyalty program.

You can get this rate of return while choosing the most convenient hotel at the best price, rather than going out of your way to a less convenient hotel, a less desirable property, or spending more to stick with one provider. Here’s how it works.

Earn Up to 10% Back For Future Stays With Hotels.com

Hotels.com has arguably the best rewards program of any of the online booking sites. You get a free night for every 10 nights you book and stay through their website (or app). Your free night is worth the average cost of those 10 nights.

The nice thing is you can earn the free night on 10 one night stays, 5 two night stays, or a 4, 3, 2, and 1 night stay. The combination doesn’t matter.

If you want to book a stay that’s more expensive than the value of your free night that’s no problem, you just pay the difference in cost. You can redeem more than one free night on a given stay, and free nights do not have to cover the full stay (it works to pay for 2 out of 4 nights using free nights, for instance).

You can’t apply more than one free night to a single night’s stay (for instance if you have two free nights worth $150 each you can’t use them both for a single $300 night). And the free night you earn doesn’t cover taxes on your reservation. And if you have a Hotels.com coupon code and use it when making a reservation, that booking won’t earn credit towards a free night.

Hotels.com also has its own elite levels, silver and gold. You get silver after booking 10 nights in a membership year (a year from when you joined). The key benefit of status is priority customer service.

Gone With the Wind Staircase at the Jefferson Hotel, Richmond (Margaret Mitchell stayed at the Jefferson while writing the novel)

Stack That With 10 Miles Per Dollar Spent at Hotels.com/Venture

Capital One Venture gives you 10 miles per dollar when you pay with your Venture card at Hotels.com/Venture through January 2020. You still earn Hotels.com rewards credits on your stay, these two are stackable.

That’s on top of Capital One Venture’s other key benefits.

Capital One just added TSA PreCheck or Global Entry reimbursement as a benefit of the Venture card. Pay with your qualifying card for an application to one of those program and receive up to a $100 statement credit.

The card currently offers an initial bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel. And then your spending earns unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day.

Thoroughbred Lounge at the Charleston Place Hotel, South Carolina

Tough to Beat Credit Card Rewards for Hotel Stays, Too

Earning 10 miles per dollar with Venture, a 10% return, is strong earn for hotel spend.

And Venture’s rewards are flexible and can be used with myriad travel providers and not just with the one chain where you’ve earned your points. The same flexibility extends to other card features like Card Lock to freeze and unfreeze your account; alerts which prompts you on possible problems like duplicate charges; the Amazon Alexa skill (you can interact with your card through Alexa!); and Eno which lets you use virtual card numbers from a web browser.

Royal Suite, Burj Al Arab Dubai

A Great Strategy to Be a Hotel ‘Free Agent’

If you’re a business traveler who can book and pay for hotels yourself, it’s amazing to get money back in rewards for your personal travel.

Most of all this is a strategy you can employ to earn rewards without having to focus on a single hotel chain.

I spend a lot of nights with Hyatt, but that’s really hard for me given their limited footprint. A free agent strategy can get strong value while also delivering the greatest convenience, choosing the hotel that makes the most sense for your trip rather than going out of your way to choose a hotel that may be less convenient but that’s a member of your preferred loyalty program.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. Also hiding in plain sight: discounted hotels.com gift cards (15-20% discounts) and hotels.com promo codes (8-15% off). Those stack with each other and with a click-through portal (0%-6%). This strategy trades a 10% credit card rebate (effectively 8% at margin) for all those other goodies. Nothing to see here, folks.

  2. No elite benefits makes this unattractive for me, but if someone doesn’t have status, they’ll get something they can use.

  3. Many of the benefits of elite status (better rooms, breakfast) are things you can buy with cash anyway. Do I want very flexible ways to use my points or lock in on one chain followed by regular devaluation?

    Hotels.com is ESPECIALLY strong outside the US, where instead of being stuck in the Hilton/Hyatt/Marriott ghetto and paying “gringo tax” (my experience is rates at US chains in other countries regularly carry a surcharge over local ones) you can choose local chains that offer better deals.

    I decided this year that I’d have “you can fog a mirror so you get this” Hilton Gold status, but most everything else is going through hotels.com. I am not regretting it so far.

  4. Still not better than Citi 4th night free…that’s a 25% discount (if you can manage to do 4, 8, 12 night stays – which we have gotten quite used to!!).

  5. The deal between the capital one and hotels ends at the end of 2019.

    Best thing skit Hotels.com golf is that they let you refund non-refundable bookings.

    I’ve been gold with them for years along with being top tier with Marriott/SPG and Hyatt.

    Because of the expiration date on this, I haven’t shifted away from the big chains. I don’t want to be left without this partnership and my top tier status in 2020.

    That’s said, I’d did get the cap1 card. The 10x on what I was already spending hotels.com and the sign up bonus made that and easy call.

  6. I receive a suite at EVERY hotel I check into. How do I do it? Simple. I book–and pay–for a suite. It’s great to be a free agent and off the points treadmill.

  7. Good point on what free agency is like, especially outside the US. We haven’t fully committed to a chain, and probably never will given the solid hotels around the world. For $100 a night we can get a good hotel with breakfast in the morning, as long as we don’t mind some variety in overall quality (but always well beyond “acceptable”). Whether I get the card or not, struggling to stay with a chain 50 nights a year just to get a good breakfast I can find all over the world is probably never going to be worth it for me.

  8. I book prepaid hotel rooms for my husband’s company on a Hotels.com. I was getting ready to cancel his Capital One card when this promotion came out. It is now paying for itself plus a bonus!

  9. I’m retired and only travel for fun. I’ve been using my Discover rewards for Hotels.com gift cards. Topcashback also has hotels.com gift cards as a redemption option. I don’t travel enough to earn status anywhere, so I’ve felt pretty free for quite a while.

    Back when I had 5 kids in college (the oldest and youngest are 5 years apart -so we did have 4 in college at once), we used Hotels.com to book even chain hotels when we visited them. All we cared about was a clean, cheap room. With that many kids in different cities, we racked up a lot of nights.

  10. So, here is another bonus on the CapitalOne Venture. When you redeem points, you can actually redeem points on the same purchase multiple times. So, assume you accumulate 20,000 points and recently stayed at a hotel for $200. Redeem the points and build up miles again. If it is less then 90 days, the travel purchase is still available for redemption again. I contacted them about this a few years ago and they said no problem.

  11. This is a great idea for the typical “business” traveler that wants to scam his employer to make a few extra $/points personally. between my employer code and a few other trade groups I haven’t gotten less than a 20% discount off of normal (including AAA, etc) rates in years (usually more like 30%+). And when I didn’t used to have a company code I was easily able to get discounts direct from hotels I frequented on my own because I cared. Oh and when the hotel revenue manager realized I was there for 20 nights a year and I controlled it myself I got better upgrades than the other diamond/platinum folk. The real sweet spot was when I found a common hotel owner over multiple markets and I could promise 40-50 nights over a few of their common properties. Granted this isn’t 2009 anymore but if I found an employee bragging about the method described by the blogger when there are better company options for the company I’d have them understand they can update they’d better update their resume in short order.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *