.. and since their average payout is also 3000 miles per night, that may mean 11,000 miles on a 3-night stay.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about PointsHound as my new favorite hotel booking site. They rebate a good chunk of their booking commission to you in the form of airline miles, and they’ve got over 1000 hotels now where you can earn miles for the booking and still earn stay credit towards your status in the relevant hotel’s frequent guest program.
Put another way, I like it better than booking direct because I still get all the same benefits and I also earn miles.
They have a referral program where you get 250 bonus miles for the first stay you make booked through the site, and the person who refers you gets 250 miles as well. So using a referral link is marginally better than signing up directly.
I worked out with PointsHound where if you use my link you can have the full 500 miles (instead of me keeping my 250).
That site’s major competitor is probably Rocketmiles which launched this past November. Their referral program is even more generous — 1000 miles with your first booking, and 1000 miles for the person giving you the referral.
This is my referral link. And just like I proposed to PointsHound that the initial signup bonus all go to my readers, I asked the same thing of Rocketmiles. They’ve obliged.
So using my referral link to sign up gets you 2000 miles with your first stay booked through the site. (I forego getting 1000 miles from the referral.)
My initial impresson of Rocketmiles was that they (1) offered somewhat bigger mileage rewards than PointsHound, but (2) offered a much more limited selection of hotels, and (3) those hotel bookings wouldn’t earn elite status credits.
So for someone like me who values my status (is brand loyal) and wants to pick specific properties and be rewarded for those rather than being guided to ‘what’s available’ my sense was that Rocketmiles didn’t work for me but might work for someone just looking for the biggest rebate on their stays.
I spoke with one of the co-founders of Rocketmiles yesterday and learned a whole lot more about the site and their plans. It’s still not for me, at least until I’ve re-qualified for all of my status for the year (come mid-June I’ll be at 21 stays and 44 nights with Hyatt, for instance). But when I’m not looking for status, it’s definitely one for the arsenal.
How they award lots of miles
They average about $200 per night for the rooms they sell, and award on average 3000 miles per night.
They currently offer mileage-earning with:
- US Airways
Rocketmiles built its own platform, which means two things — they are the merchant of record in all transactions, providing customer service directly and awarding miles within a couple of days of checkout, and also that they can negotiate their own opaque inventory.
A hotel might sell distressed inventory through Rocketmiles, just as they would through Priceline or Hotwire. But you see the name of the hotel you’re booking. The price displayed is meant to be the same as the price charged on other websites (which it has to be in a non-opaque scenario per various hotel booking contracts). But Rocketmiles is buying the room wholesale, and they then have a markup to use to buy miles and rebate them to you.
That’s not the only method they use to buy and re-sell rooms. They get rooms through other, widely available channels as well, but that’s how they get the inventory at a big enough discount to provide the largest mileage bonuses.
That’s great if they have a hotel you want to stay at
Rocketmiles has a limited set of hotels, less than 1000 so far, and they don’t display every room in every search. The biggest challenge that the various online booking sites have is that they display so much information it’s difficult for consumers to navigate and pick something. So consumers often, faced, with so much information, don’t make a booking right away. And once they move on they’re likely to book elsewhere. So Rocketmiles offers a limited number of hotels that they view as the best deals.
They think that’s ok, they offer good hotels in key locations and if you aren’t looking for status credits anyway you may just be looking for the best deal and they think they can offer that to you.
Personally I suggested just using their sorting mechanisms to highlight the best deals, but making it possible to book whatever inventory they have access to. It’s already a fairly limited set, I don’t think they should limit it further. Perhaps I’m not their typical consumer (no doubt!) but limiting inventory even more makes it less likely they’ll have what I want. (But then I generally have an opinion of what I want, rather than looking for guidance).
Showing the hotels that earn them the most means showing the hotels they can offer the biggest rebates on. And they say they won’t ever show a property that they can’t offer at least 1000 miles per night for.
They need to grow and grow aggressively to have enough options to be useful to me. They’re currently only making bookings in 31 cities, and they say they’re adding about a city a week.
Use them when they have a hotel that works, you don’t need status credits and they’re priced right
There will be times that Rocketmiles prices cheaper than competing sites, times also occasionally where they price higher. I don’t think this should be your one-stop shop for hotel bookings. Most of the time prices should be the same as you’ll get elsewhere, that’s what’s intended and how they’ve designed the site. But there are probably enough outliers that it pays to check. And they aren’t a site that lets you price compare all hotels in a given market, so the hotels they offer may not be the cheapest acceptable lodging for you in a given city, either.
But if they are offering a hotel you want to book, and aren’t priced much more than the same hotel elsewhere, it may represent the best value. Check mileage-earning options with PointsHound as well.
Personally I’m not going to be using the site until I’ve hit my requalification with Hyatt. I’ve already got my status with Hilton locked in based on previous spend on their co-branded credit card. I got my Intercontinental Royal Ambassador status the easy way. I’m a Starwood Gold on stays/nights, probably not going for Platinum this year, and don’t even need the stay credit to keep Gold since I get that both via the American Express Platinum card and also spend on the Starwood American Express.
So in the second half of the year, and any time there’s not a hotel I’m using for status, I’ll be having a look.
Not that you won’t ever earn status credits, mind you. Booking through third-party sites you aren’t usually supposed to earn credits towards your status, but sometimes you do. And Starwood, Hilton, and Priority Club aren’t supposed to provide elite recognition either although sometimes they do (Hyatt and Marriott do honor elite benefits on third party bookings, they just don’t use those bookings to help you requalify for your status).
When you care about loyalty programs, this isn’t the site for you, hotels have designed it that way because commissions (in this case rebated in a significant manner through miles) take a huge chunk from their bottom line. They’ve created what was once referred to in the Starwood universe as the Starwood Preferred Rate Program (rather than preferred guest, you’re valuable to the extent you’re on a preferred rate through their booking channel not because you’re ‘you’).
But for stays where elite status isn’t so much of an issue, Rocketmiles may be the most lucrative way to make the booking. And signing up through my link (no miles or other credit to me) gets you the best deal for using the site.