Expedia.com has revamped their in-house loyalty rewards program. Citi and Expedia have partnered on a new set of co-branded credit cards. What does the combination mean for the frugal traveler? This review covers the standard, no annual fee version.
Why use Expedia in the first place? If you book all of your travel through a travel shopping engine, that most likely means you would rather have the lowest price than be loyal to any specific chain. You might stay at a Holiday Inn, then a Hilton, and then a Sheraton. Or fly on American, then Delta, then United. Indeed, Expedia even offers a “Best Rate Guarantee” against booking elsewhere, for which I have successfully claimed the $50 travel coupon in the past:
Find a cheaper flight, vacation package, rental car, cruise or activity within 24 hours of booking and we’ll refund the difference, plus give you a $50 travel coupon for future travel. For hotels, we go even further: If you find a cheaper rate on your hotel reservation up to two days before your check-in, we will refund the difference and give you a $50 travel coupon for future travel. If you’re an Expedia+ rewards member, we’ll match your hotel price until midnight before check-in.
The Expedia®+ Card from Citi is meant to help Expedia users earn and redeem travel rewards faster Although it doesn’t show on the front of the card, it is a MasterCard. Here are the highlights:
- Earn a $50 statement credit after your first eligible Expedia purchase greater than $50 within 3 months of account opening*
- PLUS, earn 10,000 Expedia+ rewards bonus points after $1,000 in purchases within 3 months of account opening*
- Points redeemable for $100 in coupons at +VIP AccessTM hotels or $50 at other hotels*
- 3 Expedia+ bonus points per $1 spent on eligible Expedia purchases including flights, hotels, activities and vacation packages*
- 1 Expedia+ bonus point per $1 spent on other purchases*
- Expedia+ silver status is complimentary for as long as you are a cardmember*
- Earn one Elite Qualifying Hotel Night towards Expedia+ gold status for each increment of $2,500 in purchases made on the card between your January and December billing statements*
- No annual fee.
Expedia+ points fuel the revamped free rewards program available to all Expedia customers. To apply for this credit card, you must first sign in or register for a rewards account at Expedia.com.
How do you earn Expedia+ Points?
When you book eligible travel on Expedia (including vacation packages, hotels, flights, cruises, and activities), you earn points. Note that when you book flights, you still earn frequent flyer miles as well as Expedia+ rewards points. For hotel stays, double-dipping ability varies by the chain. The following earning methods are open to all Expedia users:
- 2 points per $1 spent on hotels or Vacation Packages that include a hotel.
- 2 points per $1 spent on activities or select cruises.
- 1 point per $5 spent on flights.
- Other special, limited-time promotions, for example using their mobile apps.
By using this credit card and/or attaining elite status, you can get the following boosts:
- 10% bonus on your base points earned with +Silver status (+Silver is free with this card)
- 30% bonus on your base points earned with +Gold status
- Both +Silver and +Gold members earn an additional 250 points per booking at a +VIP Access hotel.
- 3 Expedia+ bonus points per $1 spent on this card, on eligible Expedia purchases including flights, hotels, activities and vacation packages*
- 1 Expedia+ bonus point per $1 spent on this card, on other purchases*
Since you earn based on your total amount spent, this works out well for people booking for entire families or other groups of people.
How do you redeem Expedia+ Points?
Here’s a breakdown of the redemption options for Expedia+ points. There are no “blackout dates”.
Discounted hotel stays. 3,500 points will get you a $25 hotel coupon valid at any Expedia Rate hotel. Alternatively, 3,500 points will get you a $50 coupon valid at +VIP Access hotels. So the conversion rate is either 0.7 cents per point or 1.4 cents per point. The minimum redemption is 3,500 points, but you can do multiples of it up to a $1,000 coupon.
To get an idea of what the hotel types mean, you can run any search on Expedia and look for “Expedia Rate” or filter by “+VIP Access” under the More button. Here are some results for Honolulu, HI on a random date:
In general, +VIP Access hotels tend to be more luxurious, although not always. Finally, here are the common rules for both Expedia Rate and VIP Access coupon types:
Coupons can be used once. Any leftover value is void. A coupon can be applied to only one hotel room per booking. Coupon values don’t apply to taxes or fees. Once a coupon is claimed, it can not be refunded. A coupon is valid for one year from the date you create it. Coupons can only be used on reservations paid for at time of booking.
Free flights. You can redeem your Expedia+ points for any flight on Expedia. Just search for flights and it will quote you the price in points. In general, you will receive a value of approximately 0.6 cents per point when redeeming for flights.
Charitable donations. You can donate your points to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Every 3,500 points you redeem equals a $25 donation, 100% of which Expedia gives to St. Jude. That is a rate of 0.7 cents per point.
What does Expedia+ Silver and +Gold Status include?
With this card, you automatically have +Silver status as long as you are a cardmember. If you didn’t have this card, you would either have to book 7 nights or spend $5,000 in calendar year to achieve +Silver status. This is upped to 15 nights or $10,000 for +Gold status.
Here’s a big chart that outlines the benefits between all three tiers:
I would say the primary benefit is that with +Silver you get a 10% bonus on your base points earned on travel booked through Expedia (+Gold gets a 30% bonus). Another benefit is “exclusive perks” at select +VIP Access hotels, such as a free mini-bar access, free parking, or resort credits. +Gold members can get free room upgrades at +VIP Access hotels, but +Silver members do not. Finally, +Silver and +Gold members earn an additional 250 points per +VIP Access booking.
The Expedia®+ Card from Citi is best for people who use Expedia regularly for booking travel, but don’t want to pay an annual fee. The strength of this card is the same as Expedia itself – you get to pick the cheapest hotel and flight every time, instead of sometimes paying a premium because you want to maintain loyalty or “status” perks. In order to maximize your value, you should redeem your points for +VIP Access hotels at 1.4 cents per point value, which means you mostly like to redeem for “nicer” hotels. The other redemption options are okay in a pinch, but nothing special at 0.6-0.7 cents per point value.
But wait, there is also a Expedia®+ Voyager Card from Citi that has a bigger sign-up bonus and better ongoing perks (and an annual fee). I can understand not wanting to pay an annual fee, but if you really are a serious Expedia user, at least consider it because there is an $100 annual air travel fee credit than can offset its $95 annual fee. The Voyager version also has bigger sign-up bonus, no foreign transaction fees, and the better ongoing perks of +Gold status.
If you do keep to a specific chain of hotels (i.e. Hilton, Marriott, Starwood) then your net rewards will probably work out better if you have the chain-specific cards. Personally, I just don’t use Expedia enough to justify getting this card. If instead you are looking for simple, cash back rewards in a Citi card, I would recommend checking out the Citi Double Cash Card.
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