Expedia Rewards and MasterCard are running a promotion right now in which customers who book a trip using a MasterCard as payment will be entered to win a prize of 1,000,000 Expedia Rewards points. In addition, five runners up will each receive 100,000 points.
Should you even care?
I don’t think so, and so I lump it in with other “Deceptive Deals.” Expedia Rewards points are like points from Hilton or IHG Rewards. It takes so many to get a reasonably valuable award that they aren’t worth much on their own. In my comparison of online travel agency loyalty programs last year, I commented that they are worth only 0.7 cents each (Expedia makes it almost impossible to find this on their website). So one million points is only worth $7,000. I mean, who wouldn’t like to have an extra $7,000, but given the number of entries for this contest it hardly seems like something worth guiding your purchasing decisions.
What’s different about Expedia vs. Hilton or IHG is that both of those hotel loyalty programs give out their points in huge numbers to make up for their low value. Using a Hilton credit card at a Hilton hotel with Hilton elite status, their rewards program actually manages to be quite competitive. This is despite devaluations that almost doubled the cost of top-tier award nights early last year. And IHG lets you buy as many points as you want by booking — then canceling — points and cash awards. Expedia tends to hand out many fewer points: just 2 per dollar. You could get 30 or more with Hilton.
Who should you book with instead? Hotels.com and Orbitz Rewards tend to be the best deal when it comes to OTA rewards programs. I think Hotels.com does great if all you want is a hotel stay, though booking through the hotel’s own website and participating in its loyalty program might still be better. Orbitz Rewards at least offers a chance to book flights and other travel needs in addition to hotels.
I figured I’d at least entertain the possibility that the promotion could be lucrative enough to be worth changing my behavior, but that isn’t the result. I think you would be better off focusing on whoever is offering the lowest price on your next trip and using a good travel rewards credit card to pay — even if it’s a Visa or American Express.