PointsHound is one of my favorite services for booking hotel rooms online. I generally recommend booking directly through a hotel’s website in order to ensure you earn points and elite qualifying credit. Most online travel agencies (OTAs) are third-parties and specifically excluded as qualifying stays by many hotel loyalty programs. Many of PointsHound’s rates are, too. But PointsHound also offers special “Double Up” rates that it guarantees will receive elite credit — they draw from a separate inventory negotiated with each property and may include promotional rates such as AAA.
Both PointsHound and Rocketmiles (and some airlines) offer a chance to earn bonus airline miles when you book a hotel through their portals. I’ll admit that Rocketmiles often provides more points. But for those who value elite status, only PointsHound provides elite-qualifying Double Up rates. Over the last couple years PointsHound has been adding many new programs including Virgin America, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and even Bitcoin.
A MarketWatch press release this morning announced that PointsHound has been acquired by Points International, the operator of Points.com, which allows customers to trade points between different programs and also manages the sale of points by several airlines and hotels. (Starwood Preferred Guest has a sale on its Starpoints right now, for example, but the sale is processed by Points.com and not Starwood Hotels & Resorts.)
I’m not a particular fan of trading miles between programs on Points.com because the exchange rates are so poor (the programs don’t value them much on their books, so they don’t pay a lot, yet the cost of purchasing points is still relatively high). And if Points.com is simply facilitating the sale of points by other programs, that’s not normally worth mentioning, either.
But due to Points International’s existing relationship with so many programs, this powerful new corporate parent could create some significant opportunities for PointsHound. Just last year PointsHound lost access to United miles for its customers, partly because United invested in competitor Rocketmiles. Now PointsHound has its own muscle. For example, I was bugging PointsHound for months about the need to bring on Alaska Airlines as a partner. It eventually succeeded, but part of the issue is the delay in contacting new partners and negotiating a relationship. That process should be much easier for those programs that don’t already work with PointsHound.