PointsHound and Rocketmiles both burst onto the scene about 4-8 months ago with a plan to help customers find great hotels and offer lots of bonus airline miles at the same time. But there the two strategies diverged.
Rocketmiles has focused on a curated selection of properties in a limited number of cities. In exchange for giving up some freedom (and sometimes accepting a higher price), Rocketmiles’ customers can get lots of miles for every stay. It’s rare to see an offer for less than 1,000 miles per night, and then only because it’s a particularly valuable loyalty currency like Virgin America’s fixed-value points.
By contrast, PointsHound has adopted the premise that it is better to offer as many choices as possible without accepting sacrifices. They use a similar backend system as Expedia, meaning you can book just about any hotel anywhere in the world. They offer a low-price guarantee, even though it means some hotels may earn only hundreds of miles while others are more generous.
The most important differentiator in my opinion is that PointsHound also offers Double Dip rates that guarantee you’ll also earn your hotel status and points at the same time. Most hotel loyalty programs have to sacrifice a pretty big commission to third-party booking services, so they often exclude these stays from their award programs (some still honor benefits like free breakfast). With PointsHound, I’ve been able to stay at Starwood and Hyatt hotels, continue to earn my hotel points and status, and also earn several thousand airline miles in the process. That’s worth accepting the chance I’ll earn fewer miles than with Rocketmiles.
Fast forward to today. PointsHound now offers Double Dip rates at over 3,000 hotels throughout the world — including Hyatt, Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton — and is negotiating with more properties every day. While Double Dip rates don’t have the same low price guarantee as PointsHound’s regular offers, I often find that they are very close and sometimes even cheaper.
Rocketmiles has been expanding its service to include more cities. It now offers hotels in over 150 cities throughout the world. It’s progress and works for most people most of the time. Despite my dissatisfaction with the curated approach, I will admit most of the choices are pretty good (though sometimes prices are higher to support the extra miles).
Going forward, the two companies won’t just be competing on strategy but also their partnerships with different rewards programs.
It’s no secret that Jay Hoffman, one of the co-founders of Rocketmiles, used to work for United Airlines. And today, PointsHound announced that United’s MileagePlus program will no longer participate as one of its partners. Part of the reason is that United appears to be choosing sides and has taken a strategic interest in Rocketmiles while PointsHound has resisted such a partnership that might limit its ability to work with other companies.
Does this matter in the long run? There are many ways the situation can play out. I can imagine a scenario where Rocketmiles eventually works with United Airlines as its sole partner. They already provide a curated selection of hotels, so why not an (extremely) curated selection of loyalty programs in which to earn your miles? This could actually benefit some customers if United offers its miles at a special discount (more miles for every booking) in exchange for an exclusive arrangement. But for customers who don’t want United miles, I worry about where Rocketmiles might be heading.
PointsHound, of course, will suffer a little for losing a partner. I consider United’s miles to be among the most valuable loyalty currencies. But I value hotel choice, including Double Dip rates, too highly to switch to Rocketmiles just to keep earning with United. Instead, I’ll probably start crediting miles to one of their many other partners like American Airlines (for flexible, multi-stop Explorer Awards) or US Airways (for Star Alliance partner awards; see… I can still fly on United). If nothing else, United’s decision suggests that they recognize both companies are succeeding in an emerging platform that offers more ways to reward customers for their hotel purchases.
I like both PointsHound and Rocketmiles because they’re great for keeping my different loyalty accounts active so I don’t lose my miles. It’s also a good way to diversify my balances. If anything, maybe I shouldn’t have been crediting miles to United since I already have plenty in that account. It would be better to build up my balance with American since it is — and often has been — quite low.
The last bit of good news: PointsHound is winding down its partnership with one last hurrah. Everyone who has already linked their MileagePlus number to their PointsHound account will be upgraded one level (earning more miles with every booking) and will get a 1,000-mile bonus! Existing reservations will still be earn their United miles as promised. But in the future, well, the game is always changing. Hopefully we’ll see United return to PointsHound in good time.
Sign up for Rocketmiles and we’ll each earn 1,000 bonus miles when you complete your first booking! Sign up for PointsHound and we’ll each earn 250 bonus miles when you complete your first booking, PLUS you’ll get a complimentary upgrade to Level 2 status so you can earn more miles with every stay!