There’s been a lot of buzz about Rocketmiles in the last two weeks. You all know from my past posts that I’m a fan of PointsHound, and on the surface the programs are very similar: earn miles in an existing airline loyalty program when booking hotels. I know what made PointsHound great for me: the chance to earn even more miles as a repeat customer and “double dip” by earning both airline miles AND hotel points/status.
But the primary attraction to Rocketmiles seemed to be just lots and lots of miles. That’s fine — if I can earn enough miles to make up for the tradeoffs. So far I have not been impressed. PointsHound does that, too, with its “Big Earnings” rates at select properties.
So how exactly do the two companies compare? Here’s my current impression of Rocketmiles:
- The curated hotel selection removes choices, even when some very good hotels have availability on other portals or when I don’t want to stay in one of the more popular markets.
- Don’t expect the lowest prices. I will agree that they are usually competitive.
- I will agree that the number of bonus miles awarded tends to be higher, but sometimes the margin is small or rates are also raised to compensate.
- Hotel stays do not earn points or elite status with your favorite hotel program. This is a big attraction for me since I greatly value hotel loyalty (and it compensates in cases where you might earn fewer airline miles).
Generalities are not enough. I ran a few test comparisons for future travel dates, choosing to credit my bonus miles to United Airlines in all cases. I performed some test searches using a fresh PointsHound account at Level 1. This is an important qualifier becuase the number of miles you earn can more than double as you book more nights and progress to higher levels.
Depending on your booking patterns, the winner in these comparisons may change. Also don’t forget that if you want to go to Wichita, as I will in June, PointsHound can help you out but Rocketmiles turns up nothing. My searches were limited to markets served by both companies.
Seattle, August 9-11
Let’s skip straight to my home town. August is peak tourist season in Seattle, and the hotel market is crazy. Remember my Insider’s Guide from a couple weeks ago? It can be empty in winter and then book full months in advance in the summer. Fortunately we have a lot of good hotels, but the capacity problem means that choice is important.
Rocketmiles offered only two hotels for this weekend trip. Hotel Max was offered at $219 per night and 7,000 miles total, while Hotel Vintage Park was offered at $240 per night and 2,000 miles total. Those are good hotels and reasonable prices.
PointsHound matched those rates but offered only 1,900 miles for the Hotel Max while getting closer to the competition with 1,800 miles for Hotel Vintage Park. What liked about PointsHound is that it also offered dozens more hotel options beyond the two provided by Rocketmiles. Many of these were at similar or cheaper rates and included major chains that would honor your elite benefits if you had status. For example, the W Seattle was $289 per night with 1,800 miles total.
PointsHound also provided access to Double Dip rates that include hotel points and status. In some cases, these Double Dip rates also have AAA discounts! (This is something PointsHound could do a better job advertising.) When I clicked to see Double Dip options for the W Seattle, I saw that the price dropped as low as $249 per night for a AAA rate that included 1,400 miles plus all the usual SPG points and elite stay credit.
Las Vegas, July 12-15
Las Vegas is known for its deep discounts and dearth of major hotel chains (well, not really, but few of them are on the Strip). In this case, I ruled out PointsHound’s Double Dip feature and evaluated options entirely on price. Both companies provide huge mileage bonuses, reaching five digits for a three-night stay.
I won’t quibble with the hotel choices provided by Rocketmiles. Many of them are quality hotels, including the Wynn, Venetian, Caesars Palace, and Trump Hotel. I’ll even go out on a limb and say it was nice to see the Tropicana there (which seems to have finally recovered after being renovated; it now operates as a DoubleTree). But Vegas is all about finding a deal, and there were no deals to be had here with Rocketmiles.
Wynn Las Vegas
Rocketmiles: $302 per night and 15,000 miles total
PointsHound: $212 per night and 2,000 miles total
The Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino
Rocketmiles: $196 per night and 5,500 miles total
PointsHound: $196 per night and 2,200 miles total
Tropicana Resort & Casino
Rocketmiles: $230 per night and 15,000 miles total
PointsHound: $57 per night and 700 miles total
Trump International Hotel
Rocketmiles: $133 per night and 3,000 miles total
PointsHound: $125 per night and 1,600 miles total
Wow, that Tropicana rate was pretty good! To confess, $57 is one of PointsHound’s occasional one-day sales, but even the normal rate was only $116, about half that of Rocketmiles. You are saving so much money that it is difficult to justify the extra miles provided by Rocketmiles (and I would expect PointsHound to increase its bonus once the rate returns to normal).
In every case I looked at, even those not shown here, PointsHound had an equal or better rate. However, these four examples do indicate that PointsHound also offers fewer miles. How big of a problem is that? With the Tropicana, you pay $519 more ($173/night) to earn 14,300 miles — effectively buying them for 3.6 cents each. With the Wynn, you pay $270 more ($90/night) for 13,000 miles — buying them for 2.1 cents each.
I would not recommend paying more to Rocketmiles just to earn more miles. And again, PointsHound had more options if you wanted to go with something cheaper.
Washington, DC, April 28-29
Washington, DC, was a good compromise. It can be an expensive market, and there are many hotels either independent or part of major chains. Rocketmiles provided many more options than I got for either Seattle or Las Vegas, which I hoped would make it easier to compare them to the competition.
The Dupont Circle Hotel, where Megan and I stayed during one of her recent business trips, is a nice hotel and available for $249 a night with 4,500 bonus miles. That sounds compelling, but PointsHound had the same hotel for only $239 and 3,100 bonus miles. $10 more is worth the extra 1,400 miles, but such close numbers indicate you should check both sites in the future to compare their differences.
The Washington Marriott was $299 on both sites, but you earned 5,000 miles with Rocketmiles and only 800 with PointsHound. In this case, the only thing saving PointsHound is that it offered a Double Dip rate for hotel points and status. Still, I’m not sure it’s worth it to give up so many miles on a one-night stay. (But like in Seattle, choosing Double Dip tends to offer other discounted rates, too, like a AAA rate for $284.)
In fact, many of the hotels in Washington, DC, offered relatively few miles when I check PointsHound. In this case, Rocketmiles prevailed, but I still liked that PointsHound offered many more choices. I’m a guy who likes to see his choices and crunch the numbers, and I think that will always bug me about Rocketmiles.
I can understand the appeal of Rocketmiles. If you don’t care one bit about hotel elite status, and if too much choice can be overwhelming, then the options and Double Dip features provided by PointsHound might not matter. If you only visit major markets, then Rocketmiles’ limited selection could be sufficient. Those who travel just once or twice a year may care more about the upfront miles than the potential to earn more with PointsHound as a repeat customer.
But I found that Rocketmiles wasn’t just “hand selecting” its hotels. Why could it find six to 12 hotels in some markets like Washington, DC, but only come up with two in downtown Seattle? This gave me the impression that its choices were based purely on the size of the commission it could wrangle from the hotel. Sure, a big commission means more miles for you, too, but I like choice. If miles are all that matter, why bother disclosing the name of the hotel at all? Rocketmiles could just as easily compete with Hotwire.
PointsHound continues to earn my favor thanks to Double Dip rates so I can earn my hotel points and elite status. I think that is enough to make up for fewer airline miles. If you book enough, you will earn larger awards more comparable to those offered by Rocketmiles.
Finally, PointsHound also offered “Big Earnings” rates that are similar to the large bonuses promised by Rocketmiles — situations where PointsHound has gotten larger commissions and can afford to share more of it with you. If you really want lots of miles and care less about the hotel, look for Big Earnings options the next time you try PointsHound.
Disclaimer, I earn a few bonus miles if you use my links to sign up for either site, but only after you make your first booking. If you take a look and decide it’s not for you, I earn nothing. But I would be interested in learning more about why you decided to book elsewhere.