Orbitz, like many other online travel agencies (OTAs), offers its own loyalty program to rewards frequent customers. What I like about Orbitz is that it’s also one of the easiest to understand and most rewarding. This helps make up for losing the perks of a traditional hotel loyalty program since many will not award status, points, or benefits when you book with a third-party OTA.
Rewards credits are called Orbucks, and one Orbuck is equivalent to $1 off your next purchase. You can earn and redeem partial Orbucks, which means you never have to worry about hitting a minimum threshold to maximize the value of the program. Keep in mind that booking with Orbitz also means that you won’t earn rewards and benefits with most traditional hotel loyalty programs on those stays.
Orbitz Rewards has three elite tiers with Silver, Gold, and Platinum status. These are pretty easy to earn with only a few nights a year.
Silver status is automatic for everyone, and as you’d expect it doesn’t include any real perks. Gold status includes priority customer service and benefits such as free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and resort fees when you book select VIP Hotels. I don’t think Gold is really worth pursuing, but you might earn it by accident.
Platinum status has the more valuable perks. Bookings at VIP Hotels might include an upgrade (although they’re not guaranteed). You can also receive a credit to pay for TSA PreCheck enrollment or a LoungeBuddy airport lounge pass. Finally, Orbitz will give you an extra $50 in Orbucks as reimbursement when you pay for seat upgrades or pet fees.
To get the PreCheck or LoungeBuddy credits, you’ll need to request the perk in advance. For the $50 in Orbucks to reimburse any incidental expenses, you should pay for them as usual and then submit a receipt with the claim form.
All hotel bookings earn 3% Orbucks, which means a $100 stay adds $3 Orbucks to your Orbitz Rewards account for a future redemption. You can also earn rewards with flights and vacation packages, but the rate is reduced to 1%. This is probably because flights tend to have smaller commissions. Special promotions from time to time can mean double or triple Orbucks, so be sure to check for Orbitz Insider Prices. This hotel is offering a 10% discount.
You can see in the example that a two-night stay in Seattle will cost $187 per night, or $374 total, and earn $11.23 in Orbucks. However, Orbitz really wants you to use your mobile device. Book your hotel on the Orbitz app and you can earn 5% Orbucks. The same hotel booked on my phone has the same rate and a 5% rebate instead. (Unfortunately, the way Orbucks are displayed on a mobile phone makes it easy to confuse with the Orbitz Insider prices displayed on a personal computer).
Redeeming Orbucks is pretty simple. Just check the box during checkout to apply your existing Orbucks to the reservation. Because you don’t need to hit any threshold before you redeem, there’s no need to wait (although I guess you could save them for a special trip if you want). And because each Orbuck is equal to $1, you don’t need to do any crazy math to figure out what they’re worth, either.
Your Orbucks balance will always be listed at the top of the page when you log in. Right now, I’ve got $0, probably because I let them expire. You must remain active in the program by earning or redeeming Orbucks. Otherwise they will expire after 12 months of inactivity.
The Orbitz Rewards Credit Card
The Orbitz Rewards Visa Card helps you earn rewards faster with an additional 5% Orbucks on all Orbitz reservations. That means you can get a total of 6% on flights and vacation packages or a total of 10% on hotels booked with the mobile app.
All other non-Orbitz purchases earn 2% rewards. This is equivalent to a 2% cash back card if you assume you are going to be a frequent traveler and redeem your Orbucks often. Plus, there’s no annual fee or transaction fee, and you can get $60 off the cost of your annual CLEAR airport security membership.
There may be better cash back cards out there, but I think this one is a worthwhile contender if you want a simple credit card strategy and aren’t interested in traditional hotel loyalty programs.
(There’s even an Orbitz Rewards dining program, just like a traditional loyalty program.)
Is Orbitz Rewards a Good Deal?
Although I’m generally not a fan of OTA loyalty programs, I have never had anything negative to stay about Orbitz Rewards. I like that it’s transparent: the program is pretty clear about how you earn and redeem points, and you don’t need to sign up for an account first to find out. I like that it doesn’t have thresholds or confusing criteria to meet before you redeem those rewards. And I like that it has a fairly generous rebate. By booking on the app using your Orbitz credit card you can get up to 10% back in the form of Orbucks for a future stay.
Is it better than traditional hotel loyalty programs? It does put up a fight, though I wouldn’t declare them the winner. Is it better than all other OTA loyalty programs? It’s better in some ways and less so in others, but it remains my overall favorite.