As a fan of points, typically I'd advise readers to book directly on the airline or hotel website. This is because booking with a third party - like Expedia - can negate beneficial parameters associated with status (upgrades, free breakfast, etc.) or earning loyalty points (especially bonus points with a credit card).
When booking smaller hotels and airlines that are not part of a points program, however, Expedia is a viable option and has historically offered it's own loyalty system - a system with potential, but shrouded in difficulty. Up until this month, Expedia members could redeem points only for $25 increments, meaning the majority of points would be unused and carried over month to month.
Expedia Pay With Points Changes
So it was a pleasant surprise when I received the below email, announcing a Pay With Points program that utilizes all of the points in your balance. Travelers can now combine points with promotional coupons, adding additional value to the program.
I can't stress this enough: the change to using every point is a very real benefit. As you can see below, my current balance of 12,565 Expedia points is enough for $180 dollars at a +VIP hotel - that is nearly double as much value than the old method, whereby I could have only utilized 7,000 points toward a purchase.
Finding A +VIP Access Hotel
There is still a major drawback to the program: to obtain full value, you should only book a +VIP hotel. But these hotels are hard to find on the site and only concentrated in a couple regions. If you are traveling to Europe or North America, for example, you have well over 1,000 hotels to choose from. In Africa, there are only five (!) across the massive continent.
Back to my first point: these hotels are difficult to distinguish on the Expedia site. While every +VIP hotel comes with a circular icon, actually searching the database and reviewing the hotels can be tricky. I recommend using the +VIP Access Hotels search engine and then ensuring the hotel has a +VIP icon when booking. I personally don't love the Expedia reviews, preferring to use TripAdvisor to double-check the hotel's quality.
And that's it. Expedia is far from the most lucrative loyalty program. At a fixed dollar rate per point, it will never be. But for hotel or airline purchases made outside of major point alliances, Expedia is a viable earning platform with some cash value. The Pay With Points program enhances that value, ensuring all of your points balance can be used.
Finally, keep in mind that Expedia points are earned on top of any credit card points. Expedia counts as a travel purchase for a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred (2X points) and Citi ThankYou Premier (3X points), adding bonus points to your purchase. And the Barclays Arrival Plus and Capital One Venture points can be redeemed as a statement credit, meaning you can earn and redeem points on two different fronts - always a good strategy.