22% off Hotels.com gift cards with Amex Offer and portal rebate, but is it a good deal?

Amex just introduced a new Amex Offer: Spend $50 or more on a Hotels.com Gift card and get $10 back:

Amex Offer Hotels dot Com

This offer can be added to your account through Twitter.  Use hashtag #AmexHotelsdotcom.

This offer is not available through social media channels, which indicates it is targeted.  I found the offer on every one of my and my wife’s cards.  If you buy a $50 gift card with an enrolled card, this deal amounts to a 20% rebate.  If you have multiple Amex cards, make sure to use the multi-browser trick to load the offer to all of your cards.  Please see: Complete guide to Amex Offers.

Additionally, some cash back portals are currently offering up to 2% cash back when you buy gift cards from Hotels.com.  I found 2% rates for gift cards at both TopCashBack and Giving Assistant.  So, if you start your shopping at one of these portals, buy $50 Hotels.com gift cards, and pay with a different enrolled Amex card each time, you should get a total of 22% cash back (20% from Amex and 2% from the portal).

Name / LinkOfferFrequent Miler Notes
Giving AssistantI will earn $5 after your first eligible purchase, and you’ll earn a $5 sign-up bonus automatically.Excellent cash back portal. Very fast payments.
TopCashBackBonus rates vary. In general you and I will get either $5 or $10 after your first purchase of $20 or more through the portalDespite many problems several years ago, my experience with TopCashBack has been very solid.

If you buy several gift cards, Hotels.com will let you combine their balances into one:

Hotels dot com balance transfer

Is it a good deal?

This appears to be a great deal.  If all goes well, you should be able to get 22% off up-front when buying gift cards, and then make use of additional Hotels.com promotions and discounts in the future when booking hotels.  All of that is in addition to the Hotels.com Rewards program which offers a free nights for every 10 nights booked through Hotels.com.

Here’s one factor that reduces the wow factor of the deal. According to both Giving Assistant and TopCashBack, if you shop through a portal to Hotels.com in order to book a hotel, you will not earn cash back on the portion of the booking that is paid for with gift cards.  Hotels.com is usually available through portals for 7% cash back.  So, assuming that you would have shopped through a portal, your real savings with this deal are 22% – 7% = 15%.

I think that 15% off is still a very good deal.  Keep in mind, though, that if you have or want to get hotel elite status, nights booked through OTA’s like Hotels.com don’t usually count for elite credits or benefits.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. Hi Greg,

    I recently was gifted some Hotels.com cards and combined them successfully for one ‘supercard’ if you will. Noting that some of the cash back portals above exclude gift cards, I’d like to bring up an app called Ibotta. You can use it for small cash back rebates on groceries and other purchases, but they’ve recently expanded to select online retailers. I have been finding 5%+ off which does *not* exclude the portion paid by gift cards. This app works similarly to eBates in that you can link to PayPal/Venmo for payout (although there is a $20 minimum I believe), but you can save up and not get auto-cashed-out each quarter. Hopefully this will help some others save a few more bucks!

  2. Is this really a good deal? How competitive are the rates found on Hotels.com? The few times I’ve checked their pricing, I’ve not been impressed. Will inflated prices on hotels.com substantially eat into the 15% net savings of the offer?

    • In my experience, Hotels.com prices often equal the best prices found elsewhere. Exceptions include member-only prices, and discounts available only when buying directly from a hotel (e.g. government rates, AAA rates, etc.). In my opinion, this is best used in those cases were you can’t find a better deal elsewhere.

  3. FM, The GCs are processed by 3rd party provider Cashstar. So, if we use AmEX to buy the GCs, then will we get the $10 off? I got on all of my cards, so just making sure before making the plunge.

  4. I only got it on one of my cards (Everyday). Hubby got it on all 5 of his. I bought a $50 gift card on mine and got the email that I used my Amex Offer right away.

    I booked a cancellable room in NYC for my daughter for one night this weekend. The same room is $20 cheaper today + the gift card + a discount code (SAVE8FEB17) makes it a lot cheaper. The system is so busy, it kept crashing. I tried using a different browser, but that didn’t seem to matter.

      • Finally! I tried all day yesterday (Monday) to book the same hotel in NYC that I had already booked last week for my daughter. The web site kept crashing. Today everything worked smoothly.

        I originally paid $140 all in (which I think is a very good price for a 4-star hotel a block from Grand Central), paid with my Sapphire Reserve and got reimbursed.

        I used the Amex offer from 6 cards and rolled the gift cards into one Hotels.com gift card = $300.

        Today, I booked the same hotel, same room, this time for $118.93 (the price dropped + I used a coupon code SAVE8FEB17 for 8% off) and paid with the gift card. Apply the 22% discount and that comes out to $92.77. Even if the portal doesn’t work from buying the gift cards, the 20% discount from the Amex offer works out to ~$95 for a 4-star hotel room in Midtown Manhattan. I’m happy with that.

    • Hotels.com site is fubar today. All sorts of errors/timeouts. Calling is a waste of time because their servers are “updating” and agents can’t book. Told to try again in “an hour” – several hours ago. What a joke.

      Combining gcs was also a PITA. After a few attempts to combine into final size I wanted, continually got error. So had to log out/clear cache and retry. After an hour, finally was able to combine 5 gcs into one. Then went to try and book and system was “updating” and couldn’t. Did chat – waited 30 minutes (was 22 in queue then down to 4 and then they closed chat – in the middle of the day). Called in. Waited another 10 minutes and agent couldn’t book. Holy fook, what a mess.

  5. one issue with this offer seems to be that Hotels.com only allows one gift card redemption for each time. But correct me if I am wrong.

    • I’m assuming that you do have to pay up front when paying with gift cards (but I haven’t booked these myself yet). That said, I’m sure you’ll find different cancellation rules with different hotels / packages. As long as the rate is fully cancel-able, it should be safe to pre-pay.

  6. Can anyone confirm:
    1. Mike says “Also remember, not all hotels.com listings accept gift cards.”
    2. Mser says “Yes, you get free nights with gift cards. Just not with coupon codes.”

    I’d like to update the post with this info if confirmed.

    Mser: when you say “Just not with coupon codes”, I assume that means that you don’t earn free nights when using coupon codes? Or did you mean that you can’t use gift cards and coupon codes together?

    • Hi Mike – Todd here, Head of Gift Cards at Hotels.com. Happy to answer some of the questions posed here.

      Hotels.com gift cards are good on over 150,000 places to stay when booking through http://www.hotels.com/gc. This includes the majority of major hotel chains, resorts, boutique hotels and more. When using the redemption site, search results will filter automatically to those eligible for gift card redemption…which is any accommodation that allows prepayment.

      Any accommodation that accepts the Hotels.com gift card for payment is also eligible toward Hotels.com Rewards earnings (Stay 10 nights, get 1 free).

      If you or your readers have additional questions, feel free to reach out to us at giftcards@hotels.com.

  7. I’m curious about the poster saying she was able to combine a gift card with another hotels.com discount code (SAVE8FEB17). My previous experience with hotels.com was, if you had a gift card, it was NOT combinable with discount codes. Frankly, I thought this was the gimmick with these gift cards since other online agencies also owned by Expedia (like Cheaptickets) often provide discount codes in 16 to 18% range. Obviously, if you can get almost as good a rate NOT prepaying — and possibly using cashback with those sites — these gift cards aren’t a great deal. If they CAN be combined with other codes, they would be a good deal. So what’s really the deal?

    • iahphx,

      Hotels.com gift cards are simply a form of payment, and do not carry promotional restrictions. You can indeed use coupons, promotions and the like in conjunction with the use of your Hotels.com gift card.

      Todd
      Head of Gift Cards
      Hotels.com
      giftcards@hotels.com

      • Thank you. My recollection from a few months ago when I attempted to use a Hotels.com gift card was that I had to put the number into the Promo Code box — NOT in the payment box. If, indeed, you can enter both, these cards offer much more value, as they would operate as a true “gift card” — not as an alternative discount code.

        • I did just do a “test booking” which indicates that hotels.com DOES have both a promo box AND “gift cards” listed as a form of payment. So it seems like both with work — at least on some bookings. BTW, Todd, do you know if this is a recent change — because late last year I’m pretty certain I remember it didn’t work that way?

          The next question is whether gift cards work on ALL hotels.com bookings — including the ones that promo codes don’t work on. Like at chain hotels. If they do, it would seem like these gift card purchases would be quite valuable to most frequent travelers.

        • iahphx,

          There has not been any changes to the way Hotels.com gift cards are redeemed. Since inception they have been treated as a form of payment toward any hotel that allows for advance payment. Promo codes are not considered a form of payment, and appear on hotels eligible for promo code / coupon code bookings.

          Hotels.com gift cards are good on bookings at http://www.hotels.com/gc, or when you use the “Pay Now” option on eligible hotels. This includes over 150,000 places to stay worldwide, inclusive of the major hotel brands.

  8. Hi Greg,
    Talking about hotels, I wanted to ask if getting a Marriott credit card with 80,000 bonus miles would be worth it. I have found when I try to use points for rooms it takes so many that it is not worth it. What is your opinion and advice. Thank you and great work!

  9. I ordered some of these yesterday and had most of my orders canceled by Hotels.com. I called this morning and was told there is a 10 gift card limit for the American Express promotion. Didn’t see that in the terms and conditions?

    • Interesting. Is it 10 per person? So like if my wife has the offer, I should use a different email to order them?

      That said, I’m not sure yet how many of these I want. For me, the value will mostly be where I can’t use my points at chain hotels (either because there are no chain hotels at the destination, or the number of points needed is ridiculous). Right now, I’m planning a trip to France and am not finding many good options in smaller cities/towns on hotels.com. The best option seems to be airbnb; I bought lots of airbnb cards from amazon in December when they were “double discounted.”

      • 10 total, not per person. I tried to use my wife’s card and was denied. I had the agent check the order and she said it was “related” to my cancelations. Probably matching IP or billing addresses. I’ve never encountered Amex offers that were limited other than one per card.

  10. Hmm looks like there’s a certain cashback portal that doesn’t have the same restriction on purchases that use gift cards as payment, though…

  11. What kind of Mickey Mouse math is this? You don’t subtract coupons that you can’t stack from the actual savings. It’s 22% off, not 15%. Please stop and think about this for a minute.

    • Yes it is 22% off the gift card price, but I think it is important to compare to the price one would actually pay to see what the real savings are. I am making a big assumption here that shopping through a portal for 7% back is the “usual way” to book.

      Let’s say you want a $100 room. Normally you would book through a portal, get 7% back, and therefore pay a total of $93. With this promotion, you would pay $78. Your true savings, therefore = $93 – $78 = $15.

      You are right, though, that I shouldn’t have subtracted one percentage from another. In my comparison, the $93 amount should be the denominator. So, the savings as a percentage (compared to the “usual way” to book a room) is: $15 / $93 = 16%

  12. Ok I get it. However, I still think it’s a bit misleading, because your assumption is that, at the point in the future when you would use the gift cards to make a booking, the portal rebate will still exist and it will still be 7%. OTOH, the 22% savings of the GC are locked for good. Just my 2 cents.

    • There is no way to run a perfectly accurate analysis without knowing what future prices and portal rebates will be. One can only guesstimate based on what has occurred previously. In order to assume that 22% is locked in, you have to assume that hotels.com will continue to price competitively. What happens if they jack up prices, and you end up paying more using your gc’s on hotel.com than if you booked via another site? That could greatly reduce what you’re considering to be a locked in.

      • That is an inherent risk of ANY GC, you lock your currency to the GC exchange rate, for better or worse. But you will always save the extra 22% off future prices. The 7% savings via a portal is not guaranteed in the future.

  13. Anyone else having issues with 10+ orders or found a way to work around that? Parents are planning a trip to an expensive destination this summer so I’d like to help them soften the blow a little bit with hotel costs…

  14. Hi, has anyone else experienced Brinker (Maggianos) gift card fraud? I used the NewEgg offer and purchased gift cards to Maggianos (among others). When I went to redeeem tonight, it had been used, in michigan. The date of activation coincided with my purchase date. Maggianos honored it very reluctantly but I don’t live anywhere near Michigan and haven’t been there in 20 years.

  15. Can this discount somehow be used for a discount of 22% when buying large sums of cards? Say like $10k for group travel? Or is it just $10 off a $50 and limited to one per card?

    • It is a single $10 statement credit on $50 or more spent. If you have the offer on ten Amex cards, you could use it one time on each card to get a total of $100 back, plus the $10 in 2% cash back. You’d need 200 Amex cards with this offer if you wanted to buy $10k in Hotels.com gift cards at the full discount 🙂

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