Shopping portals can be a great way to maximize your mileage, whether that happens in terms of actual airline miles or cash back. When it comes to hotel booking through shopping portals, one common question or area of confusion is this: Which rates qualify for cash back or rewards? Many people mistakenly believe that a booking must be prepaid to earn shopping portal rewards. That’s not correct: you do not need to book a prepaid rate to earn portal rewards (keep in mind that you will not earn the rewards until after you have completed the stay). That said, terms aren’t clear as to which rates are disqualified, so this post summarizes a few of my 2019 experiences booking Marriott hotels with a few discount rates that are commonly available to many readers. Note that in some cases, I booked and paid for rooms for other family members who qualified for the given rate. YMMV in terms of whether or not these will work with other chains / portals, but what works with one often works with many.
Shopping Portal Terms: Which rates qualify?
Portal terms can vary a bit, but most portals have language similar to this to indicate which rates qualify or do not qualify (the following terms come from the American Airlines AAdvantage Shopping portal):
Please note these terms & conditions: Rewards may take up to 90 days after check out to post to your account. Member Exclusive Offer bookings are not eligible. Rooms offered at specially negotiated rates, where the customer is required to be affiliated with or employed by a particular company or organization to receive the special rate (e.g., corporate rate, government rate or the Marriott employee rate) are not eligible. Rooms offered at specially negotiated rates for Marriott Bonvoy™ members (e.g. Marriott Bonvoy™ offer discount, Marriott Bonvoy™ offer package), with the exception of Marriott Bonvoy™ Member rates are not eligible. Rooms that are booked or upgraded and paid for using redeemed Marriott Bonvoy™ Points are not eligible. Rooms booked at the brands Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, Design Hotels, Bulgari, Atlantis, Autograph Collection, Bulgari Hotel, London, Joshua G.E. Medical Corp. Conference Center, Jesse Jones Rotary Conference Center, Marriott Ranch, Protea Hotel Amani Beach, Protea Hotel Mbweni Ruins, The Ritz-Carlton London, U.S. Postal Service Conference Center, Four Points by Sheraton Havana, The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, Autograph Collection are not eligible. Not eligible on purchases made with coupon or discount codes that are not found on this site. Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents. Purchases made with a gift card may be ineligible.
The terms above indicate a few things that are not always true (based on a combination of the results below and my own experiences). In addition to the rates below which would seem excluded based on a strict reading of the terms (but aren’t), I’d also note that I paid for some of these stays with gift cards and received rewards as expected.
It’s also worth noting that the way the terms list hotels and brands, you may think that Autograph Collection properties are excluded on the whole. Rather, I think the terms mean to say that specific properties (like: Atlantis of the Autograph Collection) are excluded. A couple of my results below were from Autograph Collection properties and I received rewards.
- American Airlines eShopping in January 2020: SUCCESS
- British Airways Avios eStore in December 2019 / January 2020: SUCCESS
- TopCashBack in February 2019: SUCCESS
- Rakuten February 2019: SUCCESS
Note that this is not the advance purchase AAA rate, but the normal flexible booking where you pay at the hotel when you stay and ordinarily have until a few days before check in to cancel without penalty
I booked the AAA rate many times last year. Note that you now need to enter your AAA number on the website during the booking process to book this rate (I don’t recall needing to do that early in 2019). As a result, we often weren’t asked to produce a physical card (though we did need to show it a few times in the first half of the year). In our case, the AAA membership is in my wife’s name and I am not listed on it. We’ve never had an issue showing her card at check-in even though the reservation is in my name. YMMV.
AAA Hot rate advance purchase
- United Mileage Plus Shopping in November 2019: SUCCESS
This is another separate AAA rate that is only available on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (and is of course not always available at all properties / dates). The regular AAA rate is supposed to be 10% off of normal rates. This AAA hot rate takes another 5% off of the AAA rate. While Marriott tells you that means it is 15% off, remember that percentages don’t quite work that way (the additional 5% comes off of the already-discounted AAA rate). That means it should really be about 14.5% off — which can obviously be good when available.
Marriott Senior Discount (must be 62 or older)
- Rakuten in February 2019: SUCCESS
Note that this is not an AARP discount (you can join AARP at any age) but rather a Senior discount that requires someone staying in the room to be age 62 or older.
- American Airlines eShopping in February 2019: SUCCESS
For those who qualify for these rates, they can be excellent and they are available via a drop-down menu from the home page (like AAA).
Marriott Elite Rate
- British Airways Avios eStore in December 2019: FAILURE
This is a rate I’ve only seen this one time. It was described like this:
Elite Exclusive Offer, 35 percent off Regular Rate
It was a flexible rate that could be canceled up to 3 days before arrival. I booked through the British Airways portal, which has similar terms to the American Airlines portal shown above.
Rewards will be given 90-120 days after you have checked out of the hotel (effectively completing your booking). If any changes are made to your booking (i.e. room upgrade or amending the date of the stay) it may cause the rewards to be invalid.
No rewards are given on rooms offered at special rates, where the customer is required to be affiliated with or employed by a particular company or organization to receive the special rate (e.g., corporate rate, government rate or the Marriott employee rate), rooms offered at specially negotiated rates for Marriott Bonvoy™ members (e.g. Marriott Bonvoy™ offer discount, Marriott Bonvoy™ offer package), with the exception of Marriott Bonvoy™ Member rates, rooms that are booked or upgraded and paid for using redeemed Marriott Bonvoy points, rooms booked with the following brands: Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, Design Hotels, Bulgari or rooms booked at the following propertise: Atlantis, Autograph Collection, Bulgari Hotel, London, Joshua G.E. Medical Corp. Conference Center, Jesse Jones Rotary Conference Center, Marriott Ranch, Protea Hotel Amani Beach, Protea Hotel Mbweni Ruins, The Ritz-Carlton London, U.S. Postal Service Conference Center, Four Points by Sheraton Havana, The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, Autograph Collection
It was questionable as to whether or not this would work since the terms state that no rewards are given on “specially negotiated rates for Marriott Bonvoy™ members”, but then it goes on to say “with the exception of Marriott Bonvoy™ Member rates”. What makes it a member rate versus a specially negotiated rate? I guess the “35% off” (which must be off of the rack rate or something — this rate was cheaper than other rates, but not that drastically).
At any rate (see what I did there?), I followed up with a missing Avios claim afterwards. They received my request on January 17th. They then followed up to tell me that they were still investigating it on January 20th and again on January 31st. Then, on February 12th, they told me it was denied. They did not specify why but rather just quoted the Marriott terms from the website.
I always click through a shopping portal when making a hotel booking, even when I don’t expect the booking to earn rewards. It is a bit of a gamble as to which rates qualify for rewards, so it’s always worth rolling the dice. I rarely ever book advance purchase rates because the flexibility of being able to cancel up to a few days in advance is usually worth more to me than the discount for pre-paying, but I love that I can still earn rewards even on these bookings paid at the hotel. I imagine that many corporate rates are likely not eligible for rewards, but it is worth clicking through a portal as you never know what may work.