Stacking for big discounts on unique hotel experiences

This morning, we published a quick deal alerting readers to the opportunity to get $10 off of a $50 Hotels.com gift card at Staples this week. While that amounts to a 20% discount on a $50 gift card, Hotels.com only allows one gift card to be entered as a method of payment. So then — can you really get 20% off of a hotel stay with this deal, or are you limited to a $10 discount?

Gift Card Balance Transfer

Fortunately for us, Hotels.com allows the combining of gift card balances right on their website. The process is simple and quick and done online. Simply go here and enter your information to combine balances:

Hotels.com combine gift card balance

Combine with promotions or Hotels.com loyalty

Update: As reader iahphx pointed out, coupons and Welcome Rewards are mutually exclusive.  You can have one or the other, but not both. I have updated this section accordingly.

Hotels.com frequently runs coupons and promotions. For example, right now, they are offering a rebate of up to $100 and there are frequently dollar-off and percent-off coupons. One of these promotions would stack easily with the gift cards you have already purchased at 20% off. If you additionally used a card which earns a category bonus at office supply stores, your net discount on the gift cards alone may be greater than 20%.

Alternatively, Hotels.com offers a loyalty program called Welcome Rewards whereby you earn a free night after ten paid nights at eligible hotels. The value of your free night is equal to the average cost of your ten paid nights. This effectively amounts to a 10% rebate in the form of Hotels.com credit towards a future stay (though you need to accumulate ten paid nights to unlock that rebate). If you use a coupon code, you will not receive Welcome Rewards credit:

hotels.com coupon no nights

Essentially, you get your 10% off now or later.  However, as reader iahphx points out, email subscribers often receive better coupons. Hotels eligible for Welcome Rewards have a purple icon next to the hotel image that says “Collect Nights” as shown in the picture below:

Yunoshimakan

This traditional Japanese Ryokan and Onsen is fairly expensive without stacking discounts.

room

Best uses of discounted Hotels.com gift cards

Everyone has his or her own travel pattern and perspective, but I think one great use of these discounted gift cards can be for booking smaller hotels and B&B’s as well as unique lodging experiences, like the traditional Japanese inn and hot spring pictured above. I stayed at Yunoshimakan in late 2015 and it was a memorable experience. You can book a room with a private hot spring bath ensuite. Additionally, there are family and communal hot springs scattered around the property, which enjoys a secluded mountainside location in a gorgeous part of Japan.

outside

Part of the reason that Yunoshimakan is so expensive is that dinner and breakfast are included in the room rate. Japan can be an expensive country to visit. Rooms and meals don’t always come cheap, so getting a discount on not just my room, but also on dinner sounds great. More on dinner in a minute.

Yunoshimakan rates

Search for discounts

Right now, all of the cash back portals seem to have unique 10% off discount codes. Note that according to the terms on most portals, you will not receive cash back on the portion of your stay paid for with gift cards. It never hurts to try clicking through a portal, but it is unlikely that your purchase will track if you’re paying entirely with gift cards. Still, that won’t stop us from using a portal discount code.

BeFrugal Hotels.com Coupon COdes

When clicking through one of the coupon links on BeFrugal.com, you are taken to a page listing a number of coupon codes as well as instructions for how to use them.

Sometimes, discounts are better that those pictured above. Subscribe to get instant post email alerts from Frequent Miler and keep your eye on our Quick Deals for the latest.

Stack for savings

Using the example hotel above, we can expect these savings:

$326.32 – original cash price
-$32.63 – 10% portal coupon
$293.69 = cash cost (plus tax)

Assuming we buy $300 in gift cards, we would pay $240 at Staples this week. Let’s assume we paid with a Chase Ink Plus for 5x. In the end, this is what it would look like:

$240 cash spent = Room, dinner, and breakfast + 1,200 Ultimate Rewards points + $6.31 left on gift card

Of course, that’s a little misleading — there would be additional taxes on the room. You wouldn’t really end up with $6.31 left once you’ve paid the taxes. But taxes vary, so let’s figure savings on the room rate alone. Valuing the 1,200 Ultimate Rewards at just 1.5 cents each (I typically value them higher) and the Hotels.com remaining balance at face value, let’s look at how we did:

$240 cash spent
-$18 (Ultimate Rewards at 1.5 cents each)
-$6.31 (Remaining on gift card)
$215.69 net room rate (before tax)

That’s $110.67 off of the original room rate, a savings of 33.9%. Again, this does not take into account taxes and fees, which are assessed on the $293.69 after-coupon price.

This room still isn’t cheap, but considering the cost of lodging in Japan and the cost of a nice meal, not unreasonable either. Speaking of that meal, dinner was pretty elaborate…there were many more courses than pictured:

Nico Ryokan

Ryokan Dinner 1 Ryokan Dinner 2 Ryokan DInner 3 Ryokan Dinner 4

After a meal like that, I was thrilled when they finally rolled out our Tatami mat beds so I could roll over into a food coma.

Ryokan Tatami Mats

Unfortunately, that didn’t work out as well for me as I’d hoped. If you read my week in review around the web last night, you would know that one of my favorite parts of vacation is having a luxuriously comfortable hotel bed in which to indulge my ever-present but rarely-gratified desire for a good night’s rest. Let’s just say that the tatami mat wasn’t really my thing………and the floor wasn’t much better. But hey, I was paying for the experience, right?

Ryokan No Sleep

Still, you couldn’t beat the view. We sprung for a room with a private geothermal bath, and it was an experience we haven’t had elsewhere:

onsen view

Final Word

Remember, when booking through a 3rd-party website like Hotels.com, you will likely forgo any status benefits or elite earnings. For this reason, I generally prefer to use Hotels.com for more unique experiences like this or small inns/B&Bs that can have a bit more of a local flair. As much as I love using miles and points, there are times when it makes sense to book differently. This week’s $10 off of $50 discount on Hotels.com gift cards at Staples makes it a bit more affordable when that is the case. One final note — it seems that not all Staples locations carry Hotels.com gift cards. While I see it in my local flyer, you may want to check your weekly ad on Staples.com to see if it is advertised locally before making the trek out to your store.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

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iahphx
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iahphx

A good summary of the interesting hotels.com opportunity. Hotels.com has had several offers in the past few months to sell their gift cards at 20% or more off (including this week’s Staples deal), and once you get that discount, the program gets interesting.

A few clarifications, though. First, if you use gift cards, it does not appear that you are eligible to use the cashback sites. They generally all have disqualifying language. I have noticed that upromise doesn’t have that language, but I think the odds that you’ll get cashback from them are pretty low. Hotels.com seems to police this pretty well.

Second, their Welcome Rewards program is generally useless. That’s because hotels.com publishes their own discount codes (email subscribers can currently use EML12 for 12% off, non-subscribers should be able to find 10% off codes). If you use a discount code, you’re disqualified for Welcome Rewards. Basically, they’re paying you that 10%ish discount up-front instead of making you wait for 10 stays, and that’s obviously fine. Note: if you book at a chain hotel, you can’t use hotels.com’s discount codes, but those nights might qualify for eligible nights toward the Welcome Rewards bonus. I generally never book chain hotels at hotels.com. though, because the discount codes don’t work.

Also be aware that a fair number of independent hotels listed on hotels.com don’t qualify for the codes OR gift card usage, so don’t get your hopes up until you actually try to make payment. It’s generally trial or error to find this out.

For travelers who like to get out of the big cities and away from the major chains, hotels.com gift cards are definitely a good investment when you can get them at a 20% or better discount. Similarly, I like to buy airbnb gift cards when they’re discounted at least 20%. Both are useful tools to get lodging for less, and combine well with participating in the loyalty programs of the major chains.

Aleks
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Aleks

How many gift cards you can actually use for 1 reservation? Only single GC or multiple?

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topbest101
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How can you get Hotels.com gift cards?