Expedia Rewards’ Devaluation is Even Worse Than I Thought

Yesterday I went through the devaluations to Expedia Rewards points earning. I recited the history of the program, that this is the second set of major devaluations for a program that is only two and a half years old. And both times the changes were implemented with no notice whatsoever.

Programs that simply make your points worth less one day are not to be trusted. Programs that let you earn with a redemption goal in mind and then change the earning rules after you’ve invested time and money in their program are like Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football.. keeping the goal forever just out of reach.

I’ve now concluded that Expedia Rewards is a program that I believe is not to be trusted, and also is no longer worth bothering with, since the cuts to the value proposition are actually worse than I reported yesterday.

To re-cap, I explained that Expedia used to give you one point per dollar on airfare purchases. A year and a half ago they dropped that down to one per per two dollars. They also shifted the award chart at that time so lower point balances were worth less.

Now they will only give you one point per five dollars on airfare.

Supposedly they make up for that by doubling points earning on hotel stays. I don’t really use Expedia for hotels, but that just means the program is worse a lot less to me. But to members who use the program and site they way Expedia wants them to (hotels are much higher margin products for them), it seemed like it could even be a positive change.

I logged into my account and saw that my redemption rates hadn’t changed, so assumed incorrectly that the redemption portion of the program wasn’t changing — just the earning. That turned out to be mistaken.

It turns out that there’s a new award chart for hotels that’s “effective immediately” but aren’t they kind to offer a “grace period” through October 15th to allow redemptions at the older rate.

Currently, the following point values buy coupons as follows:

  • 7000 points -> $50
  • 13,000 points -> $100
  • 18,000 points -> $150
  • 20,000 points -> $200
  • 25,000 points -> $250
  • 29,000 points -> $300
  • 37,000 points -> $400
  • 44,000 points -> $500
  • 46,000 points -> $600
  • 47,000 points -> $700
  • 48,000 points -> $800
  • 49,000 points -> $900
  • 50,000 points -> $1000

That value of points goes up dramatically the more points you have. I only reproduce the hotel award chart here because hotel redemptions have been a much better value than airfare, because as noted hotels are a higher margin product for Expedia and it’s not nearly as costly to them to offer these credits.

They kept me on the treadmill and I have nearly 42,000 points (unfortunately nearly 2000 of them are “pending” as they can’t be spent until period of time after a trip has been completed).

And now my stash is about to get far less valuable, since I won’t be able to get up to the higher tiers nearly in time to take advantage of old rates.

Here’s the new chart:

  • 3500 points -> $25
  • 7000 points -> $50 (stays same)
  • 14,000 points -> $100 (increase of 1000 points)
  • 21,000 points -> $150 (increase of 3000 points)
  • 28,000 points -> $200 (increase of 8000 points)
  • 35,000 points -> $250 (increase of 10,000 points)
  • 42,000 points -> $300 (increase of 13,000 points)
  • 56,000 points -> $400 (increase of 19,000 points)
  • 70,000 points -> $500 (increase of 26,000 points)
  • 84,000 points -> $600 (increase of 28,000 points)
  • 98,000 points -> $700 (increase of 51,000 points)
  • 112,000 points -> $800 (increase of 64,000 points)
  • 126,000 points -> $900 (increase of 77,000 points)
  • 140,000 points -> $1000 (increase of 90,000 points)

Put a different way, the program started offering a $1000 hotel rebate for $50,000 in airfare spend. They changed to a $1000 hotel rebate for $100,000 in airfare spend. And now they’ll require $700,000 in airfare spend for a $1000 hotel rebate.

Specific “VIP access” hotels will require only half the points to redeem for, so ‘only’ $350,000 in airfare spend or $70,000 in hotel spend will yield that $1000 credit for one of those designated properties (of ~ 14000 worldwide).

Programs that devalue without notice are untrustworthy. Programs that devalue frequently are untrustworthy. Programs that offer such little value aren’t worth spending time on. For Expedia Rewards, it was a very fast crash and burn.

This strikes me as strange, because I’ve long wondered why the online booking sites don’t do a better job of recognizing and rewarding loyalty. I’ve been an “Expedia VIP” since that program was launched, and since it wasn’t a formal program long before that. The only real benefit I’ve ever received is priority customer service, which is to say I don’t get interminable hold times if I need to call. The points program was a plus, and considering the huge margins that the site has on many hotels it seems logical to rebate something to the consumer to attract business (since most consumers otherwise don’t distinguish the booking sites a great deal).

I still value online booking engines – for their ability to combine multiple airlines onto a single itinerary most of all, but for reasons I’ve explained several times in the past like the ability to select the country that my tickets are issued in (which can sometimes be a tool for better fares). And I like going through shopping portals to these sites for points-earning purposes. But the Expedia Rewards program is no longer one I plan to bother with.

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “Specific “VIP access” hotels will require only half the points to redeem for, so ‘only’ $350,000 in airfare spend or $70,000 in hotel spend will yield that $1000 credit for one of those designated properties (of ~ 14000 worldwide).”

    It’s actually worse as this is only a temporary offer that runs through December 31. It’s designed to make you think there’s still a decent redemption option. People won’t see the fine print that it expired and so reporting on the devaluation doesn’t come off as harsh.

  2. Trust me, it’s even worse than that. I’ll email you details. Expedia is totally beyond trust.

  3. Let’s recap.

    You bought all of your ticket from a merchant based on its awarding you credit for future redemption at a fixed, known rate, with a built-in incentive to accumulate them, which is what you did.

    Then before you could spend them, they more than halved the amount you’ll be getting.

    If you had known the true value of the credit you may, or may not, have given them your business.

    You got deceived, and Expedia screwed their competitors.

    Lawyer up!

  4. If that happened in Brazil, this company would be extremely f*cked up by our laws 🙂 So sad that US permits such kind of thing.

  5. They’ve never offered this system on Expedia UK, however instead they offer cashback via a number of sites (eg Quidco) – flights never really above 0.5% (same for most TAs), but often 6-12% on hotels. Do they offer anything similar in the US? Certainly for hotels it would mean a good amount back as cash. Obviously nowhere near as generous on flights, but just think about the massive earning rates you guys get on your credit cards compared to us 😛

  6. I dropped expedia for good back when they didn’t honor the Tokyo $2.54 Hilton offer after it was booked. This doesn’t surprise me at all.

  7. You have only scratched the surface. This is so bad, it is SWISS RGN ticket cancellation bad. And we all know how bad SWISS is and in what low regard they hold their customers.

    Stay clear of Expedia. Vote with your wallet

  8. For the record I successfully stayed on the Tokyo Hilton $3 (executive floor.. there was a $2 regular room) rate booked through Expedia in November 2005.

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