Question: What’s The Best Way To Earn Points On An Extended Stay?
Our question of the week looks at how to earn points for extended stay bookings. Not just that, but we also want to stack any deals available and maximizing points earning. Extended stays can be good when you’re moving to a new place temporarily, on a long work trip, or even visiting someone in the hospital out of town. For one reason or another, if you wind up planning an extended stay, here’s a look at the best way to earn points.
Our question comes from Steve in our Facebook group:
My family will be in an extended stay hotel (due to price, amenities, & potential duration of stay). What is our best option for earning miles/points? We are considering using hotels.com to get the free night for every 10 as we could be there up to 30 days or even more. Is this our best strategy? What rewards card would be best used when booking through hotels.com?
Steve wants to earn as many points as possible and also stack deals to reduce his costs.
Understanding Hotels.com Free Nights
I’ve discussed the under-the-radar hotels.com rewards program previously. You can read more about it here. Their key perks are as follows:
- Earn a free night after every 10 paid nights
- Can buy discounted gift cards from several places
- Combine the gift cards to make 1 easy payment
- Codes as “travel” so you can pay with cards that earn bonus points in this category
- Online payments can earn cash back or bonus rewards from online portals
Most relevant to our discussion…
The most relevant perk to Steve’s question is the free night earned after every 10 paid nights. If Steve stays for 30 nights, he should get 3 free nights, right? Right!
And now he only pays for 27 nights, right? Nope!
The free nights are earned after your paid stay. Thus, Steve would get 3 free nights added to his hotels.com loyalty account after the stay is finished/after he checks out. Thus, he couldn’t apply them to a stay of 30 days or more.
In order to take advantage of these free nights, Steve would need to make several bookings. Pay for 10 nights, earn a free night (these tend to post within 48 hours after check out, in my experience). This wouldn’t really help you on booking #2 for nights 11-20, but it would be available for booking 3, covering nights 21-30.
Something like this could allow you to stack the nights:
- Booking A – nights 1-10
- Free night available on night 12
- Booking B – nights 11-20
- Free night available on night 22
- Booking C – nights 21-30
- Free night available on night 32
Depending on how long Steve is staying, he could apply his free night from booking A onto booking C (the night from booking B won’t be available in time) and do a couple of things with the free nights for bookings B and C.
- If staying longer than 30 days, make a short booking of 2-3 nights after booking C
- This gives enough time for the free night from booking C to post
- Then make a new booking using the free nights from booking B and booking B after night 33
- If staying exactly 30 days, make a short booking between B and C, so you have bookings for 1-10 / 11-20 / 21-25 / 26-30
- When you go to make the booking for nights 26-30, your free nights from the first 20 nights are both available.
- You only have 28 paid nights, so you won’t earn a 3rd free night
Comparing Costs For Other Options
However, booking with hotels.com isn’t the only option. Compare all factors when comparing costs:
- Discounted gift cards
- Free nights applied to the booking
- Value of points earned (especially if buying at 5x earning rate) from payment for gift cards
The compare this to booking directly with an extended stay property:
- Value of points earned
- Total out-of-pocket amount spent
Obviously, earning free nights with hotels.com sounds lucrative, but do the math to make sure you aren’t actually paying more in the end. Compare that to booking directly with the extended-stay properties owned by Marriott and Hilton or places like Extended Stay America.
On the surface, deals can look simple, but everyone’s situation is different. The location of the extended-stay property, time of year, and other factors can sway the costs involved. How you pay (thus, the points earned) affects the return you’ll earn on your spending. Whether you’re paying directly at the property or buying gift cards from another location, make sure to use the best card to earn the most points. And check how that location codes on your credit card to verify the category (thus which card you should use).
Last thing to remember: the value of hotels.com free nights are based on your average spend during the 10 nights you paid for. They aren’t unlimited, so if your average spend in that period is $80/night, you get a voucher for a free night of $80 or less.
Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.