There are plenty of online booking sites for hotel rooms. So how do you launch a new one and expect to attract customers? For upstart PointsHound the answer is one which speaks to my soul: POINTS!
The company aims to reward their customers by providing airline points in return for booking through the site. And, depending on just how often you use the site to book your awards, the amount you earn can be pretty nice.
Here’s how the company describes their approach:
You might be thinking, "this sounds too good to be true, how are you able to do it?" It’s pretty simple. Just like a other online travel agencies, we get a commission from hotels when you make a purchase. Instead of keeping that money – like almost all other sites do – we bonus it back to our members in the form of miles and points. The more your purchase on your site, the higher your earn rate becomes.
So, as long as 100,000 of the world’s top hotels are happy to pay commission to attract new customers to send their way, Pointshound will continue forging relationships with leading loyalty reward programs so we can fund mileage bonuses back to our members.
The company currently has arrangements with United Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Delta and AeroMexico; they have indicated that other programs are coming soon.
Run a search on the PointsHound site and, in addition to the room rate, hotel name and other usual details you’ll also see the number of points you will earn in your preferred program as part of the search interface:
Switch programs and the earning rate might change, too:
If you’re completely points obsessed this is a pretty interesting approach and it opens up many hotel properties which are not part of the major chains to customers looking to collect airline points. Keep in mind that, as an OTA, booking through PointsHound will, in most cases, preclude earning in your normal loyalty program.
But is it a good value?
My go-to program for most hotel stays these days is the Hotels.com Welcome Rewards program. Rather than points you get a 10% credit after 10 stays. Plus you can earn an additional 5-5.5% back through an online booking portal. That’s a 15% return. Hotels.com has similar inventory to PointsHound and similar prices:
For a night at the Aston Waikiki Circle Hotel this coming Saturday I can earn 1,010 Hawaiian points, 960 United points or $27 in a mix of cash rebate and Welcome Rewards credit. That puts the per point value around 3 cents each, and that’s based on my "Level 2" earning rate. The rates get better the more you stay but they start off lower. In the end, the value proposition is just OK. It definitely could be worse, to be sure, but it isn’t completely horrible.
I also have a couple minor complaints about the UI but nothing which makes it an unusable site the way I hate RoomKey.
PointsHound is definitely an interesting play in the market. They’ve got a lot going for them and a focus on a market segments which is, to be certain, highly motivated and loyal. It just remains to be seen if that loyalty can be focused at PointsHound.
n.b.– The links above to PointsHound are referral links for me. You earn 100 points for signing up and I get 500 if you actually complete a booking.
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But if you use this OTA, do you get stay and points credit from the hotel (Marriott, Hilton, etc.)?
Generally you will not get points or stay credit from the big chains for OTA bookings. PointsHound would be in that same genre so don’t expect them. It is a decent opportunity if you avoid the big chain properties anyways (I often do) or if you only have a stay or two at them every now and then, negating the value of the points they offer.
Let’s start a conga!
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