Why did Delta bail on the big hotel bonus booking engines?


Want to earn lots of airline points booking a hotel room? Both Pointshound and RocketMiles offer up options which can net you a ton of points in a variety of airline programs. But, interestingly, both appear to have dropped Delta SkyMiles as an earning option in recent months. Both booking sites are in to double digits of earning partners now (RocketMiles has 11 and Pointshound has 16) but both have lost Delta as a partner. If we take the reasonable assumption that both companies were willing to pay Delta’s asking price to buy the miles being issued then there must be something else at play. What??

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Both sites had SkyMiles in the initial set of programs they launched with. And Pointshound also had United, though they don’t any more. That changed last July when United and Pointshound split up, reportedly because United invested in RocketMiles and didn’t want to work with their competitor. Could it be that Delta is looking to make a move in this space as well so they’re cutting ties with the future competition?

Or is Delta just cutting back in general on which travel partners they’re willing to work with? They’ve cut their participation in a small rewards program offered by Binghamton, New York’s airport. And, according to a note received by a member there, “Delta’s involvement in many like programs are being discontinued in similar fashion.”

This is only surprising to me in that Delta gets paid when these partners distribute the miles. And selling miles to 3rd parties is typically very good money for the programs. Maybe Delta wants to charge more than the 2.2 cents/mile that the SkyIncentives program currently sells at. Or they’ve changed some other marketing agreement which has an exclusive partner in it.

Whatever the cause, it generally means fewer options for earning SkyMiles. I’m rarely a fan when programs change in that direction.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

7 Comments

  1. Hmm…those look like undisclosed referral links. No problem personally with that, but you spend a lot of time pointing out incentives elsewhere.

    What bugs me about those sites is that they are not crystal clear that you may not earn points in your native hotel program for booking with them. It’s buried at the very bottom of the FAQ.

    Yes, you earn more air miles in total value than you typically would in hotel points. But for SPG for example when you factor promos and elite benefits, 900 base SPG points on a $300 stay is not that far off from 3,000 United miles for many.

    And will bet customers come away surprised after that first booking that no hotel points posted.

    1. Depends on the booking, Greg. Pointshound in particular draws a lot of attention to their “Double Up” booking options which do earn in the native programs.

      Beyond that, however, I’d say that the disclosures these two provide are better than the average OTA in that they address it at all. Most other OTAs don’t even bother.

      And I will have to disagree with your math that SPG points are worth 2-3x UA points (900 SPG ~= 3000 UA). That doesn’t work for me at all.

  2. For what it’s worth, and while there does seem to be a relationship there between Rocketmiles and United, Rocketmiles actually denies having received an investment from United (says the Skift piece that reported this was erroneous).

    1. I dunno, Gary. I’ve had some interesting conversations with folks who are pretty certain something more significant happened between UA and Rocketmiles.

  3. Maybe its because next year you will would earn more “miles” (points) spending money on a hotel than on an actual Delta flight and this stark comparison would get the masses thinking, why the sodding airline they are actually spending money to fly on rewards them less than a 3rd party! Shh the proles might clue on to it

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