Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
Scroll to top

Top

2 Comments

Orbitz Is Late to the Party with Weak Rewards Program

Orbitz Is Late to the Party with Weak Rewards Program

Does the world need another travel loyalty program?

Probably not. But if you’re a major online travel agency, like Orbitz, and other agencies like Expedia and Hotels.com have programs, you could not help but feel competitive pressure to counter their rewards schemes with one of your own.

So it was that Orbitz this week unveiled its loyalty program, Orbitz Rewards.

Earning, Redeeming, and Expiring

Orbitz Rewards members earn the following in so-called Orbucks:

  • Up to 5 percent on hotel bookings (base 3 percent plus an extra 2 percent for bookings made on Orbitz’s mobile app)
  • 1 percent on flights, up to a maximum of $50 annually, after spending $5,000
  • 1 percent on travel packages

On the redemption side, Orbucks can be spent on hotel bookings made through Orbitz, but not for airline flights.

Through November 22, the following sign-up bonuses are in effect:

  • 15 percent discount on hotel bookings
  • $25 Orbucks rebate to offset first bag fee (through November 30)
  • Double Orbucks on flights booked with the Orbitz app
  • An extra $10 in rewards on the next flight

The program has an elite component, with two tiers. After four nights, members receive access to priority customer service and extra benefits, which “may include upgrades, free WiFi, breakfast, etc.” And after 12 nights, members are granted access to a personal concierge.

Orbucks expire 12 months after they’re earned. They cannot be extended or reinstated.

How Rewarding Is Orbitz Rewards?

The program’s weaknesses far outnumber its strengths.

  • At best, the program promises a return-on-investment of 5 percent. Compare that to Hotels.com, where a free night after every 10 paid nights amounts to a 10 percent return.
  • Although Orbucks are awarded for flights, they may only be redeemed for hotel stays.
  • The elite program is weak.
  • Finally, and perhaps most damningly, the 12-month expiration policy on earnings means that the program will be entirely irrelevant to many travelers.

The last point bears reiterating. If don’t foresee booking at least 20 hotel nights in 12 months, this program has little to offer.

Reader Reality Check

Does Orbitz Rewards live up to its name?

Stay in Touch

For more news like this, sign up to receive our free weekly newsletter. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Related posts:

  • Dennis_Schaal

    I think one thing you are overlooking about the Orbitz program is that you can redeem the Orbucks right away. As primarily a leisure travel, the Hotels.com 10 nights barrier is to high: I will never be able to redeem anything. On the other hand, at least with Orbucks I will be able to redeem on my next booking, and earn Orbucks on it as well. I like the instant gratification aspect.

  • Will

    I think it is only fair to point out some glaring flaws in the author’s analysis of the new Orbitz Rewards program as compared to other programs and ask for an update that provides validating examples to the claims made.

    To the points made:

    “At best, the program promises a return-on-investment of 5 percent. Compare that to Hotels.com, where a free night after every 10 paid nights amounts to a 10 percent return.”
    -This is only true if you ignore a later point the author makes, where in addition to receiving up to 5% back on hotels, you will also receive an additional 1% back on flights and vacation packages that can be applied toward future hotel bookings.
    -Hotels.com Welcome Rewards will also not allow a night paid using a coupon or discount code to count toward your 10 nights (unlike Orbitz Rewards), effectively reducing the return below 10% for anyone who regularly books using codes.
    -Additionally, Hotels.com makes it clear that only 3 days after the 10th paid night stay is completed will you be eligible to redeem your free night, whereas Orbitz Rewards will let you apply earned bucks immediately.

    “Although Orbucks are awarded for flights, they may only be redeemed for hotel stays”
    -Again, this point is true, but it does not provide a point of comparison to claim that Orbitz’s program is weak. Hotels.com does not sell flights, but let’s look at Expedia which does and allows rewards to be used on flights. If we compare against Expedia’s Rewards program, it offers 2 points per $1 spent (1 point per $5 on flights). The first redemption level is 3,500 points gets you a $25 hotel coupon which equates to a 1.4% return, far lower than Orbitz on hotels. That return lowers to just 0.14% from flight bookings, again far below Orbitz. Yes, you cannot apply Orbucks to flights, but your rewards are going to add up MUCH faster than on Expedia. (note, Expedia uses a sliding-scale for points but since Orbucks can be redeems at any level, the lowest redemption level on Expedia provides the closest comparison)

    “The elite program is weak.”
    -How? In comparison, Hotels.com offers exclusive deals, priority phone service, hassle-free travel guarantee, and early access to special offers. Expedia goes a different route offering free room upgrades, flexible check in, and “other bonus perks”. Orbitz combines and expands on these, offering upgrades, free wi-fi, and breakfast at eligible hotels; priority phone service; personal & business concierge service; and an even bigger Orbucks reward payment as part of the Best Price Guarantee program.

    “Finally, and perhaps most damningly, the 12-month expiration policy on earnings means that the program will be entirely irrelevant to many travelers.”
    -Only for travelers who travel less than once per year, and again this is no different than current offerings from Hotels.com and Expedia (Expedia expands this to 18-months). But back to the claim this is “irrelevant to many travelers” – not really, as many “travelers” by their nature travel more than once a year. For the more casual traveler there is less incentive to join or accumulate rewards benefits in the first place. But, if you travel once a year or more, then in all of these programs your clock is reset with each booking, so your rewards will stick around.

    I’m not trying to claim Orbitz Rewards is the be and end all of great travel deals, but if we are going to call a program “weak” in comparison to other available programs then a fair comparison is warranted. If the author truly want to make this claim, he should do more research and provide explanations to validate his points. And additionally, expand on Orbitz’s unique offerings, like the fact that 1 Orbuck = $1, always. Programs based on points like Expedia’s allow the company to change the redemption levels at any time (albeit to the members’ outcry). A sound evaluation of the program would include such points as well.

    Would love to see a full, blown-out comparison on this site if the author has the availability to do so, that way us readers can make a more informed decision about our booking.

    Thanks.