In 2018, Bonwi reached several significant growth milestones, including surpassing 5,000 members. Bonwi also announced an exclusive travel deals partnership with aspirational travel media site Wonderlust Travel. Bonwi was named the #1 Hotel Booking Site 2018 by UponArriving.com and shortlisted as the Best Travel Deals Publisher 2018 by the Travolution Awards.
“Our team has succeeded in constructing Bonwi with low operating costs and robust margins, enabling the company to offer a powerful reward incentive that attracts and retains customers. At the same time, we offer some of the lowest rates in the industry backed by a 110% guarantee, and reward travelers with up to 40% back in rewards on their bookings.” – Mike Wargo, Co-founder / CEO
More than 3,800 nominations from organizations of all sizes and in every industry were submitted for consideration. Congratulations to all the winners.
How many points will you rack up if you always stay with Hyatt and are loyal to that brand, as opposed to staying wherever you want and earning Bonwi points?
Let’s take a look at points earnings and payoffs with the two programs: World of Hyatt and Bonwi Rewards.
How World of Hyatt Works
Like most major brand hotel programs, the World of Hyatt one is purposely complicated. It’s not as bad as some on the earnings side since it’s dollar-based with few exceptions, but that amount varies depending on your elite status (or lack of). Then how many points you have to spend to get a free night also depends on the class of hotel, the city it’s in, and whether it’s busy that week.
On the earnings side, as a regular member you receive 5 points per dollar spent on your room and regular services in the hotel, such as dining or drinking. This also applies to partner hotels from Small Luxury Hotels of the World when you want something with more character. If you stay enough to move up the elite tiers, you earn more points per dollar. But as a regular member, $300 spent on your tab at checkout gets you 1,500 points. See the details here.
So if we pull up hotels in New York City, we find that you could earn points from Grand Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Centric, The Beekman, and more. With rates on our random dates ranging from $231 to $895, you could earn between 1,155 to 4,160 points per night on the room charge.
Now let’s say you’ve racked up 50,000 points over many, many stays and want to spend them. What will that get you?
If we pull up a warm-weather vacation destination like Cancun, you can get… not much. It’s 25,000 per night to stay at either Andaz Mayakoba or Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen. If you head to Miami instead, it’s a little better: from 12,000 to 20,000 per night depending on the property level. So you could manage two or three nights there with your points.
How Bonwi Rewards Works
With Bonwi.com, there’s no set formula by brand on the earnings side and the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 5 points per dollar. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights. See how it works here.
If we pull up New York City again for the same dates, you’ll see that you’d receive 6,231 per night for booking Hyatt’s Andaz Wall Street. So the same stay that would get you 311 X 5 from Hyatt’s program—1,555—gets you more than four times as many points from Bonwi.
This isn’t always the case. The super-expensive Park Hyatt New York is an exception because it would earn you 5 points for every dollar. But as we’ve shown with Marriott Bonvoy and IHG Rewards in the past, you usually have the opportunity to earn more points by picking the hotel of your choice than by being loyal to a certain brand. If you stayed at The Plaza in New York instead of the Park Hyatt, you’d pay about $100 less per night and would earn a whopping 13,673 points per night you could apply to any hotel stay or airline flight.
There’s also upside on the redemption part since you will often find redemption levels that are far more generous than with traditional branded loyalty programs. So it takes fewer stays to earn points, then fewer points for a free night.
If we pull up Cancun, for instance, where your only Hyatt choices were the two at 25,000 points per night before meals and drinks, here’s a taste of what you could get, it’s a different story for those same 50,000 points at Bonwi Rewards. You could choose from:
9 all-inclusive resorts for 22,500 points or less
6 beachfront all-inclusive hotels for 18,000 points or less
14 Playa del Carmen boutique hotels for 9,000 points or less
In Miami, it’s even better. For the same 12,000 to 20,000 points per night, you would have hundreds of hotels to choose from.
Other Redemption Options for World of Hyatt
What if you don’t need free hotel nights from Hyatt or they just plain don’t have any properties in your chosen vacation spot? Well you could exchange them for airline points, but at a huge loss. Here’s the best-case scenario from the World of Hyatt website:
Planning your next trip? You can turn your points into airline miles. Transfer as few as 5,000 points for 2,000 miles
“As few as?” Ouch. That’s quite a haircut.
You can also exchange them for dining or spa credit, but again at a terrible redemption rate. If you exchange 10,000 points you only get $50, which means Hyatt points are only worth half a cent each. It gets better with huge transfers, but still never gets up to a penny per point.
You cannot exchange them for gift cards, even at a bad rate. That option is not available.
Other Redemption Options for Bonwi Rewards
At Bonwi, your points are yours to do what you want with and if you don’t want to use them for a hotel stay, you have lots of other options, all at a level of a penny per point.
So if you have 10,000 points, that’s worth a $500 flight. No blackout dates, no specific airlines you have to use, no transfer formulas.
If you want to get a gift card instead for Best Buy or a restaurant chain, 10,000 points gets you $100. Simple and valuable.
If you were part of the Marriott Hotels loyalty program or the Starwood Preferred Guest points program, you’re now a part of “Bonvoy.” After a merger between Starwood and Marriott, this behemoth of a company now has either 29 or 30 different brands (apparently even they can’t keep track of these different hotel names). You can now earn points at a staggering 6,800 hotels in 127 countries as a Bonvoy Rewards member.
The first three letters are the same as “Bonwi,” but with Bonwi Rewards you can earn points at any hotel brand and redeem them for any hotel. But where can you get to a free night faster? Let’s take a look at which rewards program will reward you more quickly.
How the Marriott/Starwood Bonvoy Program Works
As with most of these big brand programs, the earning part of the equation in is relatively straightforward. You’ll earn 10 points per US$1 spent on the hotel charge itself at most properties (minus taxes), plus the same for eligible hotel charges like your bar tabs or restaurant bills. You earn 5 points per dollar at lower-priced brands Element, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites hotels.
With this system, if you pay $250 per night for your JW Marriott hotel for two nights and charge $200 of other services, you would earn 7,000 points total for that two-night stay. Or 3,500 points at what they consider a lesser brand in the portfolio. That’s rather underwhelming, probably on purpose: they want you to stay at least 10 nights to get the bottom elite status, where you earn an extra 10%. If you stay 25 nights in a year you bump up to 2.5 extra points per dollar spent as a Gold member. The sales reps on the road who never see their family are the main targets of this program: to get to the highest “Ambassador Elite” level, you need to spend nearly 1/3 of your year in a Marriott property and spend at least $20,000. Do that and you get a 75% points bonus and some extra perks, like room upgrades, breakfast, and late checkout.
Earning Free Nights With Bonvoy Rewards
Where it gets tricky is on the redemption side. There are now 8 tiers of redemption at Marriott/Starwood’s new Bonvoy Rewards. In theory these start at 7,500 (or occasionally less during an off-season promotion for an empty hotel), though in my experience, spotting a hotel available at that level is like spotting a rare species of bird in the wild. Plus it will be the bottom of their barrel, usually their version of a roadside motel. The rest range from 12,500 to 100,000 per night, roughly based on brand and price. So at the bottom level you’ll probably get a Residence Inn, at the top level you have a shot at a Luxury Collection or Ritz Carlton property.
In that two-night JW Marriott Cusco example before, the 7,500 points you earned won’t get you very far. You probably need about 5 stays like that to get a free night at this JW Marriott or an equivalently priced ($237) property.
The combined Marriott and Starwood Bonvoy Rewards program is mostly an improvement, especially considering the wider breadth of properties available now, but how does being loyal there stack up to no loyalty at Bonwi? It might if you sign up for one of their premium credit cards, spend $5,000 within three months, and also pay an annual fee of $100+. But otherwise…
How the Bonwi Program Works
With Bonwi.com, it’s less straightforward on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 10 points per dollar. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights. See how it works here.
There’s also upside on the redemption part since you will often find redemption levels that are far more generous than with traditional branded loyalty programs. So it takes fewer stays to earn points, then fewer points for a free night. Let’s say you regularly have to go to Houston on business, but you’re thinking about going to Peru on vacation. How would that play out with Bonwi?
Earning Bonwi Reward Points for Your City Hotel Stays
Pulling up a random week in Houston, Texas, we find that some of the highest-earning hotels are actually Marriott ones, so we can do an apples to apples comparison. In the screenshot example below, a two-night stay would earn you from 16,171 to 20,311 points.
Based on the price of those stays, if you booked them direct with Marriott, you would only earn 4,820 to 7,840 points in their rewards program (not counting food and drink charges that could bump it up).
What if our budget is lower? Other options are the Houston Marriott North, earning 8,371 points for a mere $135 rate (that would get you 2,700 points with Marriott) or a SpringHill Suites by Marriott at the airport. That would earn you 7,789 Bonwi points for a $131 rate (that would get you 2,620 at Marriott). Check your own business travel city here.
Redeeming Points With Bonwi
On the redemption side, you’re also far better off with the non-loyalty Bonwi Rewards points. When we head down to Cusco for our Peru vacation, here’s a sampling of what’s available to us.:
JW Marriott El Convento – 24,200 per night
Sonesta Hotel Cusco – 10,430 per night
Casa Andina San Blas – 7,875 per night
WakaPunku Boutique Hotel – 6,184 per night
So first of all, you need 11,000 fewer points to book that JW Marriott than you would with Marriott, even though we earned far more by booking our Marriott property through Bonwi in Houston. Next, with Marriott you only have two choices in Cusco, whereas with Bonwi you have more than 100 choices. Some of the smaller B&B type places go for 5,000 points or less. So if you had the kind of points Marriot requires of you just to get a one-night stay, you could get a whole week’s vacation in Cusco and the Sacred Valley via Bonwi.
In this example, just one two-night business trip to Houston would earn you enough points for a two-night stay at many hotels in Cusco. Earn from a few other business trips and you could upgrade to that JW Marriott easily. In this example, six domestic business travel trips in the USA could probably pay for six nights in Peru between Lima, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley. Do this a few more times or stay more than two nights on your biz trips and you’ve got enough points to pay for airline tickets too—at the simple redemption level of one point = US 1 cent.
Airline Transfer Options Bonvoy vs. Bonwi
You can transfer your Marriott Bonvoy points to airlines, which does make them more valuable than your typical hotel loyalty program points. That doesn’t mean it’s a great deal, however. I’ll leave the math to this post on the Boarding Area because, as with most things in the Bonvoy program, it’s kind of complicated.
Marriott Bonvoy points are transferable to a huge selection of airline partners. In most cases the transfer ratio is 3 Marriott points to 1 airline mile. However, if you transfer 60,000 points, you’ll get 25,000 miles instead of 20,000. That makes the transfer ratio 3 to 1.25. Additionally, when you transfer to United Airlines miles, you get a 10% bonus. 60,000 rewards points converts into 27,500 United miles (a 3 to 1.375 transfer ratio).
What’s the ratio for Bonwi points? The math is much simpler. If you have 60,000 Bonwi points, that will get you a $600 flight. Any airline, any time, no transfers necessary. No downgrades, no blackout dates, no time on the phone with the oh-so-helpful reps at United.
Oh, and those 60,000 points will also get you a $600 gift certificate to a retailer if you prefer. Again, no complicated formulas. Just move the decimal.
Once again, it’s no contest. Bonwi Rewards is going to earn you freebies far faster than Marriott Rewards.
What is your loyalty to a specific company or brand worth? Are you getting enough benefits from a traditional hotel loyalty program to make it worth them having deep insight into your habits and your travels? Does less privacy equate to better service?
It’s looking like many consumers are saying no. They’re joining brand loyalty programs when they’re forced to, like when a big hotel conglomerate won’t give them WiFi access otherwise, but increasingly they’re leaving it at that and not really participating.
That’s the conclusion of a study mentioned in an article in Skift on “brand loyalty in the era of the empowered traveler.” More people than ever are signing up for branded loyalty programs, but fewer are actually loyal in any real sense of the word.
According to loyalty insights firm Colloquy, the number of memberships in travel and hospitality loyalty programs grew by 20 percent between 2014 and 2016, surpassing more than a billion members. Yet during this same period, more than half (54 percent) of these travel loyalty memberships were inactive, and more than one quarter (28 percent) were abandoned without ever being used.
1) It takes too long to earn any rewards.
We sign up for a traditional hotel loyalty program through Hyatt, IHG, or Marriott because we can’t get free internet access otherwise (except at their lower-priced brands, ironically), or we may even pay more money when booking direct without a membership number. So we grudgingly give our details, but then that’s often the end of it. It takes another year or two before we spend a night with that brand again and the earnings are never enough to get a free stay. The account is inactive and eventually the points expire. It was all an empty exercise. This is especially frustrating to younger travelers who want quicker rewards.
2) We can’t tell the difference between the hotel brands.
It has become impossible to keep up with all the hotel brands out there. After Marriott and Starwood merged, that sprawling beast has 30+ brands. Wyndham has 18. And most of these conglomerates are planning new brands! Do you really know which company oversees Candlewood Suites, Staybridge Suites, or Cambria Suites? Do you like any one of them enough to always stay with them instead of the competition, just to earn a couple thousand points?
3) We are getting tired of giving up so much privacy.
The Skift article linked above seems to think the solution is spying on us more in order “to serve us better.” If only they could dig up more info on our personal preferences, that would make us more loyal.
This is a seriously flawed premise. Just because someone answers in the affirmative that they like booking preferences saved in an app doesn’t mean they want everything they do in a hotel room to reside in a big data database.
Again, ask anyone who is not in a hotel every week if they want lodging corporations to know more about them and you’ll usually get a flat, “No way!” It’s one thing for a hotel chain to acknowledge our elite status and address us by our name. It’s quite another to know what we drank at the bar our last three stays and try to use that to predict what kind of services we require. It doesn’t take long for “personalized service” to cross over to, “You are seriously creeping me out here guys.”
4) We’re worried about our data being stolen.
The more data we give these sprawling corporations, the more of our information is subject to hacking. Marriott just learned that the hard way when hackers stole the information for 500 million Starwood guests. How do you feel knowing all that data they gathered on you may be in the hands of the Chinese government now? Or for sale to the highest bidder on the dark web?
This was not an isolated incident either—it was just the largest. Smaller breaches have hit Hyatt, IHG, Kimpton, Trump Hotels, Radisson, and others.
A Low-key Loyalty Program With the Fastest Payback
There’s a way to get something out of every booking, no matter which brand you stay with, and earn free rewards faster. You won’t have a company spying on all your personal habits either. Just sign up with Bonwi and book your hotel stays through them.
You’ll see up front how many points you are earning for your stay:
Just try getting a payoff that big from any traditional hotel loyalty program. Then it’s easy to figure out what you can get for your points when you cash in:
If you want, you can even book a flight with your points on a simple 1-cent per mile redemption formula. Or you can book a rental car with those points. The system is transparent, simple to figure out, and doesn’t come with short expiration windows.
With Bonwi you only have to be loyal to yourself. You don’t have to stay with the same brand and you don’t have to give up a mountain of personal data. You just earn, cash in, and enjoy your travels.
When you picture a business traveler racking up loyalty points from airlines and hotels, you probably think of the two main characters in the movie Up in the Air. They’re middle-aged, seldom at home, working most of the time they’re awake.
Today’s millennial business travelers don’t look much like that. When they’re getting something back from their travels, they’re not hoarding points for a grand trip “someday.” They want to use those points as soon as possible for something fun: a weekend getaway, a night out with friends, or a free hotel stay to extend their business trip and go to a concert.
That’s one of the conclusions of a Travel Weekly article on the new state of loyalty programs. According to a J.D. Power and Associates study, “32% of millennials prefer to redeem their points for a quick reward instead of saving up for a bigger reward, versus 17% of other age groups.” They’re also not very loyal in the real sense of the word. They’re more than twice as likely two switch loyalty programs within a year than other age groups. They typically choose the programs with the quickest payoff.
Jennifer Corwin, associate practice lead for travel and hospitality at J.D. Power, said, “Millennials definitely redeem rewards more quickly. There’s a sense of having something top of mind when you get something recently, and it allows you to also have higher satisfaction.”
Many traditional programs are losing these younger frequent travelers because their retail and event payouts are typically valued far below the travel benefits on a redemption basis. You frequently get half the value or less with your points with a product purchase as you would redeeming them for Marriott stays (with Marriott points) or a United flight (with United points). This stands in stark contrast to what younger travelers really want from their points. “Among the most appealing rewards for millennials, the study found, were access to special events, dining and retail purchases.”
While traditional programs are scrambling to offer more of the first option, for the other two, millennial business travelers are probably better off booking with Bonwi. This booking service doesn’t require real loyalty since you can often parley one stay of a few nights into something worthwhile to redeem points for.
Just 10,000 points is enough for another hotel night, a one-way cheap flight, or a retail gift card for $100. With a simple penny-per-point redemption scheme that doesn’t require complicated charts, you always know what your points are worth.
Unlike with traditional airline programs, there are no blackout dates on flights and you don’t have to hit a certain point level to redeem. You just need 30,000 points for a $300 flight. For a hotel, you pull up the city and dates and see what you can afford—and for that amount of points you can afford a hotel night anywhere. Just try pulling that off with Hyatt or Hilton. Or if you’re a millennial wanting that shiny new object NOW, you can get a gift card to Amazon, Best Buy, or dozens of clothing outlets.
Travel blogger Johnny Ward of One Step 4ward blog is back for more Bonwi, this time to redeem his loyalty points. Last we heard from Johnny, he told us,
“My total booking was about $600, and I got $200 back in points – 33% credit, unreal.”
Those points, they do add up. For Johnny’s trip to Oslo, where prices run high, his Bonwi points helped him out with a hotel for $3.82. Did that sink in?
Johnny Ward got a hotel in Oslo for $3.82.
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“I had used Bonwi to book hotels cheaper than Booking.com, Expedia etc in both Lombok and Komodo, Indonesia, as well as in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Thankfully, through booking with Bonwi, those bookings hadn’t just saved me money, they had also accrued me 13,000 points to use through the Bonwi platform. Brilliant.”
Bonwi is a standout OTA for one very special reason. It offers ridiculously high returns on…
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Dan also does a nice job calling out our sometimes slower search speed, too. Truth is, it’s seconds – less than 15 on a really exciting deal-packed day. It takes those extra 7-10 seconds on top of the other, lesser OTAs because we are pulling in Every Single Deal out there. Just for you.
“You’re not going to beat the best deals on Bonwi even if you have top-tier Platinum status with another hotel loyalty program.”
That’s why we’re Number One!
Now, if you’re new to the world of online travel booking site, deals, incentives, points, rewards, loyalty and redemption, Dan’s article is a go-to read. Yes, we also love it because we’re Number One, but it’s a comprehensive and definitive guide to who’s who, what’s what, all the choices out there and how you benefit from the major deals sites. Read the full story here.
When you sign up for Bonwi for the first time, you get 1,500 points automatically. Right there that’s worth $15 because for 10,000 you can get a $100 gift card to one of your favorite merchants, like Amazon, Best Buy, or Target. What’s on your list right now?
If you start with 1,500 and just make one or two hotel bookings, you’ll probably get to 10,000 points by maximizing the options on Bonwi.
After that, we mentioned that one thing you can do with 10,000 points: cash it in for a gift card. Besides retailers, there are also some food outlets. Need to fund a kid’s birthday party? You can cash in for a hundred bucks from Papa John’s or Dunkin Donuts. Need to take your mom out to dinner? Cash in points for Olive Garden or Cheesecake factory.
You can also use your 10,000 points to rent a car. When I pulled up summer days in Orlando, I found rental cars for as little as 2,150 a day. If you need some room for a family though, you could splurge and get two days of a sport utility vehicle or a minivan for less that 10,000 points over two days.
Or you can use those points to get a hotel instead. Maybe you want to take your honey on a weekend getaway to the big city, to the beach, or to a town a couple hours away. Or maybe you need a night at an airport hotel in the hub city so you can catch an early flight in the morning. Maybe you need one night at a hotel before a cruise.
What can you get with 10,000 points? I searched weekend nights in the high season for vacations in late June and found plenty: the Atlanta Hilton, a downtown hotel in Nashville, a few motels near the cruise port in Ft. Lauderdale, a few chain hotels in Denver, Hawthorne Suites and Home2Suites in Salt Lake City.
You can also cash Bonwi Rewards in for an airline ticket, with 10,000 points being equal to $100. Maybe $100 won’t go very far in the airline world, but it’s enough for a one-way ticket on some routes. You could fly on Southwest or Delta, for example, one way from Atlanta to New Orleans, and still have some left over.
It’s true that 10,000 points won’t get you very far with the loyalty programs of Hilton or IHG and with Hotels.com you would need to book hotels 10 times to get one free night in return. With Bonwi it’s a different story though and you can do a lot with 10K.
If you could spend the same amount for hotel bookings with Hilton compared to the same hotels booked with Bonwi, which would pay off faster in a free night’s stay? We’ll run through the numbers and see.
The Hilton Honors program has been one of the best hotel reward programs in the world for many years running. Now that it’s gone from Hhonors to just Honors, however, recent changes have sliced the earnings potential for most customers.
Until a change that goes into effect this month, you could earn hotel miles plus airline miles, leading to a nice double-dip bonus. Every time you stayed at a Hilton property, you could work toward a free hotel room and also a free flight. Alas, the double-dipping is coming to an end and their program will be just like the others, keeping it all in the family.
If you didn’t choose the airline points before, you could go “points and points” and earn 15 per dollar as a regular customer, 16.5 as a silver elite member. Now the points have dropped by a third.
Earning Points With Hilton Honors
For higher elite members they are better off now, so we see where Hilton’s priorities are. You have to stay 10 times just to reach the lowest elite level, so for most people that’s no applicable. If you get their branded credit card, however, you’re Silver automatically. That means instead of getting 10 points per dollar, you get 12 per dollar. So if you spend $1,000 at Hilton properties, you’ll get 10,000 to 12,000 points. The big payoff is if you practically live at Hilton: if you’re a Diamond Elite road warrior, you’ll get 20,000 points for a $1,000 spend.
You can buy your way there though with premium American Express cards. A Platinum card gets you automatic Gold status, while a Centurion card gets you automatic Diamond status. Pay more for your card, earn more bonus points.
Of course if you were using that regular Hilton Amex credit card for the charges, you would get another bonus on top of 7 points per dollar. Now that $1,000 spend turns into 19,000 points. That should be getting us in free night territory, right?
Earning Points With Bonwi Bookings
With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 1,200 points for a $100 room charge. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights.
There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of the price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points. You can sometimes see a payback of 30% on your spend if you pick the right hotels.
Who Gets You to a Free Night Faster?
In our hypothetical example of spending $1,000 with Hilton, you would earn 12,000 points without a Hilton-branded credit card, 19,000 with. So let’s look at what it would take to get there with Hilton and with Bonwi, then see what you can get for your points.
I picked the busy business hub of Atlanta for this example because the city has a lot of Hilton properties across a variety of brands. (Note that you only earn half the points with two of their brands: Tru and Home2. So we have to skip over those. Why, since points are based on dollars spent? We’re not sure.)
If I pick a weekday in May, we could get to around $1,000 by staying at Hilton Garden Inn Millennium Center. By booking with Bonwi, we would earn 23,968 points.
If we book that hotel at Hilton.com, the cost looks to be about the same, though it’s hard to tell since they don’t show taxes and fees until you start actually booking it. If we assume the same amount, you would earn a shade more than 12,000 points.
If we book the Atlanta Hilton without being an elite Honors member, we would earn 12,000 with Hilton or 16,436 with Bonwi. So you’d have a slight advantage with Honors elite level bonus points, but otherwise you’re still earning more with Bonwi.
Using Your Points
So let’s say we want to make it up to our honey for being away for a week and we’re going to take a weekend trip with it. How about nearby Savannah?
If we check what you can get there for the points we earned, here’s what we get:
Hilton Honors – 12,000 points gets us…nothing. The downtown historic district properties would cost us 60,000 points on a Saturday night in June and all we can get for the lowest level of 30,000 is airport hotels. So even if we booked this 5-day business trip three weeks with Hilton, we’d still only earn enough to stay out by the airport.
Bonwi Rewards – 23,968 points gets us…more than 50 hotels to choose from on that same Saturday night in Savannah! Granted, the cheapest ones are roadside motels by the interstate, but it doesn’t stop there. That same airport hotel offered by Hilton for 30,000 points is just 15,640 with Bonwi. Or you can get closer to town with SpringHill Suites. For 18,400, you can get a Fairfield Inn right in the historic district. “Honey, we’re all set!”
Did you notice that last advantage—that you can pick any hotel you want? This is not a loyalty program where you are locked into one corporation’s brand offerings. Earn points with any hotel brand, spend them with any hotel brand—including independent ones.
The Hilton Honors system isn’t bad on the earnings side, but when you go to actually spend those points they don’t go very far. It often takes 60,000 points – which is a spend of $6,000 for a normal person – just to get a night at a regular Hilton business hotel or Embassy Suites.
Book with Bonwi and you’ll get free stays much faster. That’s true compared to IHG Rewards and it’s true compared to Hilton Honors.
A recent travel trade article on airline and hotel reward loyalty rewards programs pointed out a clear trend: for most of us, these programs are getting worse. While the road warriors at the top elite levels are getting showered with perks – those who stay 75 nights a year out of 365 with Marriott for instance – the rest of us are getting less and less for our flights or hotels stays.
As U.S. airlines moved from a distance-based to revenue-based model, the only loyal members with something to gain were those who bought expensive business class tickets. Those at the top of the elite pyramid. Everyone else started finding that their 6,000-mile flight was earning them 1,000 “miles” now because it was based on ticket price. At that rate it can take 25 flights to earn even the lowest domestic ticket.
That model has already spread to one major hotel chain. Hyatt gave its loyalty program a new name, World of Hyatt, and promptly made it more difficult for all but the most frequent biz traveler guests. The new system awards 5 points per dollar instead of a set amount per stay, though you’ll need to spend at least 10 nights at Hyatt properties in a year to get to the lowest of three elite levels. The head of the program, who is now gone, made it clear in interviews announcing the change that the program was aimed at one tier of guests: the most loyal ones, those spending the most money each year.
If You’re Not First, You’re Last
As we’ve seen in the airline industry, this kind of program quickly leads to a two-tiered system. The highest elite level members get most of the freebies, get the best rooms, and earn the most points for every stay. The rest of us get stuck with what’s left, whether it’s a cramped middle seat or the smallest room with no view.
Like a well-trained magician performing a sleight of hand, the bad changes for consumers are usually buried within news of big “improvements” the loyalty rewards program will bring. With the hotel programs, they’re usually touting your ability to combine points and dollars (a dubious win at best) or buy merchandise with your hard-earned points.
The dirty little secret of the latter is that your points value plummets if you do a merchandise buy instead of cashing in points on a hotel. Here’s what Skift noted in their article:
While these new tools are a boon for airlines and hotel mileage programs, their value to consumers is still somewhat mixed. When United launched its pay-with-miles Wi-Fi service, Maphappy took a look at the value of the purchase in cash or in miles. Its conclusion? ‘The premium on paying in mileage was about 117 percent higher than the cash price,’ Maphappy found.
If you purchase a pair of headphones or get a Best Buy gift card, it can be even worse. Often these transactions can degrade the point value to a small fraction of what it was in hotel or airline value. Here’s what you’ll have to pay for a $30 item via IHG’s program:
Where You Can Earn More and Not Lose Value
With Bonwi Rewards points, you have a lot of advantages over these programs from the airlines and hotels:
1) You can use your rewards on any hotel, not just one company. When you cash them in for a hotel, you can get 20%, 25%, or 30% return on your spend. With the average direct loyalty program you’re lucky to rise above 10%. (In other words, you have to spend $10,000 to get $1,000 in value–even if you do everything right.)
2) You don’t have to be loyal to one company. You can choose any hotel in any location at any price and earn Bonwi Rewards, even picking which one has the highest payoff to maximize your return. When it’s time to cash them in, you have just as many choices.
3) Points earned on hotel stays can be redeemed for flights. Forget about blackout dates, restrictions, or the lack of seats at lower tiers. With your Bonwi points you can book on any airline at any time, based on a simple 1-cent per dollar redemption figure. If you have 30,000 points, you have $300 for a flight, and no, you won’t have to still pay for the taxes if they’re included in the fare, as you would with the U.S. airlines.
4) You aren’t penalized for choosing a rental car or gift cards. That 1-cent per mile redemption figure that’s so easy to understand applies to rental cars and gift card purchases too. You won’t see your rewards value decrease just because you made one spending choice rather than another. Your Bonwi points have a clear intrinsic value.
In case you haven’t noticed, the U.S. airlines don’t care much about you as a customer. Even the people who fly so much that they are at the top elite level status don’t always get upgraded, so even they are grumbling about the lousy service, the cramped seats, and the bare-bones amenities on the big 3 legacy airlines.
Plus the airlines are hitting you with every fee that they can legally get away with. You can no longer assume even international flights will get you a free checked bag unless you are on a superior foreign airline or on Southwest. They intentionally make it hard for you to figure this out too in the booking process, then hide the rules, ones almost guaranteed to result in a “gotcha fee.” On American Airlines, for example, a flight to Panama includes a bag, but one to Costa Rica does not. For El Salvador it depends on the time of year. For Mexico and Colombia it depends on what city you’re landing in. No joke.
Having the airline’s credit card won’t get you out of the fees either. If you pull it out on an international flight with a bag fee, the airline agent will shake their head and say, “No, that’s only for domestic flight bag fees.” Why does the destination matter? Because you don’t matter, that’s why.
Airline Loyalty Doesn’t Pay
The only way to strike back at this system is to forget loyalty and either go for the best fare (Allegiant and Southwest will actually treat you better than American these days anyway) or to fly for free whenever possible.
It used to be rewarding to fly with a single airline and rack up frequent flyer miles. But now you don’t earn many miles from actually flying. Here’s what I earned on a recent flight all the way to Central America and back via Houston—for flying thousands of actual miles.
Notice that Houston to Tampa is 635 miles in one direction, but a paltry 235 “miles” the other direction. Driving 235 miles from Tampa would not even get me to Atlanta, but now the “miles” are based on airline revenue and fare class, not distance, a change that has drastically weakened how much you can earn for your loyalty. So now most airline miles come through credit card spending, not flying, because it’s a simpler penny per mile or more for spending, not a complicated formula that’s great for the airlines but terrible for the customer.
This is why you’re far better off collecting points and miles that can be used across multiple programs. Some credit cards allow you to do this, such as the Amex Membership Rewards program and the Chase Sapphire/Venture program. For the former you transfer the points in chunks whenever you want, topping off your airline miles account to get to a specific mileage level or transferring large enough amounts to get your whole ticket. For the Chase program, you simply use the points’ value to book any ticket, without going through the airlines.
Bonwi points work the same way as the Chase ones during redemption. If you have 30,000 Bonwi Rewards points, you purchase a $299 ticket and have a buck to spare. No blackout dates, no restrictions. You also don’t get dinged for taxes and fees like you would redeeming airline miles since that’s part of the ticket price. (I recently paid $77 for my “free” ticket to Belize on Delta and American Air once wanted nearly $300 in taxes and fees for an even less free ticket that stopped for a layover in London. Instead I flew Singapore Air through another airport instead with United miles and paid $49 in fees.)
Here’s the advantage though: it’s not simply a point per dollar or maybe two points you could get from Chase. You could conceivably spend $200 per night on a hotel but get more than 10,000 Bonwi Rewards points for a two-night stay. It’s not uncommon to see a payback of 15 to 30%.
If you really want to play this game right, pay for that hotel stay with a premium Chase card on top. Then you’re double-dipping without giving loyalty to an airline that doesn’t earn it. You won’t earn a paltry amount of airline miles that are hard to cash in, but a hefty amount of reward miles that have real value for redemption. Just one vacation can pay for another weekend away.
Vote with your wallet—instead of nostalgic airline loyalty—and reap bigger rewards for more travel with Bonwi Rewards!
Who is going to get you to a free flight faster: PointsHound or Bonwi?
We say the best way to rack up rewards points fast is to use Bonwi for hotel bookings, but how much more do you really earn in practice? We’ve put services to the test before, showing you how much faster you could earn rewards compared to both an online travel agency like Hotels.com and a direct booking program with a hotel chain like IHG Group.
Now let’s look at another site focused on rewards: PointsHound.
How the PointsHound Program Works
For this program, you choose your city and dates for a hotel booking, then earn points based on which hotel you choose. Points are applied to one of 19 airline frequent flier programs, such as American, United, or Finnair. On most there is no maximum, but you have to play by the specific program’s rules, so the site says, “For example, United MileagePlus imposes a maximum of 100,000 Miles annual limit that can earned through PointsHound.” Since it says you can earn “up to 10,000 points per night,” we assume you’ll never see earnings higher than that either for individual nights.
All programs are not equal either. So you could possibly earn 6,000 miles on JetBlue for a booking, but maybe only 2,000 if you picked Eithad instead. The only way you’ll know is to start the process over. You eventually get rewarded for loyalty here: you earn a bump up in points after your 5th and 20th stays, though it doesn’t say by how much. The program covers more than 300,000 properties worldwide.
How the Bonwi Program Differs
With Bonwi you don’t have to choose an airline program ahead of time since your points can be applied to any flight on any airline, with no blackout dates, no restrictions. It’s a simple 1-cent redemption value.
If you want to use your points for something else, no problem. You can cash them in for hotel rooms (at a better than 1-cent value) or use them for rental cars or gift cards to top-brand retailers—without the devaluation you see with airline points used elsewhere.
There’s no cap on how many points you can earn per night (sometimes it can top 20,000 at luxury properties) and no cap on how many points you can earn per year.
Comparison of Points Earned
So how do the differences play out in the real world? We pulled up sample dates a month from now to see how many points we would earn in different programs. We randomly chose United as our airfare carrier on PointsHound since it’s part of the Star Alliance, with the best partners overall. We chose popular business travel cities that road warriors spend a lot of time in.
First up, we headed to Las Vegas, home to the largest hotels in the world and some of the biggest convention spaces. As luck would have it, the two top points earners in both programs were the same, so let’s start there. Here’s what you would get on PointsHound:
Not a bad payoff. Thanks to a promotion, you would get 6,700 or 7,150 United miles total by booking one of these hotels at $180 to $199 per night before the dreaded “resort fee.”
If you booked either of these properties with Bonwi, however, you’d earn several thousand more miles—without paying more. 11,090 at the Aria or 12,215 at Cosmopolitan.
What about if you go further down the list? Bonwi comes out ahead almost every time. You get 7,783 at The Palazzo compared to 5,850, or 8,047 at Rio instead of 4,850, or 3,488 at the Hard Rock instead of 2,400.
Vegas is a strange animal in many ways though, of course, so let’s head to Chicago and see how it looks there.
Here are the top two “Big Earn” listings for PointsHound, giving you 3,800 or 3,750 United miles for a two-night stay.
Now here are the top-earning listings for Bonwi. The difference is certainly not minor. You have to scroll to their second page of listings (#16 on) to get less than 10,000 points. You have to get to listing #65 in points order on Bonwi to finally get to a hotel offering what the #1 listing does on PointsHound.
Using Your Points
With PointsHound, the idea is that you are adding to your frequent flier balance at the program you use most, or you’re “topping off” an account to get to a desired level. You’re not expecting to use those miles right away. Good thing, because you wouldn’t have enough. You’ll need 12,500 miles even for the lowest tier one-way domestic ticket—if you can find availability.
If you booked the top two earner hotels in these examples, your four nights at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and the Waldorf-Astoria in Chicago got you 10,950 United miles for your $1,080 rooms rate (before taxes and added fees). That’s a pretty good payoff if you really needed those miles, but it’s not enough to do anything with yet.
On Bonwi, that same expenditure would have earned you 29,587 points. Not only do you have enough for a one-way domestic flight, you have enough for a round-trip one in many cases: any flight that’s $295 or less! Here’s what else you could get with those points:
– A Saturday night at the Marriott, Hyatt, or Sheraton in Anaheim, CA (take the kids to Disneyland)
– A $250 gift card to the Apple Store, Best Buy, or Amazon
– A rental car for five days
Not only does Bonwi come out way ahead on earnings, it also gives you more options on what to do with those earned points. Do a search for your next hotel here.
We say that Bonwi gives you a better loyalty points payback than any hotel booking site out there, but what about individual hotel chains? Could you earn a free night faster by booking direct?
From our research, we haven’t found any program that allows you to get to a free stay faster. Let’s look at one of them in detail: the IHG Rewards program that includes 12 brands across 5,000 hotels and resorts.
How the IHG Rewards Program Works
In some ways the IHG Rewards Club is the best of the direct booking ones. They have the most properties to choose from in a whole lot of markets, the point earning levels are transparent, and most of the redemption levels are in the range of 10,000 to 35,000 points. (With Marriott, Hyatt, or Hilton you can easily be looking at twice that much.) Their brands range from good-value suite hotels to Holiday Inn Express to Intercontinental. When they finally consolidate their program with the Kimpton chain they bought, that will be another option for redemption.
To earn points, you stay at any of their properties. You earn 10 points per dollar at most of them for your stay, but 5 points per dollar at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. If you have their credit card you earn many more by paying with that and IHG frequently runs promotions that give you bonus miles. (It takes a while to hit elite status normally, but the credit card ups you to Platinum automatically.)
With 10 or 5 points per stay, that means you would earn 1,500 points for spending $150 for most of their properties, but 750 points at Staybridge or Candlewood. The lowest possible redemption is 5,000 in their “Points Breaks” promotions, but those are usually hotels that nobody is booking, in obscure locations. Think Gadsden, AL; Anderson, SC; or Silao in Mexico. The more common minimum is 10,000, for a Holiday Inn Express. So it would normally require at least $1,000 in spending at their properties before earning an award, or $2,000 if staying at the bottom category ones. At $100 a night that’s 10 or 20 nights. At $150 a night it’s 7 or 14 nights.
How the Bonwi Rewards Program Works
With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 1,500 points for a $150 room charge. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights.
There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of the price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.
Comparison of Earnings in Two Markets
Let’s say you’ve got two business trips coming up in California. One is in San Francisco and one is in San Diego. How would your earnings differ between IHG and Bonwi?
If you booked your San Francisco stay at the Holiday Inn Civic Center for two nights, you would pay $449 with tax either way. If you booked direct through the IHG site, that would translate to 4,490 points. If you booked it at Bonwi, you would earn 12,220 points.
A month later you need to spend two nights in San Diego. You pull up the IHG site and see the Crowne Plaza Hanalei is a pretty good deal at $166 per night before taxes. The total tab for two nights is $366. If you go ahead and book it through the IHG site, you will earn $366 X 10, or 3,666 points. If you book it through Bonwi instead, you will earn 10,289 points. Another big difference.
Cashing in Your Loyalty Points
Now that you’ve earned some points, what can you get if you take your kid to Orlando for a weekend getaway in March?
If you wanted to redeem what you’ve earned from these two stays, you wouldn’t have enough points with IHG Rewards. From those four nights, you only earned 8,156 points. Only a Points Break promotion would be available. Let’s assume you already had a couple thousand in the account though or you got past 10K with credit card spending.
From Bonwi you have a total of 22,509 points.
For weekends in March, with 10K IHG points from IHG, you’re going to come up empty. There is nothing available on a Friday or Saturday night in March for under 20,000 points, the amount that three of the four hotels below would require. The Holiday Inn Orlando Suites Waterpark hotel would require 35,000. So you would have to use their “points and cash” option and pay at least $70 on top of the 10,000 points.
For the same weekends in March with the 22,509 Bonwi points earned from four nights paid, you have lots of choices for a free night’s stay at IHG properties. These are just a few of them, including taxes:
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando – Lake Buena Vista – 17,663
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites Waterpark – 20,273
– Holiday Inn Orlando SW – Celebration Area – 15,139
– Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando at Seaworld -20,412
If you want to use your points for something else, you’re much better off with Bonwi. With us you can use your points for any flight of $225 or less with those 22,509 points, or you can get two $100 gift cards from major retailers and still have some left over. The points are valued at a penny a mile. If you want to cash in for a reward card with IHG, you usually pay 20,000 points for just a $50 gift card. That’s one-fourth the value, on points that required more spending to start with.
So which program offers you a faster payoff? This one is a no-brainer.
If you use Bonwi to book your hotel stays, you’re probably going to earn a big reward payback much faster than with other services. How much faster? Let’s compare how long it would take to get a free hotel room night from Hotels.com compared to Bonwi.com.
We picked three cities in the USA and assumed you had a budget of less than $150 per night. Then we looked at how many nights you would have to book to get a free hotel stay in return.
How the Programs Work
With Hotels.com, the rules are easy to understand: stay 10 nights and get one free. “The value of your free night is the average price of the 10 nights you collect.” Once you have completed 10 hotel stays, you can book whatever hotel you want at any time with the credit based on the average stay amount.
With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple but that’s because the points you earn are variable. The upside is much greater. Instead of having to stay 10 nights to earn an award, you could earn a free stay after just two or three nights. See some real examples in this video.
There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.
What Would You Get From 10 Nights of Stays?
Let’s say you actually do stay 10 nights in hotels over the course of several months. To check out what would happen in a real case scenario, we looked at real booking options for December and January in three well-traveled cities: Las Vegas, Orlando, and New Orleans.
If you booked three nights at the SLS Las Vegas, you would pay the same at either site: $391 for three nights with taxes, but really $488 once you factor in the rip-off $32 “resort fee” that really should be included in the rate. With Hotels.com you would earn 3 credits of your 10, or 30% of what you need for a free stay. With Bonwi you earn 9,641 points. That’s enough to actually book another hotel already in Las Vegas the following week: one night at Golden Nugget, Planet Hollywood, MGM Grand, or many others.
In other words, 30% of the way to a free night vs. 100% of the way there.
If we then book four nights in Orlando at Holiday Inn Express Sea World we’ll pay $304 total with taxes/fees and earn 9,321 Bonwi points. The Ramada Plaza Resort would be $341 for four nights and earn just a shade less.
At Hotels.com you would be four credits closer to your free night, but the average comes down because these hotels are cheaper than the one in Vegas: $74 or $101 per night. At Bonwi, once again you’ve earned enough to cash in for a free night in most cities, or you can combine the points with what you earned in Vegas and be at close to 19K–enough for two nights somewhere or one night in a luxury hotel instead.
Then let’s say we have to go to New Orleans in January for a trade show. The official hotel is out of our $150 budget range, but either of the choices pictured below will do the trick. For each of them we earn more than 7,200 Bonwi points for our stay. At Hotels.com we pay the same amount and would have finally gotten to our 10 nights.
Yippee—we get a free night’s stay! But hold on: that free night is based on the average of what we have spent per night, which comes out to $102 if we picked the Hotel Modern for this last stay and the Holiday Inn Express for Orlando. Their formula would be $341+$304+$378 divided by 10. You can now book a hotel with them that is listed for $102 or less.
With Bonwi, in contrast, we are up to 26,525 points earned from those same 10 nights. What can you get for that? Here are some ideas:
3 nights at most Las Vegas off-strip hotels or at MGM Grand
One glorious night at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans (dollar value of $349)
Any plane ticket valued at $265 or less
A $250 gift certificate to Target, Best Buy, Amazon, or the Apple Store.
Your rebate value from Bonwi ranges from 25% to 35% depending on how you use the points. Your rebate value from Hotels.com is always 10% and you can only use it for hotels. With Bonwi you can use your points at any time. With Hotels.com they are useless until you have spent 10 nights in hotel rooms booked with them.
The winner in this rewards program battle between Hotels.com and Bonwi.com? Well, that depends on whether you prefer to earn a little or a lot.
Imagine you travel to a Mexican beach destination like Los Cabos or the Riviera Maya for a long weekend holiday. Then after you’re done, you’ve earned enough credits to use for a free flight or hotel stay on your next vacation. Wouldn’t that be nice?
If you’re using Bonwi and paying attention to the point earnings, it’s a whole lot easier than winning a contest. It’s a sure thing in fact. It’s next to impossible to get a free flight or hotel room so easily with regular reward programs, but here you know in advance what you’re getting.
Los Cabos Hotel Points Paybacks
Let’s take a look at Los Cabos and see what you could get during a three-day weekend vacation in December.
If you book either of the two all-inclusive resorts pictured there—Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach or Marquis Los Cabos—you would earn more than 31,000 points for your long weekend stay. What could you get for that number of points? A round-trip flight costing $310, a name brand gift certificate worth $310, or an even higher value many times by booking another hotel.
Hotel Point Paybacks in the Riviera Maya
I plugged in the same December dates for the Riviera Maya and look what you would earn from Grand Residences in Puerto Morelos or the brand new Andaz Mayakoba. You’d get more than 36K from one and 41K from the other.
If you do the math, you’re basically getting a rebate of 20% or more on what you’re spending. That’s several times the amount you get from any traditional loyalty program.
Again that’s enough for a round-trip flight to many locations. Maybe even Cancun again! You just convert the points at a penny a mile so you don’t have to worry about blackout dates.
Or the payback would make for a huge Christmas present for someone by way of a gift card. The other option is to use it for more hotel stays. Let’s say you decided to go to Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta next time on vacation. If you signed into Bonwi and checked what you could get for your points total, you’d see dozens of hotels where your point total would get you a free three-nights’ stay. You would have to go down a star level or two at the beach, but in some interior cities you wouldn’t even have to do that.
We’re using Mexico as an example because when it’s cold up north, a lot of people head that direction. You could just as easily use it for a ski vacation though, or to just stay cozy inside with your new surround-sound system you bought with your Best Buy gift card. We won’t judge–just enjoy!
Sarah never had time for the rewards points game…until she met Bonwi. We love to change hearts and minds with travel, so we offered to send Sarah on a trip.
“Since I’m a skeptic of rewards programs, the team at Bonwi invited me to try out their site by booking hotels in Bruges, Berlin, Barcelona, and Cannes. From only these four trips, I got enough rewards to cover a FREE 7 night trip to Athens and Santorini in May! Keep reading to learn more about Bonwi, why you should use them, and exactly how I got a free flight and hotel stay in Greece.”