I review the new Wells Fargo Hotels.com Rewards Visa Credit Card.
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You’re listening to the Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast. I’m your host, Justin Vacula, here to help you travel the world at next to no cost through credit card points, miles, benefits, and rewards. Make money, save money, and take advantage of great deals!
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Thanks for joining me for episode 49 – Wells Fargo Hotels.com Credit Card Review.
It’s mid-September 2020, months into the current pandemic, and I’m once again surprised to see a new credit card! Chase is making moves with the upcoming Freedom Flex card, American Express is increasing welcome offers on multiple cards, First National Bank of Omaha released an interesting new Fordpass credit card, and Wells Fargo sadly missed the mark with a new co-branded card with Hotels.com even though the stock image for the credit card has ‘Captain Obvious’ as the cardholder name.
The Hotels.com Rewards Visa Credit Card gives a free night worth up to $125 booked through Hotels.com after $1000 in spending 90 days after approval – quite an unimpressive welcome offer compared even to so-called entry-level cards or starter cards which offer cash bonuses, even some with Wells Fargo, of $200 or more.
Many other commonly dubbed hotel credit cards like the American Express Hilton Surpass card I reviewed in episode 43 offers points that can give five free nights atop many benefits for a $95 annual fee. The Chase World of Hyatt card offers a free night certificate in years two and beyond for a $95 annual fee atop a large signup bonus.
The Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card with US Bank — a card I’m really starting to like and am aiming for in 2021 — gives 85,000 points as a signup bonus, free night certificates for high spenders, and much more for a $75 annual fee. Here, it should be obvious that these small annual fees are well worth paying because they offer far more benefits than the no annual fee Wells Fargo card.
Back to the Hotels.com credit card, the earning structure is lacking – according to Wells Fargo’s website, “collect one stamp for every night you stay at any eligible property booked on Hotels.com and collect one stamp each time you spend $500 on purchases with your card. Collect ten stamps, get one reward night.” This stamp feature, at least for stays, is not even exclusive to the Hotels.com credit card! People who sign up for a free hotels.com account also gain stamps with hotel stays booked through the Hotels.com website or app.
I imagine that most won’t like this stamp-based rewards program, I suppose we’re back in the early 2000s buying coffee with a punch card. Why not instead just offer a points rebate on stays and offer points like many other loyalty programs? I imagine that many won’t reach the ten stamps needed for a free night and simply lose value. Even with non-points earning cards in many cases, people can gain cashback from many cards and have immediate value rather than waiting for bigger goals.
If not regularly booking and staying at hotels.com, you’ll need ten stamps, spending $5000 on this card to get a free reward night, that’s 500*10…and even with the stamps, according to Wells Fargo’s website, you must pay taxes, fees, and other charges. It’s also likely the case that booking through Hotels.com will invalidate status perks one might have with various hotel loyalty programs.
It’s really, really not looking good and the price limit of a free night is unclear at least at a quick glance. If the free night can be up to $125 like the free night from the welcome offer, that’s an effective 2.5% return on spend – 5000*.025 is $125 and you’ll have to, again, pay taxes, fees, and other charges for the room, so you might even consider the return to be less than 2.5%.
According to Doctor of Credit’s analysis of the Hotels.com credit card, every $500 spend is worth about $11 for a close to 2.1% return which is even worse than the 2.5% estimate. Once again, America loves math especially when the hotel rates may vary and it’s unclear as to what qualifies as a free night. With 2.1% not too far from 2.5%, the argument for the Hotels.com card is even weaker when it’s so close to the standard 2% return offered by many cards. Additionally, buying Hotels.com gift cards can be a good option for those who really want to book with Hotels.com for whatever reason – they can get progress towards free stays without spending on the Wells Fargo credit card.
Savvy listeners can commonly find discounts on Hotels.com gift cards – they haven’t been rare by any means thanks to American Express offers directly with Hotels.com and at retailers who sell Hotels.com gift cards like Lowe’s. One can even use many category bonuses at drugstores, office supply stores, warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club, and grocery stores stacking with grocery reward programs for bigger wins.
Even the Venmo debit card I mentioned in episode 41 can give 5% back at drugstores and the Cash App debit card, also mentioned in episode 41, has offered $7.50 discounts on $75+ purchases at grocery stores. Yesterday, I used the Cash App card for 15% off at Home Depot and I could have purchased Hotels.com gift cards. Cash App also offers Walgreens discounts: $7.50 off $50 spending. I also recently got approved for a Target RedCard debit card with an offer of $40 off a future order of $40 or more and one feature of the debit card is 10% off Hotels.com gift cards. Many possibilities!
Most people, especially low spenders, would be much likely better off placing $5000 in spend across multiple cards probably favoring work towards multiple welcome offers instead of putting high spend on the Hotels.com credit card. Also considering an odd, restrictive, and unclear reward system, wouldn’t you rather just place spend on another card which would give even 2% or two times points in unbonused spend and have more flexibility? Surely one will also rather spend in bonus categories on other cards and work towards other high spending goals which give returns of 2.5% or better. The Hotels.com card, though, can be a volume play for high spenders with lots of cards. It’s not a very convincing argument, but I’ll do my best to make a case for this credit card.
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Maybe 2.5% back without a bonus category as I explained, if you’ll get that much, can be nice for those who want to use many cards, but I imagine that people would prefer not only other credit cards first even other Wells Fargo cards.
I’m not a huge fan of Wells Fargo personal cards mainly because they lack big signup bonuses, but even the popular Propel card has a $200 signup bonus and three times spending categories. The Cash Wise Visa gives a $150 signup bonus and 1.5% back on all spend. The Propel World card, if you can get it, has a 40,000 point welcome offer, a $100 air incidental credit, and a $175 annual fee waived in year one. I imagine that most people will want these three cards before getting the Hotels.com card especially since one can only get one Wells Fargo personal card every 15 months.
Maybe someone would want the Hotels.com card as a so-called starter card with no annual fee thinking they’ll be approved since they have a Wells Fargo personal checking account for several years? I’m really trying hard to make an argument for this card, but even in this situation, I’d still favor starter cards like US Bank H-D Visa, SDFCU Visa, and Citi Secured I’ve mentioned in past episodes. People with credit scores around 700 and a clean credit profile will most likely favor Chase cards if they can get them and can get other cards which will provide much more value than the Hotels.com card.
Again, maybe the high spender super late in the game may want this card, but it’s a super niche case. At the moment, I have 23 active cards and still couldn’t see getting this card in the next three years even if Wells Fargo sent me a pretty invitation and guaranteed approval. My next app-o-rama is likely to include cards with Barclays, US Bank, and finally Navy Federal Credit Union as I’m running low on options. I still also have more American Express cards to sign up for once I’m finished working on my Plum Card signup bonus.
I’m also happy with stays at Hilton and Hyatt properties especially since Hilton and Hyatt points are easy to come by for me, I have Hilton Diamond and Hyatt Explorist statuses, and large point balances with both programs. Why book with Hotels.com and pay fees on bookings, not have status perks, and face odd limitations like the value of reward certificates?
Perhaps I’ll be outside of a Hilton and Hyatt footprint in the future for an event, that would be sad, but Hilton hotels have been common in all of my travels in the past 30 or so months. At worst, I’ve had to drive or take an Uber ride for about 30 minutes…and I can simply use cashback from multiple cashback cards I have for off-brand properties rather than messing around with the Hotels.com credit card. Some listeners, like me, may also have statuses with multiple casino loyalty programs like MGM and Caesars rewards for free night potential or very low cash rates.
Wrapping things up, the Wells Fargo Hotels.com credit card is underwhelming with a low welcome offer, low return on everyday spending, a loyalty program likely not worth being part of, and unclear terms surrounding reward nights. Other Wells Fargo cards will likely be better options and people would likely gain far more from other issuers. Maybe high spenders very late in the credit card game will like this card, but probably not. Just say no to the Wells Fargo Hotels.com credit card.
Thanks for listening and stay tuned for more content! Leave comments on this episode with your thoughts especially if you have a good argument for this card.
Visit my website at HurdyGurdyTravel.com to contact me, find me on social media, read episode transcripts, complete my free credit card questionnaire for a free consultation, buy from my Ebay store & support the show through Patreon, SubscribeStar, and referral links! Watch me on camera on YouTube and listen on many podcast platforms. Please like, share, comment, and subscribe if you’re watching on YouTube.