Launchpoint Contestant Review: PointsHound

As a follow-up to my LaunchPoint post earlier this week, I’ll be trying to do reviews of the first class of Launchpoint contestants who are vying for $50,000 in support for their travel-startup.  My first test was PointsHound.

First, a brief summary of what PointsHound does.  At first glance, they look like a standard hotel booking engine/online travel agency (OTA).  But, PointsHound has plugged an interesting twist into that normal booking process.  They reward your booking with airline miles (as well as a few non-travel reward programs).  There’s two ways to earn airline miles for your hotel bookings:

Standard bookings (their bread and butter) earn up to 20 miles per dollar spent.  These bookings do not earn hotel elite status or hotel points.  However, you can earn lots of airline miles.

Double Dip bookings earn your choice of airline miles and qualify for hotel elite status credit and earn hotel points just like a normal booking through the hotel website.  This is more my speed as I do highly value my Hyatt and Starwood status.

Finally, they have Big Earnings which are special bookings offered periodically that earn up to 25% more miles.  These are likely properties that are offering incentives to the online travel agencies (OTA) that PointsHound is passing on to you.

Here’s a list of programs you can earn points in when booking through PointsHound:

PointsHound

 

For the typical US traveler, there are a ton of great options here.  And, if miles aren’t your thing you can earn Best Buy Reward Zone points.  Let’s walk through a sample booking on PointsHound.

PointsHound

 

The front page provides a pretty clean interface.  I entered my choice of cities, my dates for travel and selected the mileage program I wanted to earn miles in.

PointsHound

 

I was offered two options (no Big Earnings opportunities for this specific request).  The first thing I noticed is that the Standard option yielded about the same minimum amount of points as Double Dip opportunities.  For the difference of 100 miles on a hotel stay, I would always choose elite benefits and hotel points in the Double Dip scenario detailed above.  It’s also possible (though YMMV) that the hotel points you earn in the Double Dip scenario have an absolute value higher than the value of 100 miles.  Let’s dig a bit deeper into the math.

I value MileagePlus miles at about 2 cents a piece.  That means 100 miles is worth $2 to me.  I value Hyatt Gold Passport points at around 1.7-1.8 cents a piece.  Let’s use 1.7 cents.  The rate I selected was $127 per night for a two-night stay.  With no Hyatt status, you’d earn 5 points per dollar, or approximately 635 points valued at almost $11.  In this example, if you think you’ll have any sort of use for the hotel points, that’s the clear winner in terms of value.

PointsHound

 

The site pretty clearly displays the Double Dip icon for properties that offer these opportunities.  And, the ensuing detail for each rate also clearly indicates that your elite status will be recognized.

PointsHound

 

Just to be sure, I did make this trial reservation and then asked my Hyatt Private Line Agent to verify that it did show up correctly in their reservation system and did, in fact, qualify for all normal Hyatt elite benefits as any other stay I might make on the Hyatt website.  So, everything seemed to work as indicated.

PointsHound also has its own sort of loyalty program.  The more nights you book with them, the higher the rate you’ll earn airline miles on those stays.

PointsHound

 

I’m not sure if it was some sort of promotion, but I was immediately bumped to level 2 after making 1 trial booking of 2 nights.

PointsHound pays out some generous referrals as well.  For example, my referral link generates a 250 point bonus for both myself and anyone who uses it to sign up and book their first room.  As soon as you sign up, you’ll earn bonus points for referrals as well.  I appreciate it if you click on my link to sign up for PointsHound.  Feel free to post your referral link in the comments of the thread if you want people to sign up using it.

PointsHound does offer a price match guarantee like all the other OTAs.  I have no experience using it, so can’t vouch for their ability to stand behind this.

Overall, I think there’s a ton of value for frequent and infrequent travelers here.  I usually e-mail my Hyatt or Starwood rep to make reservations, so the PointsHound booking process is more time-consuming than my normal routine.  One of the reasons that I don’t use OTAs is that I find them clunky and overly hard to navigate for the small benefits they normally offer over booking directly.

PointsHound beats the competition pretty soundly here, IMO.  While there are more steps than I’d like, PointsHound is clearly easier to book a room with than the competition, and with more generous benefits.

 

16 Comments

  1. That price match guarantee stuck a cord with me during the presentation. Reading various forum posts on price match guarantees from the hotels, it leaves me feeling like they are a pain to work with. I’d expect that PointsHound, since they are new, may honor their guarantee much more than say the hotels themselves.

    1. Iolaire, I remembered this from the presentation as well. I confess I don’t have much experience with price match guarantees, but I do agree with your assessment that the new guy on the block may be more likely to honor this than established providers.

  2. I was also at the FTU presentation. The mention of the double dip got me to take another look at PointsHound. One thing I noticed, although Pointhound rates match the base rate at Hyatt.com, they do not match the AAA rates (and I assume the senior/AARP rates). So on a sample three night Hyatt booking for later this month, the Pointshound and base Hyatt rate and expedia rates are $299 a night, but the AAA rate at Hyatt.com is $269 per night (AAA rates are eligible stays under Hyatt’s rules). So do the math – is the extra $90+tax worth the extra miles?

    1. Neil, I agree that you need to be diligent searching for rates when it comes to the Double Dip scenario. In my specific example, I qualified for a special 3-night stay that met my pricing requirements and matched what was on Hyatt.com.

  3. Also keep in mind the value that PointsHound offers if you’re in a market which doesn’t have a property of your preferred chain or many of the other times the airline points can be more valuable. For someone who doesn’t generally care about hotel loyalty the PointsHound options are quite impressive.

    1. Seth,the Double Dip option got me interested in PointsHound again, which is a good thing for them. Will I ultimately graduate to standard or “Big Earnings” offers that earn only miles? No. But, I would give serious thought to booking all my stays that don’t involve my primary loyalty program. That’s got to be a marketing “win” for them if they can attract more people like me. I agree that people who are agnostic to hotel loyalty will enjoy great value booking through PointsHound.

  4. Used pointshound once so far. For a booking at a Marriott that is actually attached to the airport we’re leaving early from, so I have a preference for it. But its not a chain I care about so happy to take the extra UA miles. I guess the question is whether normally the number of miles earned would make this worth doing vs. say going through the UR Mall since I can turn those into UA points too. Right now it is since I’m getting some signup bonuses and such.

    I did have some trouble with the site not showing my account page, then an issue with not being able to click through to my reservation. They were somewhat communicative via email and did fix the issues I encoutered. Didn’t matter to me since the reservation is out a ways, but if it wasn’t these could have been significant problems.

    All in all its certainly something I’ll be looking at.

  5. Actually, lets take that a little further. If I book through the Ultimate Rewards Mall using a Chase Sapphire Card and book the hotel through Travelocity at 2X I’d get basically 4X UR Points. Which means that while I’m earning 250 + 100 + 700 = 1050 miles for this booking at PointsHound, I could have earned $333 x 4 = 1200 miles equivalent thru the Ultimate Rewards Mall. Obviously YMMV but …

    I think Pizza has it right that the double dip is the trick here, not the normal UA miles…

    1. Good math, Glenn! For those willing to use an OTA, going through the Ultimate Rewards portal is a great strategy. I’m not a huge fan of OTAs, just my old-fashioned crankiness. I strongly prefer the Double Dip strategy here, and would probably consider the UR strategy as an equal value. I’ll likely do a bit more hunting to see if I can find a PointsHound “Big Earning” deal to break down the math on that as well.

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