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jan 31 2011

Expedia launches rewards program

By April, every Expedia customer will have the chance to enroll in Expedia Rewards, a re-launch of the online travel agency's loyalty program.

But current customers can join the beta test, as Gary Leff was first to report. Why wait? Existing customers can go to the Expedia Rewards page and sign in using the "Join Expedia Rewards Beta" link in the center left hand column of the page.

During the beta period, you can earn points that will still count once the program becomes official.

Expedia's revamped rewards program is now the easiest to use of the major online travel sites. As before, users will earn a point for every dollar spent on hotel stays, redeemable with no blackout or expiration dates.

But following the upgrade, travelers may buy vouchers good for partial payment of a hotel stay and earn points when booking airfare, which oddly, they couldn't do before. You earn one Expedia point per dollar spent.

"Any time there's a change in the program people think it will be for the worse," says says Edward Nevraumont, Senior Director Loyalty Marketing Expedia. "This is a rare time where a company has made things better."

You can use your points to stay at 90 percent of hotels sold on Expedia or toward any airfare sold on Expedia. No blackout dates for redemption. Points won't expire for 18 months, and you can keep the points active if you have some spending via your Expedia account.

Another positive change is that if you use a lot of your points with hotels, Expedia will give you a better ratio of rewards to points. If you save up your points, you'll usually get greater redemption value for the points—bringing the program into line with the most popular loyalty programs out there.

Coming soon is a little "slider" icon, which will allow you to see how many points you can get for a redemption.

Budget Travel checked in with Randy Petersen, the ultimate guru of loyalty programs and founder of InsideFlyer and FlyerTalk, to ask his view:

"What we do know is that the hotel experience and reward has certainly become more important than even the mighty frequent flyer mile when it comes to the travel experience because after all most hotel guests aren't subject yet to paying a fee for checking in."

What do you think?

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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