I look to maximise every hotel stay with both the benefits I receive on-property and the hotel points I earn for my booking. Typically, that means booking directly with a large hotel chain on its website to ensure I earn elite status-qualifying nights, enjoy elite-status benefits and earn points. For those reasons, I haven’t delved much into the Booking.com loyalty programme called Genius.
That said, it does exist. While it might not be as rewarding as some of the other third-party booking sites, such as Hotels.com Rewards, it is an option. Here’s everything you need to know about the programme.
Booking.com Genius basics
You won’t receive your normal hotel programme points or elite status nights when you book through a third party, so why choose Booking.com rather than booking directly through the hotel?
If you complete any two stays booked through Booking.com within two years, you will earn Genius Level 1 for life. While this is a very low threshold to meet, and lifetime membership sounds awesome, the only benefit of Genius Level 1 is a 10% discount on select properties that are part of the Genius programme.
If you complete five stays within two years you will move up to Genius Level 2, where you will receive:
* 10%-15% discount at select properties;
* Free breakfast at select properties; and
* Free room upgrade at select properties.
There are only two levels of “status” with Genius: Genius Level 1 and Genius Level 2. Even if you use the programme much more than five stays within two years, your benefits will be capped to the above at the Genius Level 2 tier.
When to use Booking.com
If you’re going to stay regularly at large hotel chains like Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Radisson, then I believe it’s still best to book directly with those properties and earn hotel elite status, benefits and points. It’s best to use Booking.com when looking at remote destinations, if you want to book a boutique hotel or a unique property or you know you have a one-off stay at a chain you’ll never (or almost never) utilise again.
Also, if you’re a “free agent” with no loyalty to any one particular hotel chain or programme and will never stay enough to earn elite benefits with an individual hotel loyalty programme, Booking.com can be a good way to receive some benefits (like that 10% discount) at lots of different, unaffiliated properties.
Earn Genius + Avios
You can also double-dip by stacking the Genius programme offer with the ability to earn British Airways Avios as well. By booking through the Booking.com Avios portal, you can earn 4 points per £1 spent on each booking. Based on TPG UK’s current valuation of Avios, that is worth around a 4.4% discount on your booking and you can still earn and enjoy your Genius benefits.
If you book enough of the big-box chain hotels to carry elite status and earn hotel points, Booking.com may not make sense for you. Remember that for bookings made with online travel agencies like Booking.com, in most cases, you won’t earn hotel points or elite credit, and the properties don’t have to honour your existing elite status (though some do anyway). I also find upgrades to be less generous and room assignment poor when booking through online travel agencies compared to booking direct.
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