Before making any travel bookings through platforms like Expedia, Hotels.com, or Vrbo, it’s crucial to know about their shared rewards program, One Key Rewards. By using the right credit card for your bookings, you can maximize your earnings. It’s not just about earning from One Key itself, but you can also accumulate additional credit card points that align with your banking and rewards preferences.
Since these One Key Rewards programs fall under the category of online travel agencies (OTAs), it’s essential to choose a credit card that includes OTA bookings in its “travel” bonus category. Unlike booking directly with airlines or using your issuer’s travel portal, such bookings won’t trigger bonus rewards from premium travel credit cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
To get the most out of your bookings across One Key Rewards and its affiliated brands, consider using credit cards that align with your spending habits and travel preferences.
Best credit cards to use with the One Key rewards program
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a highly regarded travel card that comes with a $550 annual fee. One of its key features is the up to $300 annual travel credit that can be applied to eligible purchases. The card provides excellent rewards on travel expenses, earning 5 points per $1 on flights and 10 points per $1 on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® after the first $300 is spent on travel annually. For other travel and dining expenses, it offers 3 points per $1, and for all other purchases, 1 point per $1.
Once you have utilized the travel credit, you can continue earning points on travel expenses, including bookings with sites like One Key. In addition to the rewards, the card provides valuable travel benefits, such as comprehensive travel insurance, primary rental car damage insurance, and access to Priority Pass lounges (enrollment required) at airports. If you use the Sapphire Reserve to pay for your trip, it can cover costs related to trip delays and medical emergencies.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards® points earned from purchases can be redeemed with various airline and hotel partners, including World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines. Additionally, you can redeem the points at an elevated rate of 1.5 cents per point to pay for travel booked through Chase Travel.
The card offers a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Another benefit is that it has no foreign transaction fees, making it convenient for international travel.
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
The U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card offers some enticing benefits for travelers. One of the standout features is the annual credits of up to $325 for travel or dining purchases, which can be a great way to offset expenses from One Key brand bookings. Additionally, the card rewards you generously for your travel spending, earning points at a rapid rate.
Unlike some other cards that rely on complicated point transfer systems, the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Card keeps things simple. You can redeem your points in the travel center at a value of 1.5 cents each, ensuring a hassle-free redemption process without the need to worry about maximizing your points.
Moreover, the card provides more than just points and credits. Cardholders can benefit from perks like reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees (once every four years, up to $100), access to Priority Pass lounges on multiple occasions throughout the year, and various trip protections for added peace of mind during your travels.
In terms of fees, the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Card has an annual fee of $400, which might seem high but is offset by the valuable benefits it offers. For every dollar spent on One Key brands, you’ll earn 3 points, while prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center will earn you 5 points per dollar. Travel purchases and mobile wallet spending will earn 3 points per dollar, and all other eligible purchases will earn 1 point per dollar. Foreign transaction fees are not a concern with this card.
American Express® Green Card
The American Express® Green Card stands out among travel rewards cards for its versatile benefits without any spending caps. Whether you’re commuting on the subway or booking a flight, you’ll earn points on all your travel expenses. These points can be redeemed with an impressive lineup of 20 travel partners, such as Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, and Delta Air Lines, or used to pay for travel via Amex Travel.
Apart from its travel rewards, the Green Card provides two significant benefits that make its annual fee worthwhile. Cardholders receive an up to $189 statement credit annually to cover their CLEAR® Plus membership fee, granting them expedited security access at numerous stadiums and airports. Additionally, there’s an annual statement credit of up to $100 for airport lounge visits with Lounge Buddy (enrollment required for select benefits).
With an annual fee of $150, the card has an attractive earning rate with One Key brands, granting 3 points per $1 spent. Cardholders also earn 3 points per $1 at restaurants and on various travel expenses, such as flights, hotels, transit, taxis, tours, and ridesharing services. For other purchases, you’ll receive 1 point per $1 spent.
As a welcome bonus, the Green Card offers a chance to earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points by spending $3,000 on purchases during the first six months of card membership. Additionally, cardholders can enjoy 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases made during the first six months, up to $200 in the form of a statement credit.
Citi Premier® Card
Looking for a credit card with a lower annual fee? Consider the Citi Premier® Card, which charges $95 annually. Despite the lower fee, you can still earn points on eligible travel without any earning limits in this bonus category.
While some travel and shopping protections were removed from Citi credit cards in 2019, the Citi Premier® Card compensates with a strong earning rate, no foreign transaction fees, and a variety of redemption options. You can use your points with 14 airline partners, three hotel programs, and even Shop Your Way, a retail program that allows you to pay with points.
The card’s transfer partners offer great value, including JetBlue TrueBlue, Emirates Skywards, Wyndham Rewards, and Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles. Additionally, you’ll enjoy an annual $100 credit toward a single-stay hotel booking of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees), redeemable once per calendar year through Citi Travel.
Let’s take a closer look at the card’s rewards and earning rates. You’ll earn 3 ThankYou® points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel, and hotels, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. From now until June 30, 2024, you can earn 10 ThankYou points per $1 spent on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked through the Citi Travel portal.
Ready to start earning rewards? The Citi Premier® Card also offers a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. And the best part? You won’t be charged any foreign transaction fees when using the card abroad.
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Elite credit card
The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Elite credit card is an appealing choice for high net worth individuals. Although the initial earning rates on travel may not seem impressive, the points are valued at 1 cent each in the travel portal. However, customers with qualifying Bank of America banking and/or Merrill investment accounts can significantly boost their rewards through the Preferred Rewards program. By qualifying for this program, they can earn up to a potential 3.5 points per $1 spent on travel. It’s essential to note that achieving this rewards tier requires at least $100,000 in average daily balances.
Aside from the bonus earnings, the Bank of America Premium Rewards Elite card comes with various enticing perks. Cardholders can benefit from up to $300 in annual statement credits for airline incidental fees, up to $150 in lifestyle statement credits annually (usable for rideshares, food delivery, and streaming services), and up to $100 in reimbursement via statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees once every four years. Furthermore, cardholders enjoy a 20% discount on flights when paying with points in the travel portal and receive Priority Pass Select lounge membership.
The card has an annual fee of $550, and customers can earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points per $1 on all other purchases. Additionally, a welcome bonus of 75,000 points awaits those who spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. One noteworthy benefit is that the card has no foreign transaction fees, making it a suitable choice for international travelers.
Guide to the One Key Rewards program
Gone are the days of individual rewards programs for Expedia, Vrbo, and Hotels.com. Now, they have joined forces to create a unified rewards program called One Key. This consolidation aims to offer customers a seamless experience across all these platforms, making it easier to earn and redeem rewards.
With the introduction of One Key, you might be curious about how this new program works and how it will affect your existing rewards, bookings, and status tier. Rest assured, your current rewards and status will be transitioned to the new program, ensuring you don’t lose any benefits or points you’ve already earned.
What is the One Key rewards program?
One Key is a rewards program jointly offered by Expedia, Hotels.com, and Vrbo. It presents a unique opportunity to accumulate and redeem rewards across all three platforms. Whether you’re interested in booking flights, cruises, or vacation home rentals, this program covers it all. Initially launched in the United States, its global expansion is scheduled for 2024.
The program’s primary feature is the ability to earn elite status through various bookings. By attaining elite status, members gain access to exclusive benefits, such as additional discounts, higher earning rates in the form of the program’s new currency known as OneKeyCash, and the privilege of earning perks like room upgrades and Price Drop Protection.
To achieve and maintain elite status, the program follows a “trip elements” approach. Each booking or activity associated with travel counts as a trip element. This includes a night spent at a hotel, vacation rental, or on a cruise ship, one day of car rental, a flight, or any ticketed activity. Notably, for an element to qualify, its cost must be $25 or higher (before tax).
How to earn rewards with One Key
One Key members are eligible to earn OneKeyCash, which can be utilized for future bookings. The amount of OneKeyCash earned is determined by the member’s status tier.
For Blue members, bookings made across Expedia, Hotels.com, and Vrbo earn them 2% back as OneKeyCash. Silver members get 3% back, while Gold members receive 4% back as OneKeyCash. At the highest tier, Platinum members enjoy a 6% cashback in the form of OneKeyCash.
It’s important to note that the above rates do not apply to flights. For flights, the cashback rate is significantly lower at just 0.2%, unless the flight is part of a package. In such cases, standard rates apply. Additionally, the earnings are calculated only on the base fare of bookings, and higher cashback rates are applicable only to VIP Access properties.
Interestingly, despite the benefits offered at the Platinum tier (earning 6% back), keen observers might notice that these earnings are still lower than the previous rewards program by Hotels.com. The earlier program rewarded travelers with a free night after every 10 paid nights booked, equivalent to a 10% return on stays based on the average value of those 10 bookings.
How to maximize your One Key rewards
When using the best credit card for your One Key bookings, you not only earn rewards but also status tiers and OneKeyCash from the program itself. To maximize your benefits further, consider the strategy of “triple dipping” by utilizing a shopping portal before making your bookings online. It’s a simple process that can lead to additional rewards with just a few extra clicks.
Numerous shopping portals, such as Rakuten or Cashback Monitor, offer various cashback percentages or rewards for purchases made through their platform. Before proceeding with your payment, check Cashback Monitor to see which portal provides the best deal for the site you’re visiting, as the offers may differ significantly from one partner to another.
Alternatively, if you choose Rakuten, you can activate their browser button, which simplifies the process. While it doesn’t compare deals from other portals, Rakuten offers a unique feature. You can adjust your settings to earn American Express Membership Rewards points, rather than cash back, on every eligible purchase you make through their platform. This opens up an additional way to accumulate rewards and benefits from your bookings.