Review: Do the Citi Expedia+ and Expedia+ Voyager deliver?

In Sept. 2014, Citi launched two new credit cards to go with its updated rewards program: the Expedia+ Voyager Card and the Expedia+ Card. In addition to offering extra points on Expedia purchases, they offer extra perks for travelers. Yet, as with any card tied to a loyalty program, you need to make sure these cards provide extra value for your traveling habits.

Expedia+ Cards from Citi

What’s new?

You may already be familiar with the existing Citi PremierPass Expedia card, which lets you earn Citi ThankYou points. That card isn’t going away, but these new Expedia co-branded cards let you earn points in the Expedia+ rewards program.

Starting Sept. 29, eligible PremierPass cardholders will be invited to switch to one of the new cards, keep their old PremierPass account numbers and have their ThankYou points converted into Expedia+ points, according to a Citi spokesperson.

How does the Expedia+ Rewards program work?

We’ll get to the card-specific benefits in a moment, but first, it’s important to understand how Expedia’s rewards program works. After all, that’s where your earned points will go and where you’ll redeem them.

Expedia revamped its rewards program in July into Expedia+. The biggest change: new tiered membership levels (+blue, +silver and +gold), which come with a variety of perks, including hotel upgrades at certain properties, exclusive offers and dedicated customer service lines. The perks you get depend on the tier you’ve reached, of course.

Check out what you get for each tier here.

The new version of the program also allows you to earn double points on cruises.

By enrolling in the Expedia+ Rewards program (regardless of whether you have one of the co-branded Citi cards), you’ll earn:

  • 2 points per dollar spent on hotels, vacation packages that include hotel, activities and cruises
  • 1 point for every $5 spent on airfare
  • 1 point per $1 on flight + car packages

But the real question is what you can get from your points. Expedia’s reward program allows you to redeem for:

  • Hotels (by redeeming for hotel coupons worth up to $1,000 off a booking)
  • Packages (by redeeming for coupons worth up to $300 off a package)
  • Flights (for the full cost of the flight)
  • Charitable donations (every 3,500 points equals a $25 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)
  • Dining and entertainment experiences (at the time of this review, for example, you can see “Mamma Mia” on Broadway for 14,000 points)

What the cards offer

Both cards let you earn more points than what you’d earn with Expedia+ rewards membership alone, earn points outside of Expedia purchases, and accelerate your progress toward elite status. Here’s a closer look at both cards:

Expedia+ and Expedia+ Voyager: Breaking down the benefits
Expedia+ voyager card
Annual fee$0$95
Extra points (outside of Expedia+ Rewards base earnings)3 pts/dollar on eligible Expedia purchases (flights, hotels, activities, packages)


1 pt/dollar spent elsewhere
4 pts/dollar on eligible Expedia purchases (flights, hotels, activities, packages)


2 pts/dollar on restaurants and entertainment


1 pt/dollar spent elsewhere
Sign-up bonus15,000 Expedia+ Rewards bonus points after spending $1,000 in first 3 months.25,000 Expedia+ Rewards bonus points after spending $2,000 in first 3 months.
Anniversary bonusN/A5,000 points after spending $10,000 on the card in prior membership year.
Elite statusAutomatic +silver membership.


Earn 1 elite-qualifying night toward +gold status for every $2,500 in purchases on the card every calendar year.
Automatic +gold membership
Travel fee statement creditN/A$100 each year toward airline incidentals and fees on participating airlines
Other travel perksEMV chipEMV chip, no foreign transaction fees
Insurance and shopping benefitsLost baggage protection, travel accident insurance, trip cancellation/interruption coverage, Price Rewind, rental auto coverage and more

One of the most notable perks is the automatic status upgrade to +silver (with the Expedia+) and +gold with the (Voyager). Without these cards, you’d need to spend $5,000 on eligible bookings (or stay 7 nights in a qualifying hotel) in a calendar year to get +silver status OR spend $10,000 (or stay 15 nights) to get to +gold. In addition to travel-related perks, these status tiers will help you earn more points in the following ways:

  • 250 bonus points when you book a +VIP Access hotel. Expedia says it has 1,400 such hotels in its portfolio, and you can browse them here.
  • A bonus on base Expedia points earnings for eligible bookings. That bonus is 30 percent for +gold and 10 percent for +silver. So that 2 points per dollar you get on hotel bookings via the Expedia+ rewards program would turn into 2.6 points per dollar with +gold status and 2.2 points per dollar with silver.

Another unique benefit: The Voyager gives you a $100 statement credit every year, which you can use to cancel out airline incidentals and fees from participating airlines, including in-flight Wi-Fi, Global Entry Application, in-flight refreshments, checked bags and more. This isn’t a common perk, and it’s generally associated with higher-annual-fee cards like the Platinum card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) and the Wells Fargo Propel World.

How much are my points worth?

In short, your points are worth about 0.6 cents each when you redeem for flights and 0.7 cents each when you redeem for coupons for hotels and travel packages. Read on for a more detailed break-down (and how you might squeeze some more value out of hotel redemptions).

Hotels: When redeeming for hotel coupons, you can get them in set increments. A $25 coupon costs 3,500 points, and a $1,000 coupon (the maximum value) costs you 140,000 points.

Expedia+ rewards hotel coupon redemption

So your point value is fixed at 0.7 cents per point when redeeming for hotels. However, if you are redeeming at a +VIP Access property (and are enrolled in the Expedia+ rewards program), your coupon is worth twice as much.

Packages: Same as hotels (0.7 cents per point), without the possibility to redeem for double value.

Flights: Pinning down the exact value for flights is trickier. Here’s what the fine print has to say about redeeming for flights:
expedia flight redemption point value

I ran a several itineraries (domestic and international) through Expedia’s rewards booker to get an estimate, and, for all of them, the point value was 0.6 cents per point.

Are these cards a good deal?

As with all rewards cards, that depends on what you’re looking for.

Looking for consistently good point value? The value of Expedia+ points is questionable. You can easily get a steady value of 1 cent per point with a variety of general-purpose travel rewards cards and even more with airline-specific cards – but Expedia offers you just 0.6 or 0.7 cents per point for most redemption options.

All those extra points you get with the Voyager card help with that somewhat, though. Earning 4 points per dollar spent on Expedia airfare means you’re getting a return of 2.4 percent back on your spending (plus a little more, thanks to the points you’re earning through Expedia+ rewards). That’s not bad – just remember that you get that rate of return only on Expedia purchases.

Looking for travel perks? These cards can’t compete with the perks offered by co-branded airline cards (you won’t get free bags or priority boarding, for example). But the $100 airline incidentals statement credit does give the Voyager an edge. Plus, the EMV chip (on both cards) and waived foreign transaction fees (on the Voyager) are nice touches for frequent travelers.

And don’t forget the automatic status upgrades. If you stay at +VIP Access properties enough and have +gold status, you might enjoy the occasional room upgrade.

Looking for flexibility? If you’re already a loyal Expedia fan, you probably value flexibility. After all, you’re using a site that lets you browse dozens of airlines, hotels and vacation packages, and book the lowest-cost option. Your points, therefore, are flexible currency.

Even so, what if you find a better deal with another online travel agency? Or even on the airline’s own website? You won’t earn those extra Expedia rewards if you opt for the better price. Your Expedia points can also be redeemed only for Expedia purchases – and you’re capped at $1,000 per hotel redemption.

So, if you’re an infrequent Expedia user, another option might be to get one of the general-purpose travel cards listed below (which both offer a respectable, steady redemption value and return on your spending). Both also give extra points on travel, including travel you book via Expedia.

Updated Sept. 25, 2014

 
Comments
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It seems that “no foreign transaction fees” only applies to the $95 annual fee version.

Ooops! Thanks so much for pointing out our error. It has been corrected. Appreciate you looking out!