Oct. 2014 update: Citi has launched two new Expedia credit cards (the Expedia+ and the Expedia+ Voyager). Read about those cards here.
Are the rewards on the Expedia MasterCard truly worth it? Here are the pros and cons you need to know…
How many times have you booked a flight on Expedia and when you go to pay for it, they peddle you “Apply Now and Save $100 Off This Flight.”
I know for me, it happens every time I book. Is it worth biting the bait? I’ll present the facts and let you be the judge…
There are actually 2 different Expedia credit cards – both being MasterCards issued by Citi, but the costs and rewards are different for each.
Expedia card w/ no annual fee
This one only has a $75 discount offer and the following rewards:
- 1 point per dollar on regular purchases
- 2 points per dollar on Expedia
- 1 point given per 3 miles flown on Expedia flights
If you’re a big spender, be aware that they cap the points at 100,000 per calendar year and only 50,000 of which may be earned through miles flown.
Expedia card elite with $75 annual fee
For $75 per year this card gives more rewards and benefits. When you see the Expedia $125 off credit card promotion while booking a flight, it is referencing this.
- 1 point per dollar on regular purchases
- 2 points per dollar on Expedia, gas stations, supermarkets, drugstores, commuter transportation, and parking
- 1 point given per mile flown on Expedia flights
- The $75 annual fee is NOT waived the first year
This so called “World MasterCard Elite” caps the points at 200,000 per calendar year, only 100,000 of which may be earned through miles flown. Last year, this card had some additional benefits such as getting one companion ticket with a new account. Unfortunately for 2013 I no longer see that offered.
Should you apply?
They’re not bad, but I certainly don’t think they’re the best out there. We went over the “pros” above so now let’s take a look at the 3 main “cons” you will experience by choosing the Expedia.com MasterCard.
Drawback #1: ThankYou Points
The points you’re earning at Citi ThankYou Points. These aren’t bad, but they’re not nearly as versatile as say, Ultimate Reward points from Chase or Membership Rewards Points from American Express.
With ThankYou points, the best value you will get per point is usually 1 cent. You may even get less than that, because many of their $25 and $50 gift cards equal out to be a point conversion of 8/10 of a penny. That means in the best case scenario, this card is only earning you 1% on regular purchases and 2% on some categories. You would earn more rewards with something like the Capital One Venture which lets you earn double miles on all purchases.
Drawback #2: It restricts you to Expedia.com
I use Expedia.com on a regular basis to book my flights, however they aren’t the only site I use. So if I were to buy tickets from another site using the Expedia MasterCard unfortunately there wouldn’t be any double points earned.
Now you may think the solution is “Just buy from Expedia then!” but unfortunately it’s not that simple.
In 2011 Expedia stopped offering tickets for American Airlines. That’s a big problem, especially considering that American Airlines is the biggest carrier at some airports I fly to. Furthermore, Southwest Airlines is not on Expedia.
With more and more airlines getting fed up with paying commissions to sites like Expedia I can’t help but wonder if we will see more of this in the future with other carriers. You already see some airlines advertise that their own websites have the guaranteed lowest fares – I like the idea of getting higher rewards even if I’m buying directly from an airline’s site.
Drawback #3: The signup offers are below-average
Don’t get me wrong… something is better than nothing, but as someone that writes credit card reviews for a living, I can honestly tell you the Expedia credit card promotions are a big yawn.
The best one – for a $125 flight discount – is misleading because you still have to pay the $75 fee the first year.
Most fee-based cards waive the annual fee the first year, but not this one. So that means you are only coming out ahead by $50 after you pay the $75 fee.
Meanwhile, the $50 odd for the basic version is definitely on the low end for a travel credit card.
What are the absolute best cards for travel?
To be honest there’s no universal one-size-fits-all answer. If you fly a specific airline often, then you may be better off going with their branded card if it includes benefits like your first bag checked for free. If you want a generic travel rewards card, then in my opinion there are better options than what Expedia provides.