I touched on frequent flyer miles or air miles in my article: Frequent Flyer Miles – What are they? For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of frequent flyer miles, they are part of a reward program offered by airlines to their customer base to encourage customer loyalty to a brand. You can read more about them in my other article.
I was fiddling with Kaligo recently when planning for my next holiday in Japan and I wondered whether sites like Kaligo, Rocketmiles and Pointshound are ever worth it compared to sites like Agoda or Expedia.
Sites like Kaligo offer miles for you booking your hotels with them and it may appear to a general consumer that you are killing two birds in one go if you book through such sites. You not only get your booking done but also earn miles in the process. But it is often not that straightforward as Kaligo’s prices are way higher than the cheaper fares found on Agoda and Expedia. So to put the matter to rest, I decided to conduct my own “scientific” test to prove which site or sites are better.
My “scientific” method:
(a) I will search for 3 hotels with different price ranges on all five sites (Kaligo, Rocketmiles and Pointshound, Agoda and Expedia) and will pick the cheapest room available (While the ideal situation would involve a comparison of similar room types and the same deals, the sites have different names for the rooms making comparison difficult)
(b) I will base the prices on the USD (as Pointshound doesn’t have a SGD option).
(c) The frequent flyer program I will be testing will be Cathay’s Asia miles as it is a common program for Kaligo, Rocketmiles and Pointshound.
(d) I will value a mile at 1.5 US cents.
(e) I will ignore any frequent flyer rewards available in Agoda or Expedia so as to avoid making the analysis overly complex. Naturally, such frequent flyer rewards may skew the results in favour of Agoda or Expedia (however, the likelihood is low given the already low prices expected which would mean little or no extra rewards)
(f) I will also ignore credit card accelerators for both programs and also miles earned through general credit card spend which will affect the overall analysis (but we will discuss this towards the end of this article)
I searched for a room in Tokyo for 2 persons and I found the following three hotels: Tokyo Grand Hotel, Hotel Niwa Tokyo and Park Hyatt Tokyo.
My search results can be summarized using the table below (For Kaligo, Rocketmiles and Pointshound, you will see their daily rate and the bonus miles offered by them: Eg. Kaligo offers Grand Hotel at US$101 + 600 miles):
|Grand Hotel||101||600 miles||115||500 miles||101||500
|Niwa||137||600 miles||164||500 miles||137||300
|Park Hyatt||573||2600 miles||550||2000 miles||548||1800
While the miles being offered by Kaligo, Rocketmiles and Pointshound look attractive, you have to bear in mind that you are paying a premium compared to the prices you would have paid under Agoda or Expedia. The cost savings for Agoda and Expedia can be attributed a miles equivalent value (i.e. price difference/0.015) :
As can be seen, while sites like Kaligo offer bonus miles for your bookings, the premium you pay would in most cases make it not worth you going an extra mile to book with them. They may, however, be odd cases where the pricing is such that sites like Kaligo offer a better deal (See Park Hyatt Tokyo where the cost savings for Agoda appear to be too low). However, even in such a case, you would have been better off booking with Expedia instead.
Pro-tip: A rule of thumb here is that it is generally not worth your while to go with such sites. Stick with Agoda or Expedia if you want to keep it simple without having to go through the different sites and calculating each purchase separately.
For my Singaporean readers, things get somewhat complicated because of credit card accelerators which offer typically 10 miles to a Singapore dollar for Kaligo. While such an accelerator will significantly increase the overall mileage you get from making a booking with Kaligo, there are also similar accelerators for Agoda and/or Expedia (although at a lower miles to dollar ratio). So while the 10 miles offer looks more attractive than the figures shown above, you should also do a similar analysis taking into account the 6x miles accelerator for Agoda and/or Expedia.
Based on my experience, it would likely be cheaper to go the Agoda or Expedia route if your credit card offers promotions for both these sites as well as Kaligo’s 10 miles to a dollar promotion. Only when the promotion is confined to Kaligo and not other online travel websites, you may have to do a little bit more math to see which is worthwhile.
Since I am on this topic, I realised I may have left out an awesome trick that a traveller should know before booking that should have been covered in my previous article. Many credit cards require you to visit a partner website (like Agoda or Expedia) through affiliated links. Examples include:
This requirement forces you to book through those links so as to qualify for the bonus miles or the accelerators offered.
There are however some instances where there is no need to book through affiliated links. For example, say you are a DBS Altitude cardholder and you have 10 dollars worth of points in Agoda about to expire. You are faced with a dilemma. If you book with Expedia, you won’t get to cash out you Agoda points. If you book with Agoda, it appears you only benefit from the 3 miles to a dollar offer by DBS (and not the 6 miles to a dollar you would have earned using Expedia).
The trick is checking the Agoda requirement for your card. You will see that there is no need to book via a affiliated link. This opens up the possibility of booking via a third party provider that offers certain promotions for booking through their link. For my Singaporean friends, check out Cashback that offers you a cash rebate for booking through them.
Cashback is now offering a 6% rebate.
So if you do the math, if a room costs SGD100 a night, you will stand to get 270 miles from using the DBS Altitude card + 5.4 dollars worth of rebate in cash (i.e. equivalent to approximately 270 miles) + redeem the 10 dollars credit that is about to expire (i.e. equivalent to approximately 500 miles). This brings you close to 1040 miles (or 11 miles per dollar).
Even if there are no credits worth redeeming off Agoda, you will stand to get 300 miles from using the DBS Altitude card + 6 dollars worth of rebate in cash (i.e. equivalent to approximately 300 miles). This brings you close to 600 miles (or 6 miles per dollar).
This trick can be used to get around certain offers that target only certain service providers OR in some cases allow you to stack bonuses. One stacking that appears possible at the time of writing would be to stack DBS’ Woman’s Card (4 miles to a dollar) (up to 2000 dollars) with the rebates being offered under Cashback (6% for Expedia / Agoda). So you may get up to 7 miles to a dollar instead of 6 miles had you booked using DBS Altitude.
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I did a follow up article to this post in view of Dingwen’s and Tony’s comments. This follow up article can be found here: Postscript – Are Kaligo, Rocketmiles and Pointshound ever worth it?