Shouldn't That Be iStay?

Shouldn't That Be iStay?

Frequent travelers have always appreciated a good hotel program. For starters, the perks you can earn through elite levels are genuinely welcome, and some hotel programs offer the highest-value awards in the industry. And for many insecure flyers in today’s volatile market, hotel programs offer something of a safe haven for miles, which some fear may disappear.

But for some, it is and has always been about the miles. And it’s to these one-track minds that we present what might possibly be the richest hotel mileage-earning opportunity in history.

On May 1, iDine (the folks that let you earn miles for eating) introduced Hotel Rewards by iDine. Surprisingly, there was little buzz in the industry when the new idea came out, largely because the system primarily involved independent hotels.

Hotel Rewards follows along the same lines as the original dining program — you register a credit card, and every dollar you spend on that card at a participating hotel earns miles.

How many? Try five miles per dollar with nine major airline programs. Unless, that is, you’re with Alaska Mileage Plan, Continental OnePass, United Mileage Plus or Delta SkyMiles. Until Sept. 30, members enrolled in those programs earn a full 10 miles per dollar spent.

To put that in perspective: If an iDine customer stays three nights at a participating hotel at a rate of $200 per night, he’ll spend $600 dollars, and earn 6,000 miles!

By comparison, a member of a major hotel chain who’s just after miles might earn two miles per dollar. For a comparable stay, that’s 1,200 miles — five times less.

Or let’s assume your program only offers a set 500 miles per stay. Five hundred versus 6,000? Please.

You may sacrifice the familiarity and consistency you might get with major chains, but you won’t sacrifice choice or convenience. The iDine program currently offers miles at hundreds of hotels in 24 major markets, with spot coverage in between, and it’s growing all the time.

“We’re looking to expand our offering,” said David Marks, Senior Vice President and COO, Hotels. “It’s a work in progress.”

And iDine is careful who they partner with. When booking through iDine, the customer can view a detailed description of each property, along with the standard “star” rating.

“We have focused primarily on three-star and above, but we do have quality, limited-service product,” Marks said. “It’s really up to the traveler. As long as the star rating meets expectations, it’s really not an issue.”

There’s no cap on the number of miles you can earn. “We have customers who literally earn a free plane ticket with a single stay,” Marks said.

Asked about the success of the program thus far, Marks didn’t hesitate.

“It is successful,” he said, “and we’re growing.”

And at 12 times the mileage-earning power, that’s not surprising.

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