Why I Don’t Use Rocketmiles Or Kaligo When Booking Hotels

Filed Under: Hotels

When booking a hotel night, most booking platforms will provide you with an incentive to book through them, rather than through a competitor. For a hotel’s own website, they may only provide elite status benefits if the booking is made through their site, or may provide a best rate guarantee to ensure you get the best price.

Some consolidator websites like Expedia and Hotels.com have their own loyalty program to incentivise you to book through them. I’ve written before about how as a hotel ‘free agent,’ the hotels.com 11th night free program works fantastically for me, for its transparency, simplicity and value. I love essentially getting 10% off a hotel room every single time I book.

I’ve booked through loads of different platforms in the past, as they often have special offers for first time customers, so I receive dozens of emails every day from all sorts of accommodation websites.

But there are two that always make me shake my head, and I’ve been meaning to explain why since joining the OMAAT team.

Kaligo and Rocketmiles

These two websites may be familiar to you, in that they sell hotel room nights across the globe in the same way Expedia or Hotels.com do. What makes them unique is that instead of offering a lowest price guarantee, or an 11th night free, they offer ‘free’ frequent flyer points to entice you.

And they can offer a LOT of frequent flyer points, which is where my frustrations lie.

So why don’t I book with them if they are offering free points?

Let’s say I need a two night, weekend stay at a London hotel for my parents in September. I have no particular hotel loyalty, but I want a five star hotel close to the centre of the city. Let’s check what Rocketmiles and Kaligo are offering, as well as Hotels.com, and the websites of the hotels directly, and see if we can find the same rooms and the same hotel, to compare the offers.

I’ve found the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hampshire Hotel, available on all four sites. Here are the prices for a Standard Room. To ensure like for like, we need to look at the ‘free cancellation’ price from each site.

Kaligo

Rocketmiles

Hotels.com

And RadissonBlu.com

Radisson Blu Edwardian Hampshire Hotel, London

To summarise, per night, for a Standard Room with free cancellation (as that is the only room type all four platforms are offering):

  • Kaligo: £426 (plus 4,550 Avios)
  • Rocketmiles: £367 (plus 3,000 Avios)
  • Hotels.com: £282 (plus approximately £28 cashback as an 11th night free)
  • RadissonBlu.com: £298 (plus any elite status benefits you may be entitled to)

So if I compare the Hotels.com price to the Rocketmiles price, even excluding the 11th night free cashback benefit from Hotels.com, I would be paying £85 more per night if I booked through Rocketmiles, in exchange for receiving 3,000 Avios. I value each Avios at around 1p each, meaning that 3,000 Avios would only be worth £30.

So there is no way I would be paying an extra £85 for £30 worth of points when it is exactly the same room.

For the Kaligo offer, I would be paying £128 more per night to receive 4,550 Avios. Using my valuation above, that would only be worth around £45, so again, a terrible value proposition.

Another example

Of course, my calculations are based on only one property, so without showing you all the screenshots, I’ll pick another example – a Heathrow airport hotel for a single Saturday night. Let’s go for the Crowne Plaza Heathrow Hotel.

There’s a non-refundable standard room available on all four platforms on the same night:

  • Kaligo: £271 (plus 1,400 Avios)
  • Rocketmiles: £247 (plus 1,000 Avios)
  • Hotels.com: £240 (plus approximately £24 cashback as an 11th night free)
  • IHG.com: £228 (plus any elite status benefits you may be entitled to)

Again, if you are comparing the Rocketmiles price to the IHG.com price, you are paying £19 more to receive £10 worth of Avios.

For the Kaligo price, its £43 for £14 of Avios.

Crowne Plaza Doha

My inherent issues with these sites

As you can probably tell, I believe Kaligo and Rocketmiles intentionally inflate their price far higher than the value of the points they are providing in compensation. While they have every right to do this, most customers do not have a clear understanding of the value of the points they are receiving, and probably assume the price of the room is the same as other websites are charging, as they are unlikely to actually check.

Kaligo and Rocketmiles do not promise the lowest price for each room they sell, but they equally do not make it clear they usually inflate their prices in exchange for providing points.

I have only shown you a sample size of two hotels but each time I do this exercise (and I’ve been doing it for years), Kaligo and Rocketmiles are far more expensive than the competition even when factoring in the value of the points earned.

Skirting corporate travel policies?

Rocketmiles also offers an interesting option which you may have picked up from the screen shot above. They allows you to pay more for the room to receive even more points. They are offering an extra 2,000 Avios in exchange for paying an extra £48 in the screenshot above. With my calculation this is terrible value, as I would only value those Avios at £20. But note that they say ‘your receipt is kept simple with expense reporting in mind.

On other dummy bookings I see they even go as far as to say the receipt ‘will never show Avios.

Now, call me a cynic, but to me that wording is suggesting anyone booking a room themselves for work travel, could spend more than they need to (on a corporate credit card), earn the additional Avios for themselves and the receipt would just show an expensive basic room.

I would be willing to hazard a guess that doing this would breach every corporate travel policy in the world, so I’m surprised Rocketmiles seem to be subtlety encouraging people to do this!

Bottom line

Every hotel website is free to sell rooms at whatever they prices they like. If you can get two or three times the value from Avios that I can then this may actually be a great way to top up your account by ‘buying’ additional Avios at a price you feel they are worth.

And there may be times when Kaligo or Rocketmiles are the same price as Hotels.com, or a hotel’s own website. In that case, go for it. But I’ve been trying to use these sites for years and they ALWAYS seem to be more expensive, even a lot more than the points earned would be, so I’m led to believe this is their business model, which I don’t like or trust.

If your corporate travel policy allows you to spend more than the best available rate, then this also may be a great solution for you. Just be well aware of what your travel policy does and does not allow.

I feel for the vast majority of the general public who casually collect points without really understanding their value, who may be enticed into spending a lot more than they should for a meagre amount of points.

Have you ever booked through Kaligo or Rocketmiles?

Comments
  1. Whatever you do in corporate – assume it’s a contract banking role, you’re wasted – you should launch your own Finder.com.au-esq site for travel site comparisons. You write these guides in a Martin Lewis-friendly way.

  2. Bookings via Kaligo etc may make perfect sense when they have promos running. Occasionally I have seen them having LOWER prices than anyone. I even used Kaligo once for a BRG claim with SPG.

  3. @ Sergey – yes I’m often tempted by their promos but even then they can be so much more expensive that the value of the (promo) points isn’t worth the extra cost. Of course if they have lower prices than everyone else its a no brainer.

  4. Also worth noting that the price may change depending on the reward programme chosen. I have found when I book a room to Commonwealth Bank awards the price can be lower than BAEC Avios.

  5. I completely agree with your statement below,

    “I have only shown you a sample size of two hotels but each time I do this exercise (and I’ve been doing it for years), Kaligo and Rocketmiles are far more expensive than the competition even when factoring in the value of the points earned.”

    as I too have been comparing them for years. I did book a couple of times, when thier promos made the upside variance acceptable.

    Bottom line, Kaligo and rocketmiles effectively sell you miles along with your hotel bookings and it works best when you are not the party settling the final bill from your personal wallet.

  6. @Jackie That seems like an odd request. When looking at the price of a hotel in London you’re going to end up paying in pounds (or possibly getting stiffed on the exchange rate). I think wall know how to do a currency conversion.

  7. Jackie, there are websites where you can put in a number of pounds and it will tell you the value in dollars. There is nothing requiring you to read the ideas of a man in Britain about hotels in London if you don’t want to do that. And in this case it’s irrelevant. The same arguments would have exactly the same validity no matter what the currency used in examples.

  8. More on topic

    Occasionally, I’ve had Kaligo be cheaper for non-western chain hotels in Asia. Kaligo is Singapore based and they may have better deals with some chains.

    The referral program can tip the balance as well. (Click my name for my referral link for Kaligo)

  9. Yeah it’s worth it if they’re having a special deal (I got 13,000 Flying Blue miles for an upcharge of ~$20 from Hotels.com) but not otherwise

  10. Every so often I’ve found Rocketmiles to be a good deal with a big promo going. But generally they are awful.

  11. My biggest issue with any 3rd party site is being walked. In 30 years of corporate travel and 50 years of vacations, I’ve been walked twice when I booked directly with the hotel or its brand. I’ve been walked 14 times when the room’s been booked via a 3rd party.

    Now I use 3rd parties only when booking independent properties in quiet markets where the risk of the property being oversold is low and the 3rd party price is meaningfully lower than booking direct.

  12. @James sort of a different topic… have you heard the news of a girl that prevented a flight from Gothenburg to Istanbul?

  13. James, true. I looked at this several times and never found good value on Rocketmiles. Kaligo is slightly better. On the contrary, the PointsMAXX from Agoda sometimes makes sense with lower prices than eg Expedia and the # of miles wildly different depending on which program you want to credit to. Agoda sometimes has good prices in Asia.

    I just came back from a trip where for about half of the hotels I collected the miles and for the other half I opted to book without miles.

    @Jacky – you are an ignorant idiot. There is world beyond the US borders.

  14. Also worth noting that hotels.com (and a number of other travel portals) are on KrisFlyer Soree shopping portal which can earn a few miles on each transaction – not at the Kaligo level – but a mile is a mile.

    It takes forever for them to post, though.

  15. To go with your comparison, your best value may not be online at all. Looking at Radisson Blu Hampshire London for 21SEP-2NT in a Standard room, you can get an average rate of 273.93£ + VAT

    Plus Travel Leaders Select amenities:

    5% discount off the BAR
    complimentary breakfast
    complimentary afternoon for two with glass of Proseco
    complimentary WiFi
    (and a chance at an upgrade)

  16. I used Rocketmiles once since it was offering a 10K miles bonus and the total difference in booking with hotel website and rocketmiles was 40 USD. Our corporate travel policy doesn’t allow for pre-paid hotels but as far as I know you have to pay up front with Rocketmiles. Is Kaligo the same way?

  17. I won’t go as far as saying they are ALWAYS more expensive. Yes, most of the time, but I have found a few of occasions (out of hundreds of searches) where they have been the cheapest option and this has always been for non-chain hotels!

  18. I used Rocketmiles once, with a 9,000 mile reward. It cost about $25 more than Booking.com, but it was well worth it for the miles. My concern was that our room was sub-par – a corner room with inadequate heat in the middle of winter. I assume Rocketmiles overcharged me and underpaid the hotel, resulting in a. room they otherwise wouldn’t have filled, so I have no plans to use them again.

  19. I wouldn’t be quite so cynical about Kaligo. There are sweet spots (in a way not terribly dissimilar than airline mileage programs). In 2016 earned a total of 30,600 Avios across 4 stays thru Kaligo. I spent a total of 103 GBP more than booking.com.

  20. I actually just checked the Cabo hotel I’m doing my honeymoon at in Sept. I’d earn a total 48,000 Avios for £250 more than booking.com (£1150 v £912)

  21. There’s also the opportunity cost of booking through Kaligo or Rocketmiles: you’re forgoing the points you’d otherwise earn through that hotel’s loyalty program and the elite qualification and/or elite benefits. So even if the “price” you’re paying for the miles/points seems decent, you have to deduct the points you’re foregoing. I’ve never found them lucrative myself – I toyed with booking with them when they had a huge promo running and it was a partially-reimbursed trip, but it still wasn’t worth it.

  22. You can also collect Avios on Hotels com when you shop via the BA eStore. Pretty decent earn rate- 4 avios per £1 and 8 if it is a promo weekend. Plus you still earn the reward nights.

    Agoda is pretty generous too on the Avios earn and well priced. You can also collect twice with them on the eStore via Aer Lingus.

  23. I have used Rocketmiles exactly once, on a non-chain booking where the price difference between there and other sites was small enough to justify using them to earn some AA Business Extra points.

    Those sorts of instances, though, would be the only way that I’d use them, which for me are few and far between.

  24. You act surprised, but basically a large portion of the loyalty industry is essentially a kickback scheme for corporate travelers. There are probably many companies that do not have corporate travel policies at all.

  25. I used rocketmiles once when it offered 10k miles for one stay. They do inflate their prices so I never used it again.

  26. I used Rocketmiles six or eight times for United miles, but not anymore. I too have found that you can apparently always get a better dollar price elsewhere, but what really spooked me was when I called the hotel the day before our scheduled arrival to see if we could get our two rooms connected. The clerk couldn’t find my reservations, and he seemed to give up with no more interest. I pushed further, explaining that it came in through Rocketmiles, which he had never heard of, and I tried to give him my Rocketmiles confirmation number, but it wasn’t of any value to him. Finally someone in his office suggested that Rocketmiles books through Orbitz, so they needed to check those reservations, but they had only one clerk who knew how to do that, and she wasn’t working at that time. I was told to call later. I did, I spoke to her, and she found my reservations in a separate Orbitz file. With that I figured there was too much potential drama to try Rocketmiles again.

  27. Jackie, via his/her comments, appears to have a rather “MAGA” sort of world view. Saaaaaad.

  28. Most corporate travel programs don’t allow you to book your own travel arrangements and then just submit receipts. My company uses American Express Travel and we are provided a list of hotels to choose from and the price is predetermined based on agreements developed by Amex. I suppose this would work for a small company that doesn’t use a GDS.

  29. Booking.com i used them once gor hotel in Maldives when i challenge their price match for exactly same room,same date, their response:sorry uts not exactly same as we offering you bottle of champagne,their strategy charge you more,add a cheap bottle of champagne to get rid of any possible price comparisson,never again,all booking.com e mails goes as spam.

  30. it doesn’t make sense to go through rocketmiles or like sites. If there is an issue you’re on your own. The hotels and airlines will take care of those that book through them, and anyone else you’re screwed

  31. While US or EU-based travellers may not find any use for these (most of your readership), Kaligo has a much wider partnership network in Asia.

    For instance, in Singapore alone they pair up with UOB to give 10mpd and Citibank 12mpd throughout the year.

    The premium you pay also seems less significant than the GBP examples you brought up here, averaging about 3-5% compared to the likes of Expedia, Hotels, Booking, etc.

    Depending on the property, they sometimes even honor status benefits. However, in my experience the Kaligo backbone is Expedia, which will not earn you any elite nights/points.

  32. Hi,James:You CAN”T get 10% off by hotels.com.Because your reward night can’t cover the tax and may not as the same price as the room you want to book.So 9% most if you use your reward night carefully.That’s why the usual hotels.com coupon is 8%.PS:like your articles keep the good works going.

  33. Often Kaligo is more expensive but not always, I’ve frequently found prices to match or beat Hotels.Com Gold rates.

    Often Kaligo has outstanding sweetspot points returns. I received 40,000 Avios (inc. 10k sign up bonus) for a £1200 booking for a DC hotel. That’s £400 return (£800 if combined with BA 241).

  34. @Elijah, that’s an insult to Florida caravan park residents. ;-> Couldn’t resist that opening…

  35. Hi James:You CAN’T get 10% off by hotels.com.Because your reward night won’t cover the tax and it may not as the same price as the room you want to book.So 9% at most if you use your reward night carefully.That’s why the usual hotels.com coupon is 8%.PS:like your articles keep the good works going.

  36. Great article. I always suspected that Rocketmiles and their ilk were less than useful. It’s helpful to see some actual comparisons.

    And, in the future, please only use quatloos instead of euros or dollars. That’s sarcasm for @Jackie, the ugly american ;p

  37. I pretty much only see these sites mentioned on Headforpoints nowadays – which I know you read extensively too!

    Rob regularly promotes scamming your company travel policies or using dodgy tax loopholes, so these fit in perfectly for that. For a normal leisure traveler, not so much.

  38. I have a question as I am new to the points game. I have an IHG reservation for Seattle in September for $270 and will earn 6000 points and I have status (Platinum Elite).

    Through Rocketmiles, I can get a hotel for $405 and earn 9000 Membership Reward points (AMEX).

    In your opinion, which direction should I move? I realize its $135 more than IHG, but I would earn 9,000 MR points.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  39. @ Vivian – if you don’t earn any IHG points on the Rocketmiles booking I think you would come out in front saving $135, earning the IHG points and foregoing the MR points. But there’s not much in it.

  40. There is generally little difference in hotel or air travel sites. a few dollars here or there. It is a monopoly and seems more prudent to go directly to the hotel where they have your bonus awards. I went through Experian’s Hotwire once and they had a secret price. So low, the hotel was too embarrassed to publicly say it, they stated. After the Barnum and Baily egress show of giving them my credit card, the savings was under 5 dollars and there was no cancellation. I wrote to the CEO and no response. It was a lesson learned and we all have them. After that pedestrian move by them, it was more transparent to go the hotel and cultivate a business alliance with them.

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