Is the Expedia rewards program worth joining?
Expedia is one of the most popular sites for organising travel, and it offers a rewards program through Expedia+ but how does it rewards program stack up? Is it worth joining? The short answer is probably not.

The rewards
We will start with the benefits you receive. Expedia+ uses a point system to earn discount vouchers. Points don't expire if you are active every 12 months, and they are flexible in terms of redemption. Earn enough points and you'll receive discounts to use in the future. As you move up the status levels, you'll earn more points per booking and gain additional benefits. The rate at which entry level members earn vouchers is 3,500 Expedia+ points results in a $AUS25 voucher. This gives the points a value of 0.71 cents each. Expedia claims to offer other benefits for members but most of these are not significant to most people booking online, and there are plenty of alternatives offering equal or better deals.

Expedia+ Rewards
Some of the offers from Expedia+ that don't offer much in terms of rewards.

On top of Expedia+ points, if you use Cashrewards before heading to Expedia, this will give you 1% to 5.5% cash back, depending on what you are booking. Airfares are the lowest cashback rate of 1% on Expedia+, while prepaid hotels earn the most at 5.5%. Simply log into Cashrewards, or sign-up here with a free $5 credit new window, and search for Expedia. Cashrewards is a site where they earn commission on sales directed through their site. The advantage for using them is they share some of that commission back with you.

The downside of Expedia
Expedia often sells non-refundable airline tickets, or tickets subject to charges when changed, but it is very hard to see these fees and conditions when searching and booking. What flights are unable to be changed or refunded are not shown until you have selected specific flights - they are generally not noted next to the flights in the search results. Likewise if baggage is included in the ticket is sometimes stated clearly, but other times it is buried. Plus Expedia have statements such as 'There may be an additional fee based on your payment method'. They have information for a few few airlines, but this adds another unknown. And finally you have to contact Expedia to change a booking and wait for their response. If you buy directly from an airline, you can instantly make changes on the airline's web site or by contacting the airline direct.

One other thing to watch if joining Expedia+ for the first time is that the points only apply to new bookings. Even if you haven't used what you booked, if the booking is in the system when you join, it will miss out. So, if you've already booked that big holiday, you'll get nothing by joining. It's not the best way to make new members feel welcome.

As explained above, the Expedia+ rewards are not much incentive. Adding in the Expedia plus cashback might seem tempting, but that changes when you look at alternatives using better loyalty combinations and cashback options.

Earning benefits on airline bookings
Many airlines partner directly with Cashrewards, and you can get more cashback (1-3%) through this system with the benefit of booking directly on the airline site, as shown in Five ways to earn benefits when booking Virgin flights. Otherwise at Expedia it works out to a tiny 0.14 cents per dollar spent on flights, with an added 1% cashback.

Direct Cashrewards are available for companies such as Virgin (2-3%), Emirates (1.25%) and British Airways ($10), which are all above the Expedia total earn rate of 1.14 per dollar spent. The notable exception is Qantas, which is not a Cashrewards partner. However, for Qantas if you have a credit card that earns bonus points on the Qantas site, this will probably negate the Expedia benefit.

For example
A return flight to LA on Virgin costing $1,500

Expedia+ points: 300 (value $2.13)

Via Cashrewards to Expedia: 300 Expedia+ points, plus $15. Total $17.13

Via Cashrewards to Virgin: $45 cashback

For hotels, by using the Cashrewards/ strategy discussed in Triple dipping hotel bookings, your benefit can get as high as 15% compared to 2.5% (post-paid) or 5.5% (pre-paid) for Expedia through Cashrewards. Since you earn 2 Expedia+ points per hotel booking dollar, the Expedia+ points tip in another 1.43 cents per dollar spent, but that's assuming you get to 3,500 points to claim $25. The combined earn rate of 3.9%-6.9% is still well behind using at 15%. It's a large gap, which is especially perplexing when you consider Expedia owns

Car hire
The headline earning rate on car hire for Expedia+ is 2 points per dollar (plus 2.2% via Cashrewards). However, there is a confusing clause that says on 'select car hire' with no clear definition on what it means. Additionally if the car hire is the same price as other sites, you can earn up to 8% in benefits by following the guide Triple-dipping to get the most car hire benefits.

In summary
To earn a $25 voucher at 3,500 points, you'd have to spend $17,500 on airfares, a less absurd $1,750 on hotels (or less if this includes their smaller section of VIP+ hotels) or the same on car hire (assuming it qualifies). That's a lot of spending for a $25 voucher.

My all means, if Expedia is the cheapest place you can find online for some of your travel requirements, it is possibly worth booking. Taking into account the benefits of other ways to earn bonuses, it would have to be substantially cheaper to make it worthwhile.