A big number of people are missing out on the Hotel Loyalty Programs, as they use third-party websites (booking.com, hotelscombined, trivago etc) to make their hotel reservations.
Over my extensive global travels I have found that the best way to book is to use the hotel or airline’s direct website rather than any aggregator sites, and make use of their loyalty and rewards programs. This is certainly more beneficial over the long run.
In the past, I myself was using sites such as Booking.com, Expedia, Priceline and the like who offer you short-term gains in the form in the form of small discounts on the booking cost, but nothing else beside that — usually you end up with non-refundable and non-changeable bookings and get poor treatment from the service providers who stand to gain little from your cheap booking.
When I started to book directly and join programs, I felt the big difference. My points accumulated quickly and soon I was eligible for flight and room upgrades, free stays or trips, lower cost meals and services — which added up to more than cover the “discount” I would have gotten on the other sites. Moreover, I get treated like royalty everywhere I go and all my requests or complaints get handled with priority by being a premium member.
Currently I am a Diamond member with Marriott group, Platinum with Accor, Gold with Wyndham and Silver with Hilton. I also hold Gold and Silver levels with some major airlines that pretty much go everywhere, so with these perks I can fly and stay anywhere in the world with great benefits!