Expedia's Reward Points Program Adds up to Peanuts

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The online travel industry is extremely competitive, with players like Priceline (NASDAQ:PCLN), Travelocity, and Orbitz (NASDAQ:OWW) competing to offer the 'Best Deals' in airline and hotel bookings. We're seeing a sudden increase among travel agents in providing hotel bookings at the airlines' websites under private-label partnerships. We recently wrote on Expedia's ( EXPE ) partnership with AirAsia and South African Airways in this regard. (See After AirAsia, Expedia Now Partners With South African Airways ) Expedia has now rolled out a rewards program in an attempt to retain consumers and drive repeat visits by consumers. We value Expedia at a Trefis price estimate of $30.60 , implying a premium of 10% to current market price.

Expedia Rewards Program is a spend-based program offering members reward points in direct proportion to the amount they spend on booking flights, hotel stays, car rentals and other services on Expedia websites. These reward points are in addition to those offered by the loyalty programs run by airlines, hotel chains and credit card companies, and can be redeemed for discounts on subsequent future bookings on Expedia.

While the reward points may translate into an additional 1% discount of air ticket bookings and additional 0.7% - 2% discount on hotel bookings, we expect the loyalty program to gain limited traction among travelers and have negligible upside for Expedia's stock.

Expedia's Reward Program Will Have Little Impact

Under Expedia's reward program, earning and redeeming reward points is limited to travel.  Compare this with credit cards' and airlines' loyalty programs where users earn points on shopping, dining, paying bills along with travel, and can collect sufficient reward points quickly to redeem against something significant. While Expedia's loyalty program could be attractive to frequent flyers, it is best suited for corporate clients and travel agents where the users can collect sufficient points to be used only for travel.

While this may be attractive, credit card companies like American Express ( AXP ) offer more comprehensive travel services to corporate clients, inclusive of travel budget and expense management and reporting.

The recent partnership between Priceline and Delta Airlines ( DAL ) wherein members of Delta's SkyMiles Frequent Flyer Program can earn SkyMiles when they book a hotel through Agoda.com - Priceline's popular hotel booking site in Asia - could further dent Expedia's loyalty program's prospects. (See Priceline partners with Delta Airlines). With more than 140 worldwide partners and over 81 million members, Delta's SkyMiles is among the longest and most successful loyalty programs in the travel industry and is more likely to draw bookings than Expedia's stand-alone loyalty program.

View our detailed analysis for Expedia



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , Investing Ideas , Stocks , US Markets

Referenced Stocks: AXP , DAL , EXPE

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