Tripadvisor is on the lookout for a credit card partner to cover the $95 price tag for its TA Plus subscription service. That’s a smart because I somehow don’t see hordes of travelers dying to part with almost $100 for some vaguely described Tripadvisor Plus benefits.
If you have no idea what Tripadvisor Plus is, I don’t blame you. I blame them. 🙂
What is Tripadvisor Plus?
Tripadvisor Plus is a new premium subscription service from the renowned travel review website people either love or love to hate.
This plan is currently in Beta, and Tripadvisor isn’t overly aggressive in marketing their new service. If you try to search for some specifics, you might not be able to find many. The TA Plus benefits are described as vaguely as you’d expect from a publicly traded company, LOL. Aside from the press releases, a few articles in travel publications, and some (mostly sarcastic) posts on Tripadvisor’s own forums, the information is scarce.
Here are the most important Tripadvisor Plus benefits.
- Discounts on unlimited bookings at 100,000+ hotels worldwide
- Room upgrades and perks at select properties (like spa credits, complimentary meals, etc.)
- Savings on tickets, tours, and more
Should you even care about Tripadvisor Plus benefits?
Tripadvisor seems to have two separate groups of customers. Those who post in TA’s travel forums tend to be quite negative about Tripadvisor, its business model, and its – allegedly – nonexistent customer service. Please note there is no “science” in this observation. It’s more or less impressions of one person (me) who spends more time reading travel forums than he (I) probably should.
Many TA forum people will tell you not to book hotels and travel activities on Tripadvisor and quote some horror stories that have befallen those who ignored this advice. However, booking issues have been reported with every third-party travel aggregator under the sun. I’d be happy to recommend you always book directly with the hotel, but I can’t in good conscience. Direct hotel rates aren’t always the best and hotels’ best price guarantees that might theoretically help with that particular issue may be both byzantine and clunky.
In any case, Tripadvisor wouldn’t have earned $1.56 billion in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, if it depended on forum posters who probably don’t spend any money on the platform. So with 490 million unique monthly visitors, it seems to be nicely positioned to convince one of the major credit cards to pick up its subscription bill.
What’s TA Plus competition?
So far, I don’t see many value propositions that would set it apart from the competitors, and I sincerely hope that TA or its future credit card partner will come up with some.
The only values any experienced traveler can find in a travel subscription service IMHO are travel discounts. And TA Plus doesn’t break any new ground here. Spain-based OTA eDreams already offers a subscription service called eDreams Prime that promises discounts on airfare and Up to 50% off on accommodation for the $59 subscription fee.
But what about perks and benefits?
Well, Expedia, which effectively runs a subscription service for its Citi Voyager credit cardholders, used to do it right with doubling the points value for the VIP hotel stays.
Relying on hotels to provide OTA members with perks and benefits can be a frustrating experience even for elite hotel program members. And it’s an uphill battle for OTA “elite” members since many if not most hotel frontline employees see their status as bogus.
I don’t know much about the tangibility of other OTAs’ elite perks: Orbitz Rewards, Hotel.com Rewards, or Booking.com Genius, but I’m skeptical. The latest, by the way, also offers discounts, as well as additional perks at select VIP hotels.
What’s more, the OTA elite statuses are easy to earn. 12 nights a year for Orbitz Platinum and five stays in two years for Genius Level 2 (the highest). Although reaching Hotels.com Gold level takes more: 30 nights in a membership year.
Then, there are Virtuoso, Preferred Hotels and Resorts, Amex’s Fine Hotels + Resorts (only for Platinum members, though), Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, and I’m sure I might’ve missed more programs. It seems to me as if everyone and their mother offers hotel perks and upgrades for booking through their channels, and it won’t cost you a dime.
TA Plus offer a discount only on “select” hotels
TA Plus only has deals from 100,000 hotels, a very limited inventory compared to at least one million hotels you can book via TA’s regular OTA channels. Of course, the small number of partners is for your own convenience. 🙂
Our launch partners offer access to over 100K hotels that span the globe and accommodations types – mix of small independents and chains, resorts and city center properties, all different property sizes. To ensure we’re setting our subscribers up to have a great experience, only those properties with 3.5 bubble scores and above are eligible to be featured for Trip Plus.
The real reason for this modest launch might be a bit different.
Why only 100,000 hotels?
If you want to book your stay via Tripadvisor, there are hundreds of thousands to choose from. So why does TA Plus offer such a limited inventory?
According to Skift, the 100,000 hotels come from GetaRoom, which has, or at least had until recently, a questionable customer satisfaction record. That record includes roughly a thousand BBB complaints and a class action suit filed against the company in 2020.
Still, Tripadvisor Plus might be better than I think
It might. At least at the beginning of their journey when both TA and its partner hotels might try hard to get the new program kicked off with a good start. The member hotels might be more willing to provide actual perks without clinging to that convenient “subject to availability” stipulation, and TA might be willing to train their CS people to provide real help to customers when things go sour. At least, some anecdotal evidence shows TA Plus support team preemptively reaching out to their early subscribers who happen to hit a snag.
How can the new Tripadvisor credit card deserve a place in my wallet?
Here are my thoughts in the vein of the recent Frequent Miler musings about a perfect credit card. Although I don’t care about perfect; I’m ready to settle for good.
- Welcome bonus: At least 50,000 points redeemable at 1:100 at a participating TA Plus hotel after spending $3,000 in 90 days.
- Tripadvisor Plus membership.
- $100 towards Clear membership annually (enough Precheck credits already!).
- Dedicated Customer Service phone line stuffed with LIVE PEOPLE, for crying out loud! Well trained, too.
- 8x points on TA Plus booking.
- $99 annual fee (and not a dollar more!).
Tripadvisor is looking for a credit card company that would be willing to offer its customers the Tripadvisor Plus subscription service. It’s currently priced at $99 a year.
Would you consider getting a new Tripadvisor card? What if they just add TA Plus benefits to one of the existing travel cards? Your thoughts?