Frequent travelers likely know that there’s something better than a dream trip: a dream trip that you booked on a bargain.
The ways to save money on travel are plentiful. You can redeem hotels and airline points, or take advantage of last-minute travel deals, to name a few. And booking through third-party online travel agencies like Expedia can sometimes yield especially big savings.
Beyond just deals, Expedia has robust search filters that make finding your perfect vacation easy. It streamlines purchasing trip insurance, which can be especially important for travel these days. Plus, the Expedia Rewards program earns you points to pay for future bookings.
But booking through OTA's like Expedia is not without its drawbacks. Here's a look at some of those to help you weigh the pros and cons of booking travel through Expedia.
When it comes to Expedia prices
✅ Pro: Expedia has frequent sales, last-minute travel deals and bundle discounts
Expedia deals are aplenty, whether it’s a bundling discount or a sale.
Bundling: A major component of booking travel on Expedia is the practice of bundling, where you can expect additional savings for booking more than one product (e.g., flight and hotel, or hotel and attraction ticket) in one transaction. Expedia claims that U.S. travelers on average save up to 10% by bundling their flight and hotel.
A perk of booking travel through Expedia is that you select your hotel, airfare and car rental in separate steps in the process. This makes it easy to bookmark the page and compare the cost of these items on Expedia versus the cost on the company’s direct website.
Expedia payment plans: If you don’t want to pay for your whole trip at the time of booking, Expedia allows you to make smaller payments through Affirm, which is a service that offers short-term loans for online purchases. If approved by Affirm, you’ll be able to pay for your trip in monthly installments.
Deals (and last-minute deals): Two of the fun pages to bookmark and periodically check are Expedia’s Deals page and Expedia’s Last-Minute Deals page. Both tend to offer an eclectic mix of travel deals, ranging from cheap motels in tiny towns to lavish resorts in major tourist destinations. We’ve spotted deals as high as 70% off.
» Learn more: How to find cheaper last-minute flights
Other discount days: In June 2021, Expedia hosted its first-ever Expedia Travel Week, which offered savings of up to 60%. And if you shopped during Thanksgiving week 2021, you would have found deals of 30% off throughout Black Friday and into Cyber Monday. We hope to see these discount days roll into 2022.
❌ Con: Booking direct is sometimes still cheaper than Expedia
Sure, Expedia sales and last-minute deals are nice, but that’s not to say that you can’t find other (sometimes better) deals for booking directly with the travel provider. Many offer their own exclusive deals — and they might save you even more than booking with online travel agencies. Compare prices across both Expedia and the specific company to ensure you’re getting the best price.
And sometimes the savings go beyond just the sticker price. For example, boutique hotel chain Ovolo Hotels offers generous amenities including free laundry, happy hour refreshments and a daily breakfast buffet — but only if you book directly with them.
» Learn more: Is Expedia legit? Can it get me a good deal?
When it comes to Expedia travel insurance
✅ Pro: You can purchase an Expedia travel insurance policy
Expedia partners with AIG Travel Guard, one of the best travel insurance companies (according to our most recent analysis), to offer trip protection.
For flights: Expedia offers two travel insurance protection options — the Flight Cancellation Plan and the Flight Total Protection Plan.
For hotels: Choose from Hotel Booking Protection and Hotel Booking Protection Plus.
For car rentals: You can add AIG’s Travel Guard for Collision Damage Protection.
Expedia’s partnership with AIG’s Travel Guard also includes the option to purchase a Package Protection Plan. That plan includes a pre-travel Vacation Waiver, which waives cancellation and change fees for any reason.
Coverage varies by plan, but you can typically expect reimbursement for some (or all) trip costs if your trip is impacted by covered reasons. Covered reasons typically include delays, loss, theft or damage to one’s baggage and personal belongings. You’re also typically reimbursed for covered medical expenses, including emergency evacuation if you get sick or injured during your trip.
But there are many limitations and exclusions, so read your policy’s fine print to understand what’s covered.
Expedia 24-hour cancellation
When you book a flight on Expedia, you can cancel for a full refund as long as you do so within 24 hours of booking. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines to allow you to cancel a flight for a full refund if canceled within 24 hours of booking and it was booked seven days before departure.
❌ Con: Outside travel insurance might be more comprehensive or cheaper (and sometimes free)
You can opt out of Expedia’s travel insurance and either be completely uninsured — or simply acquire your insurance elsewhere. And there are better travel insurance policies out there.
After a comprehensive review of dozens of plans that assessed factors including price and COVID-19 coverage, here are the best travel insurance policies.
What’s more, you might not even need to pay for travel insurance at all. Many credit cards offer travel insurance benefits if you paid for your trip with that card.
When it comes to the Expedia cancellation policy
✅ Pro: Expedia offers some fully refundable options
Because airlines, hotels and other travel services set their own individual policies on Expedia, change and cancellation policies can vary significantly. While it can be tricky to parse the policies for each individual property, use Expedia’s “fully refundable” search filter to limit potential bookings to those with flexible policies.
For straightforward requests, use the Expedia service page to make changes and get a refund. If you’re unable to get help through Expedia’s self-service tools, other ways to get in touch with Expedia include live chat, a dedicated Twitter account (@expediahelp) and a phone line.
❌ Con: Most cancellation policies are bad, confusing or both
Because airlines are required to give full refunds if you cancel within 24 hours of booking, Expedia lets you change or cancel your flight reservation without fees within the same time period.
For everything else, good luck. Because each travel provider sets its own policies, navigating them can be a headache. In some cases, canceling through Expedia means you’ll have to chase after the hotel or activity provider to recoup the costs.
Additionally, prepare for cancellation fees (both Expedia’s own fees as well as fees from the service provider). That’s if you’re able to cancel at all. Some bookings through Expedia are nonrefundable altogether.
When it comes to the Expedia loyalty program
✅ Pro: It’s great for commitment-phobes
The Expedia Rewards program lets you earn points which can then be converted into dollars toward future trips. Frequent Expedia bookers can accrue status, which entails more benefits like exclusive discounts and extra benefits at VIP Access properties (such as free breakfast or late checkout).
For travelers who don’t like to commit to one airline or hotel company — or perhaps those who book travel that otherwise doesn’t have its own loyalty program (like a tour or vacation rental) — Expedia makes it possible to still get rewarded.
❌ Con: Most hotel and airline loyalty programs are far more rewarding
While the Expedia Rewards program is fine, most travel loyalty programs tied to specific hotels or airlines are almost always far more rewarding. For individual point values, most other currencies of airline and hotel points are worth far more.
Additionally, holding airline or hotel elite status is typically more lucrative than the value of Expedia elite status, as Expedia’s elite status perks extend to Expedia VIP Access properties only.
Depending on how high in the status ranks you are, expect boffo perks with elite status tied to a specific brand. So if you’re fine committing to one brand, you’re almost always better off striving to earn its status versus Expedia’s.
When it comes to maximizing credit card points
✅ Pro: Expedia counts as a travel purchase
You might be able to take advantage of your travel credit card’s higher earning rates on travel purchases by booking through Chase. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 2 points per dollar on other travel spending (including online travel websites like Expedia).
❌ Con: Travel credit cards are usually better for earning and redeeming rewards
If you’re open to pledging allegiance to a specific hotel or airline brand, those credit cards typically have a higher earnings rate on travel. If you’re not willing to commit to a specific brand (and you might not be), there are also plenty of other options.
Going back to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, this card can earn even more points on travel if you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal instead of through Expedia. The card earns 5 points per dollar on travel booked through Chase, but only 2 points per dollar on other travel spending (including online travel agencies like Expedia). The card’s annual fee is $95, and there’s also an introductory offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
» Learn more: Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If you're considering booking with other online travel agencies like Priceline or Hotels.com, here are the best credit cards for online travel booking websites.
The pros and cons of Expedia recapped
With the right deal, booking travel — including flights, hotels, cruises or car rentals — on Expedia could be worth it. It makes searching for travel relatively easy given the massive array of available listings, coupled with thoughtful search functionality to actually help you create your ideal itinerary.
But don’t automatically assume it’s a cheap way to book travel. Especially given the complicated cancellation policies, it might become among the most expensive, should an uninsured trip need to be canceled.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card