Today I am going to talk about RocketMiles (referral link), which is a service that lets you earn various types of rewards miles for booking hotel stays. If you sign-up with our referral link, you will earn 1,000 bonus miles after completing a stay. Some of the key ones include United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, American Airlines AAdvantage, Alaska MileagePlan, Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club Avios, Asia Miles, JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Avianca LifeMiles, Emirates Skywards Miles, Uber, and many more. The full list is:
As you can see, that’s a TON of programs! Often times a mileage program will give you a big bonus for booking with Rocketmiles. We’ve seen bonuses of 3,000 miles for a booking pretty regularly, and American and United have both sent out offers for 10,000 bonus miles in their program for using RocketMiles.
How RocketMiles Works
The search interface is pretty simple – you pick a city, a program, and your dates and guest/room requirements. This is the home page:
As you can see from a previous post on RocketMiles, your search will show a bunch of locations with various point values:
In this example I searched for a hotel in Washington DC from September 12 – September 15th. There’s a lot of results, but I sorted them by miles to see the max mile earnings. The first thing to note is that the number of miles isn’t tied to the room rate. The Hyatt and Hamilton hotels are basically the same price, yet th Hyatt Place gets you many more miles. The Hamilton hotel is ~$200/night cheaper than the Sofitel Lafayette Square, but it earns 1,000 more UA miles than the Sofitel. DC is an expensive place for hotels, so if you scroll down the list you’ll see hotels in the $300-$1000 range but the number of miles earned keeps dropping, so your miles per dollar (MPD) just drops. And remember that this is just the room rate without taxes and fees.
In my experience, the amount of tax/fees ends up being 25% of the room rate. So if we were to pick the Hyatt hotel, we’d expect to pay around $500/night in total. Sure enough, the total with taxes and fees ends up being $507/night:
If you value UA miles at 1.5 cents per mile (cpm), then 29,000 UA miles is worth about ~$450 to you. You are effectively earning 19 UA miles per dollar spent here, which is absurdly high. In comparison, if you were a United 1K and booking a United flight, the max you could earn is still 11 UA miles per dollar. So the per dollar earnings is crazy high, but the hotel fare is also expensive. You might be wondering, how can RocketMiles afford to give away so many miles??
Well, let’s take a look at the Hyatt website. If you try to book the exact same hotel and nights, you’ll find that it’s ~$120 cheaper booking direct than booking via Rocketmiles. Case in point:
So in effect, you are paying $120 to buy 29,000 United Miles, and you are giving up any stay/elite perks you may have. RocketMiles bookings are considered pre-paid and generally hotels won’t give any elite credit for them. The RocketMiles website claims that people report earning stay credit for RocketMiles bookings, but it’s not guaranteed.
So is it worth it to pay $120 for 29K UA miles? As long as you value them above 0.4 cents per mile, then you definitely should. Remember though that this was an extreme example where the Hyatt hotel gave 29,000 miles. The other hotels were giving 19,000, 15,000, 11,000 and lower amounts for essentially the same prices. I would definitely buy UA miles at 0.4 cents per mile, but if I was getting 8,000 miles instead of 29,000, then the net cost becomes 1.5 cpm, which is not a price I would buy at.
And in a nutshell, that’s the RocketMiles business model. They add in extra taxes and fees and use some of that money + their hotel commission to buy miles in bulk from these mileage programs and pay you in miles to book with them. If they’re earnings 10-15% hotel commission, on the above booking they’re charging $120 in fees + getting up to $180 for the commission, so they’re netting $300 for the booking. They can use that to buy United miles in bulk and pay you a large chunk, and keep the rest in profit.
The First Secret of RocketMiles
So is RocketMiles worth it? It really depends on where you’re staying and especially which hotel. In my experience, Hyatt hotels give *massive* bonuses, usually way more than the other hotels at their price point. This is the first secret of RocketMiles – book Hyatt whenever you can to maximize the mileage points.
Here’s an example of Los Angeles on the same dates:
Hyatt gives the same amount of miles but is way cheaper than the comparable hotels. Another example in New York City:
Now obviously those other two hotels are higher rated than the Hyatt Place, but if you’re trying to maximize miles earned then Hyatt is usually the best at that price point. Now you might be wondering: That’s all good and all, but these hotels are crazy expensive and I’m not paying $500 a night to stay in Manhattan. Even at the low end, there is pretty good value with Rocketmiles:
In general, RocketMiles will give you 1,000 miles for every night stayed. So a place like NYC isn’t good for RocketMiles where even the cheapest hotels are expensive. If you pick a place like Austin, you can get the 3,000 miles for ~$100/night. Plus a place like NYC has ~15% in tax, while RocketMiles will end up charging ~25% in their fees, so you end up paying $50 for the 3k-6k UA miles, For the 6,000 miles it’s a great value at 0.8 cpm, but for 3,000 miles it’s a ripoff at 1.6 cpm.
So you should always compare your final price with what you’d be paying if you booked directly with the hotel. Don’t forget to factor in the value of points/elite credits lost due to booking prepaid with RocketMiles. For example, if you spend $1000 for 5 nights at a SPG hotel, and you’re a SPG Platinum, you would earn 3000 SPG points for that stay. The same stay with RocketMiles might earn you 5,000 or 10,000 UA miles. I would definitely take 10K UA Miles or 3K SPG miles, but I would probably take 3K SPG miles over the 5K UA Miles.
So to recap, you always want to compare the extra that you’re paying and whether it’s worth the extra miles, which leads us to the second secret of RocketMiles…
The Second Secret of RocketMiles
Here it is:
Most people just pick the mileage program they fly with the most, so generally United or American for US based flyers. BUT, the best program for Rocketmiles is Aeroplan! Here’s the New York search redone with Aeroplan instead of MileagePlus:
45K Aeroplan miles instead of 30K UnitedMiles for the exact same booking!! That’s an insane gain. After the taxes and fees, that’s like earnings 22 Aeroplan miles per dollar spent, which is insane. The same DC Hyatt from above gets us 42K Aeroplan miles instead of the 29K UA miles:
At a net cost of ~$1500, you’re earning 28 Aeroplan miles per dollar spent. It’s like buying the Aeroplan miles at ~3 CPM and getting a free hotel. Obviously RocketMiles isn’t a tool for buying the miles, but if you’re booking a hotel, then going Hyatt+Aeroplan is a great combo for earning tons of miles. To earn 42K miles from flying, you’d have to fly 28K miles on Star Alliance business carriers. You’d have to fly New York-London round-trip in business and then fly New York-Singapore in business to earn 42K Aeroplan miles, and here you can get it for staying in a hotel for three days. Insane!
You can read more about Aeroplan in our guide, but they have some amazing redemption rates for Business class travel. One-way business from North America to Europe starts at 55K miles + taxes/charges, which are quite low on Swiss, United, and a few other carriers. Domestic US redemptions can also be great. We won’t go into the specifics here, but there’s tons of value to be had.
Like all things in life, RocketMiles has many positives and negatives. The positives include:
- Ways to earn miles on many different programs.
- Great mileage earning rates in some locations. Earning 20-30 miles per dollar spent is absurdly high.
- Amazing mileage bonuses for many Hyatt hotels
- Great earnings on specific programs like Aeroplan
- Flexibility to earn miles in cases where there are no good chain hotels.
- Availability of non-refundable and refundable fares.
The negatives include:
- No elite stay credit or elite benefits at most hotels, especially not SPG hotels.
- Poor earnings on certain programs like FlyingBlue, which offer a fraction of the UA/Aeroplan miles
- Additional fees that are hidden to the user, which sometimes are uneconomical for the miles earned.
- Reduced flexibility due to pre-paid rates and non-refundable rooms.
- No real possibility of room upgrades.
- Poor earnings at lower fares and in many big cities.
Overall though, RocketMiles is incredibly useful in the right context. The online community is quick to dismiss it because of prepaid rates, but there is a lot of value if you stick to our two secrets, the Hyatt and Aeroplan combo. In large cities especially, the earnings potential of that is insane. Whenever I’m looking at a booking for work or personal travel, I always at least check RocketMiles to see what’s available. I always double-check the rates with the public rate to see what else is possible. And if everything looks good, then I’ll book RocketMiles when the great earning opportunities exist.