Editorial Policy

Orbitz credit card packs more for travelers

Tina Orem

May 28, 2014

Planes, trains, automobiles and bikes: Everybody is always going somewhere. Travel is an $888 billion industry in the U.S., and if you've taken a trip recently, you know that booking online is the norm these days.

It's a competitive market, and that has given way to a slew of tactics to get customers packing their bags more often. Orbitz, the online travel-booking website, is the latest to try to capitalize on this opportunity with its April 2014 launch of the Orbtiz Rewards Visa Card in partnership with Alliance Data Retail Services.

[Related story: Wal-Mart dumps Discover for MasterCard]

The card is actually issued by Comenity Capital Bank and carries a steep 15.99 percent to 24.99 percent APR depending on your creditworthiness. (To get an idea of competitive rates, check out CreditCards.com's Credit Card Rate Report.)

But the primary perk? Users earn a 5 percent “Orbucks” reward for every plane ticket, hotel room, and vacation package they buy on Orbitz.com with the credit card. Given that one Orbuck equals one U.S. dollar, the value of your rewards can really add up when you consider how much plane tickets, hotel rooms and vacation packages cost. The card is, of course, good at every place that takes Visa, but you'll only earn Orbucks on 2 percent of your non-Orbitz purchases.Click to email me

If you're a member of the Orbitz Rewards loyalty program, having this credit card means you can double-dip on Orbucks. On top of the 5 percent in Orbucks you'll get with the credit card, the loyalty program also gives you 5 percent back on hotels, 2 percent on flights, and 1 percent on vacation packages. Plus, you can earn regular frequent flier miles on plane trips.

“According to data from PhoCusWright and Alliance Data, the average consumer spends $2,780 on travel and $10,000 on non-travel credit card purchases each year. That consumer would earn $423 in Orbucks if they used the Orbitz Rewards Visa Card and booked their travel through the Orbitz.com mobile app, and that translates into two or three free hotel room nights,” said Chris Orton, COO and president of Orbitz.com in a press release.

Cardholders also get promoted to the Star level of the Orbitz Rewards program, which qualifies them for hotel upgrades, free hotel amenities (spa, anyone?), and a special customer service phone number.

There are a few catches, though.

You have to use your Orbitz card at least once every 12 months or the Orbucks you've earned from the card expire and you'll lose your Orbitz Star-level status. And if you file for bankruptcy or Orbitz closes your account for any reason, bye-bye, Orbucks. To get you in the habit of using the card, Orbitz offers a $50 statement credit once you spend $200 on the card in the first 90 days.

Also, car rentals, event tickets, travel insurance and hotels that you can't prepay won't earn Orbucks at the 5 percent rate (they earn at the 2 percent rate). And you can't earn Orbucks on balance transfers, convenience checks, cash advances, overdraft advances, unauthorized or fraudulent charges, and purchases of money orders, travelers' checks or foreign currency.

The terms and conditions say you'll earn a maximum of $50 in Orbucks annually for eligible flights. At the hotel, you should know that you'll only earn Orbucks on the actual room fee — not the resort fees, room service or room upgrades. And if you buy a vacation package, you won't earn Orbucks on change fees, cancel fees, or any of those hotel charges we just mentioned.

Interestingly, this nugget is also in the terms and conditions: no 5 percent Orbucks for “purchases made by or for a business or for a business purpose.” So racking up Orbucks on the way to that conference in Tampa is theoretically out of the question, though we're not sure how Orbitz can possibly know if your travel is for business or pleasure.

Either way, this is a card with perks for the traveling set. If you're not a globe-trotter or you tend to carry a balance, the high APR might not be for you.