I recently noticed a new Love Home Swap booking option to partially pay for a points stay with cash. It looks a lot like hotel award booking options where you can spend fewer points by paying partially with cash. Love Home Swap seems to introduce these new features without any announcement. This was probably introduced some time in past few months.
In the case above, all three options say that you’re paying 450 points. But if you pay cash plus 450 points you get some of those points back. At the Plus option you’re paying 40 cents per point, getting a 450 point booking for 250 points + $80.
What do you get for cash + points?
According to the FAQ, these booking options are always priced at £40 and £60. That’s a bit of a rip off looking at the conversion rate to dollars! As a purely financial consideration, you’re buying 1-2 nights for $80 since many homes are between 100 and 200 points per night. But many home exchangers don’t like to think about home swaps in terms of cash costs. It’s an exchange. So people should be hosting guests to earn points, not buying points from the network.
Putting aside the points purchasing and exchange rate rip off, is there any value to these additional features in the Saver and Plus options? You’re potentially buying Swap Protection, Free Cancellation, and Priority Travel Support.
Love Home Swap recently implemented a new policy on cancellation, which helps explain the “free cancellation” offer in the Plus booking option:
In the event that you need to cancel an agreed Points trip, the following policy will apply to returned Points:
Cancellation up to 48 hours after agreeing the trip – 100% of Points returned
Cancellation up to 4+ months before the start of the trip – 75% of Points returned
Cancellation 2-4 months before the start of the trip – 50% of Points returned.
Cancellation 1-2 months before the start of the trip – 25% of Points returned.
Cancellation less than 30 days before the start of the trip – no Points returned.
I’m not sure if hosts get to keep the points when a guest cancels their trip. With Instant booking (see below) I believe they do. But this policy seems more aimed at getting people to take their swap agreements seriously. There’s a potential financial advantage to LHS here too, as they can make money off a scarcity of points, in addition to profit from cancellation insurance.
In addition, there is this new policy on host cancellations:
In the event your host can no longer accommodate you for your agreed Points trip, you will receive a full refund of the Points and service fee.
If you chose a booking option which includes Swap Protection when booking your Points trip, our team will source alternative accommodation from our network. If there is no alternative accommodation available you will receive back double the Points spent on the original Points trip.
So don’t expect help finding alternate accommodation if your host cancels unless you pay for that service.
Priority Travel Support
Love Home Swap has a customer support team. And they will prioritize helping people who are paying more money.
For the duration of the swap, any customer service requests made by members with Priority Travel Support will be the number one priority for our Swap Team
In practice this has always been true. But you could buy a higher touch experience from the LHS support team by paying a higher membership fee. It looks like that option is gone from the membership choices, instead now you can pay $24 more per year for the Platinum membership which comes with support finding swaps, but apparently not support during your exchanges.
Love Home Swap vs Airbnb and Hotels
These new booking options mirror a long standing practice by hotels to offer cash + points booking options.
Earlier this year Love Home Swap added an “Instant Booking” feature which looks a lot like the Airbnb feature of the same name. Hosts can opt into Instant, making their home available for points bookings without any vetting or discussion. Hosts can decline guests, but they must email Love Home Swap within 48 hours of a booking to decline. The new Love Home Swap cancellation policies also line up with Airbnb-like policies.
Love Home Swap feels more and more like Airbnb or even hotels. I think this is quite intentional. It will be interesting to see what other new features they roll out, and how this works for their membership retention and growth. I don’t hear a lot of complaints about the Love Home Swap points-based system. (You can read my speculation about why this is the case here.) So perhaps these changes will match what the LHS membership wants.