How to find the cheapest price for a hotel ↦Choosing a hotel can be complex in itself. You can visit endless web sites, looking up rankings, reviews and prices. You will probably agonise over the details. Then when it comes time to book the room, how do you ensure the best price without wasting more time scouring even more sites? The process is fairly simple, but we will add a few steps to ensure than in many cases the price you pay is not only the cheapest advertised but you can end up earning up to 15% in additional benefits. Before we start, the first question will be how much the loyalty programs of the major hotels mean to you. According to the calculations we've done at Which hotel points program should I join?, you can expect the points to have a value of around 4-9% of your room cost, assuming you can redeem them for something down the track (which works out to be 12-25 nights before you earn a free night, depending on which hotel group you choose). Sometimes, many of the larger hotel chains offer 2-5% member discounts if you book directly through their site while logged in to their loyalty program. These discounts are normally cheaper than the prices on sites like Expedia or Hotels.com (but not always). Some hotels also offer extras by booking directly with them, such as free breakfast or Wi-Fi. The only catch is that sometimes these are offered for free to all guests regardless of where they booked, but it's still worth checking.
1. As discussed many times elsewhere on this site, sign up for Cashrewards here if you haven't done so already. This link will give you a free $5 credit. Cashrewards is a site where they earn commission on sales directed through their site. The advantage for using them is they share some of that commission back with you. The prices you pay on many hotel sites and third party booking sites are still the same if you go through by clicking Cashrewards first. Except you'll get a cash return of 3-5% of whatever you book.
2. Sign-up to the Hotels.com rewards program. Here you will earn one free night for every 10 that you book and complete. In effect, this is giving you a 10% benefit on each night.
3. Go to the site of the hotel where you wish to stay (if it has one) and see what price, offers and conditions they are showing. Some will include breakfast if you book direct, some will offer very little extra. If it is booked up, don't get too worried as sometimes the rooms are pre-sold to third party websites. Write down the price and any other benefits/conditions.
4. This is the real timesaver: go to Tripadvisor and find your hotel. Put in your dates. It will scan a large number of booking sites and show you the cheapest offers. Don't click any of the booking links.
5. Open a new browser window and go directly to the cheapest site or use Google if you don't know the Web site address. Check the room rate. Now sometimes it may be more expensive than on Tripadvisor because of a deal available only through the Tripadvisor site. If this is the case, use the Tripadvisor link to book your room. If you have found the price is the same and it's on Expedia, Booking.com or Hotels.com, go to Cashrewards and search for them (there are plenty of other travel booking sites on Cashrewards, but for brevity we have only listed three common ones). Click the Cashrewards link, then proceed to the booking site, remembering to login if it is Hotels.com.
6. Now not only do you have the cheapest price, you saved an additional 3-5% in the process via Cashrewards and possibly added a 10% benefit if Hotels.com was the cheapest option.
7. If you notice the Hotels.com price is very close to the best price, it may be worth selecting Hotels.com and following the same process via Cashrewards to Hotels.com as you'll now be on your way to earning a free night, on top of the cashback.
8. The third part of this triple dip is to use a points earning credit card to pay. If you are worried about the annual fees on some cards, we have found three that will deliver rewards at zero cost to you. See Should I get a credit card that earns rewards? if you want a run down of how to find which card suits you.
9. Be aware that many US hotels in places like Hawaii, Florida and Las Vegas charge a 'resort fee'. It has also spread to some locations in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. This charge is compulsory and is not included in the hotel rate per night, even if you fully pay in advance. It is sometimes levied per person, but always per day. It is nothing short of a sneaky charge to make it seem like a hotel is cheaper when you book (the practice is also illegal under Consumer Law within Australia). Many times this charge is levied on items you would expect to be included in the room rate, like swimming pool access or in-room coffee, and has to be paid regardless of whether you intend to use the items included or not. Hotels across the price spectrum charge the fee, from low-end to the expensive 5-star properties. It averages $US25 per night and some hotels have be known to charge $US50-$100 per night. Resort fees do not earn hotel reward points, and are used by hotels to reduce paying commission to travel agents, third-party booking sites and some taxes. When redeeming free nights, you will still be required to pay the resort tax if the hotel charges one normally, with the notable exception being free reward nights booked through World of Hyatt.
10. In our experiments this process saved anywhere between $10-$100 per night on the official hotel's site, plus 4% cashback, 1.5 frequent flyer points per dollar spent and acquired nights needed for a free night through Hotels.com