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[TRAVEL] Earn Loyalty Points or Pay a Lower Price?

There was an article that referred to a survey regarding the hotel and lodging industry. The survey found that a high percentage of customers prefer to find offers and deals to pay a cheaper price for any hotel room rather than to book with the same hotel chain to add up the loyalty points quicker.

For example, it is quite common to use sites such as Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity, Hotwire, etc. to book a vacation. One catch is that often times you won’t be able to accumulate points booking through third party sites nor will you be able to pool your points into few hotel chains so that you will earn points faster for a reward night.

The question is, would it be more beneficial to earn points or to pay a lower price? You know my answer is going to be BOTH. Find the best price possible while still earning points. Some hotels have a “Best Price Guarantee” policy. Often times, travelers are either not aware of this policy or choose not to go through the process to take advantage of such a policy. These policies can potentially save you a lot of money for your trips. Basically, when you make a reservation, if you find a cheaper price elsewhere, you will get compensated.

First of all, I will discuss the policies from third party companies:

Expedia’s policy applies when you find a cheaper flight, hotel, vacation package, rental car, or activity within 24 hours of your reservation. Expedia will refund the difference and also give you a travel coupon worth $50 toward booking on the Website. Expedia Rewards members get an added perk where their Hotel Price Guarantee matches up until 24 hours before your hotel stay. A little research can help you earn $50 coupons very quickly.

Travelocity’s best price guarantee will refund the difference, up to $500, and give you a $50 coupon good for a hotel stay of two days or more. You will have to make the claim within 24 hours of your reservation, up to a maximize of 5 claims per month.

Orbitz’s policy will refund you the price difference on a hotel, flight or car rental booking, plus an additional $50 in Orbucks. Orbitz Rewards members get an additional $100 in Orbucks instead. Star members get up to an additional $150 in Orbucks and SuperStar members get up to an additional $200 in Orbucks (not exceeding the total amount of the booking). Orbitz has three separate policies. For hotels, the pre-paid rate has to exceed $50 per night before taxes and fees. You have until the hotel cancellation fees to submit a claim. For flights, you have until 11:59pm on the same day you booked your flight to submit a claim. For car rentals, you have until your scheduled pick-up time to submit a claim.

Priceline will refund the price difference if you find a lower published-price for the exact same itinerary, within 24 hours of your booking. They will also offer a $50 coupon toward a vacation package.

Hotwire will pay you the different within a more generous 48 hours of your booking for hotels, car rentals, flights, vacation packages and cruises only booked on the website. The lower rate must be available to the general public.

Hotels.com has a Canadian specific policy. If you find a better price up until the hotel’s cancellation deadline, you will be refunded the price difference. As you can see, third party sites offer very competitive policies than puts pressure on loyalty programs.

Hotel chains also offer their own best rate guarantees. Keep in mind that hotel policies generally exclude rates from bidding sites such as Priceline and Hotwire. Furthermore, I have noticed that these terms and conditions constantly change, so be sure to check the websites directly for the most updated information.

Accor Hotels offers the price difference plus an additional 10% discount if you submit the claim within 24 hours of the booking.

Best Western will give you a $100 USD travel gift card if you find a lower rate on another website within 24 hours of your reservation.

Choice Hotels will refund you the price difference and give you a free night, if you find the better price within 48 of your reservation.

Club Carlson will give you the price difference and an additional 25% discount. if you find a lower rate within 24 hours of your booking and at least 48 hours prior to your arrival date.

Hilton will give you a $50 American Express gift card for hotels in the U.S.A., Puerto Rico, Canada or Mexico. For hotels outside of the ones listed previously, they will give you $50 USD off of your bill.

Hyatt will give you the price difference and 20% off your entire stay.

IHG will give you the price difference and subtract one night from your bill. If you are only staying one night, than the entire stay is free, so long as you file your claim with 24 hours of your reservation.

Marriott will give you the price difference and an extra 25% discount if you file your claim within 24 hours of making your reservation.

Starwood will give you the price difference and an additional 10% discount or 2,000 Starpoints if you submit a claim at least 24 hours before the standard check-in-time or 48 hours before the standard check-in time for non-English Starwood Websites. One Starpoint is approximately worth 1.5 cents in value if used effectively. Therefore, 1.5 cents x 2,000 points = $30. So I would do the calculation between the 10% and the potential $30 worth of points.

Wyndham gives you the price difference and another 10% discount if you submit the claim within the next business day of the booking. If you can, book your room on Friday so you have more time to file the claim.

The reason I listed so many hotel chains is to show the comparison between hotel sites versus third party sites. Hotels have a competitive program that will give you the opportunity to book a room for an affordable price and earn points at the same time. A few reasons why I prefer to earn points is because there are so many different bonus points opportunities that will help you increase your balance in a hurry, which works out to more value for me than simply paying for a cheaper price.

I value elite level status with hotel chains and I like to use my points on high premium rooms that I would have otherwise not been willing to pay for with cash. If you do not value the perks of a loyalty program, then going for the cheapest will make the most sense. Don’t forget about the Hotel Rundown.

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