When you book a hotel room online, you have two different options. You can either book directly with the hotel or through a third party travel site. As a financially-savvy traveler, you are probably wondering if it's cheaper to book hotels directly or a third party site? The answer depends on your travel plans.
Is it cheaper to book hotels directly or through third party sites?Marriott.com
When It's Cheaper to Book Hotels Directly
There are times when it's better to book directly with the hotel. Some of these circumstances include:
- Booking an award night with points
- Reserve an upgraded room
- Purchase on-site amenity packages
It goes without saying, but, you can't pay with points on third party sites unless it's a credit card portal like the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, or if you get a statement credit for travel purchases from your credit card. Rewards nights need to be booked directly with the hotel.
You Want to Earn Loyalty Points
Even if you pay for your room with cash on a third party site, some hotel programs might not credit your account with rewards points unless you book directly. Unlike airline frequent flier programs that will give you points on every flight, hotel policies are more stringent.
Even if you find a better deal or pay the same price on a third party site, not earning points can end up costing you money down the road. To earn loyalty points, you will want to book directly with the hotel.
Several third party sites including Expedia and Hotels.com have their own rewards system that can give you the opportunity to earn free hotel nights.
Exclusive Member Rates
Hotels offer member-only rates that are a few dollars cheaper than the normal rate nightly rate.
IHG Rewards Club, for instance, offers an exclusive member discount that is a few dollars cheaper than the non-member rate and can also be cheaper than the third party rate.
The members only rate at the Holiday Inn Express Orlando at SeaWorld is $106.82 per night. The same room costs $109 for non-IHG members if booked directly and also on Priceline and Hotels.com.
Booking directly with Holiday Inn can save you money.Holiday Inn
Upgraded Rooms and Amenities
Sometimes, hotels keep the luxury rooms and amenity packages to themselves. It can be cheaper to book hotels when you need to buy a breakfast package, parking, or even ticket bundles to local attractions.
Third party sites might offer these packages as well, however, the price can be different.
Third Party Sites That Charge Booking Fees
While most third party booking sites have moved away from charging a booking fee. Some still do and this can negate any savings. If you find a cheaper rate on a third party site, always compare a price quote between the hotel and third party site after taxes and fees have been included.
When It's Cheaper to Book Hotels Through Third Party Sites
There are a few instances it's cheaper to book hotels using a third party site:
- Last minute bookings
- Mystery Deals
- Travel packages
- Non-cancelable reservations
- Local hotels
Hotwire and Priceline Express Deals
One time it can be cheaper to book a hotel with a third party site is when you book a Hotwire or Priceline Express Deal. The only downside is that you don't know the name of the hotel until after you have paid.
Priceline claims you can save up to 60% with their Express Deals. Hotwire Hot Rates can also save you up to 60% if you wait until the last minute to book. As it's easier for hotels to lower the price on unfilled rooms through third party mystery deals, scour these offers when you want to book on the same day or within the next few days.
Priceline hotel bidding can save you serious money.Priceline
Mystery deals can save you money by booking in advance, but, you will save the most money by snapping up a same day deal. Booking a "today only" special can be worth the savings, even if you don't collect the hotel loyalty points.
Keep in mind that mystery deals cannot be canceled.
Staying at a Local Hotel
Local and independent hotels can be cheaper than national brands and just as hospitable. With a chain hotel, you can expect the same experience each time and you can also pay more for the uniformity.
To attract visitors that might be wary of staying in "unfamiliar surroundings," local hotels can offer slightly better rates than their competitors.
While you might not earn loyalty points from independent hotels, you can still get free nights when you book through Expedia or Hotels.com that offer free hotel nights after a predetermined amount of stays.
Hotels also offer travel packages that can bundle flights, hotel nights, and rental cars to save you money. You might have an advantage with third party travel packages because some hotels only partner with specific airlines.
Third party travel sites make it possible to bundle any flight with any hotel. If you like this flexibility and understand that packages are usually non-refundable, the savings can be well worth it.
Since package deals are usually non-refundable, you should still price each travel expense separately and also compare the package hotel rate to cancelable nightly rates from the third-party site and the hotel website.
Every big hotel brand also has properties overseas, but that doesn't mean they are always the best deals. Finding overseas sleeping accommodationssince chain hotels might only have locations in the largest cities. Staying at a local hotel might be a better option if you know where to look.
The same third-party booking sites you use to browse domestic hotel listings can be used to book international hotel nights. You might also consider using Agoda if you plan on traveling to Asia where you can search hostels, local brands, and international brands all in one place.
As some international destinations might not be as "commercialized" as the U.S. hotel industry is, you might decide to use third party sites just for international travel.
There are no hard-fast rules for when it's cheaper to book hotels directly or when to use a third party site. Hotels like to reward members for their loyalty. Third party sites can be better when you want to scoop up last minute specials or are do not have a preference for a particular brand. Keeping these tips in mind will help you compare hotel prices for your next stay.