Is It Worth The Extra Money To Book A Room Directly From The Hotel Website?

The hotel chains have spent a lot of money on marketing to try to get you to book a hotel room directly with them by using their website or app and have gone with the “carrot and stick” approach to achieve that goal. On one hand, they’ve gone out of their way to market special low “Member Exclusive Rates” that are only available to members of their loyalty program and “Best Rate Guarantees” that tell you if you find a cheaper rate after booking with them, they’ll match it and lower the rate even further. At the same time, the hotel chains penalize you for booking anywhere except directly with them. Some of these “sticks” are they don’t give you any recognition of your loyalty status or let you earn any points in their program when staying on externally booked stays. They’ll also only give perks like free Wi-Fi if you’ve booked directly with them.

When I say you need to book direct with the hotel, I mean you use the hotel’s website, the hotel chain’s website, the smartphone app for the hotel chain, or by calling the hotel to make a reservation.

When I mention using an “external” website, that is basically everything else. Websites like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Priceline, Hotels Tonight, Hotwire and Booking.com are just some of them. If you’re completing the booking anywhere but with the hotel, it’s an external website.

Hotel search engines like Trivago, Kayak and TripAdvisor show you prices directly from the hotel as well as from external sites, so it’s best to use something like that to see who has the cheapest price.

So, should you only book your hotel rooms directly with the hotel even if an external site is less expensive?  Continue reading “Is It Worth The Extra Money To Book A Room Directly From The Hotel Website?”

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Earn miles when buying those last minute roses for your valentine

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The shopping portals for the airlines seem to have figured out that most people procrastinate about ordering flowers for Valentine’s Day. You know it’s next Tuesday, right? If you are going to order your flowers online, there are no shortages of offers out there.

This list is of the bonuses being offered by different programs for purchases from FTD. You can get 25 miles per dollar spent at United, American or Delta. You can also just get cash back with Ebates, who is currently offering 20% back on purchases. If you join Ebates with this link you’ll get $10 when you spend $25. (Full Disclosure, they will also pay us a referral bonus)

I always check to see which portal to use before buying anything online, because even the major retailers will often offer you bonus miles. I’ve found a site called Cashbackmonitor, which gives a robust list of different shopping portals and I’m using it more and more.

For example, say I want to get roses for Sharon from FTD and earn American Airline miles for my purchase. Clicking on the link from Cashbackmonitor will take me here:

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As this is the offer I want, I would click on the “Shop Now” button and get this:

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You then sign in with your account info (you have signed up for the programs already, right?).  You will be directed to the website of whatever store from which you plan to buy the items.

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The browser will then identify you to FTD (via your browser cookies), and that’s how FTD and the shopping portals both know to issue the miles to you. It’s important not to go browsing around between clicking from the shopping portal and buying the item (if you do, the program could lose track of you and not give you your miles).

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I think 50 roses should be good this year and I’ll get 4,125 miles as well.

If you need to browse the ‘net or do something else and just come back later, put the items in your cart, close the website and repeat the above steps to get back to the final website.

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Remember that if you’ve been surfing around the internet between any of these steps, leave the item in your cart and close the browser window. Go back to the shopping portal website and click back to the store’s website. Click on your cart and then checkout.

Hope this gives you an introduction on shopping portals and how to use them. If you have any questions, please comment below or ask us on Facebook or Twitter.