On the milesopedia facebook group, Frank asked a question that got a lot of responses:
To begin with, let’s develop the advantages of buying your hotel nights, before comparing hotel reservation sites.
Why pay for your hotel room
To earn points
For rewards program junkies like us, there is a benefit to paying for your hotel room. This way, we can earn points through our stay and take advantage of promotions!
Also, by using the credit card linked to the hotel’s rewards program, you will be able to earn more points!
In Canada, there are 2 rewards programs offering credit cards:
- Marriott Bonvoy through the Carte Marriott BonvoyMC American ExpressMD or the small business version – available to consumers – the American ExpressMD Corporate Marriott BonvoyMD Card each offer 5 points/dollar purchase. These purchases must be charged to your Card at participating Marriott BonvoyMD*locations.
- Best Western Rewards through the Best Western Rewardscard , which earns 5 Best Western Rewards points for every $1 in eligible purchases at a Best Western property
I detail in this article my strategy on how to easily earn points through the application bonuses offered by these cards.
And on these two pages, you will find a presentation of the two cards:
- The best credit card for free nights: the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card!
- Introducing the Best Western Rewards Mastercard
To assert its status
A benefit that can save you tens or even hundreds of dollars!
While booking with a third party site for a stay in a chain hotel, you will not be able to take advantage of your status, in the vast majority of cases. In fact, in order to encourage guests to book directly at the hotel, the hotel gives them advantages. This prevents them from giving a commission to the third party site.
In an attempt to obtain a status
Frequent travelers are well advised to stay in hotels belonging to the same group (Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton, Best Western…). Thus, they earn nights that eventually allow them to reach a higher status.
Best price guarantee
Most major hotel groups have a best price guarantee policy: if you find a cheaper price elsewhere within a certain time frame, you will get a compensation gesture.
With Marriott Bonvoy, we have the guarantee Look No Further of the same price -25%. It happened to me 2 times recently to book with Marriott, make 2 requests because I had seen the same room at a lower price on the sites above and to have them accepted. So it costs you even less! For example, a $141 room on Marriott, seen at $139 on Hotels.com and that Marriott makes me at $104!
Shopping around and seeing price differences is a good way to save on your hotel room. You can even choose between this discount or 5,000 Marriott Bonvoy points! Simply fill out the form to claim the Best Rate Guarantee. Remember that the analysis of your best price guarantee will be done within 24-48 hours after booking. Therefore, the price may fluctuate slightly.
Paying for your hotel room with an online reservation site
In the jargon, they are called OTA for Online Tourism Agency. That is to say, online travel agencies that essentially market tourist/travel services provided by third parties. There are hundreds of them so the most famous are: hotels.com, booking.com, Expedia, Hotwire and Airbnb!
We are not talking about hotel groups here. The vast majority of the hotel offer is present on these sites. Booking.com is certainly the one that offers the greatest variety of accommodations. From palaces to Bed & Breakfasts, youth hostels or consumers rentals, you will find everything!
Here is a testimony from Julie on the Facebook group:
I always book on Booking.com! But I must say that I am not very “hotel” either. In Bali it was ONLY through Booking.com and for my trip to Morocco this summer only through Booking.com too! The advantage is that you pay once on the spot (so no deposit or payment in full at the time of booking (like Expedia for example), and that you can cancel without charge up to 1 to 7 days before your arrival, which leaves you flexibility (…) I don’t like to stay in big hotels, I prefer smaller places, closer to the local population
Let’s take a look at the caractéristiques each of these sites by doing a booking test in Montreal:
- Marriott Château ChamplainHotel
- 1 night
- November 7-8, 2018
On the Marriott website, this hotel is listed at $383.18 including taxes for Marriott Bonvoy members (free registration).
The hotel reservation website : Hotels.com
It is undoubtedly the best known… it must be said that the domain name helps greatly to its popularity!
The rates will therefore be mostly identical between all these platforms.
Hotels.com Rewards Program
Hotels.com sets itself apart from the competition by offering a rewards program: Hotels.com Rewards. This program is very simple to understand.
Accumulate 10 nights, receive 1 as a reward:
The value of your reward night is equal to the average price of the 10 nights you have accumulated. The advantage? No date restrictions, you choose the hotel where you really want to spend your reward night!
This is a formula that Michel appreciates very much:
I use Hotels.com a lot because of their rewards program which ultimately gives a 10% discount (11th night free). They also equalize prices, but I have never used them. To note: when you are registered they present “secret prices” lower than those posted to all.
Secret” prizes for members
In addition to this rewards program, Hotels.com offers secret prizes only for members.
Our test hotel on hotels.com
Our test hotel costs $403.43 including taxes on hotels.com, about $20 more than on Marriott.com.
- Benefit: You earnone night in the Hotels.com Rewards program.
- Disadvantage: you will not be able to obtain the benefits of your Marriott Bonvoy status or earn points for your stay (and take advantage of ongoing bonuses)
Our opinion on hotels.com
The hotels.com rewards program makes a difference. It’s like getting a 10% discount on each of your nights, which is not insignificant.
On the other hand, for the big chains (Marriott, Hilton, Best Western…) do not expect to make a bargain: the price will be identical or higher than the one proposed by the chain.
The hotel reservation site: Booking.com
Booking.com has a wide range of offers. The site is particularly well established in the most remote areas as well.
Like Hotels.com, Booking.com is in the same group as other booking platforms such as Priceline, Agoda or Kayak.
Again, the prices will be similar between these different sites.
Previously, Booking.com had a referral system. This allowed for rewards to be received. But, of sponsorship program ended on October 15, 2019.
Beware of taxes
Depending on the country, the price will be indicated including all taxes… or not! Be sure to check the terms and conditions to see what is included and what is not included to avoid any inconvenience once you are there.
Our test hotel on booking.com
Our booking.com hotel costs $403.41 including taxes, a few cents less than Hotels.com. But it is more expensive than a direct booking on the Marriott Bonvoy website.
Our opinion on booking.com
Booking. com has a similar price to the other third-party sites in our test. However, it does not have a rewards program like hotels.com. On the other hand, it offers a much greater variety of accommodations than the entire competition.
Booking with Airbnb
Just because you rent an apartment doesn’t mean you’re completely out of the rewards program!
In fact, many credit cards allow you to apply points to travel expenses… like Airbnb!
This is the case for the Scotia Rewards program with the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card…
…or the American Express Membership Rewards program with a card like the American Express Cobalt™ Card.
Here, to offset the $454.41 Airbnb expense, I would need to use 45,441 American Express Membership Rewards offered by the American Express Cobalt™ Card.
Use your travel points… for this type of reservation
Some travel points rewards programs will allow you to apply your points to travel bookings made on any of these travel sites. Examples include Scene+ and American Express Membership Rewards…. in the same way as reservations on Airbnb.
So this can be a backdoor way to still use points!
For other rewards programs such as BMO Rewards, you can use your points directly on the booking site, which are mostly managed by the big players in the market such as Expedia. The price will therefore be the same as what you could find elsewhere.
The offer of all these sites is vast. But in the end, there are only a few players who share the hotel reservation market. In addition, the prices are ultimately very similar.
Preferably, I always book directly with the hotel. Then I look at prices elsewhere to see if I can beat the price offered by the direct hotel. Most offer a best price guarantee so if you find a better price elsewhere, the hotel may offer you a discount.
It will be up to you to make your “small calculations” in function:
- your status within the different hotel groups
- bonus points that you could get with a direct booking with the hotel
- the place of your stay
- the type of your stay (professional, personal, with family, friends…)
You should also know that you will always get the best rooms by booking with the hotel directly, especially if you make specific requests. It is quite well known in the hotel business that “Expedia” customers are given the most ordinary rooms. Booking comes second (because we usually pay at the beginning). Hoteliers always favor their good customers and that is perfectly honorable!
Feel free to join the discussion in the Facebook group on this topic, which is very lively !