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Frequent travelers have their routines set. They know how to maximize their elite status perks and how to save money on hotels in the process. Still, there are some tricks of the trade that may not be so familiar to everyone. Here are eight ideas to save money on hotels, whether you're staying for one night or several.
Best ways to save on hotels
1. Become a loyalty program member
Loyalty programs are about more than just racking up miles and points to redeem later. Sure, those are amazing benefits. The experience snowballs to even more perks when you earn elite status. But, there’s another reason why you should join a loyalty program even if you don’t travel much: discounts on hotel stays. In an effort to encourage people to book directly, hotel programs offer a discount to members when they book through their own channels. You can save quite a bit of money this way.
Popular hotel chains and their rewards programs include:
We determined that Radisson Rewards and Rewards Americas are the best hotel loyalty programs in 2022, followed by World of Hyatt.
Other discount programs include AAA and AARP, which can slash the cost of a stay. These, however, carry a fee to join, whereas hotel loyalty programs are free.
» Learn more: How to choose the best hotel loyalty program for you
2. Save with best rate guarantees
Since hotel companies want you to book directly with them, most offer a best rate guarantee program. This assures that you will find the lowest rate on their own website. When booking hotel stays via an online travel agency, like Booking.com or Orbitz.com, hotels have to pay a commission. Encouraging direct bookings helps to avoid that.
If you find the same room at your hotel on the same dates for a lower rate elsewhere, hotel companies will often offer a reward of some sort. This can include a percentage back as a refund or bonus points. Knowing about best rate guarantees can help save some cash, especially when searching for hotels in pricey destinations like Miami or New York.
» Learn more: How to find and book a hotel
3. Spend strategically on hotel credit cards
Depending on which hotel brand you frequent most often, signing up for a hotel-affiliated credit card can deliver substantial savings for upcoming stays. Not only will you earn bonus points for using the card to cover the room rate, but it may come with elite status perks that can cut down on costs during your visit. For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers top-tier Diamond status in Hilton’s loyalty program, and the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card comes with Platinum Elite status in IHG's loyalty program.
Things like breakfast, club lounge access, late checkout and even welcome amenities like fruit plates and drinks can come in handy. You won’t have to pay for these perks during your stay, which helps you save.
» Learn more: A beginner's guide to hotel elite status
4. Take full advantage of onsite benefits
Like elite status perks, except available for everyone, some hotels offer free breakfast, evening happy hours and other benefits. Many brands like Embassy Suites by Hilton and Staybridge Suites make these extra perks part of their value proposition. If you’re traveling with the family and looking for the best Disney hotels, why fork over extra cash for breakfast each morning if some hotels offer it free of charge?
Embassy Suites has complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast that amounts to big savings for a family. All rooms at Embassy Suites are suites with a separate bedroom and living area. Why pay for a suite upgrade elsewhere when that’s the standard at this brand? Understanding what each brand within a hotel chain’s portfolio offers can lead to substantial savings.
» Learn more: Tips for booking big hotel rooms for families
5. Get bonus points by booking via cash-back portals
The more expensive your stay (pricier rooms or longer visits), the more valuable this one will be. Using cash-back portals to make online purchases is a great way to save some cash as you can 'double dip' your award earnings. All that's required is that you visit a shopping portal website, like Rakuten.com or TopCashBack.com, and click on the online retailer or hotel website you want to book.
While not all hotel chains participate, many do. You'll earn a percentage back of what you spend in your account, which then comes back to you in the form of a check or gift cards. Airlines and hotel companies also have their own shopping portals if you prefer to receive those benefits as miles or points.
6. Roll the dice with prepaid room rates
This one is for the daring traveler. Prepaid rates are usually non-refundable and can shave a nice chunk off the cost of a hotel stay. What you save in money though, you lose in flexibility. If your plans change at the last minute, you won’t be able to get your money back without Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance. Still, this can be a solid way to lower the cost of a hotel stay if you are certain that you plan to spend the night.
» Learn more: The best Las Vegas hotels without resort fees
7. Strike up a deal
If you plan to visit a hotel often or for an extended period of time, give the hotel’s sales department a call. Chances are they might offer you a discount for booking directly. Hotels often offer these deals for group bookings, and if you'll be staying a significant number of nights over the course of the year, they may want to secure your business. Of course, this will vary by city and property, but it’s always worth a try.
8. Optimize for low-cost options by booking with OTAs
If you don’t care about singular hotel loyalty, earning points or taking advantage of elite status perks, some websites and apps like Hotel Tonight or Priceline offer bargain deals at the last minute. This is a great way for a hotel to dump excess inventory in the market without jeopardizing their reputation. These deals are opaque, which means you don’t know the exact hotel until you pay for it. You can save money this way, but you may not always get the best room in the house.
» Learn more: The pros and cons of joining multiple hotel programs
Treat yourself with the cash you saved on hotel stays
What will you do with the extra cash you save on hotels? Savvy travelers will put these money-saving tips to good use the next time they book a hotel.
Consider the tradeoffs of booking the cheapest rates versus not earning loyalty points. If status or earning free night stays is not that important, you can use the money you save for something more personally valuable at your destination.
The next time you make a hotel reservation, see if any of these pointers can put some extra cash in your wallet.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card