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Have you ever scoured the racks at a department store and found, say, a pair of designer shoes on sale for 90% off? And the shoes were kind of hidden because they were in an unmarked box on a lower shelf in a corner where most shoppers wouldn’t see them?
That’s kind of what scoring a deal on Priceline is like. The deals are there, but you have to dig a bit. They guarantee occupancy for only two people per room, and they’re often nonrefundable. In other words, there are pros and cons to booking hotels with Priceline. Let’s take a look.
The pros of booking with Priceline
You can save a lot of money as a Priceline VIP
Priceline has a loyalty program called Priceline VIP. It’s free to join, and you get access to VIP discounts and benefits as soon as you sign up.
For example, a recent search for a four-star hotel in Seattle returned a VIP rate of $137 per night for the Thompson Hotel. This rate was significantly lower than any other rate offered across the internet, including on Hyatt’s own website, where the Member Rate was $176 a night for the same dates.
You can save even more by using the Priceline app
“Tonight-Only Deals,” sometimes referred to as "Deals Tonight Nearby," are deeply discounted rates that you can snap up at the last minute only in the app — a great way to save if you’re feeling adventurous. Or, take advantage of another app-only feature perfect for road trips: “Road Deals." Simply enter your starting point and destination into the app, then Priceline will plot available hotels along your route.
You can find great deals at boutique hotels
Typically, a stay at a boutique hotel is a special occasion — as reflected in the price tag. Many boutique hotels aren’t part of a loyalty program, so it’s not always possible to pay for your stay using hotel points. Priceline makes it possible to score a great deal at a premium hotel for a nice discount.
For example, a recent search for a room at the NoMad hotel in New York returned a rate of $280 per night for VIPs on Priceline and $360 a night everywhere else, including the hotel’s own website. That’s a savings of 22%.
You can stack discounts to “triple dip” on savings
First, sign up for the Priceline VIP program. Besides giving you access to discounted prices, it'll also email you coupons and discounts.
Second, start your Priceline search by clicking through a shopping portal such as CashbackMonitor, which can earn you as much as 10% back in cash or rewards points.
Finally, use a credit card that offers a bonus for travel spend, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Put it all together for a triple dip in savings.
The cons of booking with Priceline
Priceline guarantees occupancy for only two people per room
Typically, hotels in the United States allow up to four people per room. Priceline guarantees only two per room, which could be an issue if you have more than two people in your party.
It can be difficult to actually find the best price
Unfortunately, neither the Priceline website nor app is intuitive to use. To ensure you’re getting the best price, you have to navigate an avalanche of deals across both mediums, including:
It’s a lot to sift through and can be confusing.
There are major differences between the website and the app
Some of the deals offered on the website don’t appear on the app and vice versa. For example, “Pricebreakers” is a website-only feature that allows you to pay a deep discount for one of three similar hotels — but you won’t know which one until you book. On the flip side lies the aforementioned “Tonight-Only Deals.” Visible only in the app, this deal offers substantial savings on hotels for that night only.
Many Priceline bookings are absolutely nonrefundable
Priceline’s cancellation and refund policies can be very restrictive. While some policies may have changed in response to COVID-19, it can still be difficult — if not impossible — to cancel a booking or get a refund on Priceline. This holds true for regular bookings, but even more so for deeply discounted rates such as Priceline Express Deals.
When booking with Priceline, use a credit card that offers great travel insurance benefits. If you need to cancel your stay, you may be able to use the cancellation coverage provided with the card.
You won’t earn loyalty points or enjoy elite status with hotel stays
When you book a hotel with Priceline, you generally won’t earn hotel loyalty points for your stay. In addition, the hotel likely won’t honor any elite status you hold.
» Learn more: Hotel loyalty program reviews
The bottom line
Consider all of the Priceline pros and cons before booking your next hotel. The online travel agency can be a great way to save a lot of money on a hotel stay — but you’ll need to be savvy in order to find the best possible deal. If you do your price-comparison homework, make sure your dates are firm and understand the limitations, you can score a brag-worthy price at a beautiful hotel.
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 2023, 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