Living with credit, Rewards, Travel

3 ways to score cool perks by booking hotels directly

Lyn Mettler

As hotels struggle to compete with price-comparison websites, they are adding perks to make booking directly with them more appealing. In addition to lower rates, free Wi-Fi and online check-in, some hotels now offer cash back, airfare credits and Uber rides when you book directly with them.

Here are three ways to score some of these new-style rewards on your next hotel booking:

Stay Wanderful

With Stay Wanderful, hotels offer instant rewards to customers who reserve their room online.

Book at one of the partner hotels, including boutique properties like The Refinery Hotel in New York City, Boston Park Plaza, The Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, and The Gates Hotel in Key West, and select from up to three rewards upon the completion of your reservation. The rewards then arrive directly in your inbox.

These rewards may include credits for Delta, United, Uber, Starbucks or Shake Shack or discounts on local tours and attractions, such as CityPASS, Hop on Hop Off Double Decker Bus Tours and Broadway shows.

Michelle Mu, director of revenue at Refinery Hotel, says Refinery has been using Stay Wanderful for about a year. She says the program has been a key contributor to the hotel’s double-digit growth of direct bookings.

“It’s a win-win,” she says. “Guests love the free perks.”

The Guestbook

Instead of vouchers and discounts, The Guestbook gives guests 5 percent cash back, 5 percent charitable donation or 10 percent toward a future stay by booking directly with select hotels.

The Guestbook helps more than 600 independent and boutique hotels in 60 countries increase direct bookings, which reduces the cost of using third-party booking sites. The hotels pass along some of this savings to the customer.

Founder and CEO James Gancos says he came up with The Guestbook idea after working at Starwood hotels where he introduced the Make a Green Choice program. Guests received 500 Starwood Preferred Guest points for each day they declined housekeeping.

“The program became an almost overnight success, and it taught me that providing relevant rewards to guests can change behavior and be a win-win for hotels and guests,” Gancos says.

To get cash back with The Guestbook, you must enroll in the program before check-in. Then just book your hotel via TheGuestbook.com or directly with a participating hotel, using the same email registered with The Guestbook.

After you check out, submit your final bill to receive your cash, which is issued within seven business days via PayPal, bitcoin (yes, bitcoin), Visa eGift card or gift cards for major retailers.

Alternately, you can choose the Trip Cash option to net 10 percent toward a future trip. Trip Cash must be used by March 31 of the following year at a different destination booked through TheGuestbook.com and must cover the cost of at least one night.

Gopher

The creators of The Guestbook offer another program that lets guests earn cash back at hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Best Western and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and helps them find the lowest rate.

Gopher is a browser extension, currently available for Google Chrome, that appears when searching a comparison site such as Booking.com, Kayak and Orbitz. Gopher offers cash back to help you get a better deal by booking directly with the hotel.

The amount of cash you’ll get back varies based on how much the site needs to give you to guarantee you will get a better deal by booking directly with the hotel.

“For instance, if a travel site has a lower rate than the hotel site for some reason, then Gopher can give you even more cash back and make up the difference – and then some,” Gancos says.

Your cash back comes, as with The Guestbook, via PayPal or gift cards, after you complete your stay.

How these rewards can help a family

With a husband and two kids, traveling as a family is expensive, and we’re always looking for ways we can not just cut costs, but travel nearly free. Last year, I shared tips for how to save on a trip to Disneyland. This year, my family will check out the savings and rewards we can earn by booking directly at hotels. You can, too.

And with all of these direct booking options, you also can pay with a cash back credit card or a card that earns points on travel expenses to increase your rewards and stack your savings.

See related: How to get free stays and perks faster with hotel rewards, Annual card bonuses shower extra rewards for loyalty, Know hotel categories to book the perfect stay

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