Picking the right price for a hotel

As is often the case I recently found myself hunting for a hotel deal the day before arrival. Planning ahead is not all that common for me it seems. And as I scrolled through the various booking engines I finally settled on a hotel at a decent blend of price point, location and quality. But the decision process was just beginning. I now had three different prices for the same room and it was not as simple as just choosing the cheapest.

As is always the case these days I started my search with Hotel Hustle on the off chance there was a spectacular deal to be had on points or at one of the “regular” brands. Not so much, unfortunately, so I moved on to the OTAs. Because the stay was in Hong Kong I started with Wotif.com; it offers a better selection of hotels in Asia in my experience and even its own version of opaque booking options. The neighborhoods for the opaque bookings were a bit wider than I was willing to accept but a pretty nice looking property caught my eye and the price was decent.


From there it was on to hotels.com because I can get cash back and also Welcome Rewards credits on such bookings. As an added bonus the price was even better for the same room (n.b. at the time of these searches 199 AUD was about $159 USD).


And then, just to round out the search efforts, I tried a direct booking with the hotel itself. That was even cheaper.


So, naturally, the idea is to book the best rate for the same room, right? But the Hotels.com booking would net me 10% back towards my Welcome Rewards account. That’s $14 in this case, bringing the total net cost to be the same as the direct booking. Add in the 5.5% cash back – which doesn’t require 10 nights to earn – and I would come out ahead on the total cost of the room with that approach, even though the up front cash rate was more expensive.

So, which would you choose? And did I make the correct choice?

I actually went with the cheaper up-front costs of booking direct. Yes, I passed on the long-term potential Welcome Rewards credit in exchange for paying less today. Not that I’m under any delusions that I’ll invest the $7 better and yield a return which beats the loyalty option. But it just felt like a better idea at the time to not spend the extra cash today.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. So which hotel was it? $140 USD for a room in Hong Kong isn’t terrible…

  2. When the direct booking and Hotels.com price are near parity, I book from the hotel direct as they frequently give you better rooms, and are more open to last minute changes/cancellations.

    1. Agreed, properties sometimes seem to give the worst rooms to OTA bookings so in this sort of scenario I’d probably book direct too.

  3. @seth
    what about cancellation options?
    i, personally, often use hotels.com since they often have generous cancellation policies.
    or do they simply mirror the hotels own cancel policy?

    1. In this particular case cancellation wasn’t an issue as it was a same-day booking. More often than not I see the policies similar when it comes to similar prices. Some OTAs may only offer non-refundable rates while the direct offers both, but that is not always the case.

  4. $7 savings is about 5%. I probably would have gone with hotels.com in your case. 5ish% seems worth it to me. The question is, why are you settling for 5.5% cashback at hotels.com when topcashback has it for 7%? Lastly, thanks for hotelhustle – incredibly powerful tool!

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