- Hotwire is an opaque booking channel (like Priceline) which does not require bidding
- You are shown the star level, neighbourhood and price per night for a particular hotel. If you accept the offer, the name of the hotel is revealed to you after your purchase is complete
- Because you don’t bid with Hotwire, you’ll invariably end up paying more than you would with Priceline; however, this is a valid option if you’re short on time
- You can get up to 6% cashback with Hotwire through Ebates and Topcashback
Hotwire is like a reverse Priceline (be sure to check out the Priceline bidding tutorial). While Priceline asks you to name a star level, neighbourhood and then state your willingness to pay, Hotwire offers you a star level, neighborhood and a rate- you decide if you want to pay that rate. As with Priceline ,the name of the hotel is obscured until you finalise the (nonrefundable) transaction.
An example is shown below for Las Vegas. I’ve indicated I only want to stay on the Strip, so Hotwire has highlighted the North Strip, Central Strip and South Strip in red. We can see that Hotwire is offering us a 4 star South Strip area hotel for S$181 (prices shown inclusive of all taxes. However, in Las Vegas and certain other cities it is the norm for hotels to charge an additional resort fee. This will be disclosed separately to you before you finalise your booking). Hotwire also lists the amenities this property has, like a fitness center, a casino, a swimming pool
Clicking on this property sends me to the next page where the resort fee (if any) is disclosed to me. Of course, if you’re booking a hotel in a city where resort fees are not the norm (eg Singapore) then whatever price you saw on the first screen is the price you’ll pay in total.
Still keen? On the next screen you’ll fill in your details and finish the transaction. As with Priceline, no refunds are possible.
What’s fun about Hotwire is that it’s a game of information asymmetry. Hotwire drops certain clues about the hotel- the star rating, the neighbourhood and the amenities it has. Based on this information, it is possible to narrow down the potential set of hotels under consideration. In fact, that’s exactly what people do online. On BetterBidding and BiddingForTravel, posters describe what they’re being offered on Hotwire and moderators offer their best guess based on the information at hand.
For example, in our Las Vegas scenario, we know that some Strip properties don’t have casinos of their own. This one does, so that rules those out. We know it has a business centre, so that rules out a few more. Follow this iterative process and you’ll have something approaching a best guess.
A note about star ratings
In my experience I tend to find that Hotwire overstates the star rating of its featured properties. Since the star rating is based entirely on the seller’s own system, there have been allegations of star inflation- websites making the hotel sound nicer than it really is.
An interesting study has been done over at HotelDealsRevealed
“If you book a Hotwire hotel, there’s about a 1 in 4 chance the hotel rating will be inflated by half a star compared to Priceline”
So do be aware of that. I once got a Holiday Inn as a 4 star hotel in Salzberg. It wasn’t terrible, but I certainly wouldn’t consider the Holiday Inn to be anywhere near a 4 star.
I’d personally never opt to use Hotwire over Priceline. Hotels don’t really discriminate in selling inventory to opaque channels so there’s no reason why one site should have better inventory than another. Also, you’ll always be paying more to book via Hotwire than Priceline, simply because they’ve taken the guesswork out of it.
But if you’re in a rush and don’t mind playing a bit of hotel roulette, why not give it a shot? Remember to use a cashback site and save additional money!