Category Archives: Hotels

Hotels

Save more on your AirBnB stays

The Idea

  • AirBnB currently has a tie up with DBS and American Express Krisflyer credit cards
  • DBS lets you save 17/15% for your first/subsequent AirBnB bookings
  • American Express gives you S$80 off a min S$160 reservation, for one time use only
  • Use my sign up link to get S$33 additional credit when you join AirBnB

The Details

I haven’t really used AirBnB in the past but I’ve got an upcoming stay with them in Seattle and that got me thinking about how to get the best price when booking with them. It turns out that AirBnB is currently running 2 different promotions with DBS and American Express to offer discounts off your stay. For your convenience I’m summarised them below

Bank Promotion Book by Travel by Code to use
DBS
  • 17% off for new users OR
  • 15% off for existing users
  • Max discount S$250
10/5/15 31/7/15
  • DBS17 plus first 6 digits of your DBS/POSB card OR
  • DBS15 plus first 6 digits of your DBS/POSB card
American Express Singapore Airlines Cards
  • S$80 off with min spend of S$160 (single use only)
31/5/15 31/7/15
  • AMEXSG plus first 6 digits of your card

Using the DBS code saved me a pretty penny on my Seattle stay, knocking S$139 off my total bill. It appears the 17% off applies to the cleaning fees and AirBnB’s service fee too.

airbnb

Or you could try the American Express offer, which might end up being a better deal if you can find a stay that just hits the S$160 mark. Remember that American Express cards are generally a waste of time, but you should still be signing up for the American Express Kirsflyer Ascend Card just for the free gifts it comes with. This is the only other situation where I would put any spending at all on the Amex Krisflyer Ascend-it can even count as your first spend to get your 5,000 free miles!

In the past AirBnB had tieups with OCBC, Citibank, UOB and Standard Chartered although those have expired and have not yet been renewed. If anything changes I’ll come back and update this post accordingly.

When you sign up, use my link and get an additional S$33 credit (full disclosure: I also get S$33). The codes may not be stackable, so I recommend you use my link to sign up and have the S$33 credited to your account, then use one of the 2 above discount codes to save a bit more on your first stay. Subsequently, use the S$33 you got from my sign up link.

The Visa Luxury Collection- worth booking?

The Idea

  • Visa offers the Visa Luxury Hotel Collection to its Signature and Infinite cardholders which allows you to book curated hotels with additional benefits such as room upgrades, free internet, free breakfast, US$25 F&B credit and 3pm late checkout
  • This can be useful for comparison shopping if you’ve decided you’re not interested in hotel loyalty programs- but do note that you still need to comparison shop rates with an OTA to ensure you’re getting a good deal
  • The Visa Luxury Hotel Collection offers a BRG, but only against fully cancellable rates found on other OTAs

 The Details

Sure, elite status is a great thing to have, but some of us may be casual travelers who take the odd trip here and there. Is it too much to want a bit of special treatment when we travel too?

If you have a Visa Signature or Infinite card, you can.

Visa has a special program called the Visa Luxury Hotel Collection. This site works as a booking portal for specially curated hotels around the globe. When you book through this portal and pay with your Visa card, you get to enjoy the following perks

  • Automatic room upgrade when available
  • Complimentary in-room wifi
  • Complimentary continental breakfast daily
  • USD$25 F&B credit
  • 3PM check-out when available
  • “VIP” guest status (this may or may not be a meaningless term- I’ve certainly not been treated any differently when I stayed. But apparently in Vegas VIP guest status lets you bypass the (very) long check-in lines)

One thing to note about this booking channel is that the rates it offers are invariably higher than those I find through Kayak. That said, they offer a BRG policy. I’ve not tested how willing they are to honor that yet, but it’s also good to note that most of the rates on this website are refundable.  (A necessary implication of that is that you can’t challenge a non-refundable rate you find on an OTA against the Visa Luxury Hotel Collection rate- the rate you challenge with must also be refundable)

Let’s look at Las Vegas, for example, for a one night stay in end-April

Kayak tells me that the Trump is available for US$112 per night on Priceline

visa1
Kayak availability
visa2
Priceline availability

The Visa Luxury Collection offers me the same price of US$111 for a cancellable reservation

visa3

In this case, it happened that the rates we found were identical on both sites. But there are other instances where you can find rates which are much cheaper on an OTA. If the OTA is also offering a cancellable rate, be sure to file a BRG claim with Visa Luxury Hotel Collection after booking (and confirm that your booking can be cancelled without penalty)

The funny thing about this is that the promotion was created for “premium Visa cardholders”, which includes “selected” Visa Platinum cards.

But in Singapore, Visa Platinum has been cheapened so much that pretty much anyone who has a Visa has at least a Visa Platinum. I can’t remember the last time I saw a regular Visa card, even my OCBC Yes! Debit card is a Visa Platinum

Hail the mighty Visa Platinum!
Hail the mighty Visa Platinum!

Therefore I’m not sure if your Visa Platinum will work for the purposes of booking a stay through the Visa Luxury Hotel Collection, but you’re welcome to try and let me know in the comments below.

Overall I think this is definitely worth a look- the US$25 F&B voucher + free breakfast and free wifi can lead to significant savings. The free room upgrade and late check out are subject to availability, but you’ve got very little to lose by trying.

If you’re interested in learning how to get bona fide elite status quickly with hotels, have a read of this page!

Hotwire- a no-bidding alternative to Priceline

The Idea

  • 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

The Details

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 hotwire1

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.

hotwire2

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 

To summarise-

“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.

Conclusion

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!