Making online bookings have numerous perks , just as there are numerous ways to be scammed. While it allows making fast and efficient search and comparisons, it may also potentially deliver you into the hands of scammers. You can, of course, deal with only the most widely known, and reputable travel agencies, to avoid scammers. The alternative is to book directly with the airline or hotel.
It is true that third-party booking sites can provide a lot of valuable information to help you decide where to stay. Use them by all means, if these sites will help you do your research. But when it comes to actually making the reservation, the best way is still to book directly with the hotel. You’ll find that most decent hotels already have their own websites, which you can use to make inquiries, and possibly make your bookings or reservations.
Reasons to avoid Third-party Booking Sites
Having a huge number of readily user-friendly online sites when making reservations, you are likely to think that you’d rather make your hotel reservation than a travel agent. You are right, not unless you are not familiar with the numerous intricacies of travel. With so many “bait-and-switch trick” intended to scam naïve and trusting travelers, you may end up losing much money.
Catey Hill of MarketWatch – Personal Finance updates you with the four common tricks that fraudulent websites may play on you in this blog Booking travel online? Beware of these 4 scams.
Hill writes, “… the concentration of such a high number of complaints about certain bait-and-switch-type issues may mean there’s something shady — sometimes legal and shady, and sometimes not legal at all — going on with some online travel booking sites.”
Here are four of the common complaints she says are on the rise.
- We have no record of booking your travel. This happens when you pay the third-party site, but which does not make the booking to the hotel you picked. Thus, the hotel will not have any record of your reservation. Avoid this scam by dealing with credible travel websites and by using a credit card instead of paying with your debit card. This way the scammers don’t get your money fast and you still have the chance to cancel the transaction.
- You want a return or refund? Fat chance. You’ll be made to believe you can cancel the booking and get your money back with their refund and return policy. You’ll only come to discover that such doesn’t exist or you have to pay an exorbitant fee to make a refund or change in the reservation later, when you need to cancel or change. You can avoid this by reading the fine print in the contract.
- We changed your travel date — and didn’t tell you. If a travel site can make some profit changing your booking, they might just change your reservations on the pretext that it can save you. Prevent this by verifying your bookings. Call the hotel to validate that you are indeed booked
- That rate you were quoted? We’re upping it. Another common complaint of travelers is getting a higher room rate than the original price, when they get to the hotel. To be sure you won’t be unduly burdened by the extra amount, ask the hotel or the third-party site if exchange rate fluctuations affect the room rates.
Booking Directly with the Hotel
If there is another thing you can do to avoid these scams, it is to book directly with the hotel. Karina Martinez-Carter of the Road Warrior Voices – Advice Section shares and explains the 6 Reasons You Should Book Your Stay Directly with the Hotel Instead of a Third-party Booking Site. She said, “Reserving directly with a hotel is the safest and best bet for reasons ranging from receiving special treatment to direct recourse should something go wrong.”
- Accountability: Misunderstandings can be avoided when only the two parties – the hotel and you – are talking. You can verify and ask questions directly to the hotel, without a third-party who can mess things up between you and the hotel.
- Price matching: Hotels can offer you a rate that can best suit your budget. While certain sites may seem to turn up with the lowest prices, it is because they get special deals. The hotels can similarly offer a special price to you; after all it is the hotel you are talking to.
- Room choice: “Hotels only set aside a certain block of rooms for third-party platforms. Obviously, hotels keep the best rooms and most variety for themselves to sell directly. ..” When you want a room with a great view or some amenities for your disability, ask the hotel directly.
- More flexibility: The hotel management can make special arrangements for you or offer you perk, which can be offered by a travel site.
- Better service, plus perks: Direct bookings give the hotels more profit, which can explain why you can get special services and perks when you book direct.
- Points: Are you into points and rewards? The only way to earn them is by booking directly with the hotel. “… Some platforms do run their own independent rewards programs, but those points are only good on their specific sites.”
Have been scammed before? Avoid these fraudulent transactions and enjoy better perks by booking direct.