When you want to book a hotel, is it better to use a third-party site or to book directly at the hotel chain’s own website? There may be a new answer to that question.
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Hotel booking: How to get loyalty rates as a non-loyalty customer
There is a fight going on right now in the hotel industry you need to know about. The hotel industry has a love/hate relationship with sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz. They love the bookings that come through these sites, but they absolutely despise the commissions they have to pay.
So in a rebuttal to that model, the hotel industry has come up with something new. Six of the major hotel chains — Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International, Wyndham Worldwide and Choice Hotels International — have banded together to create a website called RoomKey.com.
With RoomKey, you get access to low loyalty member rates for more than 60 of the world’s largest hotel chains as part of a one-stop shop. And the neat thing is you don’t have to be a loyalty member to get the rates!
How does that work? Well, when you click through on a rate you like, you’re redirected to the actual hotel’s website. Then you can simply sign up for the free loyalty program to get the deal before proceeding with your booking.
RoomKey gets a commission for every booking, but offers the security of letting you book on the hotel’s actual website.
For all you extreme bargain hunters out there, you’ll probably want to continue to use Priceline and Hotwire instead. That’s where Clark himself books almost 100% of his rooms, and that’s how you save the really big bucks!
Watch out for these scams when you get to the hotel
The pizza flier scam
Picture this: You’re tired after a day of sightseeing and you go back to your hotel room to crash out. Pretty soon hunger strikes and you eye that pizza flyer that was slipped under your door earlier in the day. You call the number and the nice person on the other end of the line gets your credit or debit card number and says your pizza will be delivered shortly.
An hour later, you’re still waiting. So you call the pizza place back. The nice person on the phone apologizes and promises your pie is on the way. Two hours later, and still no pie! What happened? The nice people on the other end of the line were criminals! When they took your card number over the phone, they instantly started using your card number around the world as part of a criminal ring.
There’s an easy workaround for you: Before you order a pizza, call down to the front desk to verify that the pizza leaflets are legit. Or better yet, ask them for recommendations about legit restaurants. You can always use your smartphone (or a computer) to visit Yelp.com, Kudzu.com or other local review services to check out the alleged restaurant.
By doing that, you solve the munchies and you avoid having to spend all night on the phone with your credit card company trying to shut down your account before the criminals spend more of your money!
There’s an ugly ongoing problem when you check in or out of a hotel. At the desk, you’re always asked to give a form of payment like a credit card or a debit card so if you trash the room, they have something on you. But then a lot of people decide at checkout that they want to pay cash instead of plastic. So you settle up and they give you a receipt (hopefully) and you go.
The problem comes if there’s a dishonest individual working behind the desk. They may still charge your room to your card *and* pocket the cash. If you later notice and have proof you paid cash, you call up and they say, ‘Sorry, it was a clerical error.’ But what if you didn’t keep that receipt or they didn’t give you one showing you paid cash? You lose.
The best answer is the form of payment you leave at the desk when you check in is the form of payment you pay with when you check out. Hotels are a fertile ground for identity theft rings and credit card theft rings. You have a situation where there is frequent turnover at hotels and weak background checks on employees. Plus, there are so many transactions happening and so much info being given by travelers. It all adds up to hotels becoming a new weak point in our nation’s ability to stop identity theft and credit card theft.
And that brings us full circle to the dangers of debit cards. Because the hotel check-in desk has become such a weak link, never pay for a hotel room with a debit card.
If your number is compromised, using a debit card lays you wide open to having your entire checking account emptied. Then you have to fight with your bank to get your money restored. So for hotels, the only safe thing is to pay with a credit card!
Front desk calling scam
In this one, you check into a hotel, get up to your room and get a call from the front desk saying there’s been a problem with your credit card. You’re told the charge didn’t go through and they need to confirm your number with you.
The only problem is it’s not the front desk calling. It’s a criminal who just dialed in and asked to be transferred to such-and-such room number. If you fall for the ploy, next thing you know there are fraudulent charges being pushed through on your card by the criminals.
If you get this call, tell the person you’ll come back down to the front desk in a moment to discuss the credit card trouble. That way you can handle a legitimate request if it is one and you can also deny the criminals on the phone the info they want!
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The eavesdropping scam
Good Morning America recently set up a test at a hotel where a security expert hung around the front desk and listened for a GMA producer’s name at check-in. The security expert then followed the producer to his room to figure out where he was staying.
Fast forward to the next morning…When the producer went to the gym in the morning, the security expert convinced housekeeping that the room was his and that he needed it cleaned immediately. While housekeeping was in the room, the security expert managed to to walk in, take the producer’s valet card and gain access to his car!
Of course, this was an experiment staged for the cameras, so no one lost any property. But the warning is real: Never say your name out loud at check-in. Show your ID to avoid giving any personal information that someone could overhear.
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