40% Off Most Hotels, Anywhere

Slickdeals has a post that has since spread like wildfire to other blogs — an opportunity for 40% off of virtually any hotel, anywhere.

But the deal is already coming to an end, it seems, even though it was originally scheduled to last through January 19th. Read on, though, both because it’s an interesting story and because some good deals are still being eaked out of this one.

Last night folks discovered that Explore Cruise Travel, a USAA partner, was offering USAA members 40% off all hotels booked through January 19th.

It turns out anyone can join USAA. I did. I answered all of their questions honestly, I am not in the military, my parents are not in the military, I am not related to a USAA member, I once saw an action flick in the theatre though (which turns out not to have been required for membership). Enrollment was instant online and free.

So then it was just a matter of going to the Explore Cruise Travel website (you’re prompted for your USAA login unless already logged in at the USAA site). And at checkout coupon code USAA1 took off 40% of the cost of the stay. No matter where you were staying.

That’s some great deals. It’s like going to Expedia or Orbitz and just taking a flat 40% off of whatever hotels you booked. You could book any city, any hotel property just about.

Now, it turns out that the site doesn’t have every hotel property, I found Aman Resorts in Bali but not everywhere. I didn’t find some of the Four Seasons hotels I was looking for but did find nearby Ritz-Carltons.

I found the Park Hyatt Aviara, and it even correctly showed me the third-night free ‘free time’ promotion rate — which I should then have been able to take 40% off of. But they couldn’t get the availability to confirm. That would happen, strangely, at times. Sometimes and with some hotels quite frequently.

Other hotels could be bizarrely more money than they ‘should be’ or could be found elsewhere. Most hotels would price similarly, but some would be 20% more — or more, even — so not as tremendous a deal at 40% off.

And many for many hotels only base rooms were offered, sure I could book those Amans in Bali (which would still have been $650 per night) but I couldn’t get a pool or ocean view with my villa. (I didn’t book any of those Amans.)

But the offer is still live. It’s just that they’ve now imposed some restrictions – the stay has to be at least $500 for the coupon to work (so most one night stays at all but the priciest hotels won’t work), and it seems like more and more hotels are falling into the category of “20% higher than they should be” as I search for them now.

Still, values to be had out there!

And it’s going to be fascinating to watch. There’s tremendous coverage (Slickdeals is much bigger than many realize).

I’m not sure how they can dishonor the deal, if everyone has complied with
the rules. It isn’t a mistake. They intended to make the offer to USAA members. USAA members took advantage of it. (Perhaps they could contrive something about new members signing up only for this deal not being in the spirit of the promotion, but it’s a stretch.)

I also don’t quite get the economics of this. Booking sites do take big
commissions, especially the big ones like Expedia. Some independent hotels
can pay as much as 40% commission. But big chains don’t, a Marriott or Hilton
isn’t going to be more than somewhere in the 20% – 28% range. How could a 40% discount make sense? They would presumably lose money on every booking (except those where the hotels are just strangely more expensive on the site than going rate).

Developing, and hope some of you find some great bargains still!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It is interesting since we have been USAA members for over 30 years and they never told us about this.

  2. Really? Just because anyone can join doesn’t mean you should! It’s not like I went out of my way in the last 11 years serving to earn those benefits.

  3. Why shouldn’t anyone join. USAA is a bank that is open to public. There are some products that are only available to full members which IIRC requires some sort of military affiliation. But it’s not like anyone is lying about serving to join.

  4. link was dead to me. great post, it never occurred to me i would be eligible for USAA since USAA insurance and credit cards are restricted to members of US military, vets or their dependents. wonder if that has now changed – that would be huge.

  5. Just did a quick check…Westin Maui came up at $450 for 4 nights in May $1800 – discounted to $1080 or 40%… went to SPG website and the same room was $356 a night… Looks like they are jacking up the base rate and then taking the discount… so while their discounted rate is definitely better, you really need to check the base rates first.

  6. Booked a hotel in Manhattan. Hotels.com $1300; hotel website $1400; both non-refundable. USAA $921, fully refundable up to noon the day before check-in. Holy Molly! Thanks Gary!

  7. For those who do really qualify for USAA, (I do and have been a member for many many years), they do offer the best insurance period. Other benefits are outstanding like when I got to buy are new car, they give me a very very low rate and a site draft (with a max amount I can spend) and I can just go by any car I want (that then becomes a USAA loan). This does seems to be a great deal but USAA is just tops and we should all know this!

  8. Yeah, as an active duty member this one kind of bothers me. Never been upset with great deals or mistake airfares, but this one was really meant for us. I just hope some of my fellow military members don’t miss out on traveling home when they finally get leave cuz of this. To those of you who saved, congrats though.

  9. Well, I’m not a $200/night hotel guy, although I am a loyal USAA member. With the $500 minimum, I’ve looked through my multi-night high-end/resort/expensive city travel plans for 2013 to see if I can pick up a bargain with this. In the right circumstance, I could see how there are deals still, but they are going to be very specialized. The closet I came was a 3-night resort stay in Tucson. Loew’s Ventana Canyon works out to about $115/night tax included for peak winter travel. Not bad, but I’ve got a cheap cash & points rez at the La Paloma, so not a compelling value to me. Otherwise, I’ve looked in Italy, the UK, Australia, India and various USA cities and can’t find anything to buy. But thanks for the link.

  10. Vegas, baby! Aria for around $120/night Columbus Day weekend; Venetian for around $150/night Labor Day weekend.

  11. @Gary;

    Booked the Andaman at $180/night. Will I get Starwood benefits (I’m Plat) or is this site one of those that doesn’t qualify.

    Also, I’m at a special rate through SPG.com at 900 MYR a night ($298), but that includes full breakfast and dinner for two each day (no drinks). I think the USAA rate also includes breakfast (plus I might get it anyway as Plat).

    What do you think dinner for two (average eaters) would run?

  12. USAA is still restricting it’s full membership (their core insurance products) to military related individuals. The open signups are just for the bank and shopping discounts.

    This is what they say for “Other Individuals” (non-military)

    Which products and services can I get?
    Membership is open to those who have honorably served in the U.S. military as well as eligible family members. We also offer certain products to non military individuals. Here’s a general outline of the products and services available to you.

    Our investment products, most checking and savings products, credit cards, life insurance, and shopping and discounts are available to other individuals.
    USAA auto and property insurance is not available due to membership eligibility requirements.

    (From a 34 year USAA member)

  13. @Beachfan: There’s a 7-11 outside the hotel which will cook you up a breakfast burrito for 40c US. USAA is selling it at 32c US. I would jump on it.

  14. Plenty of good deals to be found still. Booked 3 nights at the Maui Fairmont in an ocean view suite for $1207 compared to $2242 on the hotel’s site.

  15. @Adam: That’s an outrage! USAA should honor their 40% discount and sell the breakfast burrito for 26c US.

  16. I can’t get thru to the site even after signing up. Just keeps “reloading” on the USAA site and not taking me to the booking page. :/

  17. I’m a Canadian – can’t seem to sign up even though it allows me to put in all my info, but it wants a Tax ID, which I don’t have and don’t even know what that is…

    Anyone have any tips?

  18. Phenomenal deal! I am taking the family to London in June and had booked 5 rooms, 8 days at a particular hotel for $10K refundable.
    I just rebooked the same rooms for $6K. You saved me $4K!
    Went ahead and booked another 3 nights at a Ritz for my wife’s birthday. Thanks Gary!

  19. No amans in Bali! I’m booked in their Bali and Beyond and was hoping to save some money. Even Amanjiwo on Java wasn’t available….

  20. im outside the usa. i can select my country but the site wants a tax or socail security number. how do i get past this part? whatever i enter isnt valid

  21. I got a $750 min on the code Friday morning…will the deal stick around but just get worse and worse over time?

  22. @Gary

    Come to think of it, you gave some info on food costs at the Andaman in your post. But if you know whether booking through the site would allow starwood credit/amenities, that would be great to know.

  23. Just saved a bunch on next week’s hotels – thanks Gary!

    And to clarify, they are not letting just anyone join USAA with full USAA benefits. After registering, it clearly states that we are not eligible for any of the USAA insurance programs – clearly the best benefit that is reserved for Military families, as it should be.

    What they do let us participate in is things like Explore Cruise, which earns USAA affiliate or commission revenue and enhances their profitability. A more profitable USAA is good for all the Military families that depend on it.

    Just my 2 cents…

  24. No problem registering at USAA with no military affiliation. Booked 7 nights in November at the Outrigger Napili Shores for $907 total after discount code. Also, can cancel with no cost until 4 days before arrival. This is a lower to mid priced place that meets our requirements for exploring and enjoying the beautiful island of Maui. Worked nicely with our already booked “free one-way” on United after our February trip to Peru. Thanks Gary!

  25. all i get is this over and over again. can anyone help ????

    Explore Cruise & Travel
    Page Loading

    You are now leaving usaa.com and being directed to a site built exclusively for USAA members. You may click the USAA link to return at any time, but you may need to log on again.

    Note: USAA is not responsible for content or privacy policies on other sites.

    If you are not automatically directed, click “Continue.”

  26. I just did a dummy person, dummy SSN as well, got me through to the site. Vegas in April 2013, during a HIGH weekend went from 1200$ for three nights to 520$ for three at the Encore for a “suite” Seems like a nice little deal, and cancelable up to 48 hours in advance.

    I USED to be a USAA member (if you LIVED in HI, you could get USAA insurance and membership in the past) MIght have to actually activate again with this new info.

    Yeah, having to put in SSN# on this site might freak me out too.

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