Hotwire provides credits towards future bookings with each purchase and they call those credits Hotdollars, and though I’m not all that frequent a customer of theirs my account also says that I have access to Hotwire Express. It’s apparently not too exclusive a service but does provide more personalized service and flexibility from real customer service folks and not just auto-responses. They never told me I had access to it, I just noticed it on my account when I started poking around this morning looking for more information on the Hotdollars program.
Apparently the Hotdollars program has existed for at least a five years and somehow I never noticed it.
For the longest time I hadn’t even created a Hotwire account, I just booked as a guest, what a mistake — I’ve been racking up HotDollars on purchases made for others in addition to cashback.
The nice thing here is that you can double dip — earn for example 2% cashback as a rebate going through a shopping portal and earn the Hotwire Hotdollars directly at the same time.
In fairness to me (!) there’s not a lot of detail on the Hotwire website. They don’t even tell you the earning rate, if I weren’t so lazy I’d dump my bookings into a spreadsheet and compare it to my Hotdollars and decipher it. But I haven’t had my second cup of coffee yet.
Ebates offers a 2% rebate on Hotwire purchases, and a $5 bonus with your first transaction. (I use Ebates as my rebate program on Hotwire purchases and for Expedia, since Fatwallet only offers a flat $3 per air reservation with the latter. And disclosure, using my link to sign up for Ebates gets us each the $5 bonus, so there’s something in it for me, not enough to taint my perception but I don’t like these things under the radar.)
You start at Ebates, use their link for Hotwire, and will get the 2% on purchases. And then Hotwire will give you their credit towards future purchases based on your spend. That makes it all the more useful, especially when booking for others and redeeming for yourself…
And of course I use BetterBidding.com to decipher what hotels Hotwire is offering via their opaque booking service. Hotwire tells you the amenities and quality level of a hotel that’s in a specific geographic zone, and BetterBidding’s hotel lists will help you decipher the identity of the property, removing some of he opaque elements to the booking.
Hotwire is also a pretty good option for rental cars, albeit prepaid and you don’t get to use upgrade coupons or mileage offers. I’ll frequently see weekday airport rates in major cities that are quite high through normal channels, but much lower on Hotwire. You don’t find out which rental agency it is until you’ve booked, but on a booking this this who cares since it’s a major on-airport agency in any case. Not always an amazing deal, but definitely one for the arsenal in addition to the new AutoSlash site.
Now, Priceline often gets somewhat better prices than Hotwire. In my experience the same hotels and rental agencies offer the same pricing to the two services more or less but Hotwire adds its own markup. So on rental cars I can often do about 10% better on Priceline, or at least I can try and if I fail I can go back to Hotwire, but the difference is rarely worth it to me. Hotwire gives me more buying information up front, and my time is worth something. (On the whole I still often do even better with Priceline on hotels, but check Hotwire to determine a ‘worst case’ pricing as part of my research.)
For my own hotel bookings I rarely use Hotwire and Priceline, I’m less price sensitive and am interested in earning hotel bonuses (I mean, who can beat Free Hyatt Nighs double dipped with big American Airlines bonuses?) and status benefits like upgrades and lounge access. But most of the people I know may not have status and are most interested in price, and perhaps on an airport overnight I might be as well. I book for others, can get a cash rebate and Hotdollars, so I’m helpful to others and at the same time who says travel agent commissions don’t exist anymore at least on a do it yourself basis!