One of the repeated questions I am often asked about travel is where to stay. People are curious to know where they should search when it comes to booking hotels online. As a frequent traveler, and planner of our family travels, I can tell you it is so important to know how to search smarter. This will help avoid scams and fraud. Thanks to the AHLA (American Hotel & Lodging Association) for sponsoring this post so I can share tips on how to search smarter to avoid scams when booking hotels online.
Now more than ever it is so important that consumers pay close attention when booking hotels online.
Did you know there are 500 hotel bookings happening online every minute? Are you also aware that online hotel booking scams and misleading marketing practices are an ongoing and widespread problem?
When discussing travelers who have been mislead or experienced fraud when booking hotels online, as per some statistics that AHLA shared on their site:
- 46% were charged extra fees on their credit card
- 44% requested a special room but that request was not relayed to the hotel
- 34% had their reservation lost and had to book a new room, losing the cost of the original reservation
I’m going to tell you a quick story about when I was the victim of an online booking scam.
My husband wanted to go on a family vacation so I started searching online for travel deals. I came across one that I should’ve realized was too good to be true. Had I known back then to look before I booked I would’ve discovered it was a third-party vendor who was using the hotel’s identity without their permission. Without doing any research, I provided my credit card information, completed the booking and was even given a confirmation number. Fortunately I happened to contact the hotel directly a few days before we were leaving to ask some questions, and discovered they had no reservation for us. After contacting my credit card company and investigating, I found out we were scammed. My heart broke when I had to explain to my kids we weren’t going on vacation and also tell my husband we were victims of fraud.
Here are some tips, thanks to AHLA, on how to search smarter to avoid scams when booking hotels online.
- Look before you book. Take the time to make sure you are on the actual hotel’s site before booking. Always check the URL address and be sure you know who you are giving your personal information to.
- Make sure to sign up for and utilize loyalty programs. I always sign up for loyalty programs, especially at my favorite hotels. This is consistently one of my top travel tips for people. Loyalty programs are free plus they offer great benefits. Always book directly with the hotel to ensure you receive your points.
- Ask the right questions. Don’t provide your credit card information until you have answers for:
- What is the cancellation/trip change policy?
- Is the payment site secure?
- Is the site, in any way, affiliated with the hotel?
- Book directly with the hotel. This is my favorite tip because it provides the best value. When my son and I were deciding on where to stay in Amsterdam, for our trip last month, I went directly to a few hotels websites to search and then booked with a hotel where I am a loyalty member of.