Many of us enjoy free (or significantly discounted) hotel nights — thanks to points/stays earned through loyalty programs and/or hotel credit cards. But if you must pay money (the horror!) for a hotel, remember many major chains participate in cashback portals.
This is especially nice if you work for a company which allows you to book your own travel — and doesn’t restrict you to certain travel agencies. You can earn money on the reservation they’re paying for! (I won’t tell! Your secret is safe with me 😉 )
Which Hotels and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) Offer Cashback?
Most major hotel chains work with cashback portals. (The only one absent — at least from my research — was Hyatt.) Not all participate across the board, though. For example, you’ll find Hilton at Rakuten/Ebates but not TopCashback.
And while Rakuten/Ebates current awards just 1% at Marriott, BeFrugal and TopCashback both offer up to 7% cashback.
So it can pay to shop around for the best rebate before you initiate your booking.
Given that many hotel sites offer a “best rate guarantee,” this is a nice way to save even more money on top of that!
- Best Western
- Choice Hotels
- Hotel Indigo
- InterContinental Hotels Group
- Wyndham Hotels
Many OTAs also participate. Remember you won’t earn hotel program loyalty program points or stay credit when you book through an OTA. And you probably won’t receive elite benefits (late checkout, room upgrade, etc). But if that doesn’t matter and you’re an OTA fan, have at it!
- Hotel Tonight
BeFrugal’s “BeFrugal Hotels” portal offers an interesting rebate: up to 35% back.
Do Meeting Codes or Room Block Reservations Qualify for Cashback?
Your mileage may vary. I was successful once getting cashback with IHG, despite using a meeting code. That being said, it might not work every time. If you have data points, please contribute them in the Comments section!
What About Other Discounts?
Some already discounted rates (i.e. AAA) may not be eligible. The safest bet is to use coupons code found on the cashback portals.
How Much Cashback Will I Earn?
Again, your mileage may vary. At the very least, you’ll earn back a percentage of your room rate. Taxes and resort fees generally aren’t eligible for cashback. You might receive cashback from room charges, as well, after your total bill has been settled. I don’t remember it ever happening to me — but, again, if anyone has any data points, please add them.
Just because cashback portals say “Purchases of X products aren’t eligible to receive cashback,” doesn’t always mean you won’t receive it. Many of us have purchased items such as gift cards — which generally are excluded from cashback in the portals’ terms and conditions — yet still earned those rebates.
Stack with Credit Cards!
Remember cashback portal rebates are independent of whatever you earn from your credit cards. So if you use TopCashback to book a room through IHG and pay with the Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s annual $300 travel credit, you’re practically earning free money. Or earn back an extra 3% (up to $20,000 in spending during your first years) on a Chase Freedom Unlimited.
Is everyone clear in general on what cashback portals are and how they work? Does it require a rookie post? Let us know in the Comments section! In the meantime, here are some of our favorite cashback portals offering hotel rebates (and cashback on hundreds of other merchants, too!):
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Marriott Bonvoy is definitely on Rakuten. Only 1% cashback currently, but there are occasional promotional periods when the rate is higher.
@Greg: I swear it wasn’t there when I researching 🙂 Thanks for the comment; I’ve amended the post.
I’d love to see a post digging into how these cashback portals work and why they exist as business models!
@Chris – Is the hotel chain aware of the cashback/does it affect elite program earnings, i.e., Bonvoy or HHonors?
@FLN: Program earnings aren’t affected.
@Chris do you know if corporate rates can be used with the cashback programs?
@Matt: I had success once. It’s sort of a YMMV thing.