How To Book Hotels Online Securely
Eight hotel reservations are made every second in America. Yet, online scams involving hotel booking are surprisingly common, according to Time Magazine, with 1 in 4 travelers believing they were paying one site only to find it was another after the fact. Furthermore, Business Insider reports that 15 million hotel bookings are intercepted by rogue affiliates every year. Here are a few expert tips to help you make sure you book hotels online securely.
How are travelers scammed when they try to book hotels online?
According to a study by GfK Custom Research for the American Hotel & Lodging Association:
- 32% of travelers got a room different than what they expected.
- 17% of travelers were charged hidden or unexpected fees.
- 15% of travelers did not receive the reward points they were promised.
- 14% of travelers were charged an additional booking fee.
- 14% of travelers could not get a refund for a cancellation.
- 9% of travelers had their reservations lost or unexpectedly cancelled.
- 3% of travelers had their identity or private information stolen.
Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to avoid these mishaps occurring when you book a hotel online.
Only book hotels on “Https” websites.
Look in the upper left-hand corner of your web browser. It should say “Secure Browser” with a lock symbol, and begin with “Https://” before the URL. So, for instance, on this site, you’ll see: https://www.book-hotels.com. Keep in mind, having an HTTPS doesn’t mean information on the server is 100% secure, but it does mean that data being transferred from one computer to another is safe during the transfer. Once on a website, it must be properly encrypted and stored, so hackers cannot access it later. But HTTPS should at least be a prerequisite for doing business with a particular travel booking site.
Never book a hotel on a website posing as legit.
Most third party booking sites and aggregators go the extra mile with their branding. They have their own logos, taglines, and “About” pages to make it clear they are NOT the direct hotel, but a service provider working with that hotel to secure you a better rate. Scammers often use names that trick people into thinking they are booking direct – like “MarriottNationalReservationCenter.com,” or something to that effect.
Before doing your hotel booking, know when you’ll be charged.
Some websites charge your credit card at the time of the hotel booking – in full, in advance, completely nonrefundable. Other websites take your credit card information to secure your spot, but let you make changes or cancellations within a reasonable timeframe and pay using the method of your choice at the hotel when you get there. Be sure to read the site’s payment policy before confirming your reservation.
Book your hotel now, but do not be afraid to ask questions later.
Book your hotel now to secure the best deal, but remember that it never hurts to call the hotel directly. The hotel staff should be able to verify your hotel booking in the system before your arrival. If the amenities listed on the booking site seem too good to be true, there is no harm in calling the hotel to ask if they honor free parking, free airport shuttles, free breakfast, and perks like that before you commit to the reservation. If you are a loyalty member, be sure to ask the hotel if they will honor loyalty points from reservations booked through a third party site or aggregator.
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