Save serious money on hotel bookings

I have just received S$166.16 in cashback for the hotel bookings of my recent trip, no kidding! Here’s how i did it.

Earn cashback through ShopbackSimple as that. Hotel booking websites take an average of 15% in commission from the hotel/accommodation provider for every booking done through their websites. Yes, that’s an awful lot of money! They’re willing to give you back 6% of that commission, so you better grab it! You can get this cashback if you do your hotel bookings through cashback websites, like Shopback.

If you don’t live in Singapore (or Malaysia/Philippines/Indonesia/Taiwan/India where Shopback is also present), there’s Ebates that will give you cashback for hotel bookings as well, although you get much less through Ebates. Anything is still better than nothing right?

Update 13 Mar 2017: As the saying goes, all good things come to an end. Agoda has stopped giving cashback on Shopback, so your best bet now is booking.com, which allows you to earn up to 7% cashback with the Visa deal. Agoda was giving out reward points and cashback at the same time, and i’m quite sure they lost money doing that. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.

Here are 3 tips to save money on your hotel bookings (with the assumption that you are using Shopback):

Tip #1 Do hotel bookings through Agoda. I used to book only through booking.com exclusively, but have since switched to Agoda to earn more cashback.

More often than not, the cashback given by Agoda is more. They give a minimum of S$10 in cashback for bookings above US$50. If you do the math, this is up to 14.8% (which tallies with the 15% commission they earn). Sometimes (like during the Great Singapore Sale which is happening NOW promotion is over), they give S$14 in cashback, which is a whopping 20%! On very rare occasions, they even give up to $20 in cashback (i managed to grab $20 for two of my bookings, see the screenshot above).

Update 21 Aug 2016: Shopback now gives S$12 cashback through their Visa partnership. I hope this is permanent. You don’t actually need to make your final payment using a Visa card, as there’s no way to enforce this. You just need to enter the first 6 digits of any Visa card to be able to initiate your cashback shopping.

Update 2 Jan 2017: As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Agoda no longer offers the fixed amount S$10 cashback for above US$50 bookings (since some time back actually). They offer 6% cashback, which is the same as for booking.com. In any case, you still do accumulate loyalty points under Agoda, so it’s still better to book through them. I just managed to take S$34 off a hotel booking by utilizing 12500 points.

You may be wondering if booking.com possibly has better pricing than Agoda, and so nullify the benefits obtained through the cashback. Well, i don’t always check, but i’m inclined to think that the prices are more or less the same. Do check carefully if the price quoted is inclusive of tax. One can be easily misled by the before-tax pricing. Agoda, for example, doesn’t show you the tax-included price unless you click to initiate that booking.

Despite how much i like booking.com (their website presentation and customer service is unparalleled), i now use Agoda almost exclusively. The exception is when there are hotels available under booking.com that are not offered on Agoda. Anyway, they are both under the Priceline group now and are complementing rather than competing with each other.

Tip #2 Agoda’s cashback is awarded on a per booking basis.

What this means is, the more bookings you do, the more cashback you can potentially earn. If you make a booking to stay in a hotel for 5 days, it is one single booking, but if you stay in a different hotel everyday over the 5 days, it is 5 different bookings. You must be thinking, Aha, why don’t i make 5 different bookings for the same hotel, one for each day of stay. Well, actually the terms and conditions for Agoda on Shopback doesn’t explicitly say you can’t do this, but i would think you will still risk being considered as engaging in fraudulent activities to cheat the cashback system.

These are the terms spelled out by Agoda on Shopback: “Accounts that engage in fraudulent orders/activities to game/cheat the cashback system will be banned and cashback forfeited.” Just for comparison, the terms and conditions for Booking.com on Shopback does specify that “Multiple bookings for the same hotel may not be rewarded cashback”. Interestingly, booking.com gives a 6% cashback on the total booking amount, so it really shouldn’t matter if someone actually did make multiple bookings for the same hotel, but in Agoda’s case, where they give a flat amount cashback on a per booking basis, it would matter. Beats me as to why Agoda doesn’t specify this restriction outright.

Anyway, i have never stayed in any hotel for more than 3 days in a row. Most of the time, it is just one day. If you want to play safe, you might want to consider trying out a few hotels instead of staying put in one, just for the fun of it. I would do that.

Tip #3 Pay for the Agoda bookings using a credit card that gives rebates for online transactions

Agoda always receives the payment on behalf of the hotel, giving you the option to pay now (at the point of booking) or later. In the case of “later”, the payment will be debited from your credit card 3 – 14 days before your stay. This payment is considered as an internet online transaction (my credit card bill says INTERNET), which can earn you rebates with some credit cards.

I use UOB Visa Signature. You can earn 5% in rebates for up to a maximum of S$2000 spend in a month (minimum of S$1000 spend required). There is a caveat though – the transactions have to be in foreign currency. This is not a problem, as you can select USD or other currencies when doing the booking on Agoda.

There is also another advantage with the Visa Signature – all your foreign currency spend while you’re overseas also earns you rebates, and this would roughly coincide with the dates Agoda starts charging you for the hotel bookings if you choose to pay later. There’s one thing you need to take note of though – the rollover date of your credit card statement period, to ensure that all the foreign currency spend happens within the same statement period to chalk up the minimum spend of S$1000. You can actually call Agoda to make the payment as an when you want. This way, you can be exactly sure that your hotel booking payments are made in the statement month that you want.

The other cards that give rebates for online transactions are OCBC Frank and SCB Singpost, just for your information. Don’t miss out on the rebates you can get from a credit card in addition to the Shopback cashback!

 

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