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Looking for something a little more tangible from your hotel rewards program? A new travel site, The Guestbook, actually gives you 5% cash back for booking directly with more than 450 independent and boutique hotels around the world, including 255 in Europe, 140 in North America, 35 in Asia, 18 in South America, nine in Africa and four in Australia.
The site is really easy to use — just sign up for a free account (via email or Facebook), search for participating hotels and book directly through The Guestbook or the actual website of the hotel you want to stay in. Each available hotel will then appear, showing the going rates for booking direct — click on the nifty Compare Rates button to see how much the same property is listed for on Hotels.com and Travelocity for those dates.
Depending on the hotel, you might also be able to earn 5% cash back on ancillary items like in-room Wi-Fi, movies, phone calls, hotel restaurants and bars, room service or the minibar, so keep an eye out for the Stay Perks tab, which will show up above the Compare Rates tab when available.
Given that you’ll be getting 5% cash back, you’re still going to end up saving a little extra by booking this way compared to other online travel sites. All you need to do is submit your reservation confirmation or the final hotel bill through your account on The Guestbook and you’ll be able to redeem your cash back within about seven business days after checkout.
In addition to earning 5% cash back (via PayPal), you also have the option to save up all your redemptions and exchange them for bitcoin, Visa eGift Cards or gift cards from Amazon.com, Target, iTunes, Starbucks and Best Buy, among other retailers — denomination offers will vary depending on which one you choose.
How Are the Rates?
So, how do The Guestbook’s rates really stack up against booking through the hotel directly? We tested out hotel offers for a one-night stay at the Dream Midtown in New York City for two guests from April 11-12. Prices on The Guestbook started at $266 per night, while rates listed on the hotel’s actual website started at $295 per night, a difference of about 11%. Plus, you’d earn $13 cash back by booking directly with The Guestbook. So far, so good.
We were also curious to see how The Guestbook’s prices would compare with those on Hotels.com, so we tested the same dates to find out. The lowest price offered for a one-night stay at the Dream Midtown was also $295. Technically, the Hotels.com loyalty program does give you 10% back, but only after you’ve reached the 10-stay mark, making The Guestbook a better deal since you’ll earn rewards faster and you won’t miss out on any direct booking benefits that you might not get by booking through a third party like Hotels.com.
We ran the same test for a one-night stay at the Hotel Xenia in London for two guests on April 12-13. Prices started at $361 per night on The Guestbook, while rates on the hotel’s website started at $402, a difference of about 11%. The lowest price offered by Hotels.com for the same stay was $301, however, so in that case you’d be better off booking through Hotels.com, instead.
What About Rocketmiles?
Our last test was to compare the booking benefits of The Guestbook to those of Rocketmiles, a site that lets you earn airline miles when you stay at participating hotels. Of course it really boils down to the kind of hotels you’re looking for (since Rocketmiles offers chains compared to the boutique-only Guestbook) and whether you want to stock up on airline miles or use your hotel stay to earn cash back and other fun perks like gift cards, since The Guestbook does not offer an option for earning miles. For instance, if you’re booking a stay at a property that’s $600 per night on The Guestbook, you’d earn $30 back via PayPal, or you could opt to add that $30 to another previous redemption and save up to redeem them for a gift card. If that $30 is more valuable to you than potential mileage earnings, go with The Guestbook.
Although the more than 450 independent and boutique hotels offered through The Guestbook are not connected to any of the usual hotel loyalty programs, you can still technically earn points on these purchases by booking with a credit card like Citi ThankYou Premier and Citi Prestige, which offer 3x back on hotel stays, or Chase Sapphire Preferred, which gives you 2x the points on all travel purchases.
Have you used The Guestbook to book a hotel stay yet?
Featured image is of the Dream Midtown in New York City. Image courtesy of Dream Hotels.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards