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Quick Points: Save big by catching hotel and airline price drops

Oct. 01, 2021
4 min read
DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji
Quick Points: Save big by catching hotel and airline price drops
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TPG's Points and Miles team has been writing weekly posts in its new Quick Points series. This series aims to help you earn points, redeem miles and maximize your travel with bite-sized 500-word posts.

In today's Quick Points post, I'll tell you about how I check for hotel and airline price drops -- and why you might want to, too.

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Let's be honest: Whether you are traveling domestically or internationally, there's a lot of uncertainty surrounding travel right now. I'm still booking a lot of trips, though. After all, as TPG's Summer Hull elegantly put it: Travel is a lifeboat through the pandemic. But with all the uncertainty, it's best to book travel you can cancel without any fees.

Luckily, most hotel award nights are freely cancelable until shortly before your stay is scheduled to begin. And you can often find good-value cash rates that allow you to cancel until a few days before arrival. Meanwhile, some airlines allow you to cancel award flights -- and in some cases, even paid flights -- for no fee.

Related: Pre-pandemic to now: 8 ways I’m booking travel differently

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

But being able to cancel flights and hotels for free doesn't just give me flexibility if I decide not to travel. It also lets me cancel and rebook if I find a better deal. So, I have a reminder every two weeks to check for price drops on upcoming reservations. I also check some programs more frequently since I've been amazed by how often I've caught drops.

Of course, you'll have the most luck catching price drops for paid rates and in programs that use dynamic pricing. I frequently see price drops in my IHG Rewards award nights, Hilton Honors award nights, Marriott Bonvoy paid nights and Southwest flights (both award and paid). For example, back in April, I booked a five-night stay for August at the Four Points by Sheraton Bogota for $262. But, shortly before my stay, I was able to cancel and rebook for $220. The lower rate even included more perks and let me save $42 on my stay.

I've also caught some price drops in Marriott Bonvoy awards when one or more nights of a stay drop from peak pricing to standard or off-peak rates. For instance, I booked a two-night stay at the Category 5 Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa back in May for 70,000 points. But, earlier this month, I noticed the price dropped to 60,000 points, so I rebooked and saved 10,000 points.

Related: Airlines that offer you a credit if the price of airfare drops

Southwest makes it easy to change to a lower fare. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Some programs let you quickly change a current booking when you see a price drop. For example, it's easy to reprice a Southwest flight when the fare decreases as long as you don't have a Southwest Companion Pass companion attached to your reservation.

But some programs don't allow you to change your existing reservation to a lower price and you might have to get creative. For instance, if a loyalty program allows you to make duplicate reservations (and you have enough points or miles to do so on an award ticket), it's best to book at a new reservation at a lower rate before canceling your existing reservation at the higher rate. Otherwise, you'll need to decide whether the risk of a price jump between when you cancel and when you rebook is worth the potential savings.

Catching price drops can save you serious points and cash. So, I recommend setting aside time every few weeks to check current pricing on your freely cancelable bookings. If your experience is like mine, you'll likely see more price drops than you expect.

Featured image by KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
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Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees