I’m a deal-hunter by nature: there are few things I hate more than knowing that I overpaid. I often re-check reservations for weeks after booking to see if prices have changed. However, our coming 3 Cards 3 Continents challenge has driven me a step further. Having to stick to a strict budget has meant looking for any means possible to cut a little extra cost here or there and free up funds for other parts of the trip and that has meant rediscovering a small tip that I’d mostly forgotten: booking via travel apps rather than on desktop can sometimes save you a few bucks. Discovering a small discount via the Hotels.com app led me down a rabbit hole of trying other apps for discounts. While I ultimately didn’t find a lot of disparity between in-app pricing and desktop pricing, there are some times when you could save by shopping for the same booking via app rather than website.
This topic really came to the front of my mind because I was rebooking a hotel stay that I had previously booked via Hotels.com (the price had decreased a bit). After first checking the Hotels.com price against Capital One Spring, various OTAs via HotelsCombined.com, a handful of foreign versions of the Hotels.com website, T-Mobile Travel, and the property’s direct website, I determined that booking direct was going to be my best bet (thanks to discounted Hotels.com gift cards purchased through Amazon deals like this one).
I pulled up the Hotels.com website on my laptop and I was about to check out when I remembered to first check portal rates at CashBackMonitor.com. The best payout at the time was only 2% cash back. That’s not very rewarding. I then thought to check the hotels.com app — something I hadn’t been doing with other bookings — mostly curious if I would see some sort of app-only coupon. Much to my surprise, the same hotel and room for the same dates I had been about to book via the desktop website was cheaper in the app. It wasn’t wildly cheaper, but at about a 4% price difference, it made sense to book via the app even if it meant forgoing shopping portal cash back.
I’m actually not sure that it’s even necessary to forgo portal cash. I tried clicking through a portal on my phone and it brought me to the Hotels.com app to book. We’ll see what tracks.
Still, I was happy to free up a few bucks thanks to using the Hotels.com app rather than the desktop site. We saw a promotion over the summer where stays booked via the app counted double for Hotels.com Rewards , which as another good reason to book via the app (and that’s a deal worth keeping an eye out for should it ever return — I regret not rebooking some 3 Cards stays that way). Frankly, between discounted Hotels.com gift cards and their very easy to understand and use rewards system, I find Hotels.com to be a compelling alternative for anyone who isn’t booking direct for loyalty points and benefits (or chasing American Airlines elite status).
The Orbitz app offers 10% off your first app booking with promo code SAVEAPP10. Note that this code probably won’t work toward chain hotels, but it worked toward many non-chain options, including hotels where I couldn’t find discounts otherwise. While Orbitz still won’t compete if you’re leveraging discounted Hotels.com gift cards as noted above, I found this discount to otherwise be quite good. There was one specific hotel where I tried every discount website I could find and none of them discounted the nightly rate — except for the 10% off code via Orbitz in the app.
Note that I don’t think you can earn shopping portal rewards when clicking through to the app, but I believe that you do earn increased “Orbucks” rewards for what those are worth to you.
I was kind of surprised to find that Spirit doesn’t appear to offer any discount for booking in-app. Then again, since they are known for bargain basement prices, maybe they just don’t have the room to offer additional discounts online. However, if you live within an easily drivable distance to the airport, keep in mind that booking Spirit tickets at the airport saves you around $20 in fees. That can be a significant discount percentage on a really cheap fare. I believe this is also true for Allegiant (I’m not sure about Frontier or other newer low-cost carriers like Avelo).
I had noticed a post in a Facebook group recently asking whether Frontier offered a discount for booking in-app, but I was somewhat surprised to find no discount on my sample searches.
That said, there were some dates in my sample searching that showed a lower price in the calendar view at the top than what I found via desktop, but when I clicked on those dates I couldn’t find any flight with that price. See below as an example — whereas I could find flights for $69 on 1/11, there were no flights priced at $222 on 1/12 or 1/13 (or at the advertised $159 on 1/14). Maybe there is some way to get the discounted pricing to appear, but I didn’t find it.
Wyndham is known to pretty frequently run app-only deals. They usually send an email advertising these deals and we usually report on them (like this expired instance), but they clearly do have a desire to drive bookings toward their app.
Prices seemed to match what I saw on the main website, but after a few minutes of clicking around on the app, I got a pop-up add with coupon code APPFIRST10 good for 10% off in the app only on up to 3 bookings made between 17th of January to October 1, 2022. Terms state that it can not be used with any other discounts.
However, that code is not a deal: you can frequently get more than 10% back in portal rewards. For instance, at the time of writing, the Capital One Shopping app (open to anyone, not just cardholders) is offering 15% back on Viator bookings and shopping site Retailmenot is offering 16% back (up to $50 back). Clicking through those portals on my phone brought up a mobile version of the website instead of the Viator app, so I don’t think there is away to stack portal rewards and the app discount code (the code didn’t work even on the mobile version of the site, saying that it was good in-app only).
Also keep in mind that Viator won’t be helpful if the tour operator cancels your booking and raises their price. That said, there are enough stacking deals to save a nice chunk of change at Viator.
Capital One Shopping
Capital One Shopping is a free shopping portal open to anyone (you do not need to have a Capital One card). The app version of this shopping portal frequently has better payout rates than the desktop site. As noted above, the Capital One Shopping app is offering 15% cash back at Viator at the time of writing, whereas the Capital One Shopping website is only offering 7% back. Note that some increased app payout rates are targeted and others are public.
It is worth mentioning that “cash back” earned through Capital One Shopping is not actually redeemable as cash but rather you need to redeem it for gift cards. Still, they have Amazon and Walmart among many other popular retailers, so it is possible to get nearly face value out of the cash back.
Also worth noting is that some people get targeted for really good Capital One Shopping offers after installing the Capital One Shopping browser extension. I haven’t been so lucky, but Greg has.
Trip.com offers some coupons for hotels and rental cars for new registrants who have never made a booking via Trip.com or the Trip.com app. Registering for an account only requires an email address and a password, so it is pretty easy to access these deals. Note that once you register and claim your codes, the hotel codes are only valid for 7 days.
Discovering a small savings on a Hotels.com booking when reserving my stay through the app instead of the website led me down a rabbit hole of checking to see what other travel-related apps may offer better deals to those booking via their app rather than their website. This post certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of travel apps, it just represents the ones I dug into while searching for better deals. If readers are familiar with other apps that frequently offer savings over using desktop / mobile websites, I would love to hear about it in the comments.