Pitfalls you could face when booking through third-party travel sites

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — Before you book your next hotel, rental car, or even buy tickets, you need to do your research to protect your money. When you buy or book through a third-party website, it could cost you.

Matt De Caire was trying to book a specific hotel for a friend’s wedding in Durham. When he googled that hotel’s name, he clicked on the first website he saw and booked the room for the weekend of the wedding.

Shortly after getting the email confirmation, he realized he was not on the actual hotel’s website. Instead, he was on a third-party website and he did not get the special wedding rate for the room.

On the online confirmation for the booking, it stated “free cancellation,” so he decided to try and cancel his booking.

“I’m like, ‘OK, cool. I can just cancel this, and I’ll figure it out on my end.’ So I canceled it no problem; super easy to do that,” De Caire said.

However, what De Caire didn’t realize is while canceling is free, he’d still be charged more than $1,200 for the hotel room.

“That’s where I was really confused. It’s like why would you want to cancel something if you weren’t able to get your money back,” he said.

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The reason he couldn’t get his money back is De Caire booked through a third-party online travel site, not directly through the hotel’s website. If he would have booked directly through the hotel’s website, he’d qualified for the hotel’s cancellation policy which is no charge if you cancel 48 hours in advance.

“Part of what these third-party sites really do is they do a good job of not really putting a lot of branding, making it very generic, make you believe that you’re on a site that might not be specific,” he said.

The Troubleshooter Takeaways to prevent this from happening to you:

  • Don’t just Google a hotel’s name and city and click on the first website you see. Often third-party websites pay to be the top choices. Make sure you are on the direct website for the hotel, airline, or even rental car.
  • Before you book, read that fine print to see exactly what charges you’re responsible for if you cancel, the details are in the small print.
  • If you are going to use a third-party travel site, research that company and read the reviews to see the experience others had.

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As for De Caire, he got in touch with Troubleshooter Diane Wilson and reached out to the third-party website he booked through. He also disputed the charge with his credit card company, and he eventually got his money back.

“I’m just really happy that I got my money back. I want other people to know that it’s always best to purchase directly through the supplier, whether it’s a hotel, whether it’s a food,” he said.

Paying with a credit card does offer the best protection. While these third-party travel sites sometimes do offer a better deal, you need to weigh the risks before you click buy.

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