Is It Worth It To Book An Advance Purchase Rate At A Hotel?

by joeheg

We’ve booked our fair share of hotels over the years and always have to decide whether to reserve the advance purchase rate or the best refundable rate. Hotels offer a lower price if you’re willing to pay for the entire stay upfront but is it worth the savings to pay for your stay in advance?

Unlike having to pay for your train, plane or cruise ship ticket ahead of time, you’re able to pay for other travel expenses, like a hotel room, when you’re finished with your stay. It didn’t take long for hotel companies to figure out that people were canceling reservations at the last possible minute, so hotels now give an incentive to pay ahead of time for your room, in the form of a lower price.

For example, here are the prices for a weekend stay at the Residence Inn in Cape Canaveral.

a building with a parking lot and a palm tree

The flexible member rate is $512 for a two-night stay.

a screenshot of a hotel roomThe advance purchase is much lower, only costing $450 for the same room.

a screenshot of a hotel suite

That’s a $31 difference per night or $62 for the stay. However, there’s a downside to the prepaid rate, as it’s also non-refundable.

As of September 2021, Marriott hotels around the world are able to set their own cancellation policies.

a close-up of a sign

You have to decide if you’re willing to risk losing $450 if you need to cancel to save $62. I’m looking at a reservation that’s just 3 weeks away, but many things can change in that amount of time.

I try never to book a non-refundable advance purchase rate. I’m not willing to risk the money just to save some dollars. That’s why I’m not a gambler (and why we only visit Las Vegas for the shows and not the casinos).

I’m still looking to save a buck wherever I can. Thankfully, there’s a way for me to have my cake and eat it too. There’s a AAA rate in between the two prices. Remember that AAA is worth more than just road service.

a screenshot of a hotel roomWith a total price of $494, that’s $44 more for the two nights. For $22 a night, I get to pay for the room after my stay. Note that there’s no deposit required for the AAA rate. Here’s the cancellation policy:

You may cancel your reservation for no charge before 11:59 PM local hotel time 2 day[s] before arrival.

That’s the same policy as the Flexible rate.

When I first wrote about advanced purchase rates, several readers mentioned Marriott offers a senior rate that’s usually comparable to the AAA rate (without requiring an AAA membership.)

a room with a table and chairs

In fact, in this instance, it’s $10 less than the AAA rate.

Final Thought

There are cases where I may book an advance purchase rate. If I read the policies and can cancel the room up until a few days before the stay and get a refund, I’ll consider paying in advance if the price is right. I’m also more willing to pay in advance the closer I am to the day of the stay. If I’m booking a room only a day or two in advance, I might be within the cancellation policy anyway so why not save a few bucks?

I don’t see many instances where it’s worth it to book a hotel room where you need to pay the entire amount in advance and lose all your money if you need to change your plans.

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