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Some folks in our hobby avoid independent, small-chain, and boutique hotels for their paid travel, because they’d rather accumulate points in a big chain hotel loyalty program.
Now, there’s a way to earn cash back on paid stays at certain non-chain hotels. The Guestbook is a service that connects travelers with 300+ independent hotels, and pays 5% cash back on stays booked directly with the hotel or through their service.
Sound like a good deal? Let’s see if it is!
How Does It Work?
Link: The Guestbook
Link: The Guestbook FAQ
The Guestbook is a loyalty program for independent and boutique hotels, and it’s free to sign-up. You’ll earn 5% back on your room rate and eligible hotel purchases (but not taxes) at over 300 hotels worldwide.
But only if you book directly with the hotel, or through The Guestbook online. And you must sign-up at least 1 day before your stay begins to earn cash back.
Not a lot of hotels are included. For example, there are only 17 hotels in New York City, 3 in Chicago, 1 in Orlando, 4 in Toronto, and a handful in other North American cities. There seem to be more participating hotels in Europe.
You don’t get a loyalty program number. Instead, you email The Guestbook your reservation or receipt when you book or stay at a participating hotel. Or link your email account so The Guestbook automatically gets your new hotel reservations.
They’ll pay you 5% back via PayPal or Visa prepaid card. Or you can redeem your earnings for gift cards to places like Amazon, department stores, and more.
Here’s a video with a description of how it works:
Earning 5% cash back at non-chain hotels sounds like a good way to save! Because you’d normally only earn miles, points, or cash back from the credit card you use to pay for your stay. And nothing from the hotel.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
1. The Royalton, New York
I searched through The Guestbook for a standard, pre-paid (non-refundable) room at The Royalton in New York. It’s a boutique hotel in midtown Manhattan, close to Broadway, Times Square, and the Empire State Building.
A night booked through The Guestbook in February 2016 was ~$271. And you’d earn ~$12 cash back, so your net cost would be ~$259.
You’d pay the same and get the same cash back if you booked through The Royalton directly.
On either of these bookings, The Guestbook would pay you 5% back on the room rate (but not taxes). So you’d get ~$12 back ($232 base rate of room X 5%).
I checked Kayak to see if I could find the room cheaper from somewhere else.
Expedia‘s cheapest (non-refundable) rate for the same night is ~$296. It’s ~$26 more expensive (~$296 – $270) than booking through The Guestbook or the hotel directly.
That said, you will earn Expedia+ points. I prefer cash back (and a lower room rate!).
There’s also a 3rd-party site called Prestigia offering the same room for ~$279. So it’s ~$9 more expensive that booking through The Guestbook (~$279 – $270).
So in this case, you’ll get the best deal by booking with The Guestbook or the hotel. And you’ll earn 5% cash back!
2. The Caesar, London
A refundable paid night in April 2016 costs ~138 British pounds, or ~$199 booked through The Guestbook.
So you’d earn ~$10 cash back (~$199 X 5%), or possibly slightly less. In this case, the nightly rate is inclusive of taxes and fees.
The same applies to a booking made directly through the hotel.
I checked Kayak for the same date, and found the hotel for the exact same price through Orbitz.
You won’t earn cash back through The Guestbook if you book with Orbitz. But if you like collecting Orbitz Orbucks points (their award currency), or are working toward Orbitz elite status, this might be a better deal for you. In this case you’d earn ~$6 Orbucks to use toward your next Orbitz hotel booking.
Who Should Use The Guestbook?
The Guestbook might appeal to you if:
- You like independent or boutique hotels
- You prefer cash back and don’t want to fuss with points and 3rd-party loyalty programs from online travel agencies
- You aren’t picky and don’t mind a limited selection of hotels
- Hotels you stay at frequently are included in the program
Definitely shop around to be sure you’re getting the best price before you book. In the examples I chose, I couldn’t find better prices booking through online travel agencies, but you might.
The Guestbook says they’ll typically credit your account within ~7 business days of your stay. You can redeem your cash back after each stay, or save it up and cash it out after several stays. There is no minimum.
Note: The email address you use on your hotel booking must match the email address you signed-up for The Guestbook with, otherwise you will NOT earn cash back.
I also like that you can earn cash back on eligible room charges, like hotel restaurants and spa treatments. That gives The Guestbook an advantage over booking through 3rd-party sites.
As always, run the numbers to be sure you’re getting the best deal.
Should You Book Through The Guestbook?
I haven’t used the service, but in many cases it seems like you’ll do better by booking through the hotel directly (you’ll still earn 5% cash back) instead of using The Guestbook for your reservation.
That’s because some of these hotels offer extra perks, like free Wi-Fi, bonus airline miles, or a best rate guarantee. But only if you book through them directly.
But when you book through The Guestbook, there’s no field to enter your frequent flyer number. You might be able to add it to your reservation after you book, but I haven’t done this myself.
Keep in mind, if you book through the hotel directly, it’s classified as travel. So you’ll earn bonus miles and points when you pay with cards like:
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus – 2.1% back
when you redeem for $100+ travel purchases
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel
- Citi Prestige – 3X Citi ThankYou points on direct hotel bookings
- Citi ThankYou Premier – 3X Citi ThankYou points on travel
Bookings made through The Guestbook should code as travel, but you could miss out on bonus points if you use a card like Citi Prestige which earns 2X points on bookings made with hotels directly.
To be safe (and still earn 5% cash back), I’d book through the hotel itself. Then send your reservation email or receipt to The Guestbook.
Other Sites With a Similar Concept
Depending on your travel goals, you might consider these programs instead!
If you like staying at independent, small-chain, and boutique hotels, check out The Guestbook. It’s a service which pays you 5% cash back on paid stays at 300+ participating hotels.
To earn the cash back, email your reservation or hotel receipt to The Guestbook. Or link your email account for automatic cash back.
There aren’t many hotels included in North America, but there are quite a few overseas. You’ll only earn cash back if you book your stay through The Guestbook or with the hotel directly.
So bookings made through 3rd-party sites like Orbitz will NOT earn cash back. That said, in the examples I checked, the cheapest rates were through The Guestbook or directly through the hotel.
Do the math and shop around to be sure you’re getting the best deal!
I haven’t tried The Guestbook yet, but please share your experiences if you have!