This Dubious Strategy Is NOT One I’d Use to Save on Hotel Stays. Would You?

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A Million Mile Secrets reader recently wrote to tell me they saved ~50% off a paid hotel stay.  They did so by booking online using a government employee rate.

The terms & conditions for booking a government rate usually state you must be a a state or federal government employee or active military.  And you have to provide a valid ID at check-in.

But based on the reader’s experience and folks on FlyerTalk, some hotels do NOT ask for ID at check-in.  This means it’s possible for anyone to book the discounted government rate online.

That said, I would not be comfortable booking this way.  Plus, I prefer to use hotel points for free stays to avoid paying anything at all!

Hotel Government Rate
Pinocchio Might Be Comfortable Booking a Hotel Stay Using a Government Employee Discount. But I Am NOT!

I’ll share how the government hotel rate compares to a regular room rate.  And the risks of booking this way if you’re not a government employee.

Booking a Government Rate at Hotels

When you book a stay at most major hotel chains, including Hilton, IHG, Marriott, and Starwood, there are usually multiple room rates available to choose from.  For example, you might see:

  • AAA
  • AARP
  • Government employee
  • Loyalty member
  • Reward night
Hotel Government Rate
There Are Many Different Room Rates Available When You Book With Major Hotel Chains

There’s nothing to prevent you from comparing prices across the different rate categories.  In fact, you might be able to book any of the discounted rates, even if you don’t qualify.

But at check-in, you’ll likely be required to provide proof of your membership or employment status to get the discount.

For example, I made a test booking at a Starwood hotel using the government rate.  And at the payment page, it says I’ll be required to provide ID when I check-in to the hotel.

Hotel Government Rate
During an Online Booking, You’ll See a Notice to Bring Your ID to Check-In If You’re Using the Government Employee Rate

But some hotels don’t ask for an ID when you check-in.  This means you can potentially get a cheap hotel stay by booking the government employee rate.

I checked the cost of a night at the Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles Westside.  The government employee rate is ~$100, or 45% cheaper than the price for loyalty members, seniors, and AAA members.

Hotel Government Rate
The Government Employee Price at a Sample Starwood Hotel Is ~$100 Cheaper Than Other Rates

Keep in mind, the discount can vary depending on the hotel.  And most hotels have a limited number of rooms available at a special rate for government employees.  So some nights the government rate can be the same or more expensive than the rate for loyalty members.

If you’re unsure if you qualify for a government employee rate, I’d recommend contacting the hotel to confirm.  Because if you’re not eligible and book it anyway, you could end up paying a lot more than you planned.

Most hotel chains advertise that without the appropriate government ID at check-in, you’ll have to pay the best available price offered to the public for that night.  And if the hotel is full, the nightly rate can be much higher than what you’d expect.  Plus, it’ll likely be too late to cancel your stay without paying a penalty.

That’s why I would NOT recommend booking the government employee rate if you’re not eligible.  The potential savings is not worth the risk!

Save on Paid Stays With Other Memberships

You might not save as much as the government employee rate, but there are other memberships that can get you a discounted hotel stay.

For example, you can become an AARP member (anyone of any age can join AARP for $16 per year).  At Hilton hotels, the AARP rate is up to 5% less than the best available rate.  And AARP members enjoy late checkout until 2:00 pm, when available.  Other chains offer similar perks.

Plus, an AARP membership can save you money in other ways.  For example, Million Mile Secrets team member Jasmin saves 10% off her AT&T wireless bill each month just by being an AARP member.

Or look for the AAA / CAA hotel rates to see if you can save.  I’ve found these rates are only a few dollars cheaper or the same as the member rate. But the savings can add up if you have lots of paid hotel stays!

Or Stay for Free With These Current Hot Hotel Card Offers!

Getting discounts on paid hotel stays is sweet.  But even better if you can stay for free!

There are a number of excellent increased sign-up bonuses on hotel cards right now.  By signing-up and completing minimum spending requirements, you could earn enough points for multiple free hotel nights!

Here are the best current deals for hotel cards.

Bottom Line

Most major chains offer a special government employee rate at their hotels.  You can book it online, but you’re expected to present your government ID at check-in.

Folks say some hotels don’t ask for your ID, which means it’s possible for anyone to book a government rate.  In one example, I found a government rate that’s 45% cheaper than the price for loyalty members.

That said, I would NOT recommend booking this way if you’re not eligible.  Because if you’re unable to provide the appropriate ID at check-in, you can end up paying a lot more for your stay.  Instead, consider joining AARP or other associations to book discounted hotel stays.

Have you ever booked a government employee rate to save on a hotel stay?

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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