Last Updated: November 28, 2022
Have an interest in booking a hotel, flight, or car through Hotwire but worry about its legitimacy, reliability, and safety?
If so, then please keep reading.
After reading this article, you will know EXACTLY if Hotwire is a legitimate, safe, and reliable platform or a scam and what you should be aware of before booking.
Let me start!
Is Hotwire Legit?
Hotwire is definitely legit as it is owned by Expedia Group, the world’s largest online travel company. However, the risk of issues associated with booking through Hotwire is higher than booking directly.
Though problems can happen even with booking directly, the chances are much lower compared to booking through Hotwire.
Why are the risks associated with Hotwire high?
In short, it is due to the involvement of a third party (Hotwire).
Let me explain!
In case you do not know, Hotwire essentially acts as a middleman between you and the travel operators such as hotels, airlines, and car rental companies.
As an intermediary, Hotwire collects your payment and is responsible for your booking, not the hotel you booked with since your contract is not directly with them, it is with Hotwire.
Therefore, you should not expect any direct assistance from your travel providers.
In case of any issues between you and your travel provider, you will have to involve Hotwire first, and then they will reach out to the hotel on your behalf to resolve the matter.
But the problem is:
There is a lack of customer support on Hotwire.
It is not just Hotwire where customer service can be lacking; online travel agencies (OTAs) generally skimp on customer service to keep their costs down and offer you cheap bookings.
Of course, the lack of customer support is part of how Hotwire and other OTAs are able to offer cheaper rates than direct bookings.
So in case you are booked through Hotwire and need any help, there is a good chance you are going to be stuck in a lot of back and forth between the travel provider and Hotwire before your issue is resolved.
There are also possibilities that your issue might not be resolved either, especially if it is urgent due to the lack of customer service.
In the same way, things are going to become more complicated if you make changes or cancellations to your bookings being made through Hotwire, especially in the case of flight reservations.
While you may be able to easily make changes or cancellations to hotel or car bookings, doing the same to a flight reservation is very challenging.
In fact, it is almost impossible to cancel or change flights booked through Hotwire.
The reason is that even if you book directly with the airline, making changes or cancellations to your flight is challenging.
Booking flights with Hotwire can further complicate your process because of third party involvement.
Having a middleman can complicate any mishaps because airlines will tell you to coordinate any issues through Hotwire rather than offering you direct assistance.
Airlines will not offer you direct assistance, rather they will tell you to coordinate the issue with the Hotwire.
And Hotwire may then turn around and push things back to the airline, leaving you stuck in the middle.
On the other hand, it is relatively more convenient to make cancellations, amendments, or resolve your issues when you are booked directly since there are no intermediaries involved.
In addition to that, the travel providers (hotels, airlines, car rental, etc.) give more preference to customers who booked directly with them rather than those who booked through Hotwire.
The reason is simple:
The travel providers make more profits from direct sales than those made through Hotwire since they won’t have to pay any commission fees to Hotwire.
Moreover, it is easier for your hotel, airline, or other travel providers to manage the customers directly than those who book through online travel agencies like Hotwire, Agoda, Expedia, Booking.com, Trip.com, etc.
One example of this is that the hotels may not receive your booking confirmation from Hotwire, resulting in no reservation or overbooking for the same room.
There have been numerous cases where a guest has been stranded in a strange city without any room availability in the hotel, despite making an advance booking with them through Hotwire.
Alternatively, if the hotel is overcrowded, it is also possible that they might “bump” those who have paid the least through an online travel agency like Hotwire and lie to you, saying that your reservation was never made.
Regardless of the reason for your missing booking confirmation, if you contact Hotwire in a situation like this, you are unlikely to receive prompt customer support from them since their customer service is not great.
As a result, you will have to either book directly with the hotel only if the rooms are available and if not then you will have to move to another nearby hotel.
This is one of the main risks associated with booking a hotel through Hotwire.
Conversely, you won’t have to face such issues when you are booked directly with the hotel since there are no third parties involved (Hotwire).
So to summarize, I would say:
Booking through Hotwire works out just fine until something goes wrong.
The main advantage of booking through Hotwire is that they typically offer you cheaper rates than booking directly.
But when you’re booked through Hotwire and something goes wrong, you may have many hurdles in cancelling, changing, or resolving your issues.
Having that said, let’s conclude: Is Hotwire legit?
Although booking through Hotwire carries a higher risk of issues than booking directly, but as far as its legitimacy is concerned, it is indeed a legitimate platform.
Hotwire’s legitimacy cannot be questioned as it is owned by the industry leader in the online travel sector, Expedia Group.
If Hotwire were a scam company, it probably would not be a part of such a big travel company known as Expedia Group.
Moreover, Hotwire has been in business for the last 22 years and it is a fact that scam companies don’t survive this long.
Considering these factors, one can easily judge whether or not Hotwire is legitimate.
So, Should You Book Directly or Through Hotwire?
If the price difference between booking directly vs through Hotwire is the same or slightly cheaper then you should always book directly with the hotels, airlines, or car rental company.
However, if the price difference between booking through Hotwire and directly is significant then it mostly comes down to personal comfort.
Personally, I highly recommend you to AVOID booking flights through Hotwire.
This is because when you book flights through Hotwire, it gets very complex to make changes, cancellations, or resolve other problems.
I only recommend Hotwire for booking hotels.
However, as you may know, Hotwire offers two types of hotel booking:
- Hot Rate Deals
- Standard Rate Hotels
If you go with a “Hot Rate” deal, you can get a significantly cheaper price but you will be shown very basic details about your hotel until you book.
You will be shown only a single picture of your hotel, basic amenities, surrounding area of the hotel (not the exact location), and star ratings (not actual reviews).
The hotel’s name, pictures, and all the other details will be shown to you by Hotwire after you’ve booked.
This means you cannot do your due diligence about your hotel before booking.
Moreover, you can’t choose your own reservation date with the “Hot Rate” deals.
On top of all that, all bookings are final (no refunds, no changes) with Hot Rate deals.
You can neither make changes nor cancel your booking if you are not satisfied with the hotel booked through Hotwire’s Hot Rate deals.
In short, Hot Rate deals are like a gamble.
Taking the discussed factors into consideration, the choice is yours whether or not you want to book hotels through Hotwire’s Hot Rate deals.
Personally, I only recommend Hotwire for booking hotels under “Standard Rate Hotels” but only under these conditions:
- The price difference is significant between booking directly and through Hotwire.
- Booking an average hotel, not an expensive luxury hotel.
- Not making reservations for a large number of days at once.
Besides these conditions, you must have to be aware of these:
7 Tips To Book Safely on Hotwire
Before making a booking with Hotwire, keep these seven tips in mind to minimize the risks associated with your booking:
1. Properly Check Pictures of Hotel And Its Rooms
Before booking any hotel, check multiple photos of it provided in the listing of Hotwire.
After checking the photos of the hotel, make sure you’ve checked the photos of the room you’re considering booking.
Next, you have to:
2. Read Guest Reviews
Before you make a standard booking with your hotel, it is very crucial to read guest reviews thoroughly to get an actual idea of what to expect from the property.
Make sure to choose a hotel with a minimum of 100+ reviews and ratings of at least 4.5 out of 5.
In case you are wondering:
Are the reviews on the properties listed on Hotwire real?
In short, YES!
The reviews are real since they can only be submitted by people who have genuinely stayed with the property before.
3. Be Aware of The Policies
Most often, guests don’t pay attention to the policies when booking which later on results in many problems such as unsuccessful cancellations and refunds.
Therefore, to avoid such issues, make yourself aware of the room cancellations and refund policies before booking your room.
Furthermore, make sure you are familiar with the hotel’s guest policies/rules.
Similarly, also read the policies of any other services you plan to book (flights, cars, taxis, etc.).
4. Have a Look At Your Needed Amenities
Before making a booking with a hotel, make sure the room you are considering has the amenities you need.
In addition to this, check the property amenities, too, to ensure it has your required amenities.
5. Don’t Make Prepayments
Never make prepayments when booking a hotel through Hotwire.
Always book with a hotel that offers a “Pay at property” option so that if your plans change, you can easily cancel your reservation without dealing with Hotwire’s lengthy and complicated refund process.
6. Enter Correct Booking Details
Only a minor error in your booking details can result in major problems for you even beyond your control.
Therefore, when booking anything through Hotwire, make sure the booking details are correct as incorrect details cause real problems and it will be a headache to make changes, especially in the case of flight reservations.
This will cost you both money and time to resolve it.
And last but not the least, you must:
7. Confirm Your Booking From The Host
As I said before, one of the major risks associated with booking a hotel through Hotwire is that your host may not receive your booking confirmation from Hotwire.
This can result in no room availability when you arrive at the property.
To avoid this issue, contact your host and confirm your booking with them before going for your trip.
By following these seven tips, you are less likely to get stuck in any problems.
Why Booking Through Hotwire Is Cheaper Booking Directly?
Hotwire is able to provide cheaper rates than booking directly because of these two business models they employ:
- Merchant Model
- Agency Model
1. Merchant Model
By using this model, Hotwire buys hotel rooms or another type of booking in advance and in bulk to get discounts and then sells them to customers over time at a relatively higher price (but lower than the current rate), passing some of its commissions to the customers.
Confused? Consider this example:
Hotwire uses its purchasing power to buy rooms in bulk and in advance at a discount rate from the hotel.
For instance, Hotwire books a block of 50 rooms from a hotel for $100 per night while the current market rate sits at around $150 per night.
Over time, Hotwire resells those rooms at a higher rate ($130) but cheaper than the current market rate by the hotel ($150).
- Hotwire gradually resells those 50 rooms for $130 per night.
- Hotwire profits $30 if one customer books a room through them.
- The customer is still able to purchase below the current market ($150) by the hotel, saving you $20.
By selling those rooms at a higher price than their purchased price, Hotwire makes a profit but also presents savings to us over the current market rate.
Hotwire also employs the merchant model with airline tickets or rental cars and then combines the different bookings to offer an attractive vacation package with built-in savings over booking the components independently.
So the merchant model is the main way of how Hotwire is able to offer cheaper rates to us than booking directly.
Another way how they are able to offer cheaper rates is because :
2. Agency Model
In the agency business model, Hotwire acts as a salesperson by facilitating a booking between the customer and the hotel, airline, or car rental company.
To help travel providers sell their bookings, Hotwire gets a commission in exchange.
Since the travel providers (hotels, airlines, car rental companies) pay a commission to Hotwire when a traveler books through them, Hotwire, in turn, may pass some of that commission on to consumers.
Thus, Hotwire is able to offer you cheaper rates than booking directly.
Hotwire is definitely a legitimate online travel agency.
But if you face an issue or want to make changes or cancellations in bookings with Hotwire, especially in flights, then things are going to be more complicated to resolve.
On the other hand, the major benefit of booking through Hotwire is that you often get cheaper rates than booking directly with hotels, airlines, or car rental companies.
So, should you book through Hotwire or directly?
Here are my final suggestions for you:
Avoid booking everything, especially flights, through Hotwire except hotels or other types of accommodation but only under these conditions:
- The price difference is significant between booking directly vs booking through Hotwire.
- You’re not making a booking under Hotwire Offer.
- You’re not booking an expensive luxury hotel.
- You’re not booking accommodation for a large number of days at once.
Besides these conditions, you must be aware of the safety tips mentioned above as well.
There you have it!
If you still have any questions or want to share your personal experience with Hotwire, please feel free to let us know in the comments.