Last Updated: January 15, 2023
Priceline typically offers cheaper prices than booking directly with a hotel, airline, or other travel services.
As a result, the following questions surely arise in the mind of a first-time user:
- Is Priceline legit, reliable, and safe?
- Why is Priceline cheaper than booking direct?
- Should I book through Priceline or directly?
If you’re also searching for the answer to these questions, this article is for you.
Let’s get started.
Is Priceline Legit?
Priceline is indeed a legitimate platform as it is owned by Booking Holdings, the world’s largest provider of online travel and related services. However, the risk of issues associated with booking through Priceline is higher than booking directly.
Though problems can happen even with booking directly, the chances are much lower compared to booking through Priceline.
Why are the risks associated with Priceline high?
In short, it is due to the involvement of a third party (Priceline).
Let me explain!
In case you do not know, Priceline essentially acts as a middleman between you (the traveler) and the travel operators such as hotels, airlines, car rental companies, etc.
If you book anything through Priceline, they collect your payment and are responsible for your booking, not the travel operator (hotels, airlines, etc.) you booked with since your contract is not with them, it is with Priceline.
And you should not expect any direct assistance from your travel operator.
In case of any issues between you and the travel provider, you will have to involve Priceline, and then they will reach out to its partner travel provider on your behalf to resolve the matter.
But the problem is:
There is a lack of customer support on Priceline.
It is not just Priceline 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.
The lack of customer support is one of the reasons why Priceline and other OTAs are able to offer cheaper rates than direct bookings.
So in case you are booked through Priceline and need any help, you’re most likely going to be stuck in a lot of back and forth between your travel provider and Priceline before your issue is resolved.
It is also possible that your issue might not be resolved either, especially if it is urgent due to the lack of customer service on Priceline.
Similarly, when you are booked through Priceline then it becomes complicated to make changes or cancellations to your bookings, especially in the case of flight reservations.
While you may be able to easily make changes or cancellations to other travel services, doing so to a flight reservation is very challenging.
In fact, it is almost impossible to cancel or change flights booked through Priceline.
The reason is that even if you booked directly with the airline, making changes or cancellations to your flight is challenging.
And if you booked flights through Priceline, things are going to be more complicated because of the third party involvement.
Having a middleman can complicate any mishaps because airlines will tell you to coordinate any issues through Priceline rather than offering you direct assistance.
And Priceline may then turn around and push things back to the airline, leaving you stuck in the middle.
On the other hand, it is far more convenient to make cancellations, amendments, or resolve other issues when you are booked directly with the hotels, airlines, or other travel services since there are no intermediaries involved.
In addition, the travel providers (hotels, airlines, car rental, etc.) give high priority to customers who booked directly with them rather than those who booked through Priceline.
The reason is simple:
They make more profits from direct sales over those made through Priceline since they won’t have to pay any commission fees to them.
Furthermore, it is much easier for them to manage the customers who book directly rather than those who book through online travel agencies like Priceline, Travelocity, Expedia, Trip.com, etc.
One example of it is that the hotels may not receive your booking confirmation from Priceline, resulting in overbooking for the same room.
There have been many instances 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 Priceline.
As for direct bookings, there is no risk of missing your booking confirmation since there are no third parties involved (Priceline).
In a nutshell:
Priceline works out just fine until something goes wrong.
The major advantage of booking anything through Priceline is that they typically offer cheaper prices than booking directly.
But if something goes wrong, you may have a hard time cancelling, changing, or resolving any other issues when you’re booked through them because of the involvement of a middleman (Priceline).
Having said that, let’s conclude: Is Priceline legit?
Although booking through Priceline carries a higher risk of issues than booking directly, it is for sure a legitimate platform.
Priceline’s legitimacy cannot be questioned as it is owned by the industry leader in the online travel sector, Booking Holdings.
Booking Holdings not only owns Priceline but also owns tons of other leading online travel sites including Booking.com, Agoda, Kayak, OpenTable, and more.
Moreover, Booking Holdings trades on the Nasdaq, and their company is listed on Nasdaq 100.
In case you are unaware, the Nasdaq 100 consists of the 100 largest and most actively traded U.S companies listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange.
If Priceline were a scam company, it probably would not be a part of one of the largest online travel companies in the world (Booking Holdings).
On top of that, Priceline has been in business since 1997, and scam companies never last this long.
Taking these factors into account, one can easily determine whether or not Priceline is legitimate.
Should You Book Directly or Through Priceline?
If the price difference is the same or slightly cheaper then you should never book through Priceline.
However, if the price difference between booking directly and through Priceline is significant then it mostly comes down to personal comfort.
Personally, I highly recommend you to AVOID booking flights through Priceline.
The reason is that when you book flights through Priceline, it gets very complex to make changes, cancellations, or resolve other problems.
When you’ve booked directly with the airline, on the other hand, it will be a lot easier for you to make changes, cancellations, or resolve other problems.
I only recommend Priceline for booking hotels but only under these conditions:
- The price difference is significant between booking directly and through Priceline.
- Booking an average hotel, not a very 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 Priceline
To minimize the risks associated with booking through Priceline, follow these seven tips:
1. Check the Hotel’s And Its Rooms Photos
Prior to booking any accommodation, check multiple photos of it provided in the listing.
If the property seems good to you, then make sure to check the photos of the room you’re considering booking.
Next, you have to:
2. Read Guest Reviews
Before you book your hotel, it is extremely important to read guest reviews thoroughly to get an actual idea of what to expect from the property.
Make sure to choose an accommodation with a minimum of 100+ reviews and ratings of at least 8.5 out of 10.
In case you’re wondering:
Are the reviews on the properties listed on Priceline 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. Carefully Read The Policies
Oftentimes, guests ignore the policies when booking which later on results in unsuccessful cancellations and refunds.
To avoid such issues, be aware of the room cancellations and refund policies.
Furthermore, make sure you are familiar with the hotel’s guest policies/rules.
Similarly, if you plan to book other travel services (flights, cars, taxis, etc.) then make sure to read their policies before booking.
4. Check The Amenities You Need
Prior to making the reservation, make sure the hotel and its rooms have the amenities you require.
5. Don’t Make Prepayment
Never make prepayments when booking a hotel through Priceline.
Always book with a hotel that offers a “Book now, pay later” option so that if your plans change, you can easily cancel your reservation without dealing with Priceline’s lengthy and complicated refund process.
6. Make Sure The Book Details Are Correct
When booking anything through Priceline, 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.
7. Confirm Your Booking From The Hotel
As you know, booking a hotel through Priceline comes with the risk of not receiving your booking confirmation which could result in no room availability when you arrive at the property.
To avoid this issue, contact your hotel and confirm your booking with them before arriving at the property.
Please Note: Priceline will show you the hotel’s contact information once you book.
There you have it!
By following these seven tips, you are less likely to run into any problems when booking through Priceline.
Why Booking Through Priceline Is Cheaper Than Booking Directly?
Well, it is due to the two primary business models Priceline employs:
- Merchant Model
- Agency Model
1. Merchant Model
Priceline uses the merchant model to buy hotel rooms or another type of booking in advance and in bulk to get discounts and then sells them to you and me over time at a higher price, passing some of its commission to us.
Confused? Consider this example:
Priceline uses its purchasing power to buy rooms in bulk and in advance at a discount rate from the hotel.
For instance, Priceline 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, Priceline resells those rooms at a higher rate ($130) but cheaper than the current market rate by the hotel ($150).
- Priceline gradually resells those 50 rooms for $130 per night, profiting $30 if one customer books a room through them.
- The customer is still able to purchase below the current market by the hotel ($150), saving you $20.
By selling those rooms at a higher price than they purchased them for, Priceline made a profit but also presented savings to us over the current market rate.
Priceline also employs the merchant model with airline tickets and other travel services and then combines the different bookings to offer an attractive vacation package with built-in savings over booking the components independently.
So that’s one of the major reasons why Priceline is able to offer cheaper rates to us than booking directly.
Another reason how they are able to offer cheaper rates is that they use:
2. Agency Model
In the agency model, Priceline acts as a salesperson and facilitates a booking between the customer and the hotel, airline, car rental company, and other travel operators.
To help them sell their bookings, Priceline gets a commission in exchange.
Since the travel providers (hotels, airlines, taxis, etc.) pay a commission to Priceline when a traveler books through them, Priceline, in turn, may pass some of that commission on to consumers.
Thus, Priceline is able to offer you cheaper rates than booking directly.
As far as the legitimacy of Priceline is concerned, it is definitely a legitimate online travel agency.
However, when you’re booked through Priceline and something goes wrong or you need to make changes or cancellations, especially in the case of flights, then things get complicated to resolve.
On the flip side, Priceline often offers cheaper rates than direct bookings.
So, should you book through Priceline or directly?
Here are my final suggestions for you:
Avoid booking everything, especially flights, through Priceline except hotels or other types of accommodation but only under these conditions:
- The price difference is significant between booking directly vs booking through Priceline.
- You’re not booking a very expensive luxury hotel.
- You’re not making a reservation for a large number of days at once.
In addition, you must be aware of the safety tips shared above before you book your stay.
Hopefully, all of your concerns are cleared up regarding Priceline’s legitimacy, reliability, and safety.
Have any questions or want to share your personal experience?
Please feel free to comment below.
Is Priceline Reliable?
Priceline is reliable for booking hotels but you must have to do your due diligence before booking. However, it is not very reliable for booking flights and car rentals.
Is Priceline Safe?
Priceline is definitely safe and secure as far as the safety of your account and personal information is concerned. However, it is not very safe and reliable for booking flights and car rentals.