cheaper hotel stays tips
Everyday Money

13 Tips for Getting Cheaper Hotel Stays

April 13, 2023 - Daniel Dreier

Are the high costs of hotel stays holding you back from taking longer vacations or more frequent weekend getaways? Check out these tips for getting cheaper hotel stays both in Switzerland and around the world.

Staying at hotels is something that most of us enjoy. There is nothing quite like fleeing the confines and routine of home and escaping to a world of comfort. From heated indoor pools at the foot of alluring ski slopes to in-house clubbing experiences on exotic islands, hotels provide a chance to escape the responsibilities of everyday life and a base from which we can explore the world’s most fascinating places.

While all that luxury comes at a price, there are easy ways to cut the costs of hotel stays and get a lot more hotel for your francs. Check out these simple tips for cheaper hotel stays by before making your next booking.

1. Book directly with hotels

After finding the right hotel, consider contacting the hotel directly and asking them for a quote. Chances are, you may get a better deal booking directly with the hotel rather than through a travel agent or travel website.

Travel websites take a commission on every hotel booking made through them. That means the actual price charged by the hotel may be up to 20 percent lower than what you see on travel portals. This isn’t always the case, as agents sometimes cut special deals with hotels, but for longer stays especially, the potential savings can well be worth a quick email or phone call.

2. Take advantage of membership discounts

When staying at hotels in Switzerland, membership discounts can be one of your best friends. Your health insurance provider and bank are the first places to look for special discounts for hotel stays in Switzerland. Auto club memberships (TCS and ACS, for example) are another good source of hotel discounts. While deals are often limited to specific hotels, it isn’t uncommon to find generous discounts for entire hotel groups.

The Hotelcard can be a useful savings tool if you frequently travel within Switzerland and southern Germany. This membership entitles you to discounts of up to 50 percent at around 500 hotels. You pay an annual fee of 99 francs, which is discounted for members of many alumni associations and employees of some companies. Good to know: The no-annual-fee Swiss Bankers Travel prepaid card entitles you to the same discounts when you use it to make bookings via the Hotelcard website.

Other membership-based organizations which offer hotel discounts include labor unions, professional associations, neighborhood associations and special-interest groups.

3. Look out for special deals

Aside from deals and discounts you might receive from your insurance, bank or memberships, there are hundreds of limited deals floating around out there. Online deal-hunting services (like Deindeal and Realdeals) are convenient for tracking hotel deals. Travel offers from budget retailers (like Aldi and Lidl) and travel agencies (like Hotelplan, Kuoni, L’Tur, or TUI) are also worth checking out.

4. Ask about cash deals

When you pay for a hotel booking using a credit card, the hotel has to pay credit card merchant fees. Because of this, some hotels and travel websites charge you a markup when you pay via credit card. 

Before using a credit card to pay for accommodation, ask the hotel if they offer a discount for cash or debit card payments. Even if a hotel requires credit card information as a backup for incidental expenses, they may still be just as happy to give you a cash deal – especially if you are willing to pay up front at the start of your visit.

5. Don’t pay for services you won’t use

Concierge services, page boys, conference facilities, ironing services and shoe polishers might make sense on a high-profile business trip, but you won’t likely use them on a holiday. Likewise, if you plan to spend the bulk of your time carving powder on ski slopes or exploring nightlife, you may not have much time for wellness treatments and other luxuries. Each extra star on a hotel will generally add significantly to the price you pay.

Ask yourself what services will actually add value to your hotel stay and look for offers to match. In many cases, you can knock a star off your hotel expectations without impacting the services you actually use.

6. Check foreign booking sites

Travel websites targeting Swiss customers tend to charge higher prices than those targeting less affluent markets. If you plan to book your hotel stays online and pay using a credit card anyway, there are few benefits to limiting yourself to Swiss travel booking websites. While some foreign travel websites may not complete bookings or accept payments if your billing address is outside of the country they service, there are many which do not have location-based restrictions.

7. Look out for foreign transaction fees when paying by credit card

Using a credit card to pay for online hotel bookings can be convenient, and on some websites it is your only option for online bookings payment. However, unless you book hotels through a Swiss travel agency or portal, you will have to consider the cost of your credit card’s foreign transaction fees. The same applies when you use a credit card to pay on location at hotels outside of Switzerland. You can find out more in the guide to credit card foreign transaction fees and the guide to dynamic currency conversion.

8. Don’t forget to claim your airline miles

If you are a member of a frequent flyer program, make sure that you collect the miles due when you stay at eligible hotels. Many frequent flyer programs have hotel partnerships, and the miles-earning rate for hotel stays can be generous.

Earning miles may not directly slash the cost of your hotel stay, but you can redeem those miles towards flights or future hotel stays, which can save you money. Find out more in the guide to airline miles.

9. Check into non-refundable deals

The standard price quoted by hotels often includes a surcharge which covers the risk of your canceling the booking and claiming a refund. If you are completely sure that you will make the booking, or if you will pay using a credit card with trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance that also covers unexpected hotel cancellations, go ahead and ask the hotel if they offer a lower price for non-refundable bookings. Some hotel-booking websites provide this option as well.

10. Don’t forget hotel loyalty programs

It’s easy to write off hotel loyalty programs as a waste of time, but if you find yourself staying at chain hotels on a regular basis, you may want to reconsider. For example, hotels in the Accor group (Ibis, Mercure, Mövenpick, Novotel, Swissôtel, 25hours hotels) are common in Switzerland and around the world. Accor Live Limitless (ALL) loyalty program members can benefit from discounts of up 2040% on hotel stays. 

Winter sports fans will appreciate the fact that Swiss hotel group Sunstar offers loyalty program member discounts of between 5% and 20% depending on your level of membership.

Other money-saving perks which come with certain hotel loyalty programs include free breakfasts, room upgrades and/or free internet access. Aside from Accor ALL, major international hotel loyalty programs include Best Western Rewards, Hilton Honors, IHG One Rewards (Holiday Inn), Kempinski Discovery, Marriott Bonvoy Benefits, and Radisson Rewards.

11. Watch out for supplemental charges which are not shown on booking platforms

Some hotels list very affordable prices on booking platforms in order to get top rankings, but then charge you “supplemental” fees when you actually check in. In some cases, these supplemental charges can be very high.

While there are some charges (primarily hospitality taxes) which may have to be paid at check in, major booking platforms generally require hotels to show you all possible costs on the platform before you book. Supplemental charges should also be clearly shown in booking confirmation emails. When you check into the hotel, make sure to insist on paying only the costs which you were shown in your booking confirmation.

12. Bring your own drinks

Minibars may be practical, but the prices which many hotels charge for drinks and snacks border on ludicrous. Getting the drinks and snacks you want from a supermarket instead can cut the cost by up to three quarters, compared to raiding your hotel room’s minibar.

13. Surf anonymously to avoid dynamic pricing

Money-hungry travel merchants have always considered Switzerland to be an endless source of easy-to-con customers, and big data has opened up a new age of dynamic rip-offs. By tracking your location and following your online interests using cookies, travel merchants are able to show you the price which harvested data tells them you are willing to pay. If you live in Switzerland (lots of disposable income), visit a lot of online stores (shopaholic) and frequently look at travel deals (dying for a vacation), you are a prime candidate for high hotel prices.

Use one browser to look for deals and another to make bookings (if you book online). Ideally, use an anonymous browser like Tor to prevent hotel booking sites from tracking your location and online interests. You can read more about this in the guide to protecting yourself from dynamic pricing.

More on this topic:
Tips for cheaper family holidays
How to save money at airports
How to save on eating out in Switzerland
Tips for cheaper ski trips
Compare Swiss credit cards now
How to travel the world for free
Hiking in Switzerland: A financial guide
Switzerland on 30 francs a day
A guide to airline miles programs
Data roaming: Key tips for using mobile Internet while traveling

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Editor Daniel Dreier
Daniel Dreier is editor and personal finance expert at
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