Few things make me happier than saving money without having to work at it.
That's why I'm still perfectly satisfied with BillFixers, a service that negotiates lower rates on your behalf for things like cable TV/internet and satellite radio. Sure, the company pockets 50 percent of the savings, but here's how much work I had to do: zero.
Now there's a similar option for travelers. DreamCheaper negotiates lower room rates on your behalf. There's no up-front cost to use it, and very little effort required on your part. If the service manages to find you a better deal, it takes just 20 percent of the savings.
How it works
Hotel prices fluctuate. It's not uncommon for room rates to drop after you've booked, but there's no way for you to know that unless you keep checking. Even then, you'd have to call the hotel or manually cancel your booking and then rebook. All that takes time -- potentially a lot of time.
DreamCheaper handles all that heavy lifting: the checking, the canceling, the rebooking. And it works globally, not just in the US.
If you've ever used an itinerary-management service like TripIt, you'll be right at home: Once you receive a booking confirmation email from your hotel, you simply forward it to email@example.com.
And that's it. If DreamCheaper is able to find you a better rate, you'll receive a notification listing the parameters of the change. Assuming everything is to your liking, approve the rebooking and you're good to go.
So let's say you booked a room for $200. DreamCheaper monitors the booking and finds the same room for $150. That's a savings of $50, but because DreamCheaper keeps 20 percent, you'll end up paying $160. You still come out $40 ahead.
Now for the caveats: DreamCheaper doesn't always find a better rate -- the success rate is "roughly two out of three bookings" -- and the average savings is about 15 percent. Thus, in the above example, you'd more realistically end up pocketing $24.
But that's still free money for lifting nary a finger.
Does it work?
Recently I put DreamCheaper to work on a two-night hotel reservation. I did this only about a week ahead of my trip; obviously the farther in advance you use the tool, the better your odds of a lower rate.
Alas, it wasn't able to score me any savings. But I don't see any downside to using the service, and have no qualms about recommending that you give it a try. That said, I definitely recommend perusing the FAQ page, which answers a lot of important questions (especially with regard to room preferences, reward programs and cancelled bookings).