Price-Protection Guarantees: Don't Hold Your Breath On Cashing In

Ah, the wonderful allure of a price-protection guarantee! That carrot travel booking sites often dangle to get your business when you’re buying a plane ticket or hotel stay — you know, if the price goes down after you buy it, you’ll get money back. But unfortunately, consumers might not have many opportunities to actually see any refunds.

SmartMoney takes a look at various programs, wherein sites like CheapAir.com or even MasterCard offer to refund customers the difference in purchased fares and rates. Sounds great, but it’s not easy when airfares aren’t likely to fall in these trying economic times.

There have already been three price hikes in air travel this year, due to rising fuel costs, and hotel prices are also up 5%, according to Smith Travel Research.

And even if things do drop, getting a site to follow through with their advertised promises isn’t a walk in the park, either. Airlines will charge a fee to process price drops if it’s within less than 24 hours of the flight, for example. Many policies also have restrictions on which lower prices are considered as part of the deal.

Still, pay attention to changes in prices after you book. Set up travel alerts to keep an eye on fares, compare prices before you buy (fares are lowest on Tuesdays!) and read all the fine print included in any guarantees.

Why Travel-Price Protection Doesn’t Fly [SmartMoney]