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Restrictions on travel sites may cost you

July 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Lots of travel sites promise to match any price, but when we teamed up with Consumer Reports we found so many restrictions that you're not likely to see a dime.Whether it's for a hotel, a cruise, or the fare to get you there, many travel sites offer a "best price guarantee," and will refund you the difference to match any lower price you can find. Some sites like Delta will also throw in a travel voucher for up to $100.

Maureen Verre books vacations online for her family of six and says the "price guarantee offers" make her feel confident she's getting the best price.

"I would feel that they're looking out for their customers and trying to give me the best rate," said Verre.

But Consumer Reports Money Editor Greg Daugherty says, "not so fast."

"For instance, to collect on the price guarantee with Expedia, you have to file your claim within 24 hours of booking. With American, it's midnight the same day. So even if the price drops a couple of days later, you're out of luck," said Daugherty.

Orbitz gives you more time, but will refund money only if another customer "subsequently books the same flight or hotel on Orbitz at a lower price."

"The travel experts we spoke to told us that because of all the restrictions, relatively few people ever collect a refund," said Daugherty.

But don't be discouraged. Consumer Reports says there are ways to save on travel. Check out sites like AirFareWatchdog.com and Kayak for the best prices. While Hotwire and Yapta track prices, and alert you if the hotel or fare you want goes down.

A word of warning. Consumer Reports says don't assume a package deal is really a deal at all. First check out individual prices on flights, hotels, and ground transportation. It's sometimes cheaper to buy à la carte.

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