Third party travel booking sites (AKA online travel agencies (OTA)), can save money when you can book lodging at a lower rate than directly offered by the lodging provider. Google hotel knowledge panels for lodging will sometimes show OTA listings for the selected hotel.
When booking with an OTA, you should always use a credit card instead of a debit card. Using an OTA involves a gamble where you try to pick a reputable OTA that takes your money and fails to make a booking for you. Or the OTA passes your payment information to another OTA under the table to fraudently charge your payment.
SuperTravel is a budget Online Travel Agency (OTA) that is listed as a booking site on Google result pages under hotel knowledge panels. I have never heard about SuperTravel, but figured it was reputable enough to take the chance on since it showed up as a choice in the official Google knowledge panel for a hotel.
I booked a $150 lodging for about $100 via SuperTravel after clicking the SuperTravel booking link on a Google knowledge panel for a hotel. Getting $50 off a one-off booking at a hotel that I don’t have a loyalty account with sounded like a good deal.
Two issues happened with SuperTravel:
SuperTravel fraudulently passed my contact and payment data to Booking.com to create a random second booking with Booking.com without any action on my part.
The hotel reservation made through SuperTravel was not honored by the hotel listed on their website. This meant I had to seek a refund for the fake SuperTravel reservation as well as pay extra for last minute alternative lodging.
The first sign of trouble was right after I paid for the booking on SuperTravel’s website. I received 2 hotel confirmation emails.
The first email confirmed my original booking through SuperTravel. Great.
The second email confirmed a booking at a different random hotel through Booking.com. What?
I had only used SuperTravel’s website and haven’t visited Booking.com nor viewed the second booking hotel on SuperTravel.
The Booking.com booking was made with the same email and payment information used for the SuperTravel booking. I had used a Gmail email address with a plus sign after it to distinguish it from my base email address. Booking.com shouldn’t have this unique email address I provided to SuperTravel. Additionally Booking.com shouldn’t have the new credit card info I used to pay SuperTravel. The Sender field in the Booking.com email appears as Budget Inn Motel which is the random hotel that the second confirmation was made at but the personalized email was actually sent from the Booking.com adress of [email protected].
The innocent explanation is that SuperTravel has a bug somewhere in their software that used my information to pay for a new nonrefundable booking through a referral partnership with Booking.com.
When I arrived at the hotel that I had booked through SuperTravel, the hotel had no reservation on file. When I mentioned that I had booked through an online travel agency, the hotel hostess guessed that I had used SuperTravel before I mentioned the OTA. I was informed by the hotel that they do not honor SuperTravel reservations and they had informed SuperTravel multiple times in the past. I’m not sure how bad an OTA needs to do be blacklisted by a vendor but I guess this is it. I ended up paying additional out of pocket costs for alternative lodging that night.
Upon calling SuperTravel and explaining the situation, the out sourced representative asked me to email SuperTravel support. He did not understand the issue with SuperTravel using my information to book with Booking.com and repeatedly stated that Booking.com was a SuperTravel partner.
In my email to SuperTravel support, I requested a refund for the original reservation as well as payment for the price difference needed to make last minute lodging arrangements. SuperTravel cancelled the original transaction, but I haven’t heard back from SuperTravel on getting compensation for the additional lodging cost.
I also called Booking.com to cancel the fraudulent booking created by SuperTravel. The representative told me that it was up to the hotel whether or not to process the refund despite acknowledging that the booking was made without my action. I had to initiate a chargeback on the Booking.com reservation with my credit card provider.
You should always use a credit card versus a debit card when booking through an OTA to protect yourself from insufficient funds and fees. It should go without saying that you must possess the funds to pay off the lodging costs paid for with the credit card before the end of the billing period to avoid interest fees. If you had used a debit card to book with SuperTravel, both the SuperTravel and Booking.com lodging costs would be taken out of my bank account which could potentially lead to insufficient funds to pay for alternative lodging and high overdraft fees. The combined cost of the two fake lodging reservations would be unavailable for use until the bank resolves the dispute in your favor which could take weeks. The usage of a credit card allows you some additional time to dispute the charges and not have your funds locked up instantly.