SnapTravel is a new online travel agency (OTA) that offers lower hotel rates for leisure travelers and is launching a business traveler program that promises the highest cash back in the industry. What’s unusual is that it’s integrated into multiple messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, SMS, Slack, WhatsApp, and Viber. Over the last week I’ve been testing out its features via text and Facebook Messenger.
Disclosure: This review is sponsored by SnapTravel, but as usual, I did my own research. All claims and opinions are my own.
Personally, I prefer the Facebook Messenger option because it allows me to view these offers in a desktop browser, which is how I book all my travel. The interface is very similar to what you’ll find on other OTA platforms once the new window opens.
You can also opt to interact with SnapTravel and set different filters in the messaging platform if you prefer. Here’s an example of chatting with the SnapTravel bot. The point is, SnapTravel has multiple interfaces that can be as familiar or tech-savvy as you like.
I tested SnapTravel with a couple of reservations, including this one for a mid-week stay at the Renaissance Hotel in Seattle. If you’ve been to Seattle before, you know it can be an expensive market, especially in the summer months when business travelers are competing with tourists. This hotel is conveniently located downtown near transit and the Washington State Convention Center and was recently renovated.
More Rewards Using SnapTravel for Business
SnapTravel had a headline rate of $387 (before tax), which it compared to $496 on Hotels.com. So far, so good. It even got a little better when I scrolled down and found there was a cheaper room for $381. That’s a 23% discount and would save you over $100 a night! Business traveler packages offer a way to take a piece of that savings for yourself.
You might notice during your search that SnapTravel asks if you are traveling for business. If you select “yes” you’ll find additional offers. These rates are a little higher but include special benefits and reward credits to make up the difference. Each credit is worth a dollar toward a future booking, and SnapTravel says you can earn between 15% and 35% back when you book these business traveler packages. Most competing OTAs offer about 5-10% in rewards, and as I’ve shown they might also be accompanied by higher rates.
Business traveler packages include special treatment from the SnapTravel concierge team, which will reach out to your hotel in advance to request an upgrade, and past users have reported regular text messages to check in on their stay. By speaking to the hotel in advance SnapTravel can try to ensure a smooth check-in process and resolve any issues before you show up. It also promises better integration with expense software such as Expensify.
In this test case at the Renaissance, you can book a business traveler package for $436, which is still cheaper than any of the competing OTAs, and get these benefits as well as a $142 credit for a future trip. You could accumulate these credits over multiple business trips and use them for a future booking (including personal travel).
Is SnapTravel Legitimate?
The most surprising feature of SnapTravel is lower rates than you’ll find anywhere else, and the massive rewards you can earn with some business hotel bookings, up to 35% in some cases. I’ve seen much larger rate discounts of $200 per night or more at hotels like the Thompson Seattle (which recently joined World of Hyatt).
These kinds of savings can make SnapTravel look suspicious to the casual observer. If something is too good to be true, it usually is. I decided to see if SnapTravel could stand up to the competition when I compared rates myself.
I checked the rates myself at Hotels.com and also using Google, which has a pretty good tool to aggregate hotel rates from multiple OTAs and the hotel’s own website. In this case, all but one OTA had the same, higher rate of $496 that SnapTravel uses to calculate its savings. There was a single offer of $438 through Trip.com, but even this exception is still more expensive than SnapTravel’s business traveler package and doesn’t some with the same benefits or credit.
Checking several other hotels yielded similar results. SnapTravel was often about 20% cheaper than competing OTAs. I found only one case where SnapTravel was more expensive, and that was a difference of just $4 because the competition was offering a non-refundable rate.
Business Travel Ethics
There’s one final point that I think deserves attention. There are lots of things we do in the travel rewards space to maximize our benefit at the expense of someone else. (Manufactured spend comes to mind.) None of these are strictly forbidden, but they probably aren’t how the program was intended. Likewise, your employer probably didn’t intend to let you collect a rebate in exchange for booking a more expensive rate (though many do explicitly allow you to keep loyalty program points).
On the other hand, most corporate travel policies have a defined cap on what you can spend, and choosing a hotel at the high end of that range is acceptable even if cheaper options are available. I took the bus on a recent business trip, and my colleagues laughed at me because they expensed an Uber ride.
What’s good about SnapTravel is that you don’t have to choose between saving money for your employer and pocketing a reward. It’s possible to do both, as many hotels have business traveler packages on SnapTravel that are still cheaper than the competing rates on other OTAs. There’s nothing to prevent you from using the rebate on future business trips, too, which would be useful if you’re self-employed and covering your own travel costs. Obviously, use your own best judgment.
SnapTravel took some getting used to, as I had to submit my request and then wait for the service to ping my phone or Facebook Messenger. But once that was out of the way, it was easy to use and seemed to offer better rates on the majority of hotels.
For leisure travelers, I found the discounts are often 10-30% vs. the competition, and they’re even higher at some luxury hotels if you’re considering a splurge on vacation. The largest discount I saw was 48%. For business travelers, check out the business traveler packages. They cost a little more up front, but they include additional benefits and include a credit you can use toward future reservations.