Hotels are slashing rates to entice customers. If you know where to look, it’s possible to grab five-star places at a fraction of the cost.
This is a full checklist of one-off promotions. For a step-by-step guide to permanently getting the cheapest hotel prices, see the Cheap Hotels guide.
Whether it's a retailer or restaurateur, airline or air-conditioner seller, computer shop or car rental company, there are always two main risks. Either it's a dodgy company, or it's a legit company that has financial problems and goes bust.
The aim of these tips is to help you minimise the risks.
Quite simply, its customers are immediately transformed into creditors. This hits hardest if you've ordered goods or tickets from them, and not had delivery, as then you become one of a line of people trying to get your money back out of the company's assets, and you usually get back much less than you paid in.
Even if you've had delivery, if the company you bought from goes under and there's a problem with the goods, it can mean you've no comeback.
While MoneySavingExpert.com endeavours to check deals are valid, we don't check companies ' finances. Even huge names like MFI and Woolies have folded, so it's very important you use the right strategies to stay protected where possible.
Pay by credit card for something over £100, and Section 75 laws supercharge your consumer rights.
Unlike debit cards, cheques or cash, pay in full or part (even just £1) on a credit card and by law the lender's jointly liable with the retailer.
This means you have exactly the same rights with the card company as you do with the retailer. So if it goes bust, you can simply take your complaints there instead and get money back if there's no delivery.
Yet it's important you ALWAYS REPAY IN FULL each month, so there's no interest cost. See the full Section 75 guide.
Section 75 doesn't apply to purchases under £100, but there's still an option which can help. It isn't a legal protection, just Visa, Mastercard and Amex's rules, but it's a good back-up.
Spend on a Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card or any debit or charge card. If the goods don't appear, you can try to ask your bank/card provider to reclaim the cash from the seller's bank, so long as you complain within 120 days of realising there’s a problem. See the Chargeback guide for full details.
Bogus websites are often set up to cash in on popular products like Ugg boots and Tiffany necklaces, so be wary if it's an unfamiliar site. And don't think that because it appears on a reputable search engine, that makes it a reputable site - always check.
Most folk know to look for a security padlock on the bottom right of a website, but that doesn't mean the site's legit, just that payment's secure.
To find out who registered the site and when, search the Whois database. Reputable firms should also appear on the Companies House site, the UK Government's official companies register. Be very wary of businesses with just a PO Box or email address.
Study the site's worldwide web ranking on Alexa. Anything in the top 100,000 means it's reasonably big and a good, though not foolproof indication of legitimacy. Do a quick Google search for other shoppers' experiences.
Crucially, ensure your security's up-to-date - free software can be downloaded to your computer in about five minutes. Full details in the Free Antivirus Software guide.
Many people are surprised to learn you've MORE rights buying online (or by telephone/catalogue) due to the Distance Selling Regulations.
These give you a legal right to send most goods back within seven days for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault. You'll usually need to pay for the return delivery. Read Consumer Rights for a full guide.
However, of course, this is balanced by the fact ordering online automatically means there's a time gap between ordering and delivering - when the company has your money. So if it goes bust during that time, the distance selling rights don't help.
Ultimately, there is always a risk that a company can go bust. If the above routes don't apply, then you have to make a decision about whether you're willing to take the risk of parting with your cash.
Don't be scared of this. Every day we all make transactions based on trust, and this is part of that, but do balance up the amount you're spending against the risk. Don't give large amounts of money to a company you're not sure about.
Go via this specific link to upmarket chain Puma Hotels* to get 40% off stays at any of its 21 venues in England, Scotland and Wales. It's for stays until 30 Jun 2014 (it's available to book until then) and Puma estimates there are about 600 rooms available per night.
Two people will share a twin or double room, get a three-course dinner each, a bottle of house wine to share and breakfast the next day.
Alternatively call 0800 014 9315 and mention the code EXPRESS40.
How good is this deal?
Its website says sale rooms start from £89 a night, although we found a few slightly cheaper. As long as you don't book on a 'blackout' date (where a hotel isn’t offering the deal), you'll get 40% off the usual price. You can stay as many nights as you like and still get 40% off each night.
Depending on the venue, dinner usually costs £20-£35 per person, house wine £18-£23ish and breakfast is £8-£12 each, but you’ll get it all included in the sale price.
We found sale rooms for as low as £79.20 a night (usually £132) at the Angel Hotel in Cardiff, £84.60 (usually £141) at the Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire and £85.80 (usually £143) at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool.
These aren’t budget hotels, but if you can afford it and you're looking for a bit of luxury, this sale is ideal. Check TripAdvisor for reviews before booking.
When you select a date, the available hotels for that night will show. All 21 hotels are participating, but not all hotels will be available every night.
Two children (up to age 16) can stay free in a standard room with two adults, however, they don't get the free meal or breakfast.
Can't be used with any other offer. Bookings can't be changed or refunded once confirmed. For single occupancy, you pay the same price.
The offer originally featured in the Sunday Express newspaper.
MSE Update 11.30am, Wed 12 Mar: The £25 rooms or less sale has now changed to £29 or less. This includes the Easter period, and is still available till Wed 30 April. Travelodge couldn’t tell us an exact number, but it’s said there are still thousands of rooms available.
Between now and Wed 30 Apr there are hundreds of thousands of Travelodge* rooms available for £25 or less. Between Sat 5 Apr and Mon 21 Apr – including Easter - they’re £29 or less.
We’ve found rooms as low as £19, and some city centre locations for £21. During the Easter period, we hopped around the site to find some egg-cellent bargains, including Manchester for £26, and Birmingham for £27.
The rooms are spread across selected UK hotels and dates, so you might need to be flexible to get the best deal.
Both sales exclude London and Northern Ireland hotels and are for the room only - breakfast and other extras aren’t included. There’s no deadline on booking, but rooms are limited so spring into action if you want the best price.
MSE Update 3.30pm, Thu 23 Jan: Plenty of rooms left however Premier Inn cannot confirm exact numbers.
Premier Inn* has just released 65,000 rooms at £29 for stays at most of its hotels (excluding central London) on Friday nights until 28 Mar.
The offer's on until all rooms are sold and great If you're visiting family or going out at the weekend.
If you search using the postcode or location of a Premier Inn, it automatically shows you the nearest hotel. However, change the 'sort by' toggle to 'lowest price' and you can find the best bargains in that area as the first option.
We found prices at two Newcastle city centre Premier Inns varied drastically. While one had rooms for £59 a night, just half a mile away, rooms were going for £25.
Bespoke Hotels has a range of 3-4 star venues across the UK. Rooms can cost as much as £200 a night, but use a code to get them for £50 at 40 of its hotels.
However, you must book two consecutive nights - no more, no less - meaning the cheapest available stay is £100. Breakfast is not included though.
You can't get the discount by booking online, so go via this Bespoke Hotels link to see the list of participating hotels and then call 0844 815 9833 to book, mentioning the code BE25.
It's for stays until 31 Mar 2014 (you can book right up until that date).
How good is this deal?
The code gets at least 40% off the usual rates at most venues, but savings range from 17% to as high as 75%.
Some of the biggest discounts are on two-night stays at Risley Hall in Derby (usually £280) and Carnoustie Golf Club (usually £240), but you'll get stays for £100 with the code.
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