Hotels are slashing rates to entice customers. If you know where to look, itís 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.
Full DOs and DON'Ts
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 thereís 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.
Ibis Budget* is having a 30% off winter sale, with many rooms available from £20 (usually £25-£50) at 15 of its UK hotels. It's for stays between 18 Dec 2013 and 5 May 2014 (including Christmas and New Year), but you must book by 17 Feb 2014 and at least three days in advance.
There's no code to enter, the discounted prices will simply appear when you search your dates. We found rooms for three adults in Leeds for £20 and Birmingham for £21 - perfect for after a night out with friends in the city!
What are Ibis hotels like?
Ibis brands its hotels using a three-tier system. Ibis Budget are the cheapest and most basic (comparable to others such as Travelodge and Days Inn), Ibis Hotels are mid-range and Ibis Styles are the more costly, higher-end venues. We've detailed the £20 Ibis Budget sale above, as that's the most MoneySaving option, but there's also up to 30% off its other hotel ranges too.
Ibis reviews on TripAdvisor are generally decent, so have a look before booking.
The hotels are mainly in the UK, but there's also a few in Germany, including locations such as Berlin and Dortmund.
Days Inn is a no-frills hotel chain, and £29 a night are some of the best rates it's had for a while. See reviews on TripAdvisor.
Peel Hotels has nine 3-4 star venues - eight in England and one in Scotland. For the last five years, it's run a deal that's proved really popular with forumites.
The voucher gets 2 nights for two in an executive room at any of its hotels. You both get three-course meals each night and breakfast both mornings, for between £99 and £209 (it's usually £350ish when all added up)
To get the voucher and book your stay call 020 7266 1100 - you can't buy it online. It'll be posted to you and you must take it with you when you stay - there are some excluded dates, like Christmas, so check the full promotional price list). The offer's available until Tue 31 Dec.
How good is this deal?
As an example, we found two nights in February 2014 at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough for†£200. Add two nights of three-course meals†at £25 each and that's another £100, breakfasts would set you back a further†£50†- a total of £350. Yet with the voucher, you get all this in February for £139.
The cost of the package depends on when you†go. It's cheapest on 1 and 2 Jan 2014, when it costs £99. If you want to take your two nights in September 2014, it rockets to £209.
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 Leeds city centre Premier Inns varied drastically. While one had rooms for £60 a night, less than half a mile away, rooms were going for £29.
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