In the old days, some travelers would simply cancel their hotel reservations if their plans changed. But online travel agencies now only give their best prices with strings attached. If you don't show up, you're still out the money.
Or else the cancelation fees are equal to the nightly rate of the room.
No wonder that about 5 percent of all non-refundable hotel reservations are never used, according to industry estimates.
But it's legal for travelers to transfer a reservation to someone else willing to go in his or her place. It just hasn't been a fast thing to do.
This month the practice of selling one's hotel reservations has gone legit at Cancelon, the first online marketplace geared toward travelers who want to buy and sell uncancelable reservations for hotels.
Here's how it works:
Go to Cancelon, and post your reservation. If another user is interested in it, you can transfer the reservation to them for a price. When you're reselling, you set the price.
If no one bites, you haven't lost anything, as the site doesn't charge a fee for listing. If your room sells, you pay Cancelon a fee of 10% of the transaction value.
The rub: Cancelon asks the seller to contact the hotel to change the name on the reservation to your name and then forwards the confirmation email from the hotel with your name on it to you. If something still goes wrong with the reservation at the hotel for an unexpected reason, Cancelon will give you a full refund for the amount you paid.
Deals for hotel shoppers, too
Because rooms are sold often at the last-minute, you can get a good deal if you're willing to shop. The rates can be attractive.
As a buyer, you use a credit card or PayPal to make your payments. Cancelon will transfer the money to the seller only after the first day of the reservation to prevent a seller from selling the reservation to more than one person.
Savvy travelers will offer lower bids on rooms than what are posted to cut a better deal.
Currently, only 93 hotels are listed on the site, but Cancelon could prove popular.
In case you're wondering, yes, there's also a new service that lets you sell your nonrefundable plane tickets. It's called Change Your Flight.
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