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Two easy ways to save money on hotels

Pruvo and Service promise to find cheaper rates after you book -- but go about it in very different ways.

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Here's a little-known fact: Hotel prices fluctuate. Sometimes a lot.

And here's a true story: Last week I booked a two-night stay in Chicago. Not two days later, the total price of that booking dropping $66.

How do I know? A service called Pruvo told me. So I promptly rebooked the room at the new, lower, rate, then cancelled my original booking. Presto: an extra $66 in my pocket I'd have otherwise missed.

Pruvo is one of a growing number of services designed to help you save money after making a purchase. Paribus, for example, tracks your store receipts and will automatically fetch you any price-drop savings it finds.

But for businesses in particular, travel-oriented tools like Pruvo and the newly updated Service might help take a bite out of already strapped budgets. Here's a look at how they work.

Pruvo

Timing is everything; I learned of Pruvo's existence literally the day after I'd booked the aforementioned Chicago trip. Not expecting much, I forwarded my Hotels.com confirmation email to save@pruvo.net, then finished setting up my account (no credit-card required) as directed.

A day later: presto. Pruvo emailed to say it had found a better rate. To get it, however, I'd have to jump through a few hoops: Pruvo doesn't handle any aspect of the booking process; it just alerts you to lower prices.

pruvo-rebook-wizard.jpg

After finding you a cheaper hotel rate, Pruvo walks you through the steps of rebooking your room.

Pruvo

Thus, as instructed by Pruvo's web portal (the service currently has no apps), I booked a new reservation at the same hotel (for the exact same room) using the newly discovered lower price. Then I cancelled the previous reservation. The entire process took just a couple minutes. Net savings: $66.

For kicks, I then submitted the new booking to Pruvo; maybe lightning would strike twice? Sure enough, it found another price-drop -- but this was a little confusing, because the new booking was via Hotels.uk, and the price difference was shown in British pounds, not US dollars.

The beauty of Pruvo is that it costs nothing, and of course you're in no way obligated to make any changes to your reservations. The service merely scans hotel prices and alerts you to any potential savings. After that, the legwork is up to you.

Service

Prefer something a little more automated? Service works much like Pruvo, scanning hotel prices to help you find cheaper rates after you've booked, but then steps in to handle the entire rebooking process.

Sounds good, right? There's yet another perk: Service will also monitor your air travel and help you pursue compensation from airlines in the event of cancelled or disrupted flights.

For a price. Service keeps 30 percent of any recovered savings unless you pay a $50/year subscription fee. Then, you keep 100 percent. Either way, you have to keep a credit card on file. (Here's a $20 first-use credit if you want it.)

The company says it saves the average traveler over $300 per year, but of course that depends on how much travel you do and other factors. Although 30 percent may seem a lot to give up, the other 70 percent is money you might not have recovered otherwise -- and it requires almost zero effort on your part.

So there you go: two easy ways to save money on hotel bookings, one that's free and requires a bit of clicking, the other not free but highly automated. Which would you choose?

And if you've found another good tool for hotel savings, tell me about it in the comments!