I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).
Upside is a new travel booking site that will help you save money and gives you back gift cards for business travel. It’s brought to you by the founder of Priceline, it was just announced today, and it debuts in September.
- Sign up today as a pre-launch VIP and you’re guaranteed $150 back on every trip through the end of the year. You just provide your email address and answer a few multiple choice questions and your VIP status is locked-in.
About a week and a half ago I had breakfast with Priceline’s and Upside’s founder, Jay Walker, to talk about the new idea. And I agreed that my blog would be one of a handful of places where you can get a free early ‘VIP pass’ to the site which special benefits.
That Business Trip May Get a Bit Better
Upside is aiming at unmanaged business travelers; people who book their own business travel can save their companies money and benefit personally at the same time by monetizing their flexibility.
With Upside, business travelers can turn flexibility on their flights and hotel into 100s of dollars in free Gift Cards to leading national retailers of their choice — and companies get 5% to 15% in immediate travel savings — on every trip!
Business travelers book the flights that make sense, and stay wherever makes sense, without respect to cost as long as their trip is ‘within policy’. And business travelers game that, too.
Say they have to book the least expensive airfare, and their preferred airline is more expensive. “The meeting isn’t quite confirmed yet,” wait a few days to book so you’re within 7 or 3 days of travel, and the price of all options has gone up but your preferred airline isn’t more expensive anymore.
Upside turns this on its head. It provides a financial incentive to travelers to choose less costly options — paying you in gift cards for your flexibility.
- How much would it be worth to you to take a late night flight instead of the one after your meeting?
- What if you flew into a different airport?
- How much would it be worth to fly the night before a trip? Or to stay the weekend after a business trip and explore the city — if it didn’t cost more, in fact even put money back in the traveler’s pocket?
- How much would it be worth to stay at a nearby hotel instead of your conference hotel or the one closest to your meeting — since you can Uber anyway?
Maybe you’re not flexible along any of these dimensions on a given trip. But most of us have flexibility at some price. Would you fly into a different airport for a million dollars? Sure. For $1? Absolutely not. The amount you’d take though would likely change based on the circumstances.
These are decisions business travelers wouldn’t usually make. And maybe they still won’t. But the Upside mobile app will prompt you with questions about your flexibility along with how much they’ll pay you to choose the more flexible option. So you can figure out the margin at which you’re flexible and monetize it.
All of the trips they sell are air and hotel packages. Nothing is opaque. You see the full itinerary before you book.
By selling packages they’re able to provide better deals: they aren’t displaying just the price of the hotel so they aren’t bound by requirements not to undercut a hotel’s own pricing.
- You specify flight-time windows
- You pre-approve which travel providers you’re willing to use
- You see full travel plans in advance. You can buy what they suggest. You can make changes before you buy. Or you can change your mind and walk away. So why not try it out?
You add up the flexible choices you’ve made for total savings on a trip. They’ll provide backup to give your finance department showing the company saved, too. And you pocket gift cards — if you sign up as a pre-launch VIP you are guaranteed a minimum of $150 per trip through end of year. They make business travel rewarding, not just grueling.
How it Usually Feels
What’s more, these aren’t opaque “you’re stuck with it” bookings. Priceline was great for leisure travel but business trips change. They’ve got 24 hour customer service to make changes or cancel a trip.
Upside expects to offer pre-launch VIPs a referral program to earn gift cards when the people they refer book trips through the site as well. This is my referral link, I’m told people who sign up now with it may get their own once the site goes live.
If this works as promised, you’re going to be looking to take more business trips and your employer will be happy to send you too.
There’s literally no reason not to sign up to lock in the chance of a great payout come September.