What is a dummy booking? How to get targeted offers using this trick


In the points and miles world there are lots of acronyms and phrases that get thrown around. As you get deeper into the game, you learn more and more, but sometimes it can be helpful to have something explained outright. We often refer to ‘dummy bookings’ in posts about shopping portals, credit card offers, hotel and airline bookings, etc., so if you’ve ever wondered to yourself “What is a dummy booking?”, here’s a quick explainer, along with some examples for how it can come in handy to save money and/or earn more rewards.

Dummy booking

What Is a Dummy Booking?

A dummy booking is when you go through much of the process of making a purchase, booking or application for a product or service, but cancel the transaction before submitting payment?

Why Do People Do Dummy Bookings?

People’s reasons for doing dummy bookings might vary, but generally it’s because they’re hoping to get targeted for some kind of better offer.

What Kind Of Offers Are Available Via Dummy Bookings?

This depends on what kind of product or service you’re thinking about purchasing as there are all kinds of different ways you can be targeted for savings or rewards. Here are some examples:

Increased Credit Card Welcome Offers

This is something we see frequently with Amex cards. Sites that have Amex affiliate links might show one offer, going directly to the Amex website might show you a different offer, visiting the Amex site in a different browser might display another kind of offer, while a referral link from a friend or family member could yield a completely different bonus.

A few years ago Nick wrote about dummy bookings in the context of increased welcome offers for hotel and airline credit cards. Banks, airlines and hotel chains will often offer different bonuses when being approved for a new credit card depending on which link you use when applying. One way to find an alternate link is to do a dummy hotel or flight booking where you do a search for a stay or flight with the company whose credit card you want. As you click through the screens, you’ll often see a banner advertising that hotel or airline’s credit card. Sometimes – but certainly not always – that offer will be different from the best offer available. Something worth being aware of with dummy bookings through this method is that the alternate offer you see isn’t always better. For example, the standard offer on a Marriott credit card might be 120,000 bonus points, but via a dummy booking you might see an inferior offer giving 20,000 bonus points plus a $250 statement credit on your next Marriott stay.

Other times you’ll see better offers though. For example, when making a dummy booking sometimes you’ll see the standard number of miles/points being offered, but with a $100 statement credit thrown in.

Example of a past Air France Flying Blue credit card welcome offer found via a dummy booking
Example of a past Air France Flying Blue credit card welcome offer found via a dummy booking

Exit Intent Discounts

Sometimes when you’re shopping online, if you move your cursor to close the tab you’re on you’ll suddenly see a popup saying something along the lines of “Don’t leave!” The site will then offer some kind of incentive to complete your transaction.

For example, at the time of publishing this post TheGiftCardShop is giving a 100% discount on Visa gift card purchase fees when using promo code 100GIFT. I came across this offer when browsing their site and went to close the tab; when doing that, this offer popped up:

TheGiftCardShop exit intent popup

Boosted Shopping Portal Rates

We’ve written numerous times about Capital One Shopping because it’s a shopping portal that sometimes offers incredibly generous cashback rates that are significantly higher than those available through other portals. Those increased rates are often targeted and can frequently be triggered by doing dummy bookings/purchases provided you have the Capital One Shopping browser extension installed.

For example, at the time of writing this there are two Amex Offers for Fanatics; one giving $20 back when spending $100 and one giving +4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at Fanatics. I decided to buy a gift card to resell and wanted to click through from a shopping portal in the hope that the portal would track the purchase and pay out (not common when buying gift cards, but always worth a try anyway). This wasn’t a time sensitive purchase, so I browsed the Fanatics website, added a $100 Fanatics gift card to my cart, went to start checking out but deleted the card from my cart before finishing the order.

Sure enough, the following day Capital One Shopping had a targeted rate for me of 15% cashback that hadn’t been there before. For comparison, other portals were only offering 1%-7.5%, so 15% was double the highest offer available elsewhere. FWIW, I made that purchase a few days ago and it didn’t track yet, but for non-gift card purchases this is a great technique. I’ve also used it when needing to book IHG stays (I’ve gotten 12% and 15% rates this way) and other travel.

Discount Codes Via Email

When shopping online, if you browse a site while you’re logged in and add items to your cart without checking out, I’m sure you’ve subsequently received an email from a retailer saying “Hey, you forgot this!”

Although those emails can be annoying, it can be worth opening them anyway because sometimes you’ll see a coupon code inside that can save you money on your purchase or booking.

In order for this to work, you need to be logged in to your account. Browsing in incognito mode without being logged in won’t work as the retailer won’t know who to send the offer to.

Retargeting Ads Giving Discounts

If you search for travel (or any other product for that matter) while not in incognito mode and don’t make a purchase, you’ll often find yourself followed around the internet with ads encouraging you to book that specific hotel or flight.

It doesn’t always happen, but it’s worth glancing at those ads because sometimes companies use retargeting ads such as those to offer a discount on your booking or purchase.

Bonus Points Via Email

This is an interesting example that a reader recently gave us a heads up about. She was planning on booking a stay on Hilton’s website while logged in, but didn’t end up proceeding with the reservation. Hilton subsequently emailed her, offering bonus points on her next stay.


What are other ways you’ve used a dummy booking to get a better offer? Let us know in the comments below.

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