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Saving a Buck: Hotel deals

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Just in time for summer, hotel rates are heading up.

The average rate for a room is expected to top $100 this year.

But you can still find a good room for less...even if your tastes are upscale.

Finding a nice hotel room at a great rate can take some work.

Consumer Reports' Tod Marks said, these days, a good place to start is with the hotel's website.

"Hotels have taken back the night by imposing best-rate guarantees. That is, find an advertised price lower anywhere else and we'll match it plus give you a bonus,” Marks said.

So book at the hotel site, then keep looking online for a cheaper rate.

It also pays to look for special deals on hotel sites, like "up to 20 percent off" and "complimentary parking."

"Now if you really want to save and get the rock-bottom drop-dead low rate, do what I do. Use Hotwire, Priceline's Name Your Own Price program, or use Travelocity's Top Secret Hotels. They don't reveal the name of the hotel until after you've committed to purchasing that room for a given night."

However, it can lead to big bargains!

On hotwire, Tod booked a room at what turned out to be the James, a high-end hotel in Chicago.

The rate, $133 a night; the best rate the hotel or any other site offered was $234.

While budget hotels are the cheapest place to stay, consumer reports said some are no bargain.

Its survey of almost 23,000 subscribers found America’s Best Value Inn among the worst.

A much better bet, top-rated Microtel Inn and Suites where rooms can go for as little as $59.

Marks said, "They offer decent upkeep, they're clean and check-in, most of the time, it's a snap!"

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