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A few months ago I reviewed Tingo, a service that promises to refund the difference if the price drops on hotel rooms booked through its site. I didn’t score a price drop, probably because I’d already found a good rate. More upsetting was the fact that I didn’t receive any hotel loyalty points because I had gone through Tingo.

So I was intrigued to learn about StayAtHand. Not only is it set up to allow you to earn loyalty points, it’s from a startup in Arlington, Va. The company, Imagine If, includes several former Marriott executives who thought they could improve the hotel reservation process. Says founder and chief executive John Hart: “We’re trying to help consumers and hotels get the right match and do it in a way no one else is doing it.”

So what makes StayAtHand, which has raised $3 million in seed money, stand out in a crowded field of booking apps? It’s “ridiculously fast,” Hart says, and allows you to search multiple dates and locations at the same time — or to search with no date at all. Plus, your reservation is with the hotel, not the service. That’s the reason you can earn those loyalty points and have an easier time changing or canceling your reservation. (Anyone who has tried to do that through a third-party travel site knows what I mean.)

Other advantages: Cancellation takes only one click, you pay after your stay and you can specify special rates in your search (senior or AAA rates, for example).

I easily made a one-night reservation at an airport hotel for an upcoming trip. Oh, but what about my points? Since I hadn’t first created a StayAtHand account, which would have included my rewards numbers, the number wasn’t on the reservation. I called the hotel directly and asked that my rewards number be added to my reservation. No problem.

(StayAtHand)

When a later reservation only went through for one of the nights I needed (not sure if that was app or user error), again a call to the hotel straightened it out.

Imagine If also has a newer, more basic Web site, StayFaster. But I appreciate that the app, which the company says has been downloaded 10,000 times, allows you to conduct open-ended searches. I could see how rates fluctuate in Hawaii throughout the year, for example.

I suspect StayAtHand will prove especially helpful as I research vacations (adding ratings and a more consistent sorting function would make it even better). But for now, I’m happy to find a third-party app that lets me have my good price — and the loyalty points, too.

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stats

NAME: StayAtHand

COST: Free 

OPERATING SYSTEM: iOS

CREATOR: Imagine If

USER RATINGS: Apple, (51 ratings)

REVIEW’S BOTTOM LINE:Ability to use loyalty points and easy cancellation help StayAtHand stand out.