May082009

Starwood Stays, BRG Claims, and Free Nights

I rarely submitted hotel website Best Rate Guarantee claims before 2008. I don’t know if I just wasn’t looking hard enough or if the discrepancies are more frequent these days. I feel the latter is the case since I really have not changed my search strategies for hotel room rates. Meta-search engines like Kayak.com make the task much easier, but I have always been good about cross-checking rates on the hotel website with Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz.

Starwood Preferred Guest’s promotion for one free night after every two stays is keeping me busy. So far I have 15 Starwood Hotel stays booked for May and Starwood Hotels Best Rate Guarantee claims were submitted for 6 of my hotel stays. I completed my first two stays for the free nights promotion in San Francisco last weekend.

Most of the hotel stays I booked in May 2009 through Best Rate Guarantees are a few dollars more than the same price I could have booked on StarwoodHotels.com a day or two before.

Four of my BRG claims occurred on days when I checked rates and the rate increased on the Starwood site from the day before.  I checked Kayak.com and saw discrepancies. The rate had not yet increased on one of the online travel agencies – mostly Hotels.com and Orbitz.com. This situation resulted in four best rate guarantee claims that did not actually provide a lower rate than I could have booked the day before on StarwoodHotels.com.

The real benefit of Best Rate Guarantee is the 2,000 Starpoints or 10% reduced rate choice. One of my BRG claims is for a $59 room for one night. Choosing a 10% rate cut would only save $6.00. I think 2,000 Starpoints has ten times more value than a $6 savings on the room rate.  My highest BRG room rate was the Westin Market San Francisco at $110 based on a $109 Hotels.com rate. The Starwood hotel website had changed to $129. Taking the BRG 10% rate discount would have resulted in a savings of $11 on the room rate. The 2,000 Starpoints was worth the higher price.

The Westin Market Street had the greatest fluctuation of any San Francisco hotel I tracked over the past two weeks. The first rate check I made on Tuesday, April 21 for San Francisco hotels showed a Westin Market Street room rate of $99 for May 2. Rate went up to $109 on Thursday April 23. Rate went up again to $129 on Sunday April 26. I filed a BRG claim on Sunday April 26 based on a $109 Orbitz.com room rate and the claim was approved for a $110 BRG rate. There is generally a slight increase to the posted online travel agency room rate seen on Orbitz or Expedia due to small service fees imposed per reservation and in this case the BRG rate was $110 rather than the Orbitz.com $109 rate. The room rate later increased to over $269 per night, over $300, and then sold out for the night of my BRG claim.

Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco actually had a rate of $90 on Orbitz.com compared to $118 on StarwoodHotels.com for a date I booked.  Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf is the only hotel in my San Francisco searches where I found a significantly lower room rate with an online travel agency than any rate I had seen for that hotel on the Starwood websites over the past two weeks.  

On another BRG claim I saw a $3 discrepancy between Hotels.com and StarwoodHotels.com for the lowest priced room at the Four Points San Francisco Airport. One advantage of this hotel is free parking. I actually filed the BRG claim based on a junior suite higher category room and saved $10 on the StarwoodHotels.com rate for this room type.

The net effect of six BRG claims in my 15 Starwood reservations is I paid about $20 less than I would have paid through StarwoodHotels.com if I had booked when I saw the lowest rates. The value of the 12,000 Starpoints earned for approved BRG claims is much greater than the $20 saved.

The ultimate consideration in these Starwood Hotels May stays is the free nights earned from the current “two stays earn one night” promotion.

four-points-sfo-kitchenette

Penthouse Suite Kitchenette with toaster oven, Four Points San Francisco Airport

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. Thanks for the analysis of the SPG BRG.

    I’d like to move more of my stays to SPG and boost my SPG balance but 2000 points always seem to pale in comparison to Marriott’s LNF.

    Maybe I haven’t really grasped the value of SPG points. However, I do wait and only book SPG stays via the helpdesk link.

    Then again, perhaps for my stays maybe Marriott just generally has much lower rates. That combined with a price match and 25% discount is kinda hard to beat.

    I’ll have to give a closer look to SPG’s BRG and hopefully be able to make better use of it for some upcoming airport stays (PDX & DTW)

    thanks again for your blog!

  2. 2,000 Starpoints for a BRG is generally worth at least $50 when redeemed. My preference for Starpoints is Cash&Points nights. I typically get 5 cents or more value out of Starpoints when staying on Cash & Points rate. In this case 2,000 Starpoints is worth $100.

    I have picked up 8 BRG rates in the past two weeks so 16,000 points really adds up. I can probably get about $800 value just from the BRG bonus points. The 10% discounted rate would probably have amounted to just $100 for the 8 stays.

    BRG claims with Marriott(25%) and Hyatt (20%)will provide a bigger discount. SPG is not as good on an expensive hotel stay, but 2,000 points is a great bonus for an $80 hotel night. And another 500 points per stay as a Platinum elite (250 Four Points, aloft, element brands).

  3. How do you go about getting a BRG claim at starwood hotel? We should book via spg.com then find a lower rate? Then how do we go about getting a claim?

  4. The advantage of the Starwood BRG is you can make a claim without having to book a room first.

    When you find a rate discrepancy between the Starwood website rate and a third-party rate on a site like Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, Hotels.com, then submit a claim online via this link: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/bestrate/index.html

    A Starwood Hotels BRG representative will either call or send an email (you choose your preference for contact method on the claim form)stating if your claim is accepted or rejected within 24 hours.

    If Starwood Hotels supports the claim, then you have 24 hours from the time of the contact by Starwood supporting the BRG claim to make the reservation through a Starwood site.

    Your rate will match the lower rate and you have the choice of either 2,000 points or another 10% off the lower rate.

    My only rejections for BRG claims resulted from the third-party website changing the rate to match or exceed Starwood’s rate during the time period between my claim submission and the 24 hour response time.

    The Starwood BRG response time is generally at least 12 hours and I have had responses as late as 22.5 hours after submitting my claim.

    Sometimes the third-party rate is gone by the time Starwood responds. This has happened about 1 out of every 6 or 7 claims I file. Taking a screenshot of the lower rate is given no weight by the Starwood BRG team. So you have a chance of having a valid claim rejected due to a rate change during the up to 24 hours response time from Starwood for a BRG claim.

    Starwood’s BRG procedure is preferable to Marriott, IHG, and Hilton in my opinion where you must book a room before you can make a BRG claim.

Comments are closed.