Sep222011

IHG first night free Best Price Guarantee and the loss of Kayak.com functionality

InterContinental Hotels Group introduced a new Best Price Guarantee (BRG) policy this week offering guests the first night free when a lower rate for the same hotel, same room type, same restrictions for same dates is found on a third party online travel agency site. Additional nights will match the lower price submitted for approved claims.

What is a Valid Best Price Guarantee Claim?

  1. You must make a reservation on an IHG website and have a valid confirmation number.
  2. You must have booked a Best Available Rate. Group rates like AAA, senior rates, and corporate rates do not qualify for BRG claims.
  3. You must book the lowest price among the Best Available rates for the room type.
  4. You must find a lower room rate on a competing non-IHG brand website within 24 hours for the same hotel, room type,  same dates, same length of stay and same number of guests that is publicly available, viewable and bookable.
  5. Competing website must have same reservation restrictions  for nonrefundable or refundable room.

The IHG Best Price Guarantee FAQ actually uses the example that if you find a refundable rate on a competing website that is lower than the nonrefundable rate you purchased from the IHG site, the claim is not valid.

That makes no sense to a consumer.

You book a more restrictive rate through IHG and then find a lower rate on a competing website with more flexible cancellation terms and you do not have a valid BRG claim. You have no recourse since you lose the entire prepaid deposit with IHG if you cancel a nonrefundable room.

IHG Best Price Guarantee is better than before when it offered 10% off the lower rate of a competing website, but still pales compared to Starwood and Hyatt BRG policies.

Up a Creek with Kayak.com and no paddle to freely navigate Hotel Brands filters

I wanted to test the new IHG policy with a few Kayak.com searches in hopes of locating a potential BRG claim only to learn that Kayak.com has changed their search filters recently. The changes to Kayak.com eliminates the ability to freely filter hotels in a location by hotel brand. I wrote a lament about this feature disappearing last year in my April 1, 2010 blog post “Steering to Starwood Hotels on Kayak.com without a Paddle“. Turned out that was a temporary change for Kayak.com.

Now it looks to me like Kayak.com has changed its hotel brand filtering to be some type of advertising revenue service since there is an odd and severely limited selection of hotel brands shown when attempting to filter the hotels by hotel brand.

Finding IHG rates on competing websites to compare with rates on IHG’s own websites is no longer a simple task with Kayak.com. Over the summer I easily located Best Rate Guarantee claims with Starwood Hotels using Kayak.com to check rates for locations I needed hotels. When I checked Kayak.com for IHG brand rates in San Francisco I now see a filter limited to this:

Kayak.com Hotel Brand Search Filter for San Francisco (Sep 22, 2011).

This is such a limited selection of the 300+ hotels in San Francisco shown here that I assume these are paid placements. There is no way I see now to filter these hotels to show only IHG brands when searching Kayak.com.

This is what Kayak.com used to provide which made it easy to check rates and compare to the hotel brand websites.

My purpose for discussing the Kayak.com filter changes is the fact that a Best Rate Guarantee policy only works when you can find a lower rate on a competing site within 24 hours and Kayak.com was a great site for locating lower rates quickly by filtering hotels to just the one brand of interest.

The screenshot above shows hotels in a Kayak.com Denver search filtered to show only Hyatt and Starwood. These happen to be the two hotel chains that allow submission of a Best Rate Guarantee claim before actually booking a hotel room. That is why I like the BRG policies of these two hotel chains.

Hyatt BRG FAQ. 20% off lower rate.

Starwood BRG FAQ. 10% off lower rate or 2,000 Starpoints.

Marriott BRG. Marriott gives 25% off lower rate.

Hilton BRG. Hilton matches lower rate and gives $50 gift card or $50 credit.

IHG, Marriott, Hilton and most other hotel chains offer a Best Rate Guarantee, but only after you have booked the room through the hotel’s own websites and then find a lower rate on a competing website and submit your claim within 24 hours of booking the room. Earlier this year I analyzed the different BRG policies from major hotel chains in this post.

Personally I don’t spend much time looking at room rates in the 24 hours after I have booked my room.

Orbitz.com still offers the ability to filter by hotel brand and that will be my preferred search site until I locate another travel search engine to filter by hotel chain like Starwood, Marriott or IHG. I only use third party sites to compare rates to branded websites. I make all my reservations on the brand website for the loyalty benefits and almost always the lowest rate. If the hotel brand website is not the lowest rate, then file a Best Rate Guarantee claim.

I don’t think I will find much use in the IHG Best Price Guarantee policy changes.

This IHG change should provide more fuel for the people producing the Best Rate Guarantee blog who mainly work Expedia deals since Wyndham changed its BRG free night policy in April 2009.

Question for readers: What other travel websites allow a hotel search to be filtered by hotel chain?

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.

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Comments

  1. Hi Ric

    I do happen to think that the PC BRG is pretty good if you can get it. I have tried their BRG, all in asian-pacific hotels. So far have got 5 out of 6 approved for travel up til Jan of next year – all in Crowne Plazas. The disapproved one was a misinterpretation of the T&C on my part. Have got to be very careful with the terms and conditions as you have correctly pointed out because the rates AND booking conditions/cancellation policies have got to be EXACTLY the same. Interesting thing about this BRG is that you can potentially get a suite with breakfast and internet and club level access as a complimentary night.

    As for Hyatt, they have been pretty good though have only ever filed 3 claims which were all approved. Having to call long distance and pay for the phone charges is a bummer though especially if you have to wait a while and I only do it if I can save more then USD $60 or else its not worth the time and effort for an Asian based client

    Lastly, I have to agree with you that Starwood does have a good BRG which allows you to check it out before you book and they are pretty loose with the cancellation policies/etc.. What irks me is their definition of package rates – i.e rates on other websites which throw in free breakfast cannot be used as a comparison for a lower rate.

    Finally as for Marriott. One word. Absolutely hopeless for hotels outside the US and Canada. All but 2 of my claims(I made 15 claims) this year in Asia have been rejected on the basis that any booking OUTSIDE the US and Canada which involves any printed voucher is not eligible. According to their definition, if a third party website even gives you a confirmation e-mail which you have to bring to the hotel check-in counter, you claim is invalid! The 2 that got through were basically I suspect overlooked by the LOOK team. Useful only in the states. (3 out of 3 claims approved)

    Cheers, just a perspective from the other side of the globe. Keep up your excellent work, really appreciate the effort you’ve put into your blog.

  2. @ Asian Traveller – Thanks for sharing your experience with BRG claims. There are plenty of excuses from the hotel chains to invalidate claims.

    Hyatt last year refused my BRG claim stating the competing website did not separate the room rate from the total rate with taxes, even though the competing site had a rate about $80 lower. I ended up booking that Hyatt stay through the third party site and I did not earn elite stay credit or points for the hotel stay.

    Starwood will not accept a BRG claim within 24 hours 3pm day before arrival. That rule has affected me a number of times when finding a lower rate on a competing website.

  3. Question: If I am looking at a Crowne Plaza in Japan and the IHG site rate shows up in Japanese yen, how do I compare it to the Orbitz site which shows up in US dollars?

  4. @alohastephen – You can change the currency from JPY to USD on the IHG website for comparison to Orbitz.

    When you get a hotel search return in a foreign currency on the IHG site, look for the currency dropdown menu to change to USD.

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