Jul092012

Devilish Details of Best Rate Guarantee Claims

All the major hotel chains have Best Rate Guarantee programs in support of their claims that the best publicly available rate is available on the hotel chain’s own websites.

For travelers booking hotel rooms on the hotel chain proprietary sites, this means the room rate on Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Kayak.com, HotelsCombined.com and hundreds of other online travel agencies should be the same or higher than the rate on the Marriott.com, Hyatt.com, StarwoodHotels.com sites for those hotel brands.

When an online travel agency has a lower room rate for the same room category and booking restrictions, you can file a Best Rate guarantee claim. 

An approved Best Rate Guarantee claim is adjusted to the lower rate and with most hotel chains an additional discount of 10% to 25% is taken off the lower rate. Hilton and Best Western give cash cards in addition to the lower rate. Choice and InterContinental Hotels Group give one free night for approved claims.

Best Rate Guarantee benefits offered by major hotel chains

Approved Best Rate Guarantee Benefit

All hotel chains match the lower room rate for your stay. Additional discounts, cash and points are other benefits.

  • Best Western – $100 gift card.
  • Carlson – 25% off lower rate.
  • Choice – one free night.
  • Hilton – $50 gift card (USA/Canada/Mexico) or $50 off hotel folio at checkout (international).
  • Hyatt – 25% off lower rate.
  • IHG – one free night.
  • Marriott – 25% off lower rate.
  • Starwood – 10% off lower rate or 2,000 bonus points.
  • Wyndham – 10% off lower rate.

The interesting aspect of Best Rate Guarantee programs is hotel chains claim you have a Best Rate Guarantee that their room rates on the hotel brand websites are the lowest, yet online travel agency sites like Expedia.com and Travelocity.com also claim the lowest room rates and offer their own Best Rate Guarantee programs for a $50 travel credit on your next booking.

Any room rate discrepancies between the hotel chain and the online travel agency sites should result in a valid Best Rate Guarantee claim with either the hotel chain or the online travel agency. Checking meta-search sites like Kayak.com and HotelsCombined.com makes finding hotel rate discrepancies relatively easy since these OTAs scour a large number of hotel booking sites for room rates. Even some meta-search engines offer Best Rate Guarantee programs.

 

The Devilish Details of Best Rate Guarantees

So why are we not all filing Best Rate Guarantee claims and getting room rate discounts, cash credits, bonus points or free nights with nearly every hotel stay?

Each Best Rate Guarantee claim has different hotel reservation restrictions that need to be met in order to qualify for an approved Best Rate Guarantee claim.

And there are some devilish details in the Best Rate Guarantee terms and conditions.

#1 Restriction on Best Rate Guarantee claims – Book First, File Claim within 24 hours of booking.

Aside from Hyatt Hotels and Starwood Hotels every other hotel chain and Online Travel Agency requires the hotel room be booked on their website before the consumer can file a Best Rate Guarantee. Hyatt and Starwood are risk-free Best Rate Guarantee offers since the consumer can have a BRG claim approved prior to booking a room on any site.

Time frame for submitting BRG claims

All Best Rate Guarantee programs require claims must be filed within 24 hours of booking your hotel room. Although Starwood and Hyatt allow a BRG claim to be filed prior to booking a room, once you have booked a room with Starwood or Hyatt, even their terms require a Best Rate Guarantee be filed within 24 hours of booking.

Most hotel chains also restrict BRG claim submissions within 24 to 72 hours of date of arrival. Most hotels count 3pm to 6pm as arrival date time, but Carlson restricts BRG claims within 48 hours of 12:01am day of arrival; effectively three days before arrival.

· Claims are not allowed within 24 hours of arrival: Hilton, Marriott, Starwood.

· Claims are not allowed within 48 hours of arrival: Best Western, Wyndham.

· Claims are not allowed within 48 to 72 hours of arrival: Carlson, Choice.

Hyatt handles BRG claims by phone and there is no published restriction against submitting a claim within 24 hours of hotel arrival. IHG also has no published time restriction on claim submission or claim response time.

Primary reason for a Best Rate Guarantee claim denial.

Hotel rates change frequently throughout the week. The rate must still be available at the time the customer service agent verifies the Best Rate Guarantee claim. The primary reason Best Rate Guarantee claims are not successful is the competing site’s lower rate is adjusted prior to the Best Rate Guarantee claim being verified and the lower rate for the same room is no longer available.

All Best Rate Guarantee programs require the competing rate to be publicly available. No AAA, senior, corporate rates or membership program rates are considered as lower competing rates.

This is why response time for your Best Rate Guarantee claim is crucial to your success. My recent article “Over 100 hours for Carlson Best Rate Guarantee Reply” (July 7, 2012) was in response to an unreasonable response time of four to five days for a response to my BRG claims.

Published BRG Response Time by Hotel Chains

  • Within hours – Hyatt (BRG claims handled over phone)
  • Within 24 hours – Carlson, Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham
  • Within 48 hours – Starwood, Best Western (phone BW if no response in 48 hours)
  • No response time stated – Choice, IHG

Hotel chains with or without published BRG claim response times offer little recourse to the consumer if they do not respond within that time.

This week I will post a series of articles on the Best Rate Guarantee Terms & Conditions for the major hotel chains including the response times and benefits received with an approved Best Rate Guarantee claim.

Links will be added to this post as I publish an article on each hotel chain’s Best Rate Guarantee program.

Marriott Hotels Look No Further Best Rate Guarantee for 25% Discount (July 10)

Hilton Worldwide Best Rate Guarantee – Weaker than Marriott? (July 11)

 

Ric Garrido, writer and content owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

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. Ric, I’ve 4 approved BRGs with Hilton (doubletree) that still hasn’t reached me. Service desk claimed that the vouchers would be sent via FedEx after I check out. And that was a month ago.
    Thanks

  2. Found a cheaper rate for an Intercontinental room, but since the other website had different cancellation penalties (you needed to cancel by 7 days before the trip to have no penalties, whereas Intercontinental lets you cancel up to the day of), they wouldn’t do it. Even though Interncontinentals non-refundable room was more expensive than the other websites refundable room.

  3. @S. Rao – hotel loyalty programs generally do not credit any stays booked through third party online travel agencies. They are already losing a sizeable portion of room revenue to the OTA site (up to 25%).

    @Joe S. – Some BRG programs say a more flexible cancellation policy on the OTA site will be accepted as a BRG rate.

    A more restrictive cancellation policy on the OTA site is highly unlikely to be approved by any hotel chain BRG program.

  4. Why does the lower rate still have to be available when the CSR checks it, many hours or days later? Why won’t your screen shot suffice?

  5. @Explore – I have never been successful sending a screenshot of the lower rate I submitted when the rate had changed by the time the CSR verified the claim.

    @Rapid Travel Chai – Priceline got me into plenty of nice hotels for far less than the published room rate. But I never get the kind of star treatment with Priceline I get when staying as an elite member of a loyalty program. I like the upgrades, points and the fact that BRG claims give me a low rate and elite credit and promotion bonuses with the loyalty program.

  6. This is a great article Ric! Looking forward to your other posts on this subject. Only really done BRG with a few programs. Love to expand my knowledge and do more.

  7. Just submitted a claim to Marriott for a SpringHill suites reservation: $179 on Marriott versus $128.29 on Kayak. However, the Kayak reservation says Standard room. 1 Bed, while the Marriott reservation says King Suite, even though all the rooms at this property are suites. It will be interesting to see if the claim is accepted or denied based on nomenclature.

  8. Marriott turned down my BRG request, claiming that their $179 rate was the same as Kayak’s – which, of course, by the time they replied some 12 hours after I submitted the claim, it was. Catch 22!

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