I am driving to Las Vegas this weekend to attend the IHG Americas Investors and Leadership Conference.
Yesterday I was working in a first grade classroom keeping it real for a couple days this week using my elementary school teacher credential. I enjoy spending time around school kids if only to better appreciate the beautiful silence of being at home on my computer with four cats all sleeping at the moment.
After school I found what looked to be an eligible Best Rate Guarantee at a Marriott Courtyard in Bakersfield. Marriott had the BAR rate listed as $149 with a AAA rate of $85. Several online travel agencies had the rate listed as $94. After going from school to a dinner party, I came home and went to bed.
Today the rate discrepancy is gone for the Marriott hotel so I lost my opportunity for a $70.50 room night with a 25% discount on the $94 rate. One more Marriott stay would also have earned one category 1-5 hotel reward night certificate with my current MegaBonus promotion.
Las Vegas is 510 miles from my home and the drive is kind of tiring to complete in one day. It takes 9 to 10 hours from Monterey to cross California depending on speed and how little time is spent for rest stops.
IHG Best Rate Guarantee
The main thing to know about the IHG Best Rate Guarantee is an approved claim awards one free night.
It has been several months since I filed a Best Rate Guarantee with IHG. I had a free night at a Holiday Day Inn in Chicago last March upon a return flight from London. Despite a free hotel room night, that turned out to be a miserable experience due to a very late arrival of a Turkish Airlines flight and dozens of passengers being provided an airline voucher for the same hotel. The hotel shuttle van could take 7 passengers and there were dozens of us waiting for a ride to the hotel. It was an hour wait to get to my free room.
I think it was after midnight when I finally arrived at the hotel and I needed to be back at the airport for an early morning flight.
That was just bad luck for my free IHG hotel stay, even though it was a free room earned from a successful Best Price Guarantee claim.
That was then and this is today.
I just filed another Best Rate Guarantee with IHG in the past hour on a room reservation for tomorrow night.
This one is a very straightforward claim. The hotel (which I will not name) is $125 on the IHG site. Expedia has the same hotel listed on a 10% sale rate.
The one rate rules discrepancy I noticed in the terms is Expedia states the rate is nonrefundable after 6pm today. IHG states the rate may be canceled without penalty until 6pm tomorrow.
All other aspects of the room type are the same.
Understanding the fine print of Best Rate Guarantees
I have had successful Best Rate Guarantee claims with all the major hotel chains. I am batting better than 50% of all my paid hotel stays in 2013 being on Best Rate Guarantee claims.
Here are the main terms of IHG’s Best Price Guarantee (BRG):
- The rate compared includes taxes and fees with IHG. This is actually different from most hotel chains which only look at the published room rate before taxes.
If you find a lower room price (room rate) and total room cost (including all taxes and fees) publicly available on the Internet on a non-IHG Website within 24 hours of booking, IHG will provide your first night’s room price free and match the lower average nightly room price found for that stay for the rest of the nights of that stay.
- Filing a claim within 24 hours of booking on an IHG site is fairly standard for hotel chain Best Rate Guarantee policies. Only Hyatt and Starwood allow a claim to be filed without first having a confirmed reservation through the hotel chain’s own websites.
- One interesting difference between the BRG terms of IHG and other hotel chains is there is no time prior to arrival stated. Most hotel chains state a BRG claim cannot be filed within 24 hours of hotel arrival. I recall a BRG claim with Starwood Hotels was denied despite a huge rate difference when I filed the claim at 4pm the day before arrival. The denial response from Starwood BRG said the claim was denied because I was within 24 hours of 3pm check-in for the hotel. Apparently the claim would have been approved if I had submitted the claim at least an hour earlier. IHG does not state a time limit before arrival for Best Price Guarantee claims, however, the automated response to my IHG claim today stated I would hear back within three business days. Obviously three days will be too late. Hopefully I will have a response by Saturday morning. Note: Hyatt is best in that they will process a BRG claim over the phone without even requiring you to book the hotel reservation first. Most chains will respond to a BRG claim submission within 24 hours. Marriott generally replies within four hours and Starwood generally takes around 20 hours in my experience.
Reporting to IHG of a Claim. You must contact us using the online claim form within twenty-four (24) hours after completing your valid room booking on any IHG website to make a claim under the Best Price Guarantee. The average nightly lower room price and lower total room cost must be available for booking at the time of claim verification and both must be lower than those found on an IHG website, as determined by IHG customer service representatives, and in IHG’s sole discretion.
- Matching Rooms. In my case both IHG and Expedia call the room ‘King Bed Nonsmoking’. No discrepancy on room type. Sometimes there are slight differences in wording between the hotel brand’s site and the online travel agency (OTA) site to name the room type. This is generally not an issue in my experience as long as both names are describing the same room category. For example, when the hotel site calls a room Traditional and OTA calls the room Standard, yet they are both the lowest category room, then there is no problem.
Matching Rooms. The Guarantee is available only for the exact same room type and same view. For example, if you book a king bed with a sofa bed room type and with a] view (e.g., ocean) on an IHG website, and are comparing it to a non-IHG website, you must find a price with the same king bed with sofa bed room type and with a the same view on the non-IHG website.
- Matching Terms. In my experience this has been less of an impediment than I would expect. There have been several claims I thought would get rejected due to slight discrepancies in bed type or smoking vs. nonsmoking, but in general, I have found the Best Rate Guarantee approval process is pretty fair in looking at the room type and the rate and approving a claim that is legitimate. This means the rate is truly less on the OTA site for basically the same room type. Most denied claims I have had were due to a claim made with a lesser known OTA. Expedia.com, hotels.com and booking.com always work for me.
Matching Terms. All terms of the comparison room reservation, including, but not limited to pre-payment, deposit, number of guests, or other requirements must be equal in all respects to the terms found on an IHG website for your claim to be valid. For example, when you book a room that may be cancelled without penalty on an IHG website, you may not compare it to a room with a pre-paid or non-refundable price on a non-IHG website. At hotels in Greater China, however, pre-paid rates on non-IHG sites will be compared with the IHG hotel’s lowest available rate. The Guarantee is not available for bookings on websites where the booking details are unknown until after purchase. Sites that do not reveal the hotel brand name until after the payment has been completed (including bidding sites) do not qualify for this Guarantee.
The only difference I have detected between the Expedia reservation terms and the IHG terms for the hotel room I booked is Expedia has a cancellation penalty after 6pm tonight and IHG is tomorrow night. My claim may be denied on this basis.
If my IHG BRG claim is denied today or tomorrow, then I can cancel the hotel without penalty until 6pm tomorrow. The room rate at $125 is more than I am willing to pay. I can find a better deal for a hotel tomorrow night.
And if my IHG BRG claim is approved, then I will be staying in a hotel for free tomorrow night. I have stayed at this property before and I liked the hotel. The hotel itself is nothing special, but it will provide free lodging and save me from driving 500 miles in one day.
Unfortunately, I don’t think a free IHG night from an approved Best Rate Guarantee claim will give me any credit for the IHG Rewards Club Big Win promotion. That would be worth several thousand bonus points for a Saturday night stay.
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out my page of collated current hotel promotions.