On a recent road trip to Las Vegas I hit the jackpot twice without even gambling. I received one free night on a $125 rate at Holiday Inn Express on the way to Vegas and a $149 Marriott Courtyard room was adjusted to $71 for a hotel on the drive home. Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) policies from the major hotel chains offer a route to room rate discounts. This year alone, I have saved thousands of dollars with Best Rate Guarantee claims and these discount hotel stays qualify for loyalty promotions, unless the hotel stay is entirely free.
The basic idea for hotel chain Best Rate Guarantee policies is to assure the consumer the room rate shown on the hotel chain’s own websites will not be higher than rates found on other competitive online travel agency (OTA) websites like Expedia and Travelocity. Direct bookings through the hotel chain’s own channels drive more revenue to the hotel rather than to a competitor online travel agency taking 10% to 30% of the room rate from the hotel chain.
The truth though is occasionally rates on the hotel chain website are higher than rates on a competitive OTA site. This is why purposely looking for Best Rate Guarantee eligible claims can be an effective rate discount strategy for travelers.
Finding potential BRG claims does not require much time using a search strategy. I check Kayak.com and filter hotels in a city by hotel brand like ‘All Marriott brands’ or ‘All Hyatt brands’. In a second window I check the hotel chain’s website for rate discrepancies with the OTA rates. There is little downside to seeking Best Rate Guarantee claims as long as you avoid booking prepaid, nonrefundable rates. Simply cancel the hotel booking if the claim is denied.
The rate on the hotel chain competitor site must be publicly available and instantly bookable. The hotel, room type and stay dates must be the same and cancellation policies somewhat similar. The room rate difference must be at least $1 or 1% with most programs.
Starwood and Hyatt allow consumers to apply for a Best Rate Guarantee claim prior to booking a confirmed hotel reservation on their website. The other major hotel chains require the guest to file a BRG claim within 24 hours of making a confirmed reservation through the hotel chain’s own channels.
Who continues looking at hotel rates during the 24 hours after you booked a hotel reservation? This is precisely why I look for room rate discrepancies as part of my hotel reservation planning before I book any rooms.
Best Rate Guarantee policies of the major hotel chains:
Best Western gives a $100 gift card and matches lower rate. Online claim form must be submitted within 24 hours of making Best Western reservation and at least 48 hours before hotel’s published check-in time on arrival date . Only one $100 gift card every 30 days. Other approved claims only match lower rate. Best Western Hotels BRG link.
Choice Hotels gives first night free and matches the lower rate. Online claim form must be submitted within 24 hours of the booking and at least 72 hours prior to a 6 pm arrival on the first day of the booking. Free Night Limit: one (1) free night per name on the booking and/or household for any thirty day period between booking check-in dates. Choice BRG T&C link.
Club Carlson gives 25% off the lower rate. Submit online claim form within 24 hours of the Carlson website booking and at least 48 hours prior to arrival date. Club Carlson BRG link.
Hilton Worldwide gives $50 cash back and matches lower rate. Submit claim within 24 hours of reservation and at least 24 hours before hotel arrival. Hilton BRG T&C link.
Hyatt Hotels reduces lower rate found by 20%. Claims are handled in real time over the phone. This eliminates one of the major reasons Best Rate Guarantee claims fail with other hotel chains when the OTA rate changes in the 24 hours before a customer service agent validates the lower rate. Hyatt Hotels Best Rate Guarantee T&C link.
InterContinental Hotels Group gives first night free and matches the lower rate for additional nights. Claim must be submitted within 24 hours of IHG reservation. Once a claim has been approved, any IHG hotel within 50 miles is not eligible for another BRG free night claim within the same seven-day period. IHG BRG T&C link.
Marriott International reduces lower rate found by 25%. Must submit claim within 24 hours of making reservation through Marriott and 24 hours before standard hotel check-in time. Marriott International BRG T&C link.
Starwood Hotels gives choice of 10% discount on lower rate found or 2,000 Starpoints and match lower rate. Must submit claim prior to or within 24 hours of Starwood website reservation and 24 hours before standard hotel check-in time (48 hours for non-English Starwood websites). Starwood Hotels BRG T&C link.
Wyndham Hotels gives 10% discount on lower rate. Submit claim within 24 hours of reservation and at least 48 hours before hotel arrival. Guarantee applies only to reservations made for Wyndham Hotels and Resorts hotels in the United States, Canada, Caribbean, Mexico, and EMEA (excluding Germany and Switzerland). Wyndham Hotels BRG T&C link.
Hotel room rates hit record highs in 2013. Best Rate Guarantee claims can take some of the room rate sting out of hotel stays.
*This article originally appeared in InsideFyer December 2013 issue.
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.