Mark Ashley of Upgrade: Travel Better posted a strategy yesterday to cash in on the Travelocity new hotel price rate guarantee. I took a closer look at Travelocity today and made a sample rate check for San Francisco next week to see if there are some possible claims.
The new Travelocity Best Rate Guarantee is an addition to the old policy in that a customer who makes a Travelocity “Good Buy” prepaid hotel booking can invoke a BRG claim at any time until the day before check in. A successful claim results in a refund on your prepaid room to match the lower rate found and until December 31, successful claimants will also receive one $50 promo code to apply to a future “Good Buy” hotel room or Flight + Hotel Vacation Package purchased on Travelocity.
The new Travelocity BRG policy for anytime “up until the day before check in” only applies to “Good Buy” bookings which are prepaid rates, but are not necessarily nonrefundable. The fine print for “Good Buy” prepaid rates on hotels I checked is cancellation must occur before 3 days of arrival or a penalty of one night’s room rate is forfeited. Travelocity Good Buy Rates terms.
Travelocity has several restrictions to their new “Good Rates” BRG policy. The main restriction I saw is a limit of 5 BRG claims in any one month. I had more than 5 successful BRG claims in May 2009 with Starwood Hotels.
TRAVELOCITY PRICE and SERVICE GUARANTEE
Rule 17 Limit: Each customer shall be limited to five (5) Price and Service Guarantee claims per customer per calendar month, regardless of the number of accounts used by the customer.
The most important restriction for frequent guests focused on the price of a hotel room is group rates are not covered in Travelocity’s price guarantee. This means a lower rate available from the hotel chain using a AAA or a senior discount is not covered by the Travelocity guarantee. Since AAA is the most common lowest rate I find when searching hotels, this is a big gap in a Best Rate Guarantee policy from any online travel agency. The rate comparison table at the end of this thread shows several examples of lower AAA rates and there were some good senior rates deals in San Francisco.
Travelocity covers non “Good Buy” Hotel Rates with older Best Rate Guarantee policy
Travelocity’s old Best Rate Guarantee policy is still in effect for non-prepaid hotels and is more in line with hotel chains’ BRG terms. Find a lower rate on Travelocity or another US-based website within 24 hours of booking on Travelocity and you will receive a $50 promo code for a future “Good Buy” hotel or Flight + Hotel Vacation Package.
An even better plan may be to stick with a hotel loyalty program.
My searches today revealed several opportunities for cashing in with Travelocity’s $50 offer, but honestly I wouldn’t bother leaving the hotel chain’s own websites for the $50 credit with Travelocity. The points and benefits I earn from most of my hotel stays have a tangible value higher than $50. That is why I am a Loyalty Traveler.
I have invoked around 25 Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) claims this year directly with Hyatt and Starwood and about 2 out of 3 were approved. The denied claims were due to two reasons. The first reason is some online travel agency (OTA) websites do not actually book the room in real-time and these sites are not covered by the hotel chain’s BRG policy. Some agencies require you to submit your reservation and then they email you when the room is booked. These not in-real-time bookings are excluded from the hotel BRG eligibility. At least that is what I have been told by Hyatt over most of my denied claims I find through Kayak with OTAs I have never heard of before.
Travelocity, Orbitz, and Expedia all book in real-time and close the deal with a confirmation of your room purchase and price. GTAHotels.com is one particular smaller online travel agency site I have had great luck finding approved BRG claims this year.
The second and more common reason for a denied BRG claim is a rate change before the claim is processed by the hotel chain. This issue will likely be the same with Travelocity. Screenshots of a lower rate do not count. The good thing about Hyatt Hotels is the ability to call and process a claim directly over the phone. Starwood Hotels takes up to 24 hours and several of my valid BRG claims were not honored due to a rate change within 24 hours of finding a lower rate on an online travel agency site. I submitted a claim, but the rate had gone up in the typically 18 to 23 hours before receiving a Starwood BRG reply.
Hotel Chain’s own Best Rate Guarantee policies:
Hyatt Hotels BRG matches lower rate and discounts additional 20% off lower rate. BRG claims are allowed without having an existing room booking. Search Hyatt, search Kayak.com or other online travel agencies for lower rates, and call in any potential discrepancy for a 20% discount on the lower rate.
Starwood Hotels BRG matches lower rate and discounts an additional 10% or matches lower rate and receive 2,000 Starpoints rather than the 10% discount. I have earned loads of Starpoints invoking the Starwood BRG points offer this year. BRG claims can be made before booking a room.
Hilton Hotels BRG Must book room through Hilton first, then if lower rate found on another site within 24 hours of your booking, Hilton will match lower rate and award you with a $50 American Express gift check.
Marriott Hotels BRG Must book room through a Marriott channel first, then if eligible lower rate found within 24 hours and at least 24 hours before check in, Marriott will discount lower rate 25%.
InterContinental Hotels Group BRG Must book room through IHG channel first, and if lower rate found within 24 hours on a competing site, IHG will discount the lower rate by 10%.
All BRGs aside, here is my rate search comparison for a downtown San Francisco hotel next Friday, November 6, 2009 for a one night stay. Take your chances with a Travelocity BRG claim or just go with the lowest rate. The lowest rate for the hotels I checked was found on the hotel chain’s own site nearly every time.
A hotel rate search strategy I recommend is use Travelocity’s “Good Buy” Flexible calendar rates to see 90 days of a specific hotel’s rates. This is a better search than most hotel chains’ websites. If a GoodBuy rate is low on Travelocity, then the rate will either be low on the hotel chain’s site or you have a good rate candidate for invoking the hotel chain’s Best Rate Guarantee option.