Kayak.com is my go to site for locating Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) claims. Most of the blog posts I read on Best Rate Guarantee claims cite HotelsCombined.com for locating BRG claims. I have found BRG claims through HotelsCombined.com, but I have never found it to be an easier site for finding lower rates at online travel agencies than Kayak.com.
What am I missing?
In this post I compare the two sites for searches of Best Rate Guarantee claims as I plan seven hotel nights of travel from Jacksonville, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia in two weeks.
More than 95% of the time the hotel brand website will have the lowest room rate. This is my experience in hotel rate searches. The main difference I am looking at when comparing HotelsCombined.com and Kayak.com metasearch sites is to locate a rate discrepancy quickly.
When searching one hotel chain, say Starwood Hotels, finding rate discrepancies is a straightforward task. In my searches I am looking at IHG and Choice Hotels for a free night rate discrepancy, Marriott and Club Carlson for 25% off, Hyatt for 20% off, Hilton for $50 gift card, Best Western for $100 gift card and Starwood for 2,000 points.
Jacksonville, Florida on Kayak.com
My first night of the swamplands and islands trip is Jacksonville, Florida. This city is a mecca of hotel rate discounts. I found several potential best rate guarantee claims within minutes of checking this weekend.
Kayak.com shows Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park at $71 on Expedia and Venere.com and $89 on Aloft (Starwood site). This looks like a potential Best Rate Guarantee claim.
This rate had a high probability of approval if I had filed a claim with Starwood Saturday night when Expedia ran a 20% off select hotels sale over the weekend. Kayak.com is simply slow at updating the site today since Expedia raised the rate back up to $89 about 10 hours ago.
Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park was available for $71 this past weekend through Expedia sites (20% off weekend sale) when Starwood had the hotel rate at $89. If I had filed the best rate guarantee claim on Saturday night, then I would likely have a reservation in place and 2,000 bonus Starpoints.
The reason I skipped booking the hotel on Saturday through a BRG claim to earn 2,000 points is there are several upper upscale hotels in downtown Jacksonville on the river at under $100 per night. I want to find a best rate guarantee rate at a downtown location in Jacksonville.
Instead, I booked the Aloft Jacksonville Airport, an SPG category 1 hotel on a 2,000 points award night. Yeah, I know. There are only seven SPG category 1 hotels in the USA and this is the first time since 2007 that I have had the opportunity to book a category 1 hotel award.
So I have an award night booked as a placeholder while I search for best rate guarantee claims. My Starwood award night can be canceled up to 6pm day of arrival.
HotelsCombined.com Jacksonville rates
First, I wanted to see what rate is showing for Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park and other Starwood Hotels on HotelsCombined.com. Here is the first reason why I prefer Kayak.com.
Hotel chain filters.
HotelsCombined.com does not recognize Starwood Hotels as a name. To locate Starwood Hotels brands I have to search each hotel brand individually.
Kayak.com allows me to filter hundreds of hotel results in a city by hotel chain. I don’t need to go through multiple searches by hotel brand for Aloft, Element, Four Points, Sheraton, Westin, and so on. I simply select ‘All Starwood brands’ on Kayak.com and the site filters the list to only Starwood Hotels.
Kayak.com allows sort by hotel chain and makes it easy to sort for all hotels in my preferred chains. This is a major advantage over hotelscombined.com search when searching for loyalty brand hotels.
HotelCombined.com search for Aloft hotels in Jacksonville, Florida.
Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park is listed at $99 on eBookers.com and $101 on hotels.com. One of the main differences between Kayak.com and HotelsCombined.com is room rates on HotelsCombined are shown with tax included. This is a bonus for a casual shopper, however, when filing Best Rate Guarantees, the room rate without tax is more important as the deciding factor in the terms for most hotel chains.
Advantages of HotelsCombined.com
- Hotel rates shown include tax. (But can be disadvantage for finding BRG claims.)
- Metasearch includes more European sites and improves chance of finding a foreign site rate discrepancy.
Big Disadvantage of HotelsCombined.com
- Hotel rates provided in metasearch of online travel agencies do not generally show the hotel brand website’s own rate. This means checking the hotel brand website, which is necessary anyway when searching for best rate guarantee claims. Kayak.com typically includes the hotel brand website’s rate in listings which I find makes it quicker to locate rate discrepancies.
- No option to filter hotels by loyalty chain such as all Starwood, all Hilton.
The HotelsCombined.com rate shown for Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park at eBookers.com is $99. This is rate after tax.
Starwood Hotels site rate is $101 after tax.
Is this a best rate guarantee claim when Starwood shows $101 and eBookers.com shows $99 on HotelsCombined.com?
The real test is going to eBookers.com and seeing if there really is a $99 after tax room.
eBookers.com hotel rate are in British Pounds which adds another level of complexity to best rate Guarantee claim analysis.
- Room rate = £52.95 ($88.94)
- Taxes and Fees = £5.85 ($9.83)
- Total rate = £58.80 ($98.74)
Rate on eBookers is lower by $1.83. Room rate is only 6 cents less.
Starwood brand website rate = $100.57.
The fact that eBookers is not collecting sufficient tax and does not disclose booking fee may result in a denial. Or the claim might be approved.
Starwood Hotels Best Rate Guarantee T&C
For the Competing Rate to be valid, it must be a currently available lower published online room rate for the same Starwood Hotel, the same dates, the same number of guests, the same room type, with a similar view and room size, and include similar or additional value-added amenities (e.g., free breakfast).
- Starwood will convert any Competing Rate offered in a different currency than the rate made available through the Starwood Websites, and may deny claims where it determines that the difference between the rates is due to exchange rate fluctuations.
- Starwood may deny claims where the difference between the Competing Rate and the rate on the Starwood Website is less than one percent.
My claims generally have far larger rate discrepancies than $2.00 and rarely do I submit claims for U.S. hotels based on foreign currency.
HotelsCombined.com better than Kayak.com?
This post was a working analysis of Kayak.com and HotelsCombined.com as tools for finding best rate guarantee claims.
On Kayak.com I found a high potential best rate guarantee claim for Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park when Expedia sites offered 20% off the $89 rate the past two days. That rate discrepancy is gone today.
( -1 Kayak) The lower $71 rate for Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry still showed when searching Kayak.com this morning, even though the sale rate ended Sunday night and the rate is $89 when click through Kayak to Expedia booking site. That result goes against Kayak.com.
(+1 Kayak) Ability to filter by Hotel Chain for all Marriott, all Hilton, all Starwood is a big plus for Kayak.com.
(+1 HotelsCombined) Ultimately, for this one hotel sample with Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park, it was the website HotelsCombined.com that showed a potential Starwood best rate guarantee claim today. That $99 rate is not a sure thing though. I am sure the weekend $71 Expedia rate would have been approved for this same hotel and earned 2,000 bonus Starpoints.
Aloft today, but will I remain aloft?
For my travels in two weeks, I have a room night award already booked in Jacksonville, Florida. I bet I will find a best rate guarantee for a better deal sometime over the next week.
Although 2,000 points for an SPG category 1 award is one of the best deals around in terms of point redemption value for a $91 room rate after tax.
$45.50 in redemption value for 1,000 Starpoints is a value I’ll feel good about if that is where I end up staying.
I’ll need a good best rate guarantee to beat that points deal.
Now back to checking Kayak.com and HotelsCombined.com for my seven hotel nights. Looks like both sites are good rate search tools and used in conjunction are even more powerful for finding hotel rate discounts. Best Rate Guarantee claims are out there in Jacksonville, Savannah, Charleston and Norfolk waiting to be booked.
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.