Chris Elliott had an article in USA Today last month on the truth behind best rate guarantees. When I googled ‘Chris Elliott’ and ‘best rate guarantee’ there were a number of relevant search results. Apparently Chris Elliott writes regularly about how he is not a fan of hotel best rate guarantee programs.
Chris Elliott – The truth behind ‘best rate’ guarantees (special for USA Today Jan 17, 2016)
Chris Elliott – A “best” rate guarantee with the worst service (March 14, 2012)
Saverocity.com – Consumer advocate Chris Elliott not a fan of Best Rate Guarantees by David.
One point where I’d like to differ from Chris Elliott is I have seen less reliance in the past year on different cancellation policies as a reason for denying a claim. Sure a flexible rate that can be cancelled without penalty and a prepaid nonrefundable rate are different rate types. But, I have not had many claims denied when the cancellation policy was something like 11:59pm Feb 7 on an online site vs. 4pm Feb 8 on the hotel site. In looking over Starwood Hotels and Best Western Hotels best rate guarantee terms, there is no mention of identical cancellation policies.
Like David on Saverocity.com, I am a BIG FAN of best rate guarantee claims. I have received several free nights and saved thousands of dollars in room rates over the past decade. Sometimes I pay less than half the published room rate on the hotel chain website by successfully filing approved best rate guarantee claims over the years.
Been a while since I have been on the best rate guarantee trail
I don’t remember having applied for any best rate guarantee claims since July 2015, until a couple weeks ago when I had a best rate guarantee claim approved for a Best Western hotel in Las Vegas. My room rate is $95 after tax and I will receive a $100 Best Western Travel Card after completing the hotel stay this month.
There have been several years where around half of my paid hotel stays were reduced rate best rate guarantee claims. Finding rate discrepancies is an easy task for me at USA hotels. Finding rate discrepancies in Europe that get approved for a best rate guarantee claim is a task I find much more difficult. Most of my travel has been in Europe this past year.
The biggest issue I have with international hotels is finding a competing site with a rate discrepancy in same hotel site currency. Finding lower room rates through online travel agencies is easy. Finding a lower rate that will be approved for a best rate guarantee claim is more difficult. There are some incredible deals available through online travel agencies with deep discount rates that will book you into a hotel at prices far below the hotel chain’s website. More often than not though, that discount room rate will not be eligible for an approved best rate guarantee. In that sense, best rate guarantee claims are a bit of a scam and sometimes you are better off booking the competitor’s lower rate and arguing for you loyalty benefits at the hotel property level.
My primary strategy for getting an approved best rate guarantee claim is to find a flexible cancellation rate on a third party online travel agency site to compare to the best flexible rate on the hotel chain’s website. Then, I book the room rate through the hotel chain’s website and immediately submit a best rate guarantee claim with the hotel chain.
I did this today with Starwood Hotels. If my Starwood Hotels best rate guarantee claim is denied, I can cancel the room reservation without penalty sometime over the next two days and no money is lost.
Testing Starwood Hotels best rate guarantee
I realized as I was filling out the Starwood Hotels best rate guarantee claim form this morning that I have not filed a claim with Starwood Hotels since they changed to a 20% discount on the lower rate. I only today realized that Starwood Hotels now requires a reservation prior to submitting a best rate guarantee claim. That was their main competitive edge in the old program when Hyatt and Starwood were the only two hotel chains to allow a best rate guarantee claim without having booked a reservation through a Starwood site first. Hyatt is now the only major hotel chain to allow a best rate guarantee claim without first booking a Hyatt hotel reservation. Kimpton Hotels also allows a best rate guarantee claim to be made by phone prior to booking. Approved Kimpton claims earn a $25 food and beverage credit.
I had dozens of successful Starwood Hotels best rate guarantee c(BRG) laims over the past decade. A couple of changes to Starwood’s BRG process since I last filed a Starwood BRG claim are you must have a reservation at a Starwood Hotel before you apply for a best rate guarantee claim. You choose between a 20% discount on the lower rate or 2,000 Starpoints on the claim form. The rate discount improved from 10% to 20%, however, the 2,000 Starpoints is unchanged since the Starwood Hotels best rate guarantee program started years ago.
Vegas.com best rate guarantee claim against Starwood SLS Las Vegas Tribute Portfolio.
I found a rate discrepancy between Vegas.com and Starwood Hotels website for SLS Las Vegas Tribute Portfolio hotel. Vegas.com had a $71 room rate for the same room type on Starwood Hotels priced at $87. The Starwood rate is $130 after all taxes and fees. The Vegas.com is $110 after all taxes and fees.
Since a good portion of the total rate is taxes and fees, a 20% discount on $71 saves $14.20 and makes a $57 room rate and still about $94 total after all the tax and resort fee additions.
I chose 2,000 Starpoints and I’ll pay $110 out-the-door for those bonus points.
My claim has not been approved yet. There is one sticky term in the Starwood Best Rate Guarantee terms and conditions that may muddy up my claim.
For SPG Partner Hotels, the Best Rate Guarantee only applies to reservations booked at the lowest available rate available at the SPG Partner Hotel on a Starwood Website at the time of booking.
Is SLS Las Vegas an SPG Partner Hotel?
The room I booked was not the lowest category room available. There was a smaller room size with a $77 rate as the lowest room category available. I booked a larger room.
I’ll report back on whether my Starwood Hotels Best Rate Guarantee claim is successful. I’d like to get a discount hotel stay at SLS Las Vegas with a good set of SPG points for my stay.
With the current SPG Take Two promotion for double points + 250 bonus points at certain hotels like SLS Las Vegas, a $71 room rate earns 534 points + 2,000 points for best rate guarantee.
$110 SLS Las Vegas earns 2,534 Starpoints.
Or $130 earns 534 Starpoints, if my claim is not approved. You probably will not see an upcoming hotel review on SLS Las Vegas if my best rest guarantee claim is denied.
Loyalty Traveler – SPG Take Two Double Points Jan 11 to April 30, 2016, plus 250 points per night in a few places (Dec 16, 2015).
Loyalty Traveler – SPG 10,000 points for 25 nights by April 30 (Jan 20, 2016).
Loyalty Traveler – Starwood’s SLS Las Vegas $69 rate costs $110 per night after tax and resort fees (Jan 24, 2016).