The post ” The Basics of Best Rate Guarantees” was originally written by Travel Summary for (and still appears on) Hack My Trip. I’ve decided to re-post it here for my audience as well.
A hotel Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) is one of my favorite tools when it comes to travel hacking because you have the potential to save yourself hundreds of dollars without sacrificing anything. Depending on the hotel brand, you can score percentage discounts, free points, or even a free night if you have a successful submission. But each program is different, so I’ll lay out the basics for some of the more popular hotel programs.
First, some general rules that apply to most, if not all, BRG claims:
- Your BRG claim must be submitted within 24 hours of the original booking (if you booked in advance).
- Your BRG claim must be submitted more than 24 hours before the date of arrival.
- Because of exchange rate fluctuations, your BRG claim generally must be submitted using the local currency (i.e. for a hotel in Hong Kong, you must compare rates in HKD and not USD).
- Your BRG claim must use the same dates, room type (King vs. two Queens, etc.), rate type (prepaid non-refundable, etc.), and number of occupants.
If you find a lower rate on an Online Travel Agency (OTA) than is listed on Hyatt’s own website for the same room, dates, and rate type, Hyatt will give you 20% off the lower rate.
The Hyatt Best Rate Guarantee can be very valuable, particularly for longer or more expensive stays. For example, say you have a 3 night stay in New York and Hyatt’s website shows a rate of $500/night, but through Kayak you find that Orbitz shows a rate of only $400/night. You can simply call Hyatt’s BRG team before booking and have them confirm the rate. If they see the same rate you do, you’ll get 20% off $400 for each of the 3 nights. A successful claim would give you a rate of $320/night, saving you $80/night and $240 overall.
The reason Hyatt’s BRG process is so valuable is not only because of the 20% discount, which is huge, but also because you don’t have to book the hotel before filing a claim. Essentially, you won’t have any money on the line if for some reason something goes wrong and your BRG claim is denied.
If you find a lower rate on an Online Travel Agency (OTA) than is listed on Starwood’s own website for the same room, dates, and rate type, Starwood will give you the option of 20% off (updated from 10% off to 20% off as of January 5, 2015) the lower rate or 2,000 Starpoints.
The SPG BRG is unique because it’s the only program that gives you the option of a percentage discount or points. The percentage discount is generally much smaller than other programs provide, so it’s only valuable if you’re staying multiple nights with more expensive rates. Points are generally a better option for one night stays or very inexpensive stays.
For example, let’s say you have a one night stay planned and Starwood’s website shows a rate of $100, but an OTA has a rate of $75. You can simply fill out the online BRG claim form before booking and select the option for either 20% off the lower rate or 2,000 Starpoints. In this example, the 20% off would only save you $15 (plus small tax savings as well), while the 2,000 SPG points are valued much higher than that. Using a relatively low valuation of 2 cents/point, those 2,000 points would be worth $40 – a much better value than the percentage discount.
As another example, say you have a three night stay planned and Starwood’s website shows a rate of $250, while you find an OTA that has the same hotel for $200. Your option would be the same 20% discount or 2K Starpoints. In this case, a 20% discount would yield a nightly rate of $160, for a savings of $40/night or a total savings of $60 for the trip. The points are still worth $40 by my valuation, so it’s a toss up in this case.
To put it simply, if the percentage discount can save you more than $40 (or however much you value 2K Starpoints to be), then take the discount. Otherwise, take the points.
Similarly to Hyatt, the SPG BRG claim process is advantageous because you don’t have to put any money on the line. You simply file your claim online and if it’s denied for some reason, you won’t lose anything.
I successfully submitted a BRG claim for my hotel at FTU in April. Instead of saving $15 total on a two night stay with the 10% discount, I took the 2K SPG points that I personally value at $50+. A great deal!
InterContinental Hotels Group
If you find a lower rate on an Online Travel Agency (OTA) than is listed on IHG’s own website for the same room, dates, and rate type, and the rate is lower by at least $1 or 1% (whichever is greater), IHG will give you the first night free, including on one-night stays.
The value here is clear – a one night stay amounts to 100% off, a two night stay amounts to 50% off, and a 3 night stay amounts to 33% off. From a percentage discount view, this is hard to beat.
For example, you have a one night stay planned and IHG’s website shows a rate of $400/night. You find an OTA that shows a rate of $390/night. A successful BRG claim would result in your stay being 100% free. A two night stay under the same circumstances would give the first night free and the second night at the lower rate of $390.
Before you get too excited about this one, there are some big issues to consider. First, IHG is the only hotel program that will not tell you how long they’ll take to respond to your BRG claim. That means they could take several days, and in that time the lower price you found can increase. IHG is also somewhat notorious for looking for a reason to deny your claim, and a favorite is that the room-type doesn’t match. If you’ve ever used Orbitz or Hotels.com, you’ll know that the room names don’t always match exactly. This could become problematic.
None of that would be an issue, however, if not for the biggest deterrent: you have to book the hotel on IHG’s website before submitting your BRG claim. This is a problem because the lowest available rate is usually non-refundable, meaning you have to put money on the line.
It’s definitely worth a shot, but don’t get your hopes too high. You can read about how dozens of others fared with their IHG BRG claim in this FlyerTalk thread.
If they’re so confident, they should approve our claims before we have to pay!
If you find a lower rate on an Online Travel Agency (OTA) than is listed on Hilton’s own website for the same room, dates, and rate type, Hilton will give you a $50 Amex “gift cheque” for stays in North America or a $50 folio credit on international stays.
Similar to Starwood’s policy, Hilton’s policy will benefit you most if you have a one-night stay and/or a very cheap nightly rate. For example, let’s say a one-night stay is $100 on Hilton’s website, but you find one for $90 on an OTA. A successful BRG claim would result in a lower rate of $90 plus you’d receive either a $50 check or $50 statement credit, depending on where the hotel is. The same would be true for longer or more expensive stays, so short, cheap stays are in your favor with this policy.
Unfortunately, Hilton’s policy is somewhat similar to IHG’s when it comes to booking the room. You must book your room with Hilton before you can submit a BRG claim. Again, this means that you likely have to put your money on the line since it’s likely you’re booking a non-refundable rate. You can submit your claim by either calling or using an online form.
To summarize, Hyatt and Starwood have completely risk-free BRG claim processes, while IHG and Hilton require you to book your rooms first. Starwood, IHG, and Hilton all provide great value for BRG claims on cheap stays and one-night stays, while Hyatt and IHG are more useful for longer or more expensive stays.
I put together the below chart for those of you that would like to see a comparison of what savings a Best Rate Guarantee claim would yield for each of the programs. The chart might look difficult to read but it’s actually pretty easy. It’s meant to be read in columns – the top section presents an potential scenario as an example including the number of nights and rates; the middle section shows the potential savings for each program; and the bottom section shows your effective cost for each program given the scenario above.
Note: Starwood updated their program to 20% off on 1/5/15, so the below chart has not yet been updated to reflect that change.
I know this topic can be difficult for those of you that haven’t done one of these before, so please feel free to let me know if you have any questions. Otherwise, I hope this can help you save some money in the future!