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In a day and age where travelers have more and more options to book travel, it can sometimes be a frustrating, time-consuming process where it’s harder and harder to be sure you are getting the best price possible. Luckily, many airlines, hotels and online travel agencies have instituted “best price guarantee” features where they will match or even better a lower fare or rate if you find one. TPG Contributor Jason Steele fills us in on the best price guarantees offered by the online travel agencies and how you can take advantage of them to save big on your next trip.
Many smart travelers have learned to dismiss most “best rate guarantees” as they often contain so many loopholes as to be completely worthless. Yet on occasion, these policies can be an attractive way to save money on hotels, especially when offered by online travel agencies. Here are a few of the best ones.
Expedia’s policy applies to finding a cheaper “flight, hotel, vacation package, rental car, or activity within 24 hours of booking.” They’ll refund the difference and give you a travel coupon worth $50 toward future travel booked through Expedia. Expedia Rewards members also qualify for an extended Hotel Price Guarantee that provides price matching up until 24 hours before your hotel stay.
In my experience, this is a great way to rack up $50 travel coupons. First, I find a hotel on Expedia that offers a higher rate that one found elsewhere. HotelsCombined is a great tool for finding lower rates, as is the Best Rate Guarantee blog. Be sure the terms of each stay and rate are exactly the same as that found on Expedia otherwise the Best Rate Guarantee will not apply.
Then, I make a refundable hotel booking. In the past, I’ve had to call Expedia at 877-787-7186 a to file a best rate guarantee claim within 24 hours of booking – although now Expedia has added an online claim form that should save a lot of time.
The telephone call typically takes me about a half an hour, and you will be dealing with overseas call center reps (in the Philippines, I believe) who have to speak their supervisor before approving a claim. The reps will ask you for the name of the competing website where you found the lower rate, and will attempt to view it themselves. Be especially careful submitting claims for hotels that list free breakfast as an amenity on Expedia. Even when this amenity is offered to all guests, Expedia reps will often deny claims if the other web site does not specifically list the free breakfast.
Three $50 coupons can be earned each month on each Expedia account, and the coupons are valid for one year. Only one coupon can be used for any single booking, and they cannot be combined. If the rate is less than $50, the night is free.
One way around the $50 per reservation limit is to stay at hotels for several nights using separate reservations each night., which has worked for me in the past. In fact, creating a new reservation is the only way to extend a hotel reservation made with Expedia. In my experience, hotels have no problem seeing the separate single day reservations and they treat them as one. I don’t have to check out every morning, but some hotels need to issue me a new key card each morning. Finally, if for some reason I need to cancel the original booking used to make might best rate guarantee claim, I am still able to retain the $50 coupon.
Travelocity’s best price guarantee is very similar to Expedia’s. Travelocity will refund the difference, up to $500, and give you a $50 coupon good for a hotel stay of two days or more. Claims must be made within 24 hours of booking. Thankfully, claims can be made through this online form. Customers can make up to five claims a month.
Orbitz offers a Low Price Guarantee for hotel bookings. Customers have until cancellation fees apply to make a claim. If granted, Orbitz will refund the difference and offer a $50 discount on a future booking. Claims must be submitted online using their claim form.
Customers who book a prepaid hotel rooms also receive the Orbitz Price Assurance. If another customer books the same room for at least $5 less, Orbitz will automatically credit in “Orbucks” for the difference up to $500 per room.
Hotwire’s Low Price Guarantee merely offers to refund the price difference. Claims must be made within 48 hours of making a reservation by calling 866-468-9473.
Priceline’s Best Price Guarantee offers the price difference plus a $50 coupon towards a Priceline Vacation Package of 2-nights or longer. Claims must be submitted within 24 hours of booking by calling 800-774-2354.
Interestingly, Kayak makes a point of NOT guaranteeing prices.
The hotel chains themselves also offer some compelling best rate guarantees. Just beware, all of these exclude rates from bidding sites such as Priceline and Hotwire where the hotel stays are “opaque” and you are not booking a specific property.
Accor’s guarantee offers the difference in price plus a further 10% discount. Claims must be submitted using their online claim form within 24 hours of booking.
Best Western features a Low Rate Guaranteed program that allows customers to submit claims within 48 hours of making a reservation. When granted, customers will honor the competing rate and receive 10% off of the price of a competing website, but not if the lower price is on Best Western’s web site. Claims can be submitted online or by calling 800-528-1238.
Club Carlson offers its Lowest Rate Guaranteed for rates found within 24 hours of booking the room. Successful claims will result in guests receiving the lower rate plus an additional 25% discount. Claims are submitted online.
Hilton’s Best Rate Guarantee offers folks who find a lower rate than they booked through Hilton a $50 American Express Gift Cheque when staying at a hotel in the U.S.A., Puerto Rico, Canada or Mexico, and a $50 credit on your bill outside those areas. Claims can be submitted online.
Hyatt’s Best Rate Guarantee offers to match the lower rate and discount it by a further 20%. Claims must be submitted over the phone at 866-886-5054.
IHG features their Book With Us Advantage, which can be submitted by phone at 800-447-2981, by filing out their online form, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If approved, they will then grant customers the lower rate and subtract one night from your bill. If you are only staying one night, than the entire stay is free!
Kimpton‘s best rate guarantee impresses me with its straight talk: “You’re a savvy traveler who needs the most for less, so you shop around. But we want you to know that our rates are the same or better than rates for our hotels on other websites. If you find a bookable rate online for our hotels that is lower than what we offer on our own websites, we’ll make it right. What’s more, we’ll throw in some ‘fun money’ just for your trouble.” What does that mean? They will match the rate and offer you a $25 food and beverage credit. Claims can be submitted over the phone at 877-536-0508.
Starwood features its Best Rate Guarantee which offers a 10% discount off the lower rate or 2,000 Starwood points. So if you value Starwood points at 1.5 cents each, take the points on any room that costs less than $300, and take the discount on rooms above that price. Use their online claim form to submit a claim with 24 hours of booking a room.