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Saving Money on Hotels With Best Rate Guarantees

by on June 10, 2014 · 23 comments

in Accor, Best Western, Carlson, Choice Hotels, Hilton, Hotel Industry, Hyatt, Intercontinental/ Ambassador, Kimpton, Marriott, Starwood, Wyndham

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You’ve probably noticed it before, an advert on a hotel website that reads something like: “lowest rates, guaranteed.” Maybe that touted guarantee made you more comfortable with the room you just booked, maybe it convinced you not to devote any more time to shopping around, or maybe you ignored it entirely. In any case, best rate guarantees are ubiquitous in the hotel industry, and understanding how (and when) they work can help you maximize your travel.

Hyatt best rate guarantee

Hotels would love for you to book exclusively on their websites. Should you?

Best rate guarantees are offered by almost all major hotel brands. These guarantees became fashionable as a way for hotels to mitigate the loss of business to third party sites, which take a sizable cut of each booking (incidentally, most of the third party sites now also offer their own best rate guarantees).

The basic idea is that if you book a room and subsequently find that same room listed elsewhere for less, the hotel will drop its price even lower to beat the competing rate (or will match rates and compensate you in another way). Each hotel has its own guarantee and corresponding litany of rules. The table below summarizes the best rate guarantees for most major hotel brands. Use the provided links to view complete terms and conditions on each hotel’s website.

Hotel Guarantee Claim Period
Accor Beat competing rate by 10% Within 24 hours of booking
Best Western Match competing rate + $100 Best Western travel card Within 24 hours of booking
Choice 1st night free and match competing rate Within 24 hours of booking and at least 72 hours prior to arrival
Club Carlson Beat competing rate by 25% Within 24 hours of booking and at least 48 hours prior to arrival
Hilton Match competing rate + $50 Within 24 hours of booking AND at least 24 hours prior to arrival
Hyatt Beat competing rate by 20% Prior to or within 24 hours of booking
IHG 1st night free and match competing rate Within 24 hours of booking
Kimpton Match competing rate + $25 Unspecified
Marriott Beat competing rate by 25% Within 24 hours of booking.
Starwood Beat competing rate by 10% OR receive 2,000 Starpoints per stay Prior to or within 24 hours of booking
Wyndham Beat competing rate by 10% Within 1 business day of booking and at least 2 business days prior to arrival

Clearly some guarantees are more generous than others. IHG and Choice Hotels will simply make your first night free, even if you’re only staying one night. I’m no mathematician, but that seems like a substantial discount. Club Carlson and Marriott offer to beat competing rates by 25%, so if the competing rate is already 5% lower, the guarantee could cut your cost by almost a third. Plus, you’d earn points and credit towards elite status, which normally aren’t offered for stays booked on third party sites.

Best Western offers a $100 gift card, which in many cases could actually exceed the room rate. Hilton also offers cash in the form of a $50 American Express cheque (in the USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Canada) or $50 off your bill elsewhere. Hyatt offers a respectable 20% off the competing rate. The Wyndham and Accor guarantees seem meager in comparison. Starwood also offers only 10%, though they allow you to choose 2,000 Starwood points instead. Starwood points are worth about 2.1 cents apiece, so the guarantee would get you about $42 worth of value. That’s almost certain to be worth more than 10% off for a one night stay, and often for a two night stay.

Find a better rate and your first night at a Choice hotel is free.

Find a better rate and your first night at a Choice hotel is free.

At face value, best rate guarantees are great for both hotels and customers: the hotel protects its revenue, and customers get the best price available while scoring loyalty program benefits. It seems like a win-win scenario. In practice, however, best rate guarantees are often a win-lose proposition, and I bet you can guess who usually does the losing.

Best rate guarantees come with a deluge of fine print (with the exception of Kimpton, which adds just a single paragraph with the cryptic postscript “further restrictions may apply”). Most stipulate that the competing price must be publicly available, immediately bookable, and must pertain to an equivalent service (i.e., same room type, number of guests, view). The original booking must be made on the hotel’s own website.

Guarantees don’t apply to rates found on opaque or auction sites where the hotel brand is unknown until booking is complete (such as the name your own price feature on Priceline), nor do they apply to package rates that include airfare, entertainment, meals, or other amenities. Group rates, discounted rates (like AAA), and corporate rates are ineligible. Finally, the lower price must be some amount (generally $1 or 1%) less than the rate on the hotel website. Each hotel may have further rules unique to the brand, but these are the most common.

Image

Rate guarantees: heaven for terms & conditions enthusiasts. Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Beyond the fairly reasonable restrictions mentioned above, hotels are notoriously finicky about honoring best rate guarantees. Some seem to go so far to not honor guarantees that the amount of effort put into denying them dwarfs what they would have to cough up by honoring them.

I have heard anecdotes of claims being swatted down for purely asinine reasons; my favorite is a Best Western claim that was initially denied because the hotel’s website formatted dates as month/day/year, while the lower price was formatted as day/month/year. This trivial disparity was evidently enough for Best Western, who rejected the claim and stonewalled appeals from the customer until a travel writer stepped in and the threat of negative publicity made them reconsider.

The most prevalent crusher of claims is the service window between when a claim is made and when the hotel responds. Most hotels advertise what seems like a fairly prompt 24-48 hour response time. However, in the world of online booking sites, even a few hours delay can spell the death of the lower, competing rate. Remember, it’s not the rate that you see that matters, but the rate a hotel representative sees when he or she attempts to substantiate your claim. Thus, a majority of claims are denied simply because the price changes before the hotel can process it. Kimpton is once again the exception, as they process claims in real time via a toll-free number rather than use an online form.

Image curtesy

The most important guarantee is a great vacation! Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

This is all to say that while best rate guarantees offer value, your case should be airtight when you file a claim. A few screenshots might help your cause, and having any kind of elite status can’t hurt. If you can’t get traction on a claim, try politely engaging the hotel’s social media team on Facebook, Twitter, or another platform, as they may be able to offer an acceptable solution outside of the guarantee. In the long run, though, your time and sanity is worth more than whatever you’d save by pushing the issue, so be prepared to let a best rate guarantee claim go if you meet with stout resistance.

Have you had experience with Best Rate Guarantees? Please share your successes and horror stories in the comments below.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • PatMcPSU

    I tried this once when booking a room at the Palazzo in Vegas. The hotel’s site had a certain room for a certain price, and an OTA offered the same room for around $50/nt less. I booked through the hotel and promptly submitted my claim. It was rejected because the hotel’s rate was refundable, whereas the OTA’s was non-refundable.

    I was pretty new to the game at the time and a more seasoned traveler would have known it wasn’t going to work; but it’s just another thing to look out for.

  • Steve

    I tried to use Marriott’s guarantee for one of their Vacation Club properties. The better rate was found on VRBO. Marriott denied the claim because you couldn’t book instantly, even though you could get an instant quote with availability. Their terms don’t state anything about using sites like VRBO or needing to book instantly. They tried to throw up some of their other terms that didn’t apply. I had the issue elevated through higher levels of customer service, to no avail.

  • T Dog

    I’ve used it for Starwood twice and Hyatt twice (all in the past 4 months). The better rates were on booking.com. Easy and straightforward. Starwood provided 2K point each on two rooms even though they were on one reservation (I didn’t expect it).

  • HenryJMorton

    The basic idea is that if you book a room and subsequently find that same room listed elsewhere for less, the hotel will drop its price even lower to beat the competing rate (or will match rates and compensate you in another way). http://0rz.tw/YAAeL

  • McMunch

    Does anyone have any experience using the rate guarantee with the Hotel Tonight app? Since it is NOT a blind booking site like Priceline, it seems it would be reasonable to think it might work!

  • Guest

    As per hotel rep, Kimpton will not honor the best rate guarantee on any websites that require a login or sign-up to access rates (even if membership is free). Two examples are JetSetter and TravelPony. Just tried getting Kimpton to match rate for a Wash DC hotel, and request was denied based on having to enter an email address to access the rate I was quoted at TravelPony. Interested to know if other hotel chains regard these kinds of third-party sites in the same way.

  • TheHilary

    As per hotel rep, Kimpton will not honor the best rate guarantee on any websites that require a login or sign-up to access rates (even if membership is free), like JetSetter or TravelPony. Just tried getting Kimpton to match rate for a Wash DC hotel, and request was denied based on having to enter an email address to access the rate I was quoted at TravelPony. Interested to know if other hotel chains regard these kinds of third-party sites in the same way.

  • scott

    I’ve used Marriott’s best rate many times and it’s been honored about 99% of the time. I’ve even had them honor it when I didn’t meet their requirements. It’s definitely made me a more loyal customer.

  • https://twitter.com/ProfCharlotte Charlotte (TYR)

    Tried this with IHG. Took three days before I heard from them and by then the travel site that I used (which had exact room for $40 less) was the same as the IHG site.

  • Jasanna

    Are there any tips or tricks to this that anyone has to offer? Such as where they often find a better rate?

  • TSH

    I got a big discount at club carlson by doing this. I was checking prices online and a European rate was about $5 lower. I took screenshots and everything then sent it in.

    A big caveat is that usually BOTH PRICES HAVE TO BE IN THE SAME CURRENCY OR LOCAL CURRENCY.

  • Jill

    I was able to save over $100 per night on a recent stay with Marriott in Amsterdam. The Marriott site posted a rate of €239 and I found the same room for €225 at booking.com and at hoteltravel.com. I filed the Look No Further form and received confirmation of the new rate of €159 a savings of €80 = $108 within a few hours of submission. Well worth the small effort to do a bit of online sleuthing and filling out a form.

  • Drake

    I saw something awhile back about a private forum with sharing of websites that work.

    http://www.welltraveledmile.com/join-my-private-ihg-best-rate-guarantee-group-and-travel-hacking-discussion/

  • Ron

    Choice hotels BRG program is very fair IMO. I’ve shifted a lot of my business to them as a result.

    I tried once with a Best Western claim. It was denied because the competing site had a lower temporary sale. They claimed that it would have been approved had the other booking site had a lower everyday price on the same hotel room. That’s just absurd and left a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve subsequently not stayed in any Best Western property and will not unless there is an overwhelming advantage for me to do so.

  • Kevin Nas

    I have to travel a lot for my business, mostly in Europe and Asia, but often in the states to cities like Las Vegas. I used to use sites like Travelocity to book my flights and lodging, but I stumbled upon the better way to find deals: go to the second level sites – those like http://hotelsmixmatch.com who compare the hundreds of different booking sites in one single search. You’ll not only see Trivago or Expedia deals, but ALL OF THEM in one place.

    I must have saved over 2,000 dollars since I started using them. I sincerely believe that using only one of the top booking sites is not necessarily the best idea.

  • studd

    more and more, it seems like airbnb and the like are better options for leisure and sometimes biz travelers than hotels with their restrictive T&C.

  • bob

    What requirements did you not meet?

  • alex

    I Use kayak a lot for this. After the hotels are displayed, you can filter the search to CHOICE HOTELS. Then Kayak will show you rates from multiple travel websites including the hotel’s website. It’s a real quick way to find a cheaper rate. I’ve done it probably 3-4 times in the past year and gotten free rooms for one night with CHOICE HOTELS.

  • Amie Cole

    Hey, Peter! Great article :) I just have one question. I have stumbled upon this reservation portal. They also provide a best price guarantee. Is that the same as the guarantee you described above or should i search for this directly on the hotel website?

  • Jasanna

    I know it’s always smart to book a refundable rate, but when looking for a room on Marriott’s website, all I can find are non-refundable. Any tips?

  • http://www.thepointsguy.com PR@TPG

    This guarantee is offered through Reservation Counter itself, not by the hotels. The guarantees I described above all require booking through each hotel directly. Here are more details on Reservation Counter’s guarantee:

    http://www.reservationcounter.com/low-price-guarantee/

  • http://www.thepointsguy.com PR@TPG

    I disagree that it’s always smarter. Non-refundable rates are generally cheaper, so if your plans are firm, you may as well just book it and save the extra cost. Refundable rates are a great option if your plans may change.

    Not sure why Marriott is only giving you non-refundable rates; it may be specific to the location and/or dates.

  • LA Denger

    I have, on several occasions, attempted to confirm with Best Western their best rate guarantee. It is obvious these guys have received a “memo” from their executive offices of the company, to deny ALL CLAIMS OF A BETTER RATE! One time I even received the denial via email, went online to the third party website (getaroom.com), found the rate in question and called Best Western on the phone. This time it was, “there are no people/customer service/supervisors available to speak with you about your claim”! Best Western’s guarantee is a total scam and if I had more free time on my hands, I would pursue their fraudulent behavior to the Attorney General and Justice Departments. I wish someone would!

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