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Using Hotel Best Rate Guarantees from Online Travel Agencies

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One of the easiest ways to maximize your travel is to get the best price for your flights, hotels, and other expenses. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen explains one strategy to avoid spending more than you have to on your next hotel stay.

I love a clear, straightforward, and honest policy with a travel provider, and at face value, a “Best Rate Guarantee” (or BRG) seems to fit that description. Find a better price elsewhere? We’ll match it! (And we might throw in a few bonus points as well). TPG Managing Editor Peter Rothbart went through BRG options for major hotel chains last year, but most of those policies require that you book directly with the hotel in question, which presents a problem if you book through a third party.

Fortunately, most online travel agencies (OTAs) also offer guarantees, and today I’ll look at the various policies to see which ones have teeth, which ones are for show, and which sites offer no protection whatsoever.

If you book your hotel through an OTA, you could take advantage of the site's Best Rate Guarantee.
If you book a hotel like the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne through an OTA, you could get a refund if you find a lower price later on.

OTA Policies

Here’s a quick summary of the major OTAs and any applicable guarantees when it comes to hotel rooms:

OTA

Guarantee Claim Period
Agoda Will match or beat rate

None

Expedia (includes Travelocity)

Will refund the difference and give you a $50 coupon Within 24 hours of booking
Hotels.com Will refund you the difference

Anytime up to the day before check-in

Orbitz

Will give you Orbucks for the difference plus at least $50 in Orbucks

Anytime until the individual property’s cancellation deadline

These policies look good on the surface, but let’s examine each one more closely to see if the guarantees are truly helpful or just offered to keep up appearances.

Agoda is a hotel-only site with over 625,000 properties from which you can choose.
Agoda is a hotel-only site with over 625,000 properties from which you can choose.

AGODA

Agoda.com is a ten-year old hotel-only booking site that’s part of the Priceline Group. Its “Best Price Guarantee” promises to match or beat a lower rate for the same room for the same dates at the same hotel, so long as the lower rate is viewable and bookable on another website. You must have a confirmed Agoda booking to file a claim.

Claim process: Use the online form to provide the Agoda Booking ID, the website with the better rate (with up to three screenshots), and the name, city, and country of the hotel.

Restrictions: The reservation must be identical, including the same deposit/prepayment requirements, and must be confirmable by the Agoda agent. The guarantee doesn’t apply to “private” rates for events, travel packages, corporate rates, those with membership requirements (AAA, AARP, etc.), or any other rates not available to the general public.

Expedia's price guarantee is touted as a great benefit, but you must file a claim within 24 hours of booking!
Expedia’s price guarantee is touted as a great benefit, but you must file a claim within 24 hours of booking!

EXPEDIA

Another heavyweight in the OTA world is Expedia, and it too has a “Best Price Guarantee” policy for hotel rooms (in fact, it also includes flights, car rentals, cruises, activities, and vacation packages). If you find a lower price, Expedia will refund you the difference plus give you a $50 coupon valid toward an Expedia Special Rate hotel or air + hotel package.

Claim process: Within 24 hours of the reservation, sign in to access your itinerary and submit your claim online.

Restrictions: As you’d expect, there are many restrictions to this policy (see the full terms & conditions here). The booking must have been made with Expedia within the last 24 hours, and the site with the lower price must be in English and quote the rate in U.S. dollars. The competitor’s offer must match exactly: dates, room type, cancellation policy, etc. It also must be a rate available to the general public, and must be available at the time of your claim and bookable by Expedia’s customer service representatives. Finally, you’re only allowed one $50 coupon per itinerary and three coupons per customer per calendar month.

Note: This same price guarantee applies to reservations made through Travelocity, which is owned by Expedia, Inc.

Hotels.com makes it easy for you to request a refund when you find a better rate elsewhere.
Hotels.com makes it easy for you to request a refund when you find a better rate elsewhere.

HOTELS.COM

Hotels.com includes its “Best Price Guarantee” as reason #2 why you should book a hotel through its site (rather than a competitor). The site will match any rate found on another site right up to the day before you check in, and will immediately refund the difference in price.

Claim process: Hotels.com actually makes this very painless. Simply visit the Best Price Guarantee site, click on “Ask us to match the price,” and fill in the form. You can include a screen shot of the lower rate, but that’s optional.

Restrictions: Just like the other sites, this is only applicable to publicly available rates (so no AAA or government rates), and it doesn’t apply to “blind” or “bid” sites, like Priceline’s “Name your own price” feature.

You can book luxurious resorts like Sandals Halcyon in St. Lucia on Orbitz and then get Orbucks if you find a lower price
You can book luxurious resorts like Sandals Halcyon in St. Lucia on Orbitz, and then get Orbucks if you find a lower price.

ORBITZ

The “Best Price Guarantee” on Orbitz is somewhat similar to that of Expedia (and it too applies not only to hotels, but also to flights and car rentals). If you find a cheaper rate on another site, Orbitz will give you 100% of the difference in Orbucks (which can be used towards future travel) plus additional Orbucks, depending on your Orbitz status:

  • New (regular) Orbitz Rewards members — $50
  • Silver members — up to $100
  • Gold members — up to $150
  • Platinum members — up to $200

Claim process: If you find a lower rate, simply visit the Hotel Best Price Guarantee Claim site to submit the details and start the claim process, which is available up to the cancellation deadline of the individual hotel.

Restrictions: Like Expedia, this guarantee is chock full of restrictions. It includes the usual suspects (must be the same details, only applicable to public rates, and can’t be related to exchange rates) as well as some that are unique. For starters, the guarantee only applies to “pre-paid refundable” rates for rooms exceeding $50/night (excluding taxes and fees). You also must be a member of Orbitz Rewards to receive Orbucks, and you can’t use a coupon or discount code on a competitor’s site to drop the price; Orbitz will compare the pre-promotion price when validating a claim. Finally, like Expedia, you’re limited to three claims per month.

The Gramercy Park Hotel in New York is one featured property on Hotel Tonight, but you won't find a best rate guarantee!
The Gramercy Park Hotel in New York is one featured property on Hotel Tonight, but you won’t find a best rate guarantee!

Other OTAs

Unfortunately, there are several online travel agencies that don’t provide a best rate guarantee, though with good reason:

  1. Hotel Tonight This new app-based booking service initially allowed you to make only same-day hotel reservations, but has now expanded to allow bookings up to a week in advance. This is a great way to score deals when a last-minute urge to get out of town strikes, but unfortunately, Hotel Tonight does not offer any type of price guarantee.
  2. Hotwire This site is actually “banned” from many of the aforementioned price guarantee policies, as it offers “Secret Hot Rate Hotels” that don’t tell you the property’s name until you confirm your reservation. Since it tends to give significant discounts, there’s no best rate guarantee.
  3. Priceline Like Hotwire, Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” feature disqualifies it from many of the guarantees above, and since it can give you great rates on brand-name hotels, it doesn’t offer any type of best price guarantee.
Intercontinental Singapore Hotel
Saving a few dollars before your trip even starts is a great thing!

Bottom line

One of the best things about hotel reservations (whether booked directly with the property/chain or through an OTA) is that they’re often refundable or cancelable without penalty. In many cases, that means a “Best Rate Guarantee” policy may be completely unnecessary, as you can simply rebook the cheaper rate and cancel the older one. You can also always use a site like Kayak or Trivago to compare prices offered across various OTAs.

However, it’s always nice to have these protections in place, and I’ve read numerous reports of travelers taking advantage of Best Rate Guarantees to save tens or even hundreds of dollars on hotels. Since inventory and prices fluctuate constantly, I recommend keeping an eye on the going rates for your hotel. You may wind up pocketing a nice chunk of change!

What are your experiences with these best rate guarantees?
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