How 1 phone call saved me hundreds of dollars on a hotel stay

Feb 9, 2022

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While searching on a hotel website, you’ve likely come across an advertisement for a best-rate guarantee of some sort. Most major hotel groups offer one, though some display them more prominently than others.

These guarantees exist to give customers the peace of mind that they’ll always get the best deal by booking directly with the hotel. If you find the same room listed elsewhere for less, the hotel will generally match the lower rate and then up the ante by providing an additional discount or bonus points.

People often overlook this perk because they think it’s a marketing gimmick and thus not worth the effort. But as I experienced firsthand, these guarantees are very real and can save you big bucks — you just need to familiarize yourself with how exactly they work.

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Pool at Oceana Santa Monica, LXR Hotels and Resorts
The Oceana Santa Monica, LXR Hotels & Resorts. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Hotel best-rate guarantees

Most major hotel chains offer best-rate guarantees, including:

  • Marriott: Matches the lower rate and gives you the choice of an additional 25% off (20% for Design Hotels) or 5,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (worth $40 based on TPG valuations).
  • Hilton: Matches the lower rate and gives you an additional 25% off.
  • Hyatt: Matches the lower rate and gives you the choice of an additional 20% off or 5,000 World of Hyatt points (worth $85).
  • IHG: Matches the lower rate and gives you five times the IHG Rewards Club points, up to a 40,000-point maximum.

All of the guarantees come with lots of terms and conditions, but here are the key requirements shared across the chains:

  • You must have already booked the room directly and at the lowest publicly available rate (except for Hilton).
    • Claims generally must be made within 24 hours of booking.
  • The lower rate must be on a valid third-party retailer (i.e., Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and Hotels.com).
    • This excludes sites that don’t tell you the hotel name until the reservation is completed, sites that require a membership or affiliation to book, mobile-only rates, sites that don’t offer immediate confirmations and some others.
  • The lower rate must have the exact same conditions as the rate booked directly through the hotel chain:
    • Same booking dates.
    • Same room type.
    • Same cancellation policies.

This last bullet is crucial — the two rates must match word for word. For instance, let’s say we’re comparing two flexible rates. If one rate says we can change or cancel “up to Jan. 1” and the other says “before Jan. 1,” our claim might be rejected as the latter could imply 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31. Likewise, if you’re booking a king room, for example, and the name of the room on the competitor’s site is simply “standard room,” that could be enough to invalidate the claim.

Although not required, it’s best practice to take a screenshot of the lower rate on the competing website and include it in your claim form when possible.

Related: 4 reasons to consider booking your next hotel stay through an online travel agency

My experience with Hilton’s price-match guarantee

Personally, I find Hilton’s price-match guarantee to be the most generous. Aside from the significant 25% discount, I like that it lets you match rates over the phone before booking. This way, you can walk the agent through exactly how you found the rate and not have to go back and forth over email.

Most recently, I took advantage of this perk to book a stay at the Oceana Santa Monica, LXR Hotels & Resorts.

The nightly rate on Hilton’s site for an Oceana King room was $686 before taxes and fees.

Hilton hotel rates
(Screenshot courtesy of hilton.com)

However, after comparing rates on Google Hotels like I always do, I noticed that Expedia had rooms available from $621 per night.

Upon closer inspection, I confirmed that it was for the same exact room and had the same cancellation policy, so I rang up Hilton to book. As a top-tier elite, I had access to the dedicated Diamond line, which was able to help me on the spot, rather than having to transfer me to the price-match department.

Related: What is Hilton Honors elite status worth?

Expedia rates price match
(Screenshot courtesy of expedia.com)

I explained that I initially found the rate via Google Hotels and walked the agent through replicating the search.

Although Expedia used the language “fully refundable before” on the room selection page, while Hilton said “fully refundable until,” I was able to confirm on Expedia’s checkout page that the cancellation period was indeed through 11:59 p.m. on the same day as Hilton. My claim would have probably initially been denied over email because of this, but I was able to easily direct the agent to this piece of fine print over the phone.

Expedia free cancellation
(Screenshot courtesy of expedia.com)

The agent matched the lower rate and applied the additional 25% discount. My new nightly rate came out to just $465, saving me over $200 per night with just a 10-minute call.

Hilton price match
(Screenshot courtesy of hilton.com)

Bottom line

Price matches can be a hassle to get approved due to their many terms and conditions. But when they do work out, they can save you money and be well worth the effort. Plus, unlike if you were to book through a third party, you’ll earn hotel points and receive elite benefits as per usual.

Featured photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.