Having made a number of successful and unsuccessful Best Rate Guarantee claims over the past few months, here is my ranking of the various Best Rate Guarantee offers, and my impressions having tried most of the major chains:
Starwood Preferred Guest has BY FAR the best and easiest Best Rate Guarantee programme. The staff handling claims are quite friendly, and there is no risk involved in making a claim; they even send an automated email acknowledging receipt of the BRG claim.
As a result, I have made over 25 successful Best Rate Guarantee claims over the past few months. Some of the highlights are:
- You must choose between a 10% discount and 2,000 Starpoints when making the claim. Because I value a Starpoint at roughly 2.5 cents, this means I always choose Starpoints unless the potential savings is greater than USD50. I’ve never had a problem with receiving the 2,000 Starpoints – they’ve all been received along with the base points for the stay.
- You can fill in the claim form BEFORE reserving with SPG. You will receive an email advising you of your successful claim (if approved) and giving you 24 hours to make a reservation on an SPG website, and email the BRG desk with the confirmation number. Starwood are pretty good at responding quickly – usually within 24 hours.
- Most, if not all, competing websites are accepted by Starwood for Best Rate Guarantee purposes. (other chains substantially restrict this)
- When making your booking on the SPG website, you can choose a refundable rate. I’ve never had to cancel a booking, but you should be able to email the BRG desk and cancel any reservation you no longer need.
- According to the T&Cs, you are only allowed 1 claim per week at the same hotel (or another in close proximity). In practice, I’ve not had a problem with this and have made multiple BRG claims within the same week, perhaps because I don’t make my reservations and claims at the same time.
- If your competing rate includes breakfast, parking or some other amenity, the T&Cs state that you won’t receive such benefits with a Best Rate Guarantee stay. But, book it anyhow – most of the time I have still had breakfast included. (and I don’t complain the times I don’t get it…)
- The competing rate must be at least 1% lower, 2.5% if it involves different currencies (SPG will do the exchange themselves using xe.com)
2. Marriott Rewards
Marriott Rewards comes second in my ranking of Best Rate Guarantee programmes. It is more difficult to claim than Starwood but, now that I have the hang of it, it’s pretty straightforward as well. No points option… simply a 25% discount on the matched room rate.
- If the competing rate is non-refundable, you MUST book the equivalent non-refundable rate on the Marriott website. However, Marriott allow you to cancel non-refundable bookings for free within 24 hours. (and in my experience I’ve had my claim approved within that free cancellation period) My non-refundable BRG claims with Marriott have had the correct amount charged to my credit card as prepayment, avoiding any need to claim a refund.
- For stays outside of the United States and Canada, Marriott will not accept competing websites that issue prepaid vouchers. Having tried several competing websites, and looked up the T&Cs of many more, this basically rules out almost all competing websites except for: hotels.com, expedia.com, travelocity.com (in practice all the same company) and orbitz.com. (let me know if you know of any more…)
- Maybe it’s just me and/or my browsers, but the Marriott website does seem to crash when I am filling in claims. I wonder if that’s on purpose?!?!
3. Club Carlson
In my experience there’s a substantial gap between the top two chains and the rest. But I’ve managed a couple of successful claims with Club Carlson so they make it to number 3. Club Carlson also offer to match the lower rate and provide a further 25% discount.
- I successfully made 2 claims for non-refundable stays at the Park Inn Heathrow. This involved some risk since I would be unable to cancel if my claim was denied, but since the competing rate was on hotels.com, I decided to take the risk. The hotel charged the original amount, then processed a refund.
- I was denied for a different claim, where the rates were cancellable. However, the hotel’s cancellation policy and the competing website’s cancellation policy differed by 2 hours (4 p.m. vs. 6 p.m.) and my claim was denied for that reason.
- Even though my successful claims involved breakfast, I’ve seen reports of this causing a BRG claim to fail as according to the T&Cs “The Best Rate Guarantee does not apply to… package rates that include the room and other components such as meals, amenities and entertainment“.
- The Club Carlson BRG T&Cs don’t specifically exclude vouchers, but given how pedantic they can be, I would be careful of booking non-refundable rates based on a comparison against such a competing website.
4. Hyatt Gold Passport
I had heard good reports about the Hyatt Best Rate Guarantee. Unfortunately this wasn’t backed up by my 1 attempt to claim a Best Rate Guarantee (and recent reports on Flyertalk). A successful BRG claim with Hyatt would involve the rate being matched with an additional 20% discount applied.
- Unlike the other chains, you MUST PHONE Hyatt at +1 402 593 5445 in order to process a Best Rate Guarantee claim. In principle, this solves the problem of the lower rate disappearing between the time of your claim and the time an agent reviews it. In practice, however, they put you on hold for ages while reviewing your claim. (some cynics might say… to either find a reason to deny your claim or for your call to be accidentally disconnected…)
- Any claim involving a competing website that uses vouchers will be denied, as well as sites that sign you up for a “membership” with information provided as part of the booking process. However, you should still be OK with websites such as hotels.com.
5. IHG Rewards Club
IHG Rewards Club have, on paper, the most attractive Best Rate Guarantee policy, as they provide the first night free if your claim is successful – even if it’s just a 1-night booking! (making your stay completely free) This unfortunately seems to mean that IHG are going to do whatever they can to deny a BRG claim.
Check out my December post regarding my attempt to claim a free night with IHG. I suppose if I had more patience I would keep trying BRG claims with IHG. But oddly enough, I don’t really want a free night all that often, since I would probably miss out on status credit, bonus points, etc.
6. Hilton HHonors, Accor Hotels, Melia Rewards, Best Western
There are so many hotel chains that I can’t be bothered with many of them, particularly where there aren’t interesting promotions or opportunities to find great value from a loyalty programme.
However, I do stay at Hilton hotels, quite a lot actually. But for whatever reason, I’ve never once been able to find a lower competing rate. Maybe Hilton keep their franchisees in line better, or maybe I just haven’t been searching hard enough given their relatively weak winter promotion. But either way, I can’t provide any personal experience with the Hilton HHonors scheme.
So, if you’ve never tried a Best Rate Guarantee claim before, start with Starwood and give it a shot. It can be great fun finding lower rates and earning 2,000 Starpoints in the process!