The Basics of Best Rate Guarantees

A hotel Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) is one of my favorite tools when it comes to travel hacking because you have the potential to save yourself hundreds of dollars without sacrificing anything. Depending on the hotel brand, you can score percentage discounts, free points, or even a free night if you have a successful submission. But each program is different, so I’ll lay out the basics for some of the more popular hotel programs.

First, some general rules that apply to most, if not all, BRG claims:

  • Your BRG claim must be submitted within 24 hours of the original booking (if you booked in advance).
  • Your BRG claim must be submitted more than 24 hours before the date of arrival.
  • Because of exchange rate fluctuations, your BRG claim generally must be submitted using the local currency (i.e. for a hotel in Hong Kong, you must compare rates in HKD and not USD).
  • Your BRG claim must use the same dates, room type (King, two Queens, etc.), rate type (prepaid non-refundable, etc.), and number of occupants.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular hotel programs. Note that my favorite ways to actually find BRG opportunities are by using Kayak and HotelsCombined.

Hyatt

If you find a lower rate on an Online Travel Agency (OTA) than is listed on Hyatt’s own website for the same room, dates, and rate type, Hyatt will give you 20% off the lower rate.

The Hyatt Best Rate Guarantee can be very valuable, particularly for longer or more expensive stays. For example, say you have a 3 night stay in New York and Hyatt’s website shows a rate of $500/night, but through Kayak you find that Orbitz shows a rate of only $400/night. You can simply call Hyatt’s BRG team before booking and have them confirm the rate. If they see the same rate you do, you’ll get 20% off $400 for each of the 3 nights. A successful claim would give you a rate of $320/night, saving you $80/night and $240 overall.

The reason Hyatt’s BRG process is so valuable is not only because of the 20% discount, which is huge, but also because you don’t have to book the hotel before filing a claim. Essentially, you won’t have any money on the line if for some reason something goes wrong and your BRG claim is denied.

With a great policy like Hyatt's, I think I will!

With a great policy like Hyatt’s, I think I will take advantage of it!

Starwood

If you find a lower rate on an Online Travel Agency (OTA) than is listed on Starwood’s own website for the same room, dates, and rate type, Starwood will give you the option of 10% off the lower rate or 2,000 Starpoints.

The SPG BRG is unique because it’s the only program that gives you the option of a percentage discount or points. The percentage discount is generally much smaller than other programs provide, so it’s only valuable if you’re staying multiple nights with more expensive rates. Points are generally a better option for one night stays or very inexpensive stays.

For example, let’s say you have a one night stay planned and Starwood’s website shows a rate of $100, but an OTA has a rate of $75. You can simply fill out the online BRG claim form before booking and select the option for either 10% off the lower rate or 2,000 Starpoints. In this example, the 10% off would only save you $7.50 (plus small tax savings as well), while the 2,000 SPG points are valued much higher than that. Using a relatively low valuation of 2 cents/point, those 2,000 points would be worth $40 – a much better value than the percentage discount.

As another example, say you have a three night stay planned and Starwood’s website shows a rate of $250, while you find an OTA that has the same hotel for $200. Your option would be the same 10% discount or 2K Starpoints. In this case, a 10% discount would yield a nightly rate of $180, for a savings of $20/night or a total savings of $60 for the trip. The points are still worth $40, so the percentage discount is your better option in this case.

To put it simply, if the percentage discount can save you more than $40 (or however much you value 2K Starpoints to be), then take the discount. Otherwise, take the points.

Similarly to Hyatt, the SPG BRG claim process is advantageous because you don’t have to put any money on the line. You simply file your claim online and if it’s denied for some reason, you won’t lose anything.

I successfully submitted a BRG claim for my hotel at FTU in April. Instead of saving $15 with the 10% discount, I took the 2K SPG points that I value at $50+. A great deal!

I successfully submitted a BRG claim for my hotel at FTU in April. Instead of saving $15 total on a two night stay with the 10% discount, I took the 2K SPG points that I personally value at $50+. A great deal!

InterContinental Hotels Group

If you find a lower rate on an Online Travel Agency (OTA) than is listed on IHG’s own website for the same room, dates, and rate type, and the rate is lower by at least $1 or 1% (whichever is greater), IHG will give you the first night free, including on one-night stays.

The value here is clear – a one night stay amounts to 100% off, a two night stay amounts to 50% off, and a 3 night stay amounts to 33% off. From a percentage discount view, this is hard to beat.

For example, you have a one night stay planned and IHG’s website shows a rate of $400/night. You find an OTA that shows a rate of $390/night. A successful BRG claim would result in your stay being 100% free. A two night stay under the same circumstances would give the first night free and the second night at the lower rate of $390.

Before you get too excited about this one, there are some big issues to consider. First, IHG is the only hotel program that will not tell you how long they’ll take to respond to your BRG claim. That means they could take several days, and in that time the lower price you found can increase. IHG is also somewhat notorious for looking for a reason to deny your claim, and a favorite is that the room-type doesn’t match. If you’ve ever used Orbitz or Hotels.com, you’ll know that the room names don’t always match exactly. This could become problematic.

None of that would be an issue, however, if not for the biggest deterrent: you have to book the hotel on IHG’s website before submitting your BRG claim. This is a problem because the lowest available rate is usually non-refundable, meaning you have to put money on the line.

It’s definitely worth a shot, but don’t get your hopes too high. You can read about how dozens of others fared with their IHG BRG claim in this FlyerTalk thread.

If they're so confident, they should approve our claims before we have to pay!

If they’re so confident, they should approve our claims before we have to pay!

Hilton

If you find a lower rate on an Online Travel Agency (OTA) than is listed on Hilton’s own website for the same room, dates, and rate type, Hilton will give you a $50 Amex “gift cheque” for stays in North America or a $50 folio credit on international stays.

Similar to Starwood’s policy, Hilton’s policy will benefit you most if you have a one-night stay and/or a very cheap nightly rate. For example, let’s say a one-night stay is $100 on Hilton’s website, but you find one for $90 on an OTA. A successful BRG claim would result in a lower rate of $90 plus you’d receive either a $50 check or $50 statement credit, depending on where the hotel is. The same would be true for longer or more expensive stays, so short, cheap stays are in your favor with this policy.

Unfortunately, Hilton’s policy is somewhat similar to IHG’s when it comes to booking the room. You must book your room with Hilton before you can submit a BRG claim. Again, this means that you likely have to put your money on the line since it’s likely you’re booking a non-refundable rate. You can submit your claim by either calling or using an online form.

But I don't want to book before you approve my claim!

But I don’t want to book before you approve my claim!

Summary

To summarize, Hyatt and Starwood have completely risk-free BRG claim processes, while IHG and Hilton require you to book your rooms first. Starwood, IHG, and Hilton all provide great value for BRG claims on cheap stays and one-night stays, while Hyatt and IHG are more useful for longer or more expensive stays.

Examples

I put together the below chart for those of you that would like to see a comparison of what savings a Best Rate Guarantee claim would yield for each of the programs. The chart might look difficult to read but it’s actually pretty easy. It’s meant to be read in columns – the top section presents an potential scenario as an example including the number of nights and rates; the middle section shows the potential savings for each program; and the bottom section shows your effective cost for each program given the scenario above.

BRG Analysis2

I know this topic can be difficult for those of you that haven’t done one of these before, so please feel free to let me know if you have any questions. Otherwise, I hope this can help you save some money in the future!

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  • TobyK

    Nice comparison but Hyatt’s BRG policy is 20% not 25%

    http://www.hyatt.com/hyatt/specials/offers/best_rate_guarantee.jsp

    • http://twitter.com/TravelSummary Travel Summary

      Thanks, fixed the post!

  • SammyY

    You left out Marriott’s Look No Further guarantee which gives you 25% off any lower rate you find within 24 hours of making a reservation.

    • http://twitter.com/TravelSummary Travel Summary

      Marriott’s 25% off is definitely valuable. I left it off this post because most people are loyal to these brands and not so much Marriott, but they definitely have a great BRG.

  • Glenda Moore

    Can you also give us info on Club Carlson’s BRG?

  • Laura

    Thanks, this is well written and will be good to book mark for future trips.

  • LowlySpartan

    Can’t you just get the BRG and then cancel the room or is that prohibited?

    • http://twitter.com/TravelSummary Travel Summary

      It depends on the rate you booked. If you book a non-refundable rate then you’re on the hook for the cost no matter what. If you use a BRG on a refundable rate, then you can cancel. Often times BRGs work better for refundable rates, but they’re at a higher cost compared to non-refundable rates.

  • dan ray

    Great post. Are there any special hotel sites you search to find the best rate?

    • http://twitter.com/TravelSummary Travel Summary

      Kayak is my favorite since it aggregates a lot of OTAs. I also use Hotelscombined and olotels, both of which can be hit or miss.

  • http://twitter.com/mpperryplatypus Perryplatypus

    Great post, Just did a BRG on a SPG property yesterday and there was one rate on kayak that was over $100 less then on spg.com and they approved the BRG

  • Scottrick

    TravelBloggerBuzz reminded me of this website, which also has links to different sites you can search to find better competing rates.

    http://bestrateguaranteehotels.blogspot.com/

  • James

    Does it only have to be an OTA? What about the the hotel website itself? I just booked a room from SPG and then a week later it dropped 15%? Can I claim that?

    • Scottrick

      Rates do change with demand over time. The guarantee is that the hotel will have the lowest rate at the time you book. If you want to protect yourself against changes in the hotel’s advertised rate, then a refundable rate is the best option. Although they are often a little more expensive to start, I have saved money when they drop (and sometimes I’ll rebook to a non-refundable rate when my plans firm up). You can also sometimes get a refundable rate at the non-refundable price if you have a AAA, AARP, or Costco membership.

  • Peter

    Is it the full price on the OTA or just the advertised price? I keep on finding lower rates but then tax makes it exactly the same as the HIExpress that I am looking to match

  • http://www.mightytravels.com/ MightyTravels

    The Marriott BRG (or LNF) is probably the best BRG in the industry now. It reacts fast and presents no excuses. Much better than Hyatt or Hilton. I have a 90% approval rate. The only thing that could be improved is the prohibition on ‘voucher sites’ for non-US properties.

  • andrea beh

    I agree with MightyTravels. Marriott BRG with 25% off lower rate is by far one of the best in the industry. They are fast (within 24 hours) and doesn’t give unreasonable excuses to reject claims. I’ve done few times all successful and saved me heaps.
    Just did one with Hyatt BRG. Spent 45 mins on the phone trying to reason out and only to have it rejected. Lower rate found on Amoma.com. Excuses given by BRG staff were
    1. Room type do not exactly match hyatt.com website. Guess double beds vs twin beds.
    2. She said amoma doesn’t guarantee the currency rate so the room rate on that website may change. I explained that hyatt.com doesn’t guarantee currency fluctuation too!
    3. She said Amoma provides vouchers after payment is made so it is not instant confirmation. Whatever it means! I cancelled my booking with hyatt.com immediately after that.

    • Scottrick

      It sounds like the voucher issue is common to both Hyatt and Marriott.