How to Get Your Hotel Stays for Free Using a Best Rate Guarantee Claim

Mommy Points yesterday has a post summarizing hotel ‘best rate guarantee’ policies.

The idea is that each hotel chain wants to convince you to book directly through them. That’s because booking through a third party website like Expedia or Orbitz is expensive for them, commissions can exceed 20%.

One strategy is to only offer credit towards elite status when you book directly (most chains, although they general exempt certain non-direct booking outlets) and another is to only offer benefits and points accrual when you book direct. Hyatt and Marriott will at least recognize your status if you don’t book directly, even though you cannot earn credit towards elite status under their rules if you don’t.

The best rate guarantee is a marketing technique to convince you that you’ll get the best rate through the hotel’s own site, so why bother looking elsewhere? Marriott’s is even dubbed the “Look No Further” guarantee.

Hotels can be fined if they don’t load the lowest rates into the chain’s own booking engine. (IHG properties get fined $75 for each successful Best Rate Guarantee claim.)

Contracts with third parties may entail only offering the same rates and not discounting those rates further by effectively rebating part of the commission. (This has raised anti-trust concerns in some jurisdictions.)

Each hotel chain, though, has various rules and restrictions that make it easier or harder to actually process a claim.

And hotels do offer lower rates through third parties all the time. This is especially true when a non-US online travel site is promoting US stays for a sale. The hotel figures they’re segmenting the market enough that they won’t have a problem participating.

The program that I find the most useful is IHG’s.

They will actually give you the first night of your stay for free if you make a successful best rate guarantee claim. If you make one-night stays, then you’re really looking at staying in hotels for free. Although you will not generally earn points or stay credit from the room rate on a free Best Rate Guarantee stay.

(You can’t just do back-to-back free stays at nearby hotels — you are only allowed one free night every 7 days at the same hotel or any other hotel within 50 miles.)

Unlike Starwood you actually have to make a booking with IHG before submitting a claim. So I only like to make cancellable bookings. (Starwood, though, only gives you 2000 points or a 10% discount if your claim is accepted… but it is a way to occasionally rack up free points.)

Here’s the Best Price Guarantee form for IHG hotels which include Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and related brands.

And here’s the terms and conditions.

Some key points:

  • You have to book the lowest price offered for the hotel on the night in question. That may mean a prepaid, non-refundable room. If you’re just looking for a freebie, then you only want to do this if the lowest price is cancellable since there’s always a risk that IHG will reject your Best Rate Guarantee claim.

  • You have to process your claim within 24 hours of booking.

  • You need to compare the IHG rate to a website that bills in the same currency. If you’re booking a UK hotel in British pounds with IHG, then the comparison website must also book in pounds.

  • The price difference has to be at least 1% between the websites or $1, whichever is greater. (1.5% in Australia/New Zealand.)

  • The website you are comparing to must provide instant confirmation — some sites sell rooms ‘on request’ and may not actually have the inventory you think you’re booking with them, so those are excluded.

  • You want to compare to the same room type, which is usually accomplished by having the name of the room type be the same.

  • They do not match to Priceline, Hotwire, and similar sites.

  • They only match publicly available prices that can be obtained online. So they exclude:

    membership program websites; corporate discounts; negotiated prices; group, rewards program, loyalty program, incentive, meeting, convention, consolidator or interline prices; prices obtained via auction or similar process; or prices available only by using a coupon or other promotion not offered to the general public.

You can submit multiple claims at once on the same hotel. In other words, if you find 3 websites that offer lower rates than the one you’re booking through IHG submit them all separately. I’ve seen 2 get denied and 1 accepted. No need to wait until you’re rejected to them re-submit (during that intervening time the lower rates you’ve found could disappear).

There are certain agents who seem to be more careful in finding gotchas in the terms and conditions to deny claims.

    Some sites that offer good success are Yeego.com, Alpharooms.com and Directrooms.com.

These opportunities are why you want to get to know booking sites you’ve never heard of before, such as Elvoline.com which has worked for some US properties.

One change from early this year that I like a lot is this,

At all IHG hotels globally, pre-paid rates on non-IHG sites will be compared with the IHG hotel’s lowest available rate on IHG websites

That means when you can only find the “Best Available Rate” on the IHG website, you can compare it to a prepaid rate you’ve found elsewhere.

At some point, IHG will change their policy. And after some amount of free nights they could decide a given member is no longer entitled to any. But there’s been a phenomenal run with these free nights, it’s worked for awhile.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. I like Best Western’s program (if you can actually jump through all the hoops) because you pay for the night, but get a $100 travel card afterwards, which you can use on your next night. The 2 benefits of that are that a) it counts as a paid stay so you earn points on it and b) many times, you can get Best Western hotels for less than $100 which means it can be a moneymaker

  2. If you do one night with IHG, and one night with Choice (and don’t mind switching hotels), you can have a free weekend getaway. I just booked a free Choice hotel in Orlando using their BRG.

  3. You’re burying an important fact which is that the sites you mention could save you money vs orbitz expedia if you don’t want to put up with the BRG madness.

  4. You’re incorrect about IHG’s policy (or at least the enforcement). It isn’t necessary for your IHG reservation to be for the lowest available rate, which would usually be a pre-paid nonrefundable option.

    I just successfully got a BRG claim approved by IHG this past week for one night in a South American capital. The IHG reservation was for a fully refundable rate, and I found a third party site that also offered their own fully refundable rate that was lower. IHG responded within 26 hours (with my phone call prompting), and sent approval details within three days.

    I suggest all readers turn to boardingarea blogger Loyalty Traveler for his great in-depth series on BRG claims for various chains.

  5. Brazilflyer, you are correct. I have taken advantage of the IHG BRG on many occasions. Their requirement is that the cancellation policy must match on the 3rd party site.

    The major challenge is that IHG reservations can often be cancelled on the day of arrival, as late as 6 p.m. It is very hard to find a 3rd party site to match, but not impossible, if you know what websites to use.

  6. Can confirm that BRG with Hyatt counts as a paid stay. Just did one at PH Dubai and posted without any follow up required.

  7. In my experience, IHG is the best at approving valid BRG claims, while Marriott, which only gives a 25 percent discount, is the worst. They always seem to invent an BS excuse to deny the claim.

  8. IHG is generous in theory, with the free night, however there’s the practical issue of getting them to actually look at your claim!

    I submitted a claim, heard nothing after 24h. After Tweeting them was advised to resubmit. Did so and no reply to either form. After a week I escalated to Exec Complaints – the promised a BRG team reply in 24h (there’s no way for you to call them yourself) – ended up with a useless reply saying my claim was over 24h old!!

  9. Another way IHG denies the brg claim is by naming their rooms differently than on most other sites. Had my Claim denied this week because the type of room did not match the one I booked. It was absolute the same standard room but called differently for whatever reason.

  10. I have found Hilton BPG to be a joke. I have submitted 3 claims over the past few months, and all have been rejected on obscure (if not plain weird) reasons. I got so annoyed at one of the rejections that I actually booked with the 3rd party site and sent them the confirmation (for Hilton BPG you need to have made a booking directly with them first). It was only then that they approved the BPG. I will not be bothering with Hilton BPG anymore.

  11. when my claim was confirmed two days before arrival what should I do? When I check reservation it still says about around 200 euro to be paid when I get there. Should it be like this? Or rate will be changed to 0 ?

  12. So here’s my two cents on the BRG from someone with multiple claims approved and multiple denied. While IHG may seem to have the most generous guarantee with a free night offered, in my opinion they are the most difficult to get approved claims from (vs. Marriott and Starwood, at least). It completely depends on who takes the claim. As the OP mentioned, some are VERY nit picky with refundable rates, meaning it must be refundable to the exact same time as the hotel offers. One website I’ve found that at least for some hotels has the same cancellation policy as the hotel is: Hotel Info (I think it’s international). I’ve had claims for Yeego.com both approved and denied because of the cancellation policy being more strict by a few hours. I had a claim for Elvoline.com denied because the agent said he/she was prompted to log in to verify the rate. I’ve had a claim for Amoma approved… I’ve found that international websites sometimes are slower to update rates so you might have luck there (Agoda is another international one).

    Does anyone else have good websites they’ve submitted claims on that don’t usually show up on Trivago/Kayak?

    I have two main problems with the BRG through IHG:
    1) Every single time I’ve submitted they’ve promised a free night and then later decided that they’re unable to adjust the rate and will reimburse me 4-6 weeks after stay. This is even when the stay is months away… so they have time to figure something else out but clearly don’t want to. So not only do I have to pay the higher rate up front, I have to trust that 4-6 weeks later I’ll be reimbursed without having to exhaust more of my time following up. Ignoring the time value of that money (sometimes $500+ because the InterContinental brands are expensive), I think this is complete BS because every other hotel chain has no problem adjusting rates when a claim is approved… why is IHG the only one not able to get its chains to adjust the rate? And WHY is there no phone number to contact the BRG department? They don’t always respond to emails and many of my submissions have been “lost” in cyberspace… thus I always email AND submit through the form to be sure the time doesn’t run out before the claim is evaluated.

    2) Not only does the lower rate from a 3rd party have to be available at the time of claim evaluation (and a confirmed reservation from that 3rd party verifying the rate apparently isn’t enough), but the rate you booked on IHG’s website must also still be available. If there’s a lower rate on IHG’s website they will not look at your confirmed IHG reservation, but instead they’ll compare it to what’s currently available. I’m currently working through this issue with them because this seems ridiculous and not at all the intention of the guarantee. What about non-refundable rates or rooms that are sold out? I don’t think it’s fair that they can choose whether to look at your reservation’s rate or what’s currently available on the website. I understand that for Starwood (which allows you to submit a claim before booking) they might compare to the current website’s price, BUT IHG makes you book before submitting the claim so what’s the point of that reservation if they’re not going to use it?

    I think I’m mainly frustrated because I feel like this is “bait/switching” people and the guarantee that is plastered all over IHG’s website really isn’t honored in the intention with which it was created.

    I’d welcome any insight you might have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *