I have promised some friends to share my successful attempts on taking advantage of Chain Hotel groups’ “price match” policies. It has been a hectic fall, so I will just do a walkthrough on the things you need know to get the best hotel room for least possible money spent, BUT STILL ABLE TO EARN POINTS AND NIGHT CREDITS and all other perks being an elite member!!!
Price match is a general term used in many areas of our life, in hotel booking scene. For example, Starwood uses “Best Rate Guaranteed” (BRG), and Marriott uses “Looking No Further” (LNF). IHG, Hilton, Hyatt, Best Western, and Fairmont all have their version of price match programs. However, BRG is one of the most general terms that has been used to indicate “price match’ a hotel room. Thus we will use BRG in this article exclusively.
Hotel Bidding/Express Deal Vs. BRG
Before I used BRG strategies for booking hotel rooms, I have used priceline.com’s hotel bidding and express deal program for years, and I was able to get super high-quality hotel rooms for half price. Unfortunately, BRG programs will not match the bidder hotel rooms, but you there are ways you can take advantage of Express Deal. I will discuss that later.
The workflow of doing a BRG is pretty straightforward. First, you book a room on hotel official website. Then, you look for a lower price on the third party travel sites. Next you submit a claim form (all the links to different forms/pages/file are in Appendix A) to the hotel chain’s website(or call/email) telling them the link of the room that has the SAME date at the SAME hotel you have found. In my experience with Marriott and SPG, they normally will not take more than 24 hours to get back to you. So you will know if your claim is successful or not.
One side note, there is also a theory: you can also use priceline.com’s Express Deal to book a room just for one night, and then call the hotel directly asking them to match the same rate for multiple nights. According to someone from Facebook group Travel Hacking 101, some people were able to get multiple nights for the same price of Express Deal.
Since many thing in our life is not a clear-cut, such as US election, s**t can also happen during a BRG claim. Before you get all excited and get hand dirty, please be patient and read this section. I would hope you can take this advantage fully and not get frustrated by unsuccessful claims.
What 3rd party website should I use?
For the time sake, the screen capture is how my Chrome bookmark bar look like as Safari is my primary browser. I am sure there are better ways to organize it. The sites I had success are listed in Appendix B. Other sites on my bookmark bar are pretty useless.
What should I do if my claim is declined?
This is absolutely normal! and it can be many reasons, including the stupidity of the agent (no personal offence) who reviewed your claim, or you forgot to clean your browser cookie that the 3rd party website showed you wrong information.
If your claim is declined, take a deep breath or not, double-check if the price is still available, the dates are the on both the 3rd party website and on your reservation. The same number of people will stay at the property; the same rate was reserved (I will discuss this more extensively). At very least, if you believe the rate and the room you found is price matchable to the official rate, then just delete the decline email or hang up, and submit a new claim with a new reservation. Life goes on!
Also, the inventory of each hotel may change dynamically, so does the price. Therefore, keep checking the price of the official sites and 3rd party sites, because you may be able to get a success BRG or a BETTER BRG!!! In my line of work, we call this an iterative process.
What rate should I book?
This is the most tricky part of this game I think. I will just talk about my experiences. The best scenario would be if both official rate and 3rd party rates are both refundable, and things would be easier, but it is not always the case. I know in some cases, even if you booked a non-refundable rate, some chains give you 24 hour grace period, or whenever the BRG department gives you a response. I always book refundable rate, and submit the non-refundable rate to my BRG claim. Some agents will let it pass and match the price with the lowest price you found, while some other agents may not happy about it. So you just need to keep trying until you get it price matched.
What are the programs you have used?
I have mainly used Marriott and SPG’s BRG program, and I am quite happy with their programs. I tried Best Western’s program once, and I think I will never be their customer again, even though I am still holding their Diamond status. My friend also mentioned that IHG’s program is quite similar to a “scam” and he has given up on it. I have not tried other programs yet, as I am not a fan or other chains neither, except Fairmont. It has a nice collection of hotels, but it is normally way above my budget even with BRG in place.
I am at the point that, I feel like playing a game for price matching with hotels, and I can save money by playing this game! For this past summer, I spent about 3000 dollars for a 19 day trip accompanied by a mini-round the world Aeroplan business class flight ticket (which I still need to write about). On hotel alone, I saved about 1200 dollars or more depending on how you calculate the rates at hotel. The average night rate was 157 CAD for cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, Bologna, Copenhagen, Brussels, Brugge, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Dusseldorf. 85% stays were in Marriott,one night with a random motel who overcharged me ten more AUD for some BS reason, one night with Novotel, and two nights with Best Western (Could have saved $150 more if MBNA Best Western Card faithfully followed their promotion, and I think this is another scam).
Last but not least, my last recommendation would be:
Have faith, and keep trying !
What are your BRG experiences? Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions.