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There are a number of ways of searching for a bargain when booking with big brand hotels, but few methods offer more consistent results than use of the “Best Rate Guarantee” (BRG).
Nearly every major hotel chain offers a BRG, through which they promise to offer the best publicly available rate. In general, BRGs will not only match any lower price found, but further discount it (or provide another form of compensation, like loyalty points).
This can often be a brilliant way to save on hotels, because you still earn points and receive elite benefits as usual, while getting a discount on the cheaper third party rate you managed to find. Now, the effort needed to actually claim the discount varies greatly, as well as the reward for finding a cheaper nightly rate.
So, how do you make the most of BRGs?
The process is pretty similar across the board.
First, take a look at the BRG policies of the hotel(s) of your choice. While it would take forever to do a full comparison of all the policies, it’s worth noting that:
- Starwood hotels are probably the easiest, and give you a sizeable 20% off the third party rate.
- Hyatt also discounts the rate by 20% but they don’t do “packages”, meaning that no matter what extras the 3rd party rate includes, Hyatt will only compare it to their own Advance Purchase or Daily Rate.
- IHG is certainly special by offering the first night free, but they can be very difficult to convince at times. Unlike Starwood and Hyatt, they also require a reservation prior to filing a claim. As a general rule, I would say that claims with Starwood are probably the easiest, while claims with IHG are the most rewarding.
- Hilton will match third party prices and give you an extra 25% off.
With all that in mind, go hunting. Hotel search engines like trivago and HotelsCombined are a great place to start and while you might find even better prices elsewhere, they simplify your search quite a lot. In around 80% of my stays to date, I’ve found a cheaper rate through the hotel search engines.
Remember too, that many third party booking sites include taxes and service fees in their rate, while the hotel chains only display these in the final booking step. Be sure to compare final price with final price!
Don’t forget to go global
The canny BRG hunter will check various country websites. For example, trivago.de often has great rates, which are not always available on the .com or .co.uk sites, for example. The language and currency of the site shouldn’t matter for you to claim the rate (use Google Translate if you have trouble navigating these sites).
I’ve found a cheaper rate – what next?
If you’ve found a cheaper rate and verified that it matches the requirements detailed in the applicable BRG terms, the procedures vary slightly. Some brands like Marriott or IHG require an existing reservation (in these cases I would recommend only booking refundable rates), while others don’t.
Most of the time you will need to fill out a form and a representative will get back to you either confirming the claim and asking for your reservation number or declining it (and hopefully giving a valid reason for doing so, although don’t always bank on it).
An illustration: a step by step BRG claim with Starwood
So, having outlined the BRG concept and general rules, here is a step-by-step guide.
I was looking for three nights at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi. These days I usually go directly to trivago, which is generally cheaper than Expedia, ebookers, etc (and, where it is, is almost certain to be cheaper than the rate on the hotel website):
In this case my first stop, trivago.de displayed a rate of €153 per night, including taxes and fees. I clicked on the green button and was brought to the third party website for booking this rate:
The price increased slightly (now €176 per night). I have highlighted the important things on the translated website: Breakfast included, Superior sea view room category giving me a €528 total for my stay.
With that in mind, I switched to spg.com, the official hotel website:
I know from experience that I can compare a third party breakfast rate to the cheapest spg.com rate including breakfast (not possible with Hyatt), even if it has a different cancellation policy. The important thing here is this: make sure that the room type matches exactly, in this case I had to scroll down to find a Superior Sea View room. The final nightly rate is approximately €268 per night, or €805 total:
So, having found this huge discount (€528 vs. €805), its time to fill out the claim form. First, enter your personal data (not pictured) and the SPG rate:
Second, enter the third party rate information:
You will have the choice between 2000 Starpoints and a price match, or a further 20% off. As a general rule based on rudimentary maths, I would personally take the points and price match for stays of £70 GBP or less.
After submitting your claim you will receive an email that they have received your claim. Response times vary and are probably the principal weak spot of the SPG BRG program – you are left hanging on while they process your claim.
Eventually, their response will look like this:
After returning the email with your confirmation number, they will resend you your booking confirmation and ask you to print out the email from the BRG desk, in case of any problems at check-in.
This was just an example of how BRG claims with Starwood work. The process with Hyatt is similar, though their BRG team can be tricky to deal with. I’m not saying don’t give it a try, but be prepared to fight your way through it. IHG can be stingy at times, but the substantial reward of the first night free can be worth much more than 15 minutes of research and a call.
Ultimately, when they work properly, BRG offers are great and a superb way of getting discount hotel stays with minimal effort.