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Most major hotel chains offer a best rate guarantee policy. Their goal is to convince potential hotel guests that the cheapest possible rate is available by booking direct. This may or may not actually be true! As a result, many travel hackers concentrate on seeking lower rates on competing websites, and then claiming a best rate guarantee from the hotel chain. Besides the incentives on offer, it also ensures that your hotel booking is made directly, therefore qualifying for elite status, earning points, etc.
Hyatt is changing their Best Rate Guarantee policy in a significant way on 31 July, 2017. Currently, if you find a publicly available rate online that is lower than the room rate available directly from Hyatt, then Hyatt promises to match the lower rate, and add an additional 20% discount on top. You lodge a claim by filling in an online claim form within 24 hours of booking on hyatt.com.
According to Hyatt, the new BRG policy is going to look like this:
Hyatt has offered a Best Rate Guarantee since 2003 to guarantee that Hyatt provides the lowest online, publicly available and immediately bookable rates for room reservations at Hyatt hotels worldwide. If a guest finds a lower qualifying rate elsewhere, Hyatt’s Best Rate Guarantee will now match the comparable lower rate and also offer a $50 credit to the guest, valid for use on a future Hyatt stay booked on Hyatt.com. The $50 credit will be provided as a single use offer code within four days of checkout of the initial stay and must be used within one year of being issued. This benefit will replace the current Best Rate Guarantee, which offers a 20% discount on valid lower rates found and is intended to underscore the value of booking directly with Hyatt for the best experience.
Is This Change Positive?
In terms of mathematical value, a 20% discount on a stay costing $250 or more would be higher than $50. Longer stays, therefore, are likely to lose out under the new policy.
Conversely, a $50 rebate on a one night stay is likely to be substantially greater than 20%. You might even manage to find a hotel India, Mexico or Southeast Asia with a rate lower than $50, making a one-night stay effectively free.
Hotel Credit Instead of Discount
This change requires the guest to stay a second time at Hyatt within a year. I suspect that most travel hackers won’t have a problem with this. After all, the main attraction of a Best Rate Guarantee claim is the ability to book directly and receive credit for elite status purposes. But it is unquestionably worse to trade a discount today (i.e. the 20%) for a $50 rebate several weeks/months in the future.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the $50 credit will work properly when converted into local currency at hotels outside of the United States, and whether the discount code is returned to you if you cancel a refundable reservation. (“single use code” worries me…)
It’s also not quite clear whether the $50 credit will apply to the pre-tax room rate, or the tax-inclusive total. If the former, you would actually end up saving 10-20% more than $50 depending on local tax rates…
Will Hyatt Return to Approving Most Claims?
During the last 12-18 months, Hyatt’s Best Rate Guarantee claim process has become something of a joke. Out of spite more than anything, I recently lodged 4 BRG claims for a single reservation, and each time I was given a different excuse for denying my claim, with mostly spurious reasons offered. Many travel hackers have reported similar issues, essentially meaning that Hyatt’s current Best Rate Guarantee policy is unreliable at best, and an anti-consumer scam at worst…
Hyatt has the chance here to regain some lost goodwill. If they intend to return to the days of approving most legitimate BRG claims, then these changes will ultimately be well received. If Hyatt’s intention is to continue denying most BRG claims, then these changes are practically irrelevant.
The optimist in me is crossing my fingers in the hope that the $50 credit will allow Hyatt to approve more BRG claims, without franchisees complaining about the very low room rates that can result from the 20% discount.
The pessimist in me suspects that Hyatt has no intention of paying $50 per BRG claim, just for the marketing value of pretending that the lowest rates are available on hyatt.com.
What do you believe? Is this change going to be positive, negative, or do you just not care?