R.I.P. to My Number One Travel Hack

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Two or three weeks ago, I wrote a post about Six Unanswered Questions from the Marriott / SPG Merger. One of the unanswered questions had to do with the Best Rate Guarantee policies of the two chains. Well… the question has been answered. Overnight… and with no advance warning of the changes…

Starwood Preferred Guest has long been known for a very flexible Best Rate Guarantee policy. If you want the complete details, you can re-read this old post by clicking here. But it was as close to idiot-proof as any BRG policy could be. You could book a flexible rate on spg.com – even if the competing rate was prepaid – which allowed you to:

  • Cancel your reservation in the event that your BRG claim was denied
  • Make speculative BRG reservations and cancel them if your plans changed later

There was zero risk with SPG’s BRG policy. Even making hundreds of BRG claims didn’t seem to be a problem, as I have been dealt with as professionally and amiably for my thousandth BRG claim (I hope that’s an exaggeration, but it might not be…) as I was for my first.

So, why wouldn’t you try to make a BRG claim,  and save 25% on the lower, matched room rate (or 2,000 valuable Starpoints).

What has changed?

On 25 May, 2018, the Terms and Conditions of the SPG Best Rate Guarantee policy were brought into line with Marriott’s Look no Further policy. You can read the T&Cs by clicking here.

Here’s the important bit:

Certain rates do not apply to this guarantee… rates that have different rules such as cancellation or refund policies…

And somewhat less importantly, but still potentially the perfect excuse for denying a BRG claim:

rates that include differing guaranteed custom room options

How will this work in practice?

Well, I’m not quite sure yet, although I will definitely be monitoring this Flyertalk thread quite closely…

The best possible interpretation is that you might now be able to compare flexible competing rates with flexible rates on spg.com (which will be higher than the lowest non-refundable rates). However, experienced BRG travel hackers know that cancellation policies often differ by a day, or even an hour, precisely to allow hotels to escape their BRG price parity obligations. So, a more likely outcome is that you will have to compare prepaid rates against prepaid rates, and take the risk that your claim is denied; you could be stuck with a non-refundable reservation at a price higher than you are willing to pay.

I also wonder whether room descriptions such as “Standard Room” or “One Bed” will be deemed to be the same as SPG’s more detailed descriptions such as “Classic Room, King Bed” or “Aloft Room, King Bed”


Well… it’s all my fault… as my presentation at FTU London focused on the opportunities offered by SPG’s Best Rate Guarantee policy. 😉

Seriously though, we are often reminded that no sweet spot lasts forever and this overnight change is an excellent example. Earn and burn… and take advantage of any great opportunities whilst they are still available.


  1. Pangolin says

    Sorry but I don’t quite follow this. My understanding of BRG was that they would compare the lowest SPG rate (i.e. prepaid) with the rate that you provide via an OTA (also likely prepaid). If the OTA rate was lower then you would get the OTA price with the discount applied to your booking (or 2K starpoints), even if it was a flex booking (and your flex booking would turn into a complex rate but still be flexible).

    So what’s changed exactly? Can’t you still book flex to BRG against, or is it like DESIGN where you have to book the lowest (prepaid) option in order to attempt a risky BRG?

    I have no clue how LNF works as I never tried it.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Yeah, it’s not 100% clear to me either since so much depends on how the BRG team interpret the rules.

      But what you definitely can’t do any more is compare ANY competing rate with the LOWEST SPG rate, yet have the final booking be flexible (but complex as you say). If the competing rate is non-refundable you definitely have to book the lowest non-refundable rate on spg.com. (i.e. more or less how it works with Design)

      I am HOPING that you can compare competitor’s flex against SPG flex, but I suspect that you might get caught by a requirement to book the lowest rate available on SPG.

      Hope that helps rather than makes it even more difficult to understand…

      • Pangolin says

        Ah, so if what you say is true then basically they made it useless.

        More great enhancements courtesy of Marriott!

  2. Matt says

    It’s petty and dumb, they now put the onus on the purchaser to know if the rooms are exactly the same, oh and by the way, if there’s a small difference you’ll get your claim denied.

    As a lifetime plat elite member I recently got my look no further claim denied as I had added 2 extra nights with points ( even though I’d obviously not asked for those nights) because I’d added a separate booking on my points and seniority my claim for the paid part was denied?

    Stupid, and petty

    Fortunately I’m diamond on Hilton and it looks like I’ll remain that way going forward.

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