I recently had 3 very favorable experiences with hotel chain best rate guarantees, 2 with Marriott as well as 1 with Starwood Hotels. I managed to save over 30% compared to the rate offered by the hotel this way while still earning hotel points and being able to use elite status benefits.
I wanted to share my experiences so people can take advantage themselves. The process is not always simple, but with perseverance and attention to detail, you should be successful. Some 3rd party hotel booking websites also have best rate guarantee programs, such as Orbitz, but that will be a topic of a different post.
In order to take advantage of these guarantees, generally you must:
- Find a better rate on a 3rd party site for the same hotel, dates, room type, number of rooms, number of people, currency, cancellation policy, etc. Basically, everything must match. Sometimes 3rd party websites will have minor differences in the room type name, or will say twin bed versus double bed, but if the room type is still obviously the same, I’ve found that it doesn’t matter.
- Some details on whether a better rate qualifies or not:
- The comparison is usually on the base rate, but the total cost inclusive of taxes and fees must be lower as well
- There usually is a minimum difference to qualify, usually $1.00 or 1%, which eliminates a lot of differences due to currency conversion fluctuations
- The rate must be publicly available and not require paid membership of any kind, such as AAA
- Generally, package rates, such as ones that include travel, car rental, or meals, don’t qualify, but if they do, they must match exactly as well
- Rates available through auction websites, or through sites where the name of the hotel isn’t known until the reservation is complete don’t qualify either
- Book the higher rate through an official hotel chain channel. Make sure you check the cancellation policy if you are unsuccessful. Not all Best Rate Guarantees require you to book beforehand, for example, Starwood Hotels does not require a prior booking.
- Submit a claim form with the hotel within the given timeframe, usually 24 hours of your booking, linking to or giving instructions on how to find the better rate. Screenshots are helpful but do not count as evidence, as chains verify the better rate themselves. If the better rate is not available by the time the chain attempts to verify, then they will reject your claim.
- Wait for a response. If successful, great! If not, double check your details, and cancel your booking if necessary, or try again.
Marriott’s program is called Look No Further. Their program says that they will match any competing rate as well as give an additional 25% discount.
First things first, read the read the terms & conditions very carefully. Basically, there are a handful of Ritz-Carlton hotels that are excluded as well as some smaller brands like Delta Hotels and Protea Hotels. Package rates, excluding packages with breakfast included, don’t qualify. The comparison is on the rate net of taxes and fees, and you must make a reservation to qualify.
For a recent trip to Portland, I was searching around for hotels, when I noticed that the Courtyard Marriott City Center was coming up as $231 on multiple sites, e.g. Priceline, Hotels.com, Expedia, while the official rate from Marriott was $262 a night.
I booked through Marriott.com and submitted a claim at 4PM. The cancellation policy for the reservation was within 24 hours, so even if my claim was unsuccessful, I could cancel my reservation and try a different hotel. Fortunately, I received a response granting my claim by 10AM the following day, lowering my per night rate to $173.50! Success! Still quite an expensive stay, but it was one of the cheaper options for that trip, even looking at AirBnB as well as less convenient locations.
For an upcoming trip to Brazil, I found something quite odd. I found a nonrefundable rate of $156/night on 3rd party websites, but the refundable rate through Marriott.com was $208/night, which was cheaper than the nonrefundable rate of $239/night. Also oddly, Hotels.com was showing the room type as 2 twin beds instead of the 2 doubles as listed on the Marriott site, although the rooms were obviously the same.
Looking at the terms and conditions of Marriott’s Look No Further program, I thought I was supposed to book the lowest Marriott rate available, so I booked the $208/night refundable rate and submitted a claim. Unfortunately, the claim was rejected as the refund policy on the rates were different. I cancelled my refundable reservation, and booked at the $239/night rate that could be cancelled within 24 hours, and this time the claim went through, and dropped my price to $117/night!
One last data point with Marriott: Daniel managed to find a rate that was $1.01 less for a Marriott in Jakarta. Marriott still matched the better rate and gave a 25% discount!
Starwood offers either 20% off the competing rate, or 2000 extra Starpoints per stay (not per night!) You can do the math on which you value more, but if you value Starpoints at 2.4 cents/point, you would have to save less than $48 dollars on your stay to make the points worth it. For their Best Rate Guarantee, you do not actually have to reserve a room for it to apply, you just need to book within 24 hours of your claim being guaranteed. You can read the terms & conditions here.
For an upcoming trip to Cancun, I was browsing around TripAdvisor when I noticed that getaroom.com through TripAdvisor was offering a rate of $109.08/night versus everyone else, including Starwood, which was offering a refundable rate of $229/night. Both rates were refundable, which gave extra flexibility.
I actually made a reservation in panic at getaroom.com to lock in the super low rate, which was actually a bad idea, because when I went to submit a claim to Starwood, the prices on getaroom.com increased!
I ended up canceling my getaroom.com reservation and waiting until the price dropped again to submit a claim again. In total, I submitted 3 claims to Starwood, with 2 of them being rejected because the discounted rate had disappeared on getaroom.com, or the Starwood representative not understanding how to get to getaroom.com through TripAdvisor. Fortunately, one of my claims went through! Interestingly, the rate comparison as well as the 20% discount is done on the room rate including fees, but fees are still added to the discounted rate, which is kind of stupid because fees are added twice. Overall, the rate I paid was $118.37/night plus taxes and fees.
I have no personal data points on IHG, Hyatt, or other chains. I do hear that even though IHG gives the first night free (even on one night stays,) it is very difficult to actually get approved for the best rate guarantee.
Overall, you can save a lot of money on hotel reservations through Best Rate Guarantees without too much effort. I managed to pretty much just stumble upon better rates using hotel price comparison sites. As long as you are very careful about following each program’s terms and conditions, you should be able to get approved.