Do you BRG? Hotels offer Best Rate Guarantee policies to keep you from shopping elsewhere. Most people never put them to the test. Travel Hack Traveling Mom shows you how five minutes of research could save you big money on your next hotel stay.
Next week I’m taking my daughter to swim with manatees in Crystal River, Florida. My hotel room is free. I’m not redeeming points, didn’t win a contest and am not being hosted to write a review. I got the room for free thanks to IHG Hotels’ Best Rate Guarantee, or BRG. The BRG is a valuable- yet underutilized- tool in the travel hacker’s toolkit.
BRG 101: What’s a Best Rate Guarantee?
Simply put, a Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) is a hotel chain or travel agency’s way of trying to convince you to not to shop around. If you’re convinced that your favored chain or travel agency always offers the best prices, why waste time? Companies offer a “guarantee” that if you see a lower rate they will not only match the rate but give you an extra bonus for keeping your business loyal. Details vary widely from company to company, but the BRG promise is designed to keep your shopping one stop- theirs.
Here are some examples of what hotel chains offer if you find a better price:
- IHG Hotels (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, etc.): Book your hotel stay with IHG’s Best Price Guarantee or your first night is free! That’s right. Free. Even on a one night stay! IHG’s BRG is the gold standard.
- Marriott Hotels: Match best rate plus 25% off. Marriott just bought Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, etc.) so I expect their current program will come in line with Marriott’s. For now Starwood offers matching plus 20% off or 2,000 Starpoints.
- Wyndham (Days Inn, Ramada, etc.): Match best rate plus 3,000 Rewards points.
Most offers are some variation of best rate plus extra percentage or best rate plus bonus points.
Is your hotel not in a chain (cough-DISNEY-cough)? You can still BRG!
The online travel agencies also offer Best Rate Guarantee programs. I have used these to my advantage to save on a recent stay at a Disney World Resort. Sites like Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity usually have the best prices on Disney Resorts. This is for a combination of reasons: ability to use coupons, loyalty programs, and the all-important BRG. Here are some examples of what you can get for finding a lower price from the big sites:
BRG 201: How to Submit a Best Rate Guarantee
The submission process for a BRG is pretty straightforward as long as you follow the rules. Right as you book on the company’s website you’ll see a blurb about how you just got the best price. All sites have some variation. Under that blurb will be a hyperlink to the terms of the best rate guarantee and a link to their claim form. If that fails, check the bottom of the website or just Google “XXX best rate guarantee Submit form” and it will pop right up.
Now each program has its quirks, but almost all share the following:
- Book on the chain (or travel agency’s website)
- Submit within 24 hours (75% have this rule so just assume they all do when booking)
- Find a publicly available rate (no Costco Travel, no Groupon, etc.)
- Have the EXACT SAME ROOM identified.
This is where claims are usually denied: EXACT means EXACT! Same room type means:
- number of beds
- number of people in reservation
- cancellation policy
- breakfast, checkout, resort fee, and anything else you can possibly imagine
BRG 301: How to find a lower price
Remember up-top I claimed that “five minutes of research” is all you need to find out if you’ve got a BRG? I mean it! Here’s my secret: Hotels Combined. Hotels Combined is the single most powerful worldwide hotel search engine out there. If there’s a cheaper price- Hotels Combined will find it!
Once you’ve loaded up the hotel on Hotels Combined, be sure to click all the way through to the booking screen- no need to make an actual reservation- and take a screen shot. Be sure to compare apples to apples (see above) and compare the all-in prices including taxes and fees. If you’ve found a lower price, send in your BRG!
Now I never assume my BRG will be approved- I’m about 70% at the moment. So I tend to stick to refundable rates when I book the original rate and suggest you do, too. The sites promise an answer within 24 hours. However, I’ve had them come through in as little as 10 minutes.
BRG 401: A Best Rate Guarantee Example
At the top of the post I mentioned I’m staying for free next week in Crystal River, Florida, using a BRG. I did so using the following steps.
- To begin I looked for hotels in Crystal River on Hotels Combined. When I don’t have a specific property in mind I start there. I found a Holiday Inn Express that looked good and wondered if I might have a chance at a BRG. Remember IHG gives your first night free which means a one night stay is entirely free if you get a BRG approved!
- Then on a new tab I went to IHG.com and looked up the hotel. The lowest refundable standard room rate for two people with free cancellation was $125.30 including taxes.
- I went back to my open search on Hotels Combined and saw a possibility. I’ve learned not to get too excited until I get to the payment screen- remember the rate has to be cheaper including all taxes and fees. Doing so I found this:
- I filled out the Best Rate Guarantee form on IHGs website.
- 30 minutes later I received the following email: “Dear Dia Adams, Thank you for contacting IHG’s Best Price Guarantee Helpdesk with regard to your stay on XX Apr 2017 for 1 night at the Holiday Inn Express Crystal River under confirmation number XXXXXXX. We are pleased to inform you that your claim has been deemed valid. The first night of your stay will be free of charge.”
- I enjoyed the sweet taste of victory!
Have you ever BRGed? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.