cover photo by william cho
- Hotel chains offer BRG policies to encourage you to book with their official website and minimise 3rd party commissions paid to OTAs
- If you find a lower price on an OTA, the chains promise to match that price and offer an additional reward, which may range from a further discount off the competitor rate to one free night
- Only Hyatt and Starwood allow you to make a BRG claim without having a confirmed booking, minimising your risk
- Some chains (IHG) are very picky about approving claims, so be certain you have a strong case before booking a room
Hotel chains lose money every time you book with an OTA like Expedia or Hotels.com. It’s not uncommon for bookings through such channels to incur up to a 20% commission. Therefore chains try to incentivise you to book through their official websites, thereby cutting out the middle man.
They’ve tried it with the stick in the past- stays through OTAs don’t qualify for elite status credit, or points, or even recognition of elite status (that is, if you’re a Hilton Diamond member but book a Hilton hotel stay through an OTA, you won’t get the free breakfast your Hilton Diamond membership otherwise entitles you to).
Now they’re trying the carrot approach. Hilton, Starwood and Marriott recently announced that they were making wifi free at all their portfolio brands so long as you booked a stay with them through their official sites. But by far the biggest carrot is the BRG.
What the BRG says, in so many words, is that if you can find an OTA site that offers the same room on the same dates for a lower price than the official website, they will match that price and, depending on the chain, give you some bonus extras which may include a further discount on that price, a gift card or bonus points.
BRG policies differ between chains so it’s important to familiarise yourself with the terms of engagement before trying one.
|BRG Reward||Conditions||Prior booking required?||Link|
|Starwood||2,000 Starpoints OR 20% off competing rate||Find lower rate within 24 hours and at least 24 hours before arrival|| |
|Hilton||US$50 off the bill||Find lower rate within 24 hours and at least 24 hours before arrival||Yes||LINK|
|Hyatt||20% off competing rate||Find lower rate within 24 hours and at least 24 hours before arrival||No||LINK|
|IHG||First night room price free||Find lower rate within 24 hours and at least 24 hours before arrival||Yes||LINK|
|Marriott||25% off competing rate||Find lower rate within 24 hours||Yes||LINK|
|Carlson Hotels||25% off competing rate||Find lower rate within 24 hours and at least 48 hours before arrival||Yes||LINK|
|Accor Hotels||10% off competing rate||Find lower rate within 24 hours and at least 72 hours before arrival||Yes||LINK|
Because the BRG rewards can be lucrative, it always makes sense to check a meta-search engine like Kayak before making a booking, so that in the event you do find a lower rate you can enjoy the BRG-ed rate plus whatever reward is given on top of that.
I’m going to show you how we go about finding and booking a BRG rate with Starwood.
Let’s look at Los Angeles. Always start with Kayak.com, because that lets you see multiple OTAs at once.
Kayak shows that the Westin Pasadena is pricing at $216 per night, lower than Westin’s $270 per night rate
When I attempt to book this on Expedia, I see that the rate is actually even lower- $187. Westin is charging $234. Kayak sometimes does this- the rates they show may not be correct in absolute terms, but in relative terms they will be (ie that Expedia is cheaper than Westin)
Now that we’ve got this information, we simply go to the SPG BRG site, fill in the form and we’re done!
If the claim is processed successfully, I can choose between a USD$150 per night rate (20% off USD$187) or 2,000 Starpoints and a USD$187 rate. I value Starpoints at USD$0.02 each, so here I’m relatively indifferent. I’d probably take the cash.
BRGs are as much marketing fluff as they are reality. One reason why I love Starwood is that they actually honor BRGs. It’s not uncommon to run into cases (I’m looking at IHG) where customer service actively pushes back, looking for all sorts of reasons to deny the claim (eg the booking you found was for 2 queen beds whereas the offical website is offering a king bed. Never mind the fact that you could just have as easily selected the king bed option on the OTA site but thought they wouldn’t be so petty). The higher the stakes (IHG gives the first night free if the claim is approved), the greater the pushback.
So I only do BRGs with Hyatt or Starwood, both of which don’t require me to hold a confirmed booking. That way, even if the claim is rejected, no loss to me.
EDIT: Starwood now needs a prior reservation to claim BRGs. Boo.
Remember that your BRG stays count towards earning status with hotel chains! Find out how to get quick status here