I’ve written about Best Rate Guarantees (BRGs) before, which are a great way of saving money or earning bonus points when staying at chain hotels. To summarize- BRGs are a hotel chain’s promise to match the rate of any competing OTA, plus give a further discount or gift, should you find an advertised rate that’s cheaper than that on the hotel chain’s own site. Here’s what the various chains offer:
Filing a BRG is simple. First, you book a stay with the hotel on its official website. Then, you fill up a BRG claim form with details of the competing rate, where you found it and what reward you want. Then, you wait, an associate at corporate HQ reviews the claim. Finally, your claim is approved, and you get your reward.
That’s the theory, at least. In reality, BRG claims are a bit of a gamble because a lot can go wrong in the time between you filing the claim and an associate reviewing it. The 3rd party rate may change, or disappear. The associate may be searching from an IP location that causes them to see different rates (and yes, apparently your location, your choice of browser, even the device you’re searching from can cause OTAs to display different rates). Or, as conspiracy theorists aver, the chain is simply looking for any reason to deny your claim.
BRGs are all all fine and dandy when you’ve booked a refundable rate with the hotel. But presumably if you’re filing a BRG you’re looking for the cheapest rate, which tends to be prepaid. Therefore, you could be in the situation where you have a non-refundable, prepaid rate with the hotel chain and get denied a BRG claim on a 3rd party non-refundable, prepaid rate for whatever reason. Then you’d be stuck with your (relatively high priced) reservation*.
[*The exception to this is Starwood, which lets you BRG a refundable official rate against a prepaid 3rd party rate, approving it if the prepaid official rate is higher than the prepaid 3rd party rate (if this is confusing, I’ll explain it in more detail during the Masterclass)]
Sure, you could book a refundable rate on the hotel’s site and BRG it against a refundable rate on a 3rd party site, but if approved you’d be in a sub-optimal position with regards to price, assuming you value a lower cost over flexibility.
Marriott’s Look No Further guarantee
I needed to book a hotel for one night in Tokyo in May, and was debating between getting a single room AirBnB near Tokyo station for about S$110 all in, or just biting the bullet and going with a hotel where I’d get free breakfast and a guaranteed late check out, with a place for luggage storage should I arrive early. The problem was, the hotel option was more than double the price of AirBnB, which I found hard to justify.
I’d stayed before at the Courtyard Tokyo Station (which was fantastic), but this time it was the Courtyard Tokyo Ginza which caught my eye.
The curious thing was- the refundable rates on Marriott.com for this property were cheaper than the non-refundable ones. See below- the cheapest refundable rate was 22,800 JPY/night, and the prepaid rate started from 29,916 JPY/night.
When searching for hotels on Kayak, I spotted that Agoda was offering a S$179 (JPY 14,520) rate, significantly cheaper than the official site.
One annoying thing about Kayak though, is that the prices seem to change when you click through to another site. In this case, the price actually dropped to S$161 (JPY 13,057). This causes Kayak to give false positives when looking for BRGs, but this time it worked for me.
This meant I effectively had a no-risk, BRG opportunity. I booked the refundable rate with Marriott.com, and immediately filed a LNF claim at 8.40pm. I chose the 25% off instead of the 5,000 MR points, even though those points were worth about US$40 versus a rate saving of S$40. I just felt like saving some money this time.
The following morning at 4.55am, I got this:
I have approved the claim you submitted for Marriott’s Look No Further(SM) Best Rate Guarantee!
I modified your reservation to reflect the following rate:
Rate: 9,793 jpy before tax
Reservation Confirmation Number: XXXX
Your room rate now reflects an additional 25% discount for submitting a successful claim according to the terms of Marriott’s Look No Further(SM) Best Rate Guarantee.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Courtyard Tokyo Ginza
After tax, the total cost was S$146 a night. That seemed like a decent premium to pay over an AirBnB, given all the Platinum benefits I’d enjoy on my stay.
Marriott’s service standard for LNF claims is 24 hours, but in this case they got back in just over 8 hours. As of this morning, I can still see the cheaper 3rd party rate available on several websites, so you might want to mark the Tokyo Courtyard Ginza down as a possible BRG opportunity hotel.
So if you’re looking to book a stay with any chain hotel, it always makes sense to see if you can do better on the rate through a BRG claim.