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 take two approaches to this
- The stick: Stays through OTAs don’t qualify for elite status credit, or points, or even recognition of elite status
- The carrot: Offering free Wi-Fi for stays booked via official channels plus the Best Rate Guarantee
What is a BRG?
If you can find an OTA the same room on the same dates with the same conditions (eg breakfast included, flexible cancellation) for a lower price than the official website, the hotel chain will match that price and 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.
Because the BRG rewards can be lucrative, it always makes sense to check a meta-search engine like Kayak or Skyscanner 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 Marriott.
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 (i.e. that Expedia is cheaper than Westin)
Westin’s official webpage, showing USD$234 per night for a prepaid non-refundable rate
You’ll need to make a booking on the Marriott official site first before filing a BRG claim. If approved you’ll receive a choice of either 25% off the matched rate (i.e. US$234) or 5,000 Marriott Points.
The competing rate must be on a publicly-available site. In other words, you can’t BRG a rate that is only available to members, or requires paying some sort of membership fee, or requires logging in. Hotels.com, Expedia, Booking.com and the like should be fine. Moreover, the competing rate must be available for instant confirmation.
Other things to note
With the exception of Hilton, all the other hotel chains require that you hold a confirmed booking via the official site before you file a BRG. The BRG must be filed within 24 hours of booking.
The issue is: a BRG is never a sure thing. The competing rate may disappear in the time it takes someone at the hotel to review your claim. The hotel may find (sometimes arbitrary) reasons to reject your claim. I’ll say in the majority of cases, a legitimately-found BRG claim will be honored, but there’s always a bit of uncertainty.
Why this matters is because if you intend to BRG a non-cancellable rate, you run the risk that your claim is rejected and you’re stuck with the hotel’s higher rate. Therefore I’d advise you only to BRG flexible rates, because you can cancel your booking if your claim is rejected. However, flexible rates tend to be more expensive than non-refundable ones.
Assuming you can live with all that, BRGs are great ways of enjoying the best of both worlds- the (sometimes) lower pricing of OTAs, and the opportunity to earn elite points and credit from booking via the official website.