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Complete Guide to Free Nights with IHG Best Rate Guarantees

InterContinental BucharestThe InterContinental Hotel Group’s Best Rate Guarantee is the best…. for free nights. Their policy is that simple, book with us and find a lower rate on another site and get a free night on your stay. If you have a one night stay, it’s completely free. Call me crazy, but I spend enough time searching for these things that I prefer to think of it as an art. If you’d like to learn the art of free nights with Best Rate Guarantee, keep reading. (Do I take BRGs too seriously?)

This isn’t new news. Choice Hotels also has a free night BRG policy and I included both in the list of best BRG’s for free nights. I’ve even written about How to Find IHG BRGs before. But I wanted to give updates and a more in depth look at the rules and more tricks for finding these BRGs.

A quick recap

IHG’s BRG is awesome because InterContinental Hotels are awesome… and a few other reasons. Over the last year or so the rules have loosened up quite a bit. I actually gave up on IHG’s BRGs and wrote it off as a scam but recently was enlightened that they actually accept claims now. Good news.

Real quick here’s my strategy for finding, booking and submitting IHG Best Rate Guarantees. (Also keep in mind the goal here is a free night.)

Kayak is my main tool. Go to Kayak.com/hotels and put in the info you’d like to search (city and date) and begin your search. Then the key is to go to the hotel-name-search and search InterContinental Brand

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Then it’s almost as simple as searching for cheaper rates compared to the IHG site’s prices.

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I won’t say it’s obvious when there is a possible BRG, as sometimes you have ghost rates. But for the most part, you can give up if you see all the rates shown are the same. I look for a few rates that are just lower on another site.

Note that this is the first step in my hotel search and not the only one. If I don’t find a better rate I move on… most of the time. Sometimes I get stuck and really want to find a free night at that hotel. I’ll share what I do later in those times but for the most part, there either is a better rate or there isn’t.

If there is a better rate on another site, I book the cancelable room on IHG and then submit a claim (found here) for the same cancelable room on another site. If I’m approved, sweet, free room. That is, after all, the goal.  If not I cancel and go to step two in my free hotel search.

 

The Rules

The most basic thing to know is that everything has to be the same. The bed type, room type, breakfast, no breakfast, pre-pay, cancelable, etc… It all has to be exact. They notice everything and if they find a difference they will decline you. For this reason, I always book cancelable rates and then submit a claim. If I’m declined, no biggie.

What is a little different is that you must match currency. Meaning, that if you’re looking for a room in Canada, and you book the room rate in Canadian dollars, you need to find a lower rate in Canadian Dollars. This is why I use Kayak. Not only does Kayak search multiple websites’ lowest rates, it has sites in many different countries. Find the flag (either in the top right or bottom center) and choose the country you’d like to search.

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Don’t change currency, change country. Changing the currency just coverts it for displaying but doesn’t actually book in that currency. Actually, that’s a big key…

Make sure it’s bookable!

Always click all the way through to verify ghost rates, currency type, and taxes.

Ghost rates meaning that sometimes Kayak will display a price lower than IHG but once you click through, you find out that the price is different. Perhaps it’s old info or just bad info or just didn’t include all the rate details.

As I just said, click through to find out that it is indeed bookable in the same currency. This is only a problem on sites that are showing it in a different currencies but only book in USD.

It’s all post taxes. Click all the way through in order to find out the final price as sometimes you find “better” rates that run out just to be pre-taxes. Although sometimes it just shows it on the next …….. At least on Kayak.com there is an option to check a box that makes sure the prices are post taxes. I make sure to check “Include taxes & fees in prices”.

One thing you may notice is that all rates are $3 cheaper, or 3% cheaper than the IHG rate.

Make sure you check the rate on IHG. Well, I guess that goes without saying as you have to book. But it could save you time to realize that Kayak is displaying an older higher rate on IHG and that’s why everything looks so good.

Lower rate must be more than 1% or $1

This is important enough to put in a header. If you find a rate that is $199 instead of $200… it won’t count. It simply has to be a difference greater than 1% or $1.

Additional Free Night Restrictions

You only get one free night per stay. You can’t just book back to back nights separately and call it two stays… that’s one stay. And besides that, they restrict you from doing consecutive nights. In fact, “If members of the same household make claims for consecutive nights at the same IHG hotel or at different IHG hotels within fifty (50) miles of each other, only the Best Price Guarantee claim for the first night will be honored.”

Two things to note here. First, you or someone in your house can not make claims of consecutive nights within 50 miles. This prevents you from hopping to different hotels each night in a city. At least, every single night. However, if you flew somewhere new, you could make a consecutive claim. Second, it says members of the same household. I assume they keep track or restrict this by address listed in your profile… which can easily be edited. FYI.

Names on the reservation can not be transferred.

More tips on finding a BRG with the hotel you want

IHG generally has their non-refundable advance purchase rates more than a week in advance. Which isn’t too big of a deal but this means that when you’re searching on Kayak the week of, the lower rate found is going to be a refundable rate. Another perk of booking the week of is that the rates tend to fluctuate more often. Checking daily months in advance is more tedious than it is helpful.

Unfortunately I’m not aware of a website that gives alerts for specific hotels changing in prices and that is a travel aggregator. But if you get alerts when a price fluctuates, that’s a good time to check.

Other sites?

I would love to hear of more travel search engines, as Kayak does not do everything I want, but is definitely my favorite so far. For example, it does not search Travelocity.com. I’ve checked Travelocity and found a lower rate on multiple occasions. No idea how but the rates are consistently lower when I check.

One site someone suggested in the comments was Trivago.com. I checked it out and it has many good aspects for comparing rates (includes Travelocity & more). However, when you go into the right and change currency, it just converts the number and doesn’t actually find other sites in that currency. Also, when you choose a different country, it seems to just change the language and doesn’t actually have a different foreign version of the site that searches in the local currency. This is a major thing for me as I travel internationally a lot. The other downer is that you can’t search brands but instead specific hotels. Still, it’s another source to run things through.

On the flip-side there are sites that are simply unreliable. One site that always comes up as a “better” rate in Europe is logitravel, which seems to only have prepay rates. So now I just know to completely skip it. The hard thing is that we don’t know all the reliable sites in other countries and have to waste time poking around.

Is IHG the best BRG program?

Although I’m prone to speak in absolutes (it’s way more fun), the best I can say here is, IHG is the best for me. I can run around chasing free nights. But consider this, if you have long stays, Marriott’s 25% off would probably save a lot more money.

 

More tricks I got from reader comments

I have yet to try this, but someone shared that they have booked on both sites as proof. See, one of the bigger concerns with booking non-refundable rates, and one of the biggest ways to get denied, is simply because the rate changes before the company gets to your claim. I think it’s one reason to call if you really, really want it (although I stick with the online form because of the time it takes to call). However, this person will book the lower rate as well, so that if they get denied, they have proof that the other rate was lower. I’m not exactly sure how this works and if it shows when you booked and stuff. But it worked for someone. I wouldn’t push too far though, a no is a no.

Call, verify and then book?

The other day I went to book the InterContinental Budapest seeing that there was a non-refundable rate. I figured that this could be a way to test out a reader’s suggestion to call first, ask if it’s valid and then book. So I did.

The response was very plainly informing me that I need a confirmation number before he can look. I’ll summarize the rest: he asks why I don’t just book and submit a claim.  “Because it’s non-refundable.” To which he starts to ask questions but without ever looking. Like, “what website?”, “Well, olotels is a reputable website.” “Yep, double and king can be the same.”

Basically says, “it sounds the same to me” but without looking. Of course! It sounds the same to me too! The thing is that they seem to see things that I don’t. And he did. After I clicked purchase on a 150 Euro room…

Good thing I was on the phone

I book and give him my confirmation number, and wait… and wait. Understand that I booked a non-refundable room that is a multiple days’ budget in hopes of him approving my claim. Well, bad news.

He pointed out… that… the room on olotels also includes breakfast. *blinks*

Okay?

“So the rooms cannot be compared, I’m sorry sir.” He tells me. But wait a second! The room I booked doesn’t come with breakfast and the lower rate I found does, and thus it’s not a valid BRG. I realized that he was just following orders, although I did try to convince him that breakfast should make the room more valuable and thus olotels indeed has the best rate.

Thankfully it dawned on me. Change my reservation.

The week of.

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Despite being an advance purchase rate, I could still upgrade my room to a room rate that included breakfast. I paused the conversation, changed to breakfast room and told him that I changed my rate. Bingo.

He later told me that he couldn’t just tell me to change my room type… “because then I’m just giving away a free room.” I don’t know if it was an apology for being stern. But heck, they must hate their job. I mean at least in the past, IHG would deny for anything. I once was denied because I didn’t book the lowest rate… I booked a cancelable rate. To which I informed the girl that she should therefore compare refundable rates. She said she couldn’t start the claim unless I booked the lowest rate. To which I informed the girl that she should therefore compare refundable rates. She said she couldn’t start the claim unless I booked the lowest rate. And so on and so on. I was young and stupid and had too much time. Now, as soon as I hear no I hang up and call again. But that was just their policy then.

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22 Comments

  1. Just thought I’d mention that sometimes even if the BRG agent approves your BRG claim, the actual hotel will refuse to change your rate to complimentary (because they’re stubborn or something). Not to worry though because IHG will honor your approved BRG claim by reimbursing you with a check 4-6 weeks after your stay.
    This happened to me recently. The best part? I got full points (over 13 thousand) for the stay since the hotel did not code me as complimentary.

    Reply
    • Wow, what luck. Did you happen to make the BRG fairly last minute?

      Reply
    • It wasn’t super last minute. My BRG claim was approved on a Tuesday, and the actual stay was on the Saturday of that week.

      I really hope it happens again in the future!

      PS thanks for this post and your recent United routing rules post!

      Reply
    • Oh, Glad people like the United Routing Rules posts.
      In regards to happening in the future, they seem to have a consistent problem that you have struck upon. That’s all I’ll say. But I earned 14k this week on a free night.

      Reply
    • Did you actually get your refund check? I’ve had the hotel not follow through on the free night but I’ve always cancelled because I was worried that I wouldn’t get the refund check.

      Reply
    • Well, the BRG department sends it over to the refund department regardless of the hotel. So if hotel is a pain, or ignorant, call BRG, they should take care of you.

      Reply
    • Yep, I sure did get the check.

      Reply
  2. After I had read this post, I made a reservation this morning with ihg.com for this coming Saturday hotel stay. The reservation with IHG is refundable and the rate is about $30 more than olotels.com non-refundable rate.
    I got a quick response this evening and ihg denied the BRG since olotels.com rate is non-refundable.
    I wrote back and stating that ihg non-refundable rate is still $20 higher than olotels.com non-refundable rate. I asked if I change the reservation, can they confirm it will be acceptable with the BRG guideline. I just got an email back in less than 4 hours, it says , “Please note that any changes made in your reservation will be subjected to re-verification. Thus, we cannot confirm if such intended revision will qualify your claim to Best Price Guarantee.”
    IF I don’t make the non-refundable booking, nothing will happen. I am going to pass this since it is a little bit risky. But thank you so much for sharing this post. I have learned so much. Want to travel with my family more with less (free!!).

    Reply
    • Yea, olotels is on my no go list. But that’s exactly the process you go through to get one. When you get denied, you know what to prioritize next time. Cancelation time and type is huge. Anyways, you’ll surely get some when the time comes. If you ever need any help (or additional tips on this) email me! I like to do what I can to make it easier for families.
      Thanks for commenting Marie

      Reply
    • Not that I don’t like helping others… but… you know what I mean 😀

      Reply
  3. Love the site, and appreciate your newsletters, I’ve learned lots from you. ? Did you post more on this? “Note that this is the first step in my hotel search and not the only one. If I don’t find a better rate I move on… most of the time. Sometimes I get stuck and really want to find a free night at that hotel. I’ll share what I do later in those times but for the most part, there either is a better rate or there isn’t. – See more at: http://travelisfree.com/2013/07/23/ihg-best-rate-guarantee/#sthash.avZIFZ8C.dpuf

    Reply
    • Thanks for reminding me Jeremy! lol, forgot about that.
      I’ll post it soon but I essentially share what the process is of booking a hotel, for myself. Nothing fancy but it shows how I prioritize things like BRGs.

      Reply
  4. how long does it usually take for IGH to get back to you regarding whether or not your claim is confirmed or not?

    Reply
  5. So do you have a phone number to call for IHG BRG?? I found a rate on a booking site that would save me about $500usd. I booked my reservation with IHG and submitted a claim both on a Saturday. My claim confirmation email said it could take up to 3 business days to respond. By that time the lower rate on the third party could be gone. I called the main reservation line and the operator was able to confirm the BRG claim (after 20 minutes of searching). I thought she was going to handle it, but then she transferred me to guest relations who said there is no BRG phone number. There used to be, she said, but not any more. Only claims submitted online are accepted now. True?

    Reply
  6. They won’t honor Olotels.com claims because the cancellation policy is different. It’s crap. I have *never* successfully gotten a free IHG room, and I’m a Platinum member. Why offer it if they’re not going to honor it? @Ryan, took about 5 days. Their customer service used to be good. Now it sucks big time. Plus, with many of their hotel switching to those damnable new air conditioners that turn on and off all night long, we have been staying more with Hilton. Not a good rewards program, but at least a good night’s sleep.

    Reply
  7. Great post. To be clear, can you book consecutive nights in different locations? Or with two people staying together, but different addresses? Seems from your post like this is yes, but have you done it yourself?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Yes. If it’s more than 50 miles apart.

      Reply
  8. Question! I booked a non-refundable rate a couple weeks ago for an IHG property that I knew I needed 2 nights’ worth of to finish Big Win. Just happened to check their website and the price has dropped by about 50 RMB! What do I do here? I thought advance rate is supposed to be cheapest?

    Reply
  9. IHG used to have a BRG phone number until they took it away a few months ago. This is a big disadvantage because if you submit a claim and IHG responds by the time the rate has changed on the third party website, the claim will not be accepted. With the phone number, you would know right away. Also never try a non-refundable claim now that they’ve taken away the phone number. If they don’t accept it, you will be stuck with it.

    Reply
  10. How long does it usually take to get a verdict? I submitted one yesterday, so I obviously would expect some delay from a Sunday, but I didn’t even get an automated email/receipt recognizing the submission.

    Reply
  11. While I generally agree with your sentiments my own position is most similar to Gary Leff’s — while I don’t necessarily expect mistake fares to be honored and don’t complain if they aren’t, in the event they ARE honored I just as soon I be one of the folks who flies on them.

    However, I can’t help but notice that in an article decrying the “not-niceness” of people who switched their booking currency to take advantage of the currency conversion issue that you linked to your article on IHG best-rate guarantees that:

    1. Advises people to try different Kayak country-specific sites to find a lower rate in some obscure currency

    and

    2. Reminds people that although back-to-back BRGs from people in one household are not permitted, you can always change the address on one of the accounts.

    It strikes me that once you leave the realm of simply booking the quoted price and start hacking your travel that you’re only ever talking about a quantitative difference in sneakiness, not a qualitative one.

    Reply
    • IHG requires it to be in the same currency. Switching the country you search Kayak with isn’t a trick… it’s just an option. Booking an obscure currency isn’t even an option. This is not a trick in anyway.

      Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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