After recently realizing that we need to spend $905 a month in order to stay within our $20,000 a year goal (while traveling full time and living out of 4/5 star hotels), I decided I need to up my game.
Most of you know about IHG’s best rate guarantee, and how we’ve stayed at a number of hotels completely for free. Not “kind of free, plus other costs”. And no place for someone to misuse the phrase half learned in economics 101 – “opportunity costs”. Just plain free. We’ve stayed at the InterContinental San Juan, IC Dusseldorf, IC Nairobi, and more. Actually we’ve stayed at the IC Budapest, and IC Vienna multiple times for free. $0.
And we’ve stayed at Hilton hotels and Choice hotels completely free as well, due to their best rate guarantee policies.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept, check out the Complete Guide to Best Rate Guarantees. This gives a list of hotel BRG policies. But while this list/guide is definitely useful… I need to try new things. Basically, it’s a little reward for finding lower rates on other sites, incentivizing you to always book with the site offering the best rate guarantee. IHG and Choice offer a free night on your stay, even if that stay is one night long.
Upping my game means exploring avenues I’ve wondered about but haven’t tried. It could mean stacking promotions, or trying out new BRGs that are too good to be true.
I have set up a series of experiments with different programs trying out their BRGs… and trying to make them better.
Understand two things. 1) That I’m super serious about my $900/month goal (for the both of us), and I have yet to resort to eating cheaply. Basically, I’m trying to cut my travel costs to zero. And 2) something being “too good to be true”, doesn’t mean it’s untrue. Okay, with timeshares, yes… it’s probably not true. But with little unknown deals, it could mean it’s fragile.
There are some things that are “fragile” and I will sidestep around them here, and I will mention the results in a newsletter. (If you didn’t know our Newsletter is not the same as the blog. It’s different content that comes out ~ once a month).
This is a long way of saying, subscribe to my newsletter and I won’t be responsible for killing one of my new favorite deals. This post will involve some reading between the lines.
My focus will be on hotel booking sites and not chains, but I’ll start with one chain that displays the concept perfectly.
Best Western $100 BRG
Best Western is the one I keep saying I’m going to try out and never do. This is probably because the reward is long term and when I need hotels, I usually need them sometime this week. We’ve stayed at one Best Western ever, when I somehow got a $100 giftcard without staying years ago.
But now getting a $100 coupon has gotten super easy, again.
I’ve talked about this a few times, but I think right now is a great time to actually try this.
When you book a hotel with Best Western and find a lower rate elsewhere, then you get a $100 gift card sent to your house after the stay. But it can get better.
- Book a BW stay
- File a successful claim
- Complete the stay
- Get $100
- Use the gift card to book/pay for another stay
- repeat steps 2-5
You can use the giftcard at check out to pay for the next stay that will also earn you another $100 gift card. And so on and so on.
What makes it even better is that they often run promotions for gift cards after stays. Right now they are giving a $50 coupon after 2 stays (ending soon).
If you paid for all the stays upfront and had a cheap BW stay, you could get $250 in gift cards, and use those gift cards for your next BRGs. Plus you’re earning points on all stays. Keep track of Best Western Promotions here. Oh, and they status match easily. Just keep stackin’ em up.
And that’s an example of a onetime investment that could become an endless source of free nights. Now I have spent very little time messing around with BW so far, but I have found them to be more difficult to get a BRG with than most other chains, including IHG. But hopefully I’ll figure it out.
Double Dipping OTA BRGs
Websites like Expedia, and Cheaptickets give $50 coupons for having a successful BRG. There are a number of things to try, like how many of the steps actually need to be done to get my coupon?
But the main one I’m interested in at the moment is whether or not you can double dip the BRG coupon, just like best western. The reason why this will be a hard set of experiments is because I have to BRG a hotel, likely do the paid stay, all just to get the coupon. But the real odds are against me that they’ll even allow a rate to be counted as a BRG, once it’s discounted.
I likely won’t be able to use my coupon and then file a claim asking to compare the pre-coupon price. If I use a $50 coupon on a $50 hotel, I assume that they’ll say, “your rate is already lower than the other site offering it for $50″, instead of saying, “yea, you would have saved $10 if we matched to the other site”. It’s far-fetched.
I actually took a few attempts a long time ago and it didn’t really work. In the claim I explained it and still got denied, but in email they did it. But they gave me a code I have to call in. Still haven’t used it! But since then, the site has changed how it does it.
I’m thinking it will work if I can add the coupon after a booking. In other words, have an agent manually add the coupon to the rate a week after booking. This allows me to get the lowest rate and add a coupon to that. And it would also allow me to file a BRG first, and call to add the coupon after hearing back. I will try both ways.
BRG a $10 hotel
Another experiment I could try is finding a $10 hotel while I’m someplace that has super cheap hotels, like in most of SE Asia. It’s hard finding cheap hotels that have actual relationships with multiple booking sites, but it’s worth a try.
For example, I found a hostel in Bangkok for $4 on one site and $10 on another. Unfortunately, I would have to go to the hotel to check in to “complete the stay”. But if I got a $50 coupon from the stay, that’s basically a $50 hotel for $4. Which is practically a 5 star hotel in Bangkok.
While I don’t plan on being in Asia soon, I can at least try it with hotels that are under $50.
Note that some terms and conditions actually specify that the hotel stay has to be at least $50. I guess at this point I should probably go over the different OTA policies.
OTA BRG Policies:
- Expedia – $50 “coupon” – don’t see minimum?
- Travelocity – $50 “coupon” – don’t see minimum?
- Orbitz – $50 in “Orbucks” ($100 for Silver members) – but has a $50 (pre tax/fees) minimum
- CheapTickets – $50 in “CheapCash” – but has a $50 minimum
Again, see a more complete list with hotel chains and all with the Complete Guide to Best Rate Guarantees.
I have already started some tests, not explicitly talked about here, but will try to learn a lot and share results in the future. But on paper a lot of these things are already possible.
If there’s no minimum to get the $50 coupon with Expedia and Travelocity, that’s great.
If you wait for the Best Western $100 gift card, you will be able to pay for your next hotel and BRG it for another $100.
There are a number of variables remaining, but if you try any experiments of your own, please do let me know. And if you find any lucrative BRG policies that I haven’t mentioned in the Complete Guide, please comment here. I’m always looking for ideas.