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The BRG Experiments 2.0

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.

  1. Book a BW stay
  2. File a successful claim
  3. Complete the stay
  4. Get $100
  5. Use the gift card to book/pay for another stay
  6. 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.

 

Conclusion

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.

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34 Comments

  1. forget about BW, they are ironclad 100% denied brgs. Even in their T&C they say that they do not match sales, or doorbusters.

    I am wondering since you are so strict on your $900 why dont you just go to Nepal/India/Laos etc. and do volunteer work.
    I did 6 months in Nepal, 5 months in Nigeria, 6 months in Peru, and 4 months in Thailand. I paid close to $400 per month for food and board(usually where the kids sleep) teaching English and living with the locals. It was the best experience in my life and beat all of the faceless 4 and 5 star hotels that you speak of in terms of enlightenment. You will have $500 leftover to do whatever you wish in long weekends etc.

    Don’t be like lucky and follow the money just explore and have fun. The hotels are nice but you can’t say that you have seen it all unless you live with the locals plain and simple.

    Reply
    • Part of what I want to do is learn about deals. Also, Carrie and I have done all kinds of things similar, or completely free via couchsurfing. But right now, we have a lot of projects going on and it requires a lot of work.

      Plus, I’m trying not to let my budget determine where I go. At the end of last year we were able to say we spend $20 a night on hotels and we stayed in 4/5 star hotels. Plus we went where we wanted. When we wanted to Amsterdam or Vienna, we did. When we wanted to go New York or Hong Kong we did. We also went to India (which as I mentioned in the last post, India was more expensive than normal).

      But really, it’s just a way to try to do hotels cheaper. I don’t want to just do the miles and points thing, and just write about deals. I want to constantly be trying new things. And I want the challenge of trying to get nice hotels for free.

      Helping people is totally cool. However, I don’t plan on using volunteering as a tactic to save money. Totally not wrong. It’s just that my free time is extremely limited and I’ll do the things I’m most passionate about, not the thing that pays the most.

      Reply
    • i feel exactly what you mean. I am 29 now and started pretty much like you did. I got heavily involved with stocks at a very young age. I started investing at a very young age and dropped out of college during my first year. Just like you I have worked on a number of different projects and had no time at all. For 5 years I did not have a single day off for 5 years straight. I made my first million 4 years ago and now have a number of properties and businesses. For the last 3 years I have been volunteering and spending all of my time doing volunteering work.

      So I am in a pretty similar boat just like you, just that i directed my mind into investing vs getting 4 star hotels for $20. But once you master the art then you will start to think on how to help other people. In any case thanks for being honest and all the best of luck with your blog. I know I am a loyal fan.

      Could you give us a sample of the projects that you are working on? I could definitely help out/donate if it is for a worthy cause.

      Ivan

      Reply
    • Oh, ya know how it is. Business idea of the week, kinda thing. We have done marketing projects for other businesses, but since it’s been in the travel niche we keep our lives separate. If it ends up working out, I’ll definitely blog about my gigs and stuff.

      We also are spending a lot of time trying to build up things with travelisfree. Like we have two years of video being edited by Carrie pretty much full time. And she built this new website. And there are new website features and what not.
      Just keeps us real busy, and none of that is charity in any way.

      I wouldn’t mind being where you are. But I’m sure you can remember what it’s like being our age… wait a second…

      Reply
    • Like your perspective. While i’m far from that freedom, in due time i wouldn’t mind doing as you did (not to save money, but for the soul of it all). Is there a particular organization you aligned with, or highly recommend? Or did you just sort of wing it? Thanx

      Reply
    • Say Ivan, you claim that the BW T&C say they don’t match sales… I challenge you to show us that precise line. Here’s the BW T&C for the BRG:

      http://www.bestwestern.com/deals-offers/special-rates/low-hotel-rates-terms.pdf

      Where exactly does it say they won’t match sales.

      The part that concerns me is here: “the competing rate must be publicly viewable and bookable via the internet at the time the claim is reviewed by a Best Western Customer Care Specialist.”

      In short, screen shots aren’t going to cut it.

      That said, I’m seeing quite a few sales tonight via bc that are open to public review — AND are 28% less than BW rates in a lot of places I’m going.

      PS to Drew: you’re the third blogger I’ve seen today refer to the BW BRG.

      Reply
  2. it is ridiculously difficult to get a BRG from Best Western

    Reply
    • Wish me luck :-p

      Reply
    • ps again to Drew, as you may know, the same T&C also seem to restrict the BW BRG $100 to one per month, per household. (that could limit your strategy, unless you’re…. well, I’m remembering a newsletter workaround.)

      Reply
  3. for Expedia and Travelocity there is no minimum price for the hotel that you are making a brg claim on. If you use a coupon on the booking, then the price with the coupon still has to be less expensive than the competing site. The coupon that you will receive — the prize , is fifty dollars off a minimum spend hotel booking, so worth very little , at least to me. And the approvals are hard to come by — you will be denied for a one minute difference in cancellation policy for example.

    Cheaptickets or orbitz — the daily rate must be at least fifty dollars on their site. Also the approvals are hard to come by — if the cheaper rates is discounted, on sale, described as lower than usual, shown as a price slashed out with a lower price next to it the claim will be denied. If the cheaper rate is a promotion, if the room is described slightly differently , if the cheaper rate is on a site that they consider to be a consolidator or membership club or etc again the claim will be denied. Oh and if you actually succeed you will have to call and write and call again to get them to actually post it. They do allow the occasional brg to go through even though it has not met all of the above conditions , just to pretend that they have a brg program, just as the brg program is in place to pretend that you are getting the lowest price to book with them.

    Reply
    • I’ve definitely had good luck getting approved, I’m at phase two, so to speak. I guess I need to get creative for how to use these suckers. Like I said, if I can apply the coupon after the fact, that would be amazing.

      Reply
  4. I’ve had success twice with BW BRG, so I say, “go for it!”

    Reply
    • Thanks. Any tips? :-p
      I’m sure it will be like anything else really. Just gotta find the site to beat it.

      Reply
  5. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but do you send newsletters that often? My last one was in February. Not calling you out for being slow, more concerned that I’m not receiving them.

    Reply
    • I forgive you. :-p Realistically it’s not every month.
      There was one 2/24 but there should have been one since then. But it sent it out to everyone at different times. So that’s only one in the last few months, but I’ve been working with Aweber to fix the last issue… and I haven’t had time to read the last long email. But in 2014 we sent 11 newsletters out… so that’s close enough, right?

      Reply
    • I received one newsletter since you wrote this post. In October.

      Reply
  6. IHG will ban you if you go too hard. It’s not a substitute for renting an apartment. Also you have to float a significant amount of money for reimbursements. Keep in mind the Best Western BRG is US only.

    Reply
    • 1) I have friends that do IHG BRG’s every weekend and don’t get banned.
      2) You don’t have float significant money with IHG’s BRGs except in rare occasions and those are blessings as you earn elite credit, points, and get the charge on your card, plus extra for the foreign transaction fee (which I don’t pay). I’ve only made money and points on those free nights. But out of all the BRGs I’ve done, there have only been two hotels that I’ve had to pay and get reimbursed. It’s property specific.
      3) This post only mentions IHG as an old tactic and is about new tactics (like not IHG but OTAs)

      Reply
    • You should at least mention that the Best Western BRG is only domestic though. Come on now.

      Reply
    • BW BRG works internationally. Or at least in Europe.

      Reply
    • Best Western Low Rate, Guaranteed! Program (“Program”): If a consumer finds a lower published
      rate on the internet, excluding taxes and fees, at any Best Western branded hotel in NORTH AMERICA
      than the rate published on bestwestern.com or a participating affiliate organization website, Best
      Western International, Inc. (“Best Western”) will honor the competing rate and provide a $100
      (USD) Best Western Travel Card®
      (“Travel Card”).

      HUH???

      Reply
  7. HI Drew,

    I too am wondering about your newsletter. I have not received it at all during the past month or so. Any chance you could send me the past few editions?

    Thanks,

    Reply
    • As I mentioned above, I’ve had trouble and have only sent one in the past 3 months. But there will be another one soon. Thanks for the patience.

      Reply
  8. You an double dip with expedia. Bookings paid for by using an expedia coupon qualify for BRG.

    Reply
    • Great. Looking forward to trying!

      Reply
  9. Had my brg claim approved today by Best Western. First time for me with a Best Western approval and I have tried several times this past year.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the info. Not sure if I should be discouraged that the percentage, or encouraged that the latest one is approved. :-)

      Reply
  10. Summer Point Breaks just announced! Maybe you’ll find something on the list you like. Intercontinental Nha Trang (Vietnam) appears to be the nicest hotel on the new list.

    Reply
  11. Everything I know about the Orbitz BRG I learned from Jamison. And it has been very, very good.

    Reply
  12. I’ve just completed a BW BRG and Choice BRG in Melbourne (I live in Sydney and wanted to try out the process after reading about it here).

    It seems quite easy to do BW in Australia actually and very easy for some hotels for Choice. I’ll be posting a trip report later on but happy to email through the actual responses etc. I’ve been trying to do IHG in Sydney and getting denied. One time they pulled ALL third party rates after I submitted one for the Intercon Sydney (very dodgy!) and claimed that they could not make the booking on the third party site.

    First time commenting here but Drew let me know if you want me to email some details.

    Reply
  13. Just wondering how the Orbitz BRG works with Euro’s…

    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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