I talked about the BRG Experiments, and how I’m keeping track of different BRG successes and trying to push things like BRGing a hotel that I’m using a BRG coupon for… the never ending goal.
Oh, and a BRG is a “best rate guarantee”, which is when you book on the hotel website and then find a lower rate elsewhere. They usually match and give a bonus. Hyatt will match and discount 25%, IHG will match and make the first night free (even on one night stays).
I explained in a recent newsletter how to do that with Orbitz, which has so far been an amazing never ending train for us. Keeps getting better actually.
However, things have changed recently, and I wanted to talk about the BRG situation from less of a terms-and-conditions point of view. The terms and conditions might say one thing, but what is the success rate? How moody are the agents? What’s the response time like?
Hilton is better than ever. Response times are under 24 hours, and my approval rate is extremely high.
However, many of the agents have defaulted to giving me the awarded $50 Amex Gift Card after the stay is over… even though the $50 Amex Gift Card is supposed to be for domestic stays and a $50 discount is for international stays.
My last 3 approvals I got an email saying, “congrats” and all that, and then it proceeded to tell me about the $50 Amex Gift Card. I then reply and include a copy/pasted part of the terms and conditions that say you get a $50 discount.
It overly worked in our favor when we got both, so it ended up being a profitable $10 stay in Istanbul. Not what I was aiming for at all, I just preferred the $50 discount. Although, maybe people prefer the $50 gift card so they can have a slightly higher spend to get practically reimbursed for. For me it’s just a hassle.
Another time that worked oddly in my favor due to the incompetence of the BRG team…
Another time (at the same hotel) I submitted a claim and the TOTAL for the room on the competing site was about $70. They then matched the $70 and then improperly added taxes to the rate that included taxes.
I explained that the rate I BRGed and they matched was the post-tax rate. I showed how it was about $60 + tax. Did they not even check?
Apparently not too well. They then discounted the $50 from the $60 as if $60 was the post tax rate.
In other words, they double added tax the first time, and then forgot to include it at all when correcting it. Or rather, discounted the pre-tax rate and then made it my final rate.
The stay should have been $20, but we ended up paying $10.
While it’s slightly frustrating getting the wrong policies, when they aren’t that complicated, Hilton is simply the least scammy BRG team on earth. If you find a lower rate, they don’t come up with absurd reasons to decline you.
I once got declined for a BRG from IHG (a long time ago) because the competitor cancelation policy was better… so they disqualified it because they are different rates. Hilton doesn’t come up with bogus reasons, they just check to see if the rate is better or not, and I applaud them for that. I just want the $50 discount on my room if that’s what I’m supposed to get.
My favorite, by far has been Orbitz. If you have “Gold” status (after 4 nights) you get $100 in Orbucks instead of the normal $50… which is awesome.
The staff is slightly fickle and some of the terms and condisions aren’t as specifically worded as they should be.
As I said in the newsletter a month ago, I have been able to use credits to BRG and earn credits. Right now I’m earning $100 per BRG, plus the price difference is given in “Orbucks” instead of discounting the rate… which can work out really well.
That process has been fickle for me, but quoting the terms and conditions has helped – which was my newsletter advice.
The process has been super easy, with only a few declines. Although the declines were frustrating as they were pretty legit BRGs, but the policies are so odd.
The incredible thing about Orbitz, is that it is almost always the best rate or worst rate. In Sydney, Orbitz rates for one weekend were all significantly better than all the other sites, including the hotel’s rates. Which is great because I can either BRG a hotel, or get a good deal redeeming my Orbucks. It’s almost always one or the other.
One awesome tip for using Orbucks is that you can go to Orbitz discount section or the Flyertalk hotel discount codes thread, and apply the Orbitz promo codes to the reward booking. Most of the hotels seem to accept promo codes.
Orbitz has had the best prmo codes of all the hotel booking sites. Orbitz is the one that had a promotion giving $100 off hotel stays of $100 or more… multiple times. You could have used Orbucks to cover any remaining balance. Most of the time it’s small discounts, but hey, it’s a savings.
Btw, Orbitz has the best response times, even better than Hilton. You might not always agree, but at least they are quick most of the time.
By the way, Radisson / Club Carlson is the hotel I filed a BRG with in Sydney, as the rate was significantly lower on Orbitz for the same hotel.
Club Carlson has you download a pdf, print and fill it out, then fax or email it back. In 2015, WHAT THE HECK? Seriously, that has got to be more of a pain for them than any old form app/service. They can’t click over, or copy websites, or whatever.
The intention HAS to be to discourage people from actually using their guarantee.
Anywho, I did all that to try it out, and ultimately got declined because the cancelation time was 1 hour different. Which, just feels absurd at that point. And they took a long time to reply. Just feels like a big scam. Another reason to avoid Club Carlson. Simple things like forms and best rate guarantees are incredibly complicated for this organization.
I don’t have too much to say about IHG, other than I really like IHG.
The currency thing has required me passing up genuinely better rates, but because IHG books in one currency and Expedia another… it’s a no go. Seems silly, but it actually matters for a number of the places I’ve been lately, including French Polynesia where not a lot of competitors book in XPF.
Overall, the free night reward for finding a lower rate has been awesome for us.
We’ve stayed for free at the InterContinental Istanbul, Nairobi, Vienna, Budapest, and a number of others. Many of them multiple visits actually.
The Expedia that used to give people the $50 coupon before the cancelable stay was even completed, now has been over corrected.
You now have to email in a copy of your hotel’s receipt… which is insane because they’ll still check their system to see if you actually stayed. At least they should, and it would be way easier for everyone.
The only thing it does is discourages people from doing it.
I’m totally not bothering with expedia again. Plus, I believe the $50 coupon has to be used on $100 stays. Not a big deal, but a pretty big deal considering you can’t even get the thing without attaching your hotel recepit.
To make things worse, I passed the deadline and it was too late to get my $50 coupon for my earlier stay… even though it was legitamate.
Choice & Best Western
I lump them together because they often have the same issue.
Also they both have great BRG bonuses. Choice gives a free night, and Best Western gives a $100 gift card. Even if you’re paying with your Best Western gift card, you can still file a BRG and get more. A beautiful thing in theory.
But I haven’t had much luck with either because of one of two problems.
Either the hotels sell out all of one room type to the booking site, and/or the room names are different on the booking site.
I had a Best Western with one single room type in the hotel… There was seriously just one type of room to book, but on Expedia the room name was something different. However, the claim was denied because the room type compared was different.
Imagine that. One was called standard, and the other website called it a superior room and because the names were different on the booking sites, I got denied. Same room.
Another example with Choice was the exact same problem but it wasn’t as easy to explain because both sites had different room types but each room type was titled and described differently. Nothing was the same. Obviously some of the rooms have to be the same, but it’s hard to prove which ones were the same.
Another example with Choice is that they told me the above problem was the result of the booking site buying all the standard rooms up. The rates and names were different because the booking site had all the standard rooms, and the hotel’s own website had none.
The reward is great on both of these but it is so hit miss. If there’s a secret, I haven’t cracked it. Unlike Club Carlson or Expedia, I’ll keep trying.
IHG free nights are amazing.
Orbitz is super amazing.
Hilton is extremely consistent in approvals.
Expedia and Club Carlson are total avoids designed to discourage you from actually getting the better rate.
Best Western and Choice are super annoying but have a big enough reward that I sometimes check.
I didn’t mention the 20% to 25% off ones, like Marriott and Hyatt. Hyatt is extremely odd, and there is a FT thread on their oddities. But Marriott is very consistent as well. Marriott actually functions well, which is the big pro for Marriott in general I guess.