Posted by Ric Garrido

My last paid hotel night with IHG was at the Holiday Inn Express Tehachapi, California on my way to Las Vegas. It was a free night through the IHG Best Price Guarantee that I paid for with a $135 charge to my Diners Club card.

I paid my credit card charge of $135 two weeks ago. Last night I deposited a $135 reimbursement check from IHG for the hotel stay on the last Saturday night in October.

This actually worked out very well since my paid stay earned nearly 16,000 points and I used those 16,000 points to redeem four PointBreaks hotel nights at the Crowne Plaza in Charlotte, North Carolina last month for 20,000 points.

IHG has one of the Best Rate Guarantee policies among all the major hotel chains.

Best Price Guarantee

We’re so sure the best prices for our hotels are found on our websites that we were the first to offer the most powerful price guarantee ever by a global travel company. Find a lower price elsewhere and your first night is free. That’s our Best Price Guarantee and just one of many benefits you get with the Book With Us Advantage.

InterContinental Hotels Group Best Price Guarantee

My next free night with IHG Best Price Guarantee

Tomorrow night I will be staying at a Holiday Inn on another free night with IHG. There is still uncertainty whether this will be a no charge stay or whether I will need to pay the room rate and tax and wait a month for reimbursement.

Honestly, I am hoping the process works out similarly to last time and I pay the rate, earn IHG Rewards Club points and The Big Win credit for bonus points, then get my money back from IHG in a check sometime around February.

What a feat it will be if I complete half my 2013 Big Win tasks and earn 50,000 IHG Rewards Club points, ultimately without spending any money.

The IHG Best Price Guarantee Process

I am heading to San Diego this week for a family gathering before Christmas. This is a 500 mile drive one-way from Monterey. I have been checking hotel rates frequently in a variety of cities along the California coast from Pismo Beach to San Diego. I plan to drive leisurely and sightsee.

IHG Santa Maria

IHG website showed $119 Best Flexible Rate for this Holiday Inn along my route. (As a general rule, I do not broadcast hotels for Best Rate Guarantee claims).

Kayak.com is a convenient meta-search engine for checking rates from a variety of online travel agencies. Kayak.com will often show rates from 11 OTA sites and the hotel brand site rate.

Rate discrepancies are easy to find between the brand site and the OTA site.

My focus this trip is finding rate discrepancies with IHG and Marriott since these are the best promotion offers currently in my opinion.

I had successful Best Rate Guarantee discounts with both chains for hotel stays this next week.

image

Travelocity showed a rate of $79.20 for the same room at the same Holiday Inn hotel.

Terms, including cancellation policies, are same for Travelocity $79 rate and IHG $119 rate.

This was a Best Price Guarantee claim waiting to be made.

1. Book the room at IHG website.

IHG Best Price Guarantee requires the guest to book the room on an IHG website and then submit a Best Price Guarantee online claim form within 24 hours of making the IHG reservation.

4. Did you find a lower room price and a total room cost that are both less than the room price and the total room cost for the IHG hotel on a “competing Web site” within 24 hours of your IHG reservation?

A competing Web site is a Web site that sells a hotel room from the IHG Family of Brands (InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn® Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Express® Hotels, Hotel Indigo® Hotels, Staybridge Suites® Hotels and Candlewood Suites® Hotels). It is not another hotel brand Web site. Rooms on the competing Web site must be publicly available, viewable and bookable on the Internet at the time of verification.

I understand the ‘within 24-hours’ rule is necessary since hotel rates are dynamic. There is a good chance the rate you book will drop before your hotel stay. Without the 24-hour rule, guests would be filing Best Rate Guarantee claims all the time after making their hotel reservations.

One of the odd aspects of IHG Best Price Guarantee that differs from all the other major chains is IHG does not state a policy for the timeline to respond to a Best Price Guarantee claim submission.

Most hotel chains state the Bet Rate Guarantee claim will be processed within 24 hours. A Marriott agent told me on a former Best Rate Guarantee claim that if the Look No Further claim (Marriott’s BRG name) is not processed in 24 hours of claim submission, then the claim is approved by default.

I submitted my IHG Best Price Guarantee minutes after making my reservation on Tuesday afternoon and it was only this morning, 40 hours after submitting my claim, that the Best Price Guarantee claim was approved for a free hotel night. That is a long wait. The time to cancel the IHG reservation without penalty was less than 12 hours away before the reservation became nonrefundable.

The slow processing of IHG claims along with no policy statement in the Best Price Guarantee terms for submitting a claim prior to the hotel stay date makes IHG’s Best Price Guarantee loosely defined for timelines. Other major hotel chains have defined timelines.

For example, Marriott Look No Further Best Rate terms state: 

  • Your claim must also be submitted no later than 24 hours before your check-in time.
  • Marriott will verify the Comparison Rate within 24 hours of receiving your claim and notify you of the results. Because the claim must be processed before check-in, you must submit your claim at least 24 hours prior to check-in.

IHG allows last minute Best Price Guarantee claims, however, you might not get an approved claim prior to actually arriving at the hotel if you have a same day or next day arrival.

In my case, this was why I had to pay the room rate for my October stay when the claim was approved on the same day I was scheduled to check-in at the Holiday Inn Express hotel. It was over a month after my paid stay before IHG cut a reimbursement check for the free night stay.

(Theoretically) How a nonrefundable IHG hotel night could become a free night

Hotel Indigo San Diego was $91 when I checked Wednesday morning and I considered booking that rate. The rate was prepaid and nonrefundable which is the reason I did not book the rate. The rate dropped to $80 last night.

Seems to me like I would have had an eligible Best Price Guarantee if I had booked the $91 rate yesterday morning and then filed a claim last night after the rate dropped to $80.

Hotel Indigo BRG

Hotel Indigo $91 prepaid, nonrefundable rate on Wednesday morning.

Hotel Indigo San Diego 80

Hotel Indigo $80 rate appeared Wednesday night.

Assume I had booked the $91 rate yesterday, then after the rate change, all the OTA sites showed $89. Seems like this would have been a free night if the timing was right to submit the Best Price Guarantee claim within 24 hours of the IHG website reservation.

Interestingly, Kayak shows the OTA sites did not drop their rates from $91 to $80. The OTA sites all show their rates at $89.

image

Kayak shows Hotel Indigo brand site with $80 rate and most OTA sites with $89 rate for same room and prepaid, nonrefundable terms.

In theory though, this still looks like it could have been a Best Price Guarantee claim if I booked Hotel Indigo yesterday morning for $91 and the OTA rate changed to $89 last night.

Here is IHG Best Price Guarantee Price Matching terms:

6. c. Matching Prices – Price Variance. The nightly room price and the nightly total room cost (for one night stays) or the average nightly room price and the average nightly total room cost (for multi-night stays) must each be lower than the IHG room price and the IHG total room cost, respectively, by at least 1% or $1 USD (or the equivalent in the hotel’s currency) (whichever is higher). Coupons or vouchers may not be utilized to lower published room prices for the purposes of making a claim. The Guarantee does not include extra fees such as extra person charges, except as stated in paragraph 6.d.

IHG Best Price Guarantee terms

In the USA, where there are no currency exchange issues for terms, the OTA rate must both be:

  1. Lower room rate (IHG = $91 yesterday morning; Expedia = $89 last night).
  2. Total room cost after taxes and fees must be lower on OTA ($100.18) than IHG site ($102.43 nonrefundable rate booked).
  3. Rate must be lower by at least $1.00 or 1%, whichever is greater.

IHG Best Price Guarantee claim:

$102.43 Hotel Indigo IHG confirmed reservation rate before rate dropped to $80.

$100.18 Hotel Indigo rate on Expedia within 24 hours of booking $91 rate.

Hotel Indigo Expedia rate

Expedia is $2.25 less than IHG booked rate of $102.43 for greater than 1% difference. $89 Expedia rate is $2 less than $91 IHG rate for Hotel Indigo.

The fact that IHG dropped its rate to $80 should not be an issue since the IHG rate booked was $91 at the time of the confirmed reservation.

This looks to me like a prepaid, nonrefundable rate that could have turned into a free night.

As a general rule I do not book prepaid, nonrefundable rates so this analysis is simply an exercise in possibilities.

One final point about IHG Best Price Guarantee. An approved claim for a free night means no other claims for a free night can be made for an IHG hotel within 50 miles within a seven-day period. This means that I can’t get the same Holiday Inn hotel for free on my trip home.

But I can still get one free night at an IHG hotel in San Diego. There was one hotel where I could have made a claim, but it would have required going to the eastern side of San Diego. I prefer staying at the beach on Coronado Island.

Free hotel nights are not always the best deal around.

*****

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

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20 Responses

  1. Expedia/Travelocity are having 72-hour 20% sale and now I am seeing Best Rate Guarantee rate discrepancies all over the place in California hotels. Just filed another claim with IHG.

  2. What does OTA mean?

  3. Have you noticed that the prices fluctuate most about 2-3 days out? (When?) If so, then that might be the best time to try this trick.

  4. Would I be able to claim a BRG one night and have my wife claim a BRG a second night so we could merge our two BRGs into a two night stay?

  5. @bluecat – OTA = Online Travel Agency like Expedia or Travelocity.

    Prices have been fluctuating quite a bit this week with the Christmas holiday rates generally dropping over the past two days at many hotels.

    I have seen about 20 potential BRG claims with Marriott and IHG in cities I checked in California.

    @Jon
    10.Additional Free Night Restrictions. Once a valid claim has been made and approved by IHG for a specific date, no further claims by the same person or anyone in the same household will be accepted for the same date.

    If an individual or members of the same household make multiple claims for two or more nights in the same seven (7) day period at the same IHG hotel or at different IHG hotels within fifty (50) miles of each other, the claims will be treated as, and limited to, one claim for one stay, even if booked through more than one reservation, and only the Best Price Guarantee claim for the first night will be honored. In the event of a valid claim, reservations are non-transferable after the claim is found to be valid, and the name on the reservation must remain the same as when the claim is verified and no additional names may be added to the reservation after the claim is found to be valid. Valid government issued ID is required upon check-in that matches the name found on the reservation. Employees of any IHG company or employees at any IHG hotel are not eligible for the Best Price Guarantee.

    https://www.ihg.com/hotels/us/en/customer-care/lowest-internet-rate-terms-conditions

    Works if you have different addresses on file and are not from same household. Technically I guess your free night could be forfeited if IHG thinks you are intentionally circumventing the Best Price Guarantee.

  6. I have booked a hotel for a stay for next Feb. and requested BRG since the OTA had a lower rate. After five days I still have not heard back from IHG. This is my second BRG request and the same thing happened to me and after 10 days of no reply, I canceled my reservation since OTA rate was the same with the IHG rate. Any readers have the same experience?

  7. I’ve often had them take a day or two to validate, by which time the rate is no longer available?

    Can I ask what OTA’s people successfully use for them? I’ve tried before with hotels.com and keep getting rejected, because hotels.com says you can cancel 1 day before, while IHG says you can cancel up until 6 pm on the day.

  8. 40 hours?!?! That’s a lightning quick response compared to my attempts. My latest one is still waiting response after 172 hours! (That’s 7 days and change). But they had the time to e-mail me twice saying they were “still researching”. Seriously? In the time it takes to send those e-mails, they could have been half-way done with verifying my claim.

  9. Out of curiosity, are you using the BRG policies to ensure you get the best possible rate at hotels you wanted to stay at anyway or are you specifically staying at hotels that result in free nights because of the BRG?

    Assuming you answer in the affirmative to the latter, would it be possible over the course of a two night stay to book one night under my name and a 2nd night under my wife’s name to get 2 consecutive nights free? Assuming I’m traveling on a road trip and need 1 night departing and 1 night returning within a 7 day window, could the 2nd night be booked under my wife’s name to get two non-consecutive free nights within a 7 day window?

  10. @Tommy Z. – If you and your wife have the same address, then you can’t get two BRG claims for the same hotel in a 7-day period.

    Also, no name changes allowed so if you had a BRG free night under her name, she would have to be there to check-in.

    I specifically picked hotels for BRG free nights. The locations are also convenient for my travel itinerary.

    In San Diego I did not apply for BRG claims with Marriott and IHG at eligible hotels since the hotel locations would have taken me away from the beach area.

    I will have around 13 hotel nights over the next month so I am also focused on getting the best promotion bonus offers with my hotel stays. That is why I am focused on IHG and Marriott and I will start on Hyatt and IHG in January.

  11. It seems like most of the variances between the hotel’s website and broker websites are when the night of the state is not too far out.

    Based on some comments, it also seems like several people submit claims for their free night, but those claims may be denied because they take so long to respond and by the time they do respond (perhaps this is intentional to avoid awarding the free nights), the broker’s website price has gone back up to match the hotel’s price.

    With all that said, what happens in the event that you file a claim within the time limits, but your claim is not answered by the time of your stay (or by the last minute you can cancel without penalty)? In an event like that, since that specific nightly booking has already happened, then the hotel would have no way to verify if the broker site was offering a lower rate or not, right? So, what would you do then? Show up to the hotel and ask them at the front desk for a free night stay because nobody replied to your claim yet?

    Just curious to know how that works.

  12. @Tommy Z. – I may be testing that Best Price Guarantee on Saturday night for a reservation I have with 6pm cancellation without penalty.

  13. I’m so glad I found your website and learned about the Best Rate Guarantees! I just booked a hotel for next month (Choice Hotels) and they approved my claim on my third attempt. The first attempt they denied the claim because the link was to Kayak’s booking website via GetaRoom.com and they said search engines like Kayak do not count. So, my 2nd attempt (the following morning) I submitted the claim using the link directly at GetaRoom.com. They denied that one too because although the price was still cheaper, they didn’t reply until 11am and when they did, GetaRooms price went up to match ChoiceHotels. I replied and sent them screen shots to prove the rate was cheaper both yesterday and earlier that morning, but they replied saying my claim is still denied because the rate has to be lower when they check it, not when I submit it! So, I cancelled the reservation and booked a different hotel in that chain the next day that had a cheaper rate on Expedia. They approved that one for a free night! Now, here’s a few questions I have:

    1. Is it only ChoiceHotels and Intercontinetal that do the free nights or are there other chains too?

    2. Intercontinental is very slow getting back to me on a submitted claim. If I see that the price has gone up on the broker website before they reply to my claim, should I not bother waiting and cancel the claim and reservation and book something else right away along with a new claim on the new booking (pick a different hotel)?

    3. Have you found it to be better to split up a longer stay across multiple hotel brands to take advantage of the best rate guarantees or better to just book a 2-3 night stay with the same hotel, but only get the first night free?

    4. Do you have a summary of how the claims work by chain? For example, is the free night (or discount) applied right away or so you still have to pay but then get a refund check mailed (or voucher to get your next night free)?

    5. Let me know how your stay tonight went!

  14. @Tommy Z.

    1. Choice and IHG are the only sites offering first night free and other nights match lower rate.

    2. I canceled my IHG reservation for a second claim I filed this week. The rate went up on Travelocity to match the IHG rate before my claim was approved. Screenshots do not count with any of the hotel programs.

    The rate discrepancy has to be there when the claim is verified. This is why it is a big problem when IHG does not have a response time for a Best Rate Guarantee claim within 24 hours like all the other chains. Hotel rates fluctuate almost daily at many hotels.

    Hyatt and Kimpton allow instantaneous phone verification. Hyatt is the fastest response time, but I do not find many Hyatt rate discrepancies. I had a 3-night Best Rate Guarantee stay with Hyatt in October for Denver Cherry Creek Hyatt Place.

    3. When traveling alone I generally do not mind changing hotels daily. At other times I need to be at one hotel so I do not waste time moving around each day. I have passed on Best Rate Guarantee claims when I need to stay in one place.

    4. http://boardingarea.com/loyaltytraveler/2013/12/11/hotel-chain-best-rate-guarantee-policies-compared/#sthash.RdlZr4Or.dpbs

    5. Free night at Holiday Inn Santa Maria. It was free. The disadvantage is the stay will not count for The Big Win since I did not pay anything. No problem though. I needed a hotel night to break up the 500 mile drive to San Diego. I splurged on a hotel restaurant breakfast to start my day before the 300 mile drive from Santa Maria to San Diego.

    I have another IHG AAA rate ($75) hotel lined up for the trip back to Monterey.

  15. I just noticed that I have received three emails from my IHG Best Price Guarantee for Friday 12/20.

    I filed the claim at 3pm Tuesday 12/17.

    1. Thursday morning 12/19 7am Ria from IHG sent a claim approval email that I would have a free night.

    2. Friday morning 12/20 1:41am Joanne at the IHG Best Price Guarantee Help Desk sent an email approving my claim for a free night.

    3. Best of all is the email from Cindy

    “We are pleased to award you a free night on 20 Dec 2013 at the SANTA MARIA (Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites)”

    This email arrived at 6:50 pm Saturday night 12/21, more than 10 hours after I had checked out of the Santa Maria hotel.

    Too bad Joann or Cindy could not have processed my other IHG Best Price Guarantee claim from Thursday morning before the rate went up on Travelocity on Friday morning.

  16. I have heard about these best rate guarantees for some time, but I’ve thought oh there just a waste of my time and the hotel chain doesn’t provide adequate follow up.
    Thanks to Loyalty Travelers posts on this, it seemed worthwhile. Now what do you know, after a quick check of kayak.com vs Ihg, I got a claim approved.
    Thanks Loyalty Traveler!

  17. What’s better of these two when you cannot use a Best Rate Guarantee at IHG or Choice Hotels to get it free?

    1. Pick a different hotel chain that has a less generous “Best Rate Guarantee” program?

    or

    2. Book a hotel through Hotwire or Priceline to get a really cheap price (although no loyalty points & not be refundable)?

  18. I would not plan my travel around finding Best Rate Guarantee hotels. I just happen to find a Best Rate guarantee eligible hotel regularly when planning my travel.

    If Priceline or Hotwire offers the best price, then that is how I would go. Generally I can find a hotel rate combined with a promotion that gives better value than Priceline or Hotwire.

    The day after the IHG Best Price Guarantee free night I booked Marriott La Jolla on a Best Rate Guarantee.

    Marriott site $119
    Expedia site $90.30
    Marriott BRG rate 25% off $67.

    Priceline or Hotwire would not have been less than $67 or only slightly less, and the MegaBonus promotion means one more Marriott stay and I earn one free category 1-5 hotel night certificate good for one year. I plan to stay at a Marriott in Detroit in two weeks to earn the second stay credit for the free night.

    Assuming I pay $50 more than Priceline to stay at a Marriott brand in Detroit: I earn one free night for that $50. I plan to spend two of my free nights in Detroit with Marriott certificates in my account getting $400 in room rate for free.

  19. […] Critique of IHG Best Price Guarantee […]

  20. Rick,
    how do you deal with currency exchange issues? I’m potentially looking at two ICs but keep getting tripped by the currency issues. Are there websites that you can use?

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