Best Rate Guarantees – Are major hotels chains cheating on their marketing promise?

Posted on February 26, 2014 by in Best Rate Guarantee, Travel Deals


Best Rate Guarantees - Are major hotels chains cheating on their marketing promise?

I strongly urge Hilton, Hyatt and Club Carlson to stop falsely advertising and remove the 'Best Rate Guarantee' claim from their websites or improve their guarantee to a level that it becomes usable for an average consumer.

Best Rate Guarantees are a major 'selling tool' for hotel chains to get customers to their hotel website. It gives customers the peace of mind that they can't get a better price on another website. But some hotel chains continually refuse to stand by their own guarantees.

Why offer a Best Rate Guarantee in the first place?

Given the highly fluctuating state of hotel rates the Best Rate Guarantee is a welcome promise. I book hundreds of hotel nights every year and this promise is still one that I find compelling enough to click 'book now'.

To be clear no hotel chain needs to provide such a guarantee. It's not required by law and it's something that each company can make up their own mind up about.

However for most chains such a guarantee is more than just driving sales. Most chains work as franchises and in their franchise agreement each property guarantees to set the lowest rates (i.e. the same rates) rates on the chains website as on any other website. IHG (and others) got in trouble for such a price fixing scheme in the UK last year. The chains are interested in enforcing this agreement and the easiest way to do is to give consumers an incentive to send feedback about lower rates to bring properties into compliance.

So far so good!

Who offers Best Rate Guarantees (or BRGs)?

Almost all major hotel chains use Best Rate Guarantees incl. Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental (Holiday Inn), Marriott, Starwood, Club Carlson and others.

Each guarantee gives a different incentive – 20% off the lower rate found (Hyatt), extra points (Starwood) or even a free night (IHG). Another incentive is often the ability to earn loyalty points and credit towards elite status when booking directly with the chain and not through a 'third party' site.

The 'average consumer' expects a simple process – if you find a lower price for the same room with the same conditions you will be able to make use of the guarantee.

Marriott and Starwood do a good job at honoring claims – they have a dedicated department that validates claims within short notice and changes the rates if a claim is approved.

Intercontinental has made it much harder adding more and more conditions to have the guarantee apply in fewer cases. However they do approve a number of claims and the reward is rather big (a free night in a posh hotel).

Who doesn't honor BRGs?

The worst of the bunch are Hyatt, Hilton and Club Carlson – who refuse to honor their own guarantee in most cases. It's frustrating and wrong from a consumer rights perspective.


ClubCarlson_BORGv1.jpg


Hyatt-Best-Rate-Guarantee.jpg

I have made dozens of claims with all 3 chains and each have developed their own excuse to not honor their guarantee. It's duly impossible for an 'average consumer' to get a claim approved if the experts can't even make it happen.

Hyatt's BRG program is notorious for not accepting any site that is a membership site. Now at first glance that seems to be in accordance with the Terms and Conditions as rates have to be available to the general public. However Hyatt treats almost all sites that an internet user can access as a membership site. It's ridiculous!

Hilton and Club Carlson don't even produce excuses – they simply refuse any claim for any reason. If another site has a typo in the room description – they will use it refuse the claim on grounds that both rooms are not the same. If a cancellation deadline varies by 1 minute it is also grounds for denying the claim.

Even worse for the few successful claims that Hilton approves the reward – a $50 gift card – often never arrives.

I strongly urge Hilton, Hyatt and Club Carlson to stop falsely advertising and remove the 'Best Rate Guarantee' claim from their websites or improve their guarantee to a level that it becomes usable for an average consumer.