IHG has always been one of my favorite ways to save on hotel stays. IHG Rewards Club dangles an amazing bonus in front of you – a free night (even for one-night stays) for any IHG hotel in the world.
We published an IHG BRG How-To Guide last year.
In 2013, IHG changed the claim submission format to email-only. The phone verification process used to be the way to get your claims approved in about 30 minutes. This isn't possible anymore.
Most of us know that hotel booking sites are contractually bound TO NOT PROVIDE A LOWER RATE than the chain hotel's website. While the hotel has some options to provide different rates, the booking websites like expedia.com have contractual clauses to not offer a hotel below the chain's website pricing. This practice is highly uncompetitive and the UK cartel watchdog has fined several sites but that convention has stayed in place nevertheless.
IHG makes it 'hard enough' by its requirements to find a site with the same currency (must charge in that currency and not just display the price). This eliminates many global booking sites that charge in USD (for non-USD stays).
I did some claims for stays in the last couple of days and got rejected every single time. Here's what I gathered:
1) Cancellation terms for 'Flexible Rates' must now match 100%
Most hotel booking sites terminate the cancellation window about 36-72 hours before check-in. IHG Best Flexible Rate usually gives you until 6PM the day of the stay (or 24 hours prior).
This is standard practice for some BRG programs like Club Carlson, but not in the sense of the BRG. For a hotel stay 12 months out, does it really matter for a BEST RATE guarantee that the cancellation deadline is 2 hours different when looking at a competitor booking?
2) IHG often waits much longer than the promised 24 hours before replying
One of my BRGs only received a reply after 96 hours. The BPG team responded with remarks of a higher workload but also sent emails to wrong email addresses that were not associated with my reservation or IHG account.
3) Some rates mysteriously disappear
The comparison rate in several cases mysteriously disappeared from the booking site. Mind you, the stays are several months away but those rates disappeared just hours before I received the email from the BPG team.
This happened twice to me. I really can't explain why these rates disappeared but would IHG know? 🙂
4) The crazy 'package' rules still apply
If the third party sites throws in breakfast, for example (but IHG does not), and is still cheaper, the claim gets thrown out because it is classed as a package rate.
In sum, IHG has taken a page from Club Carlson and promises a 'Best Rate Guarantee' that will almost never be successful for a consumer.
We have long argued that Best Price Guarantees by several hotel chains are highly misleading for consumers. In our experience, only Hyatt, Starwood and Marriott have a Best Rate Guarantee that deserves the name. All others should not be allowed to use this wording and mislead buyers.