August 24, 2014

About Matching in Best Rate Guarantees

Matching is very important with any Best Price Guarantee. Matching is generally defined as being an "apples-to-apples" comparison of your itinerary to the itinerary offered by the competing booking site.

First: The Room Types

Once a customer service agent has located the lower bookable rate you found on a competing travel site, his or her next task will be to attempt to verify that the room type on the other site is actually identical to the itinerary you just booked. Bedding will be looked at first, perhaps smoking/non-smoking will be looked at next (for a match). If your booking is for "2 Double Beds", for example, it cannot be compared to a lower-priced "Double Room". Why? Because a "Double Room" could easily be 1 double bed, or it could refer to a standard room for 2 adults. We just don't know - and neither would your claim agent know! "2 Doubles" is specific, whereas "Double Room" is not.

Next: The Room Descriptions/Amenities

The next step for the claim agent will be to determine whether or not the room descriptions are a match. If the room you booked on Choicehotels.com, for example, comes with a "ocean view", then the room type on the competing website must also say "ocean view". Within our posts, we often highlight these important matches (such as: ocean view, free continental breakfast, in-room microwave, refrigerator, etc.) that we observe from BOTH competing websites.

Should I attempt a claim if the room descriptions/amenities aren't an "exact" match?

If you find a slight variation with these, the claim MAY still be approved (or more accurately, it could result in the claim going "either way"). One example might be if the Choice website says "free continental breakfast" and the competitor site says "breakfast buffet". Again, this is such a slight variation, that it will not likely be of great concern to an agent who is reviewing your claim. As long as the most important items (particularly bedding/room type, smoking preference, etc.) are clearly the same, with a rate difference present, a claim is certainly worth a shot! How closely the itinerary is matched up by the agents is basically anybody's guess! The closer the match, the better your odds.

Next: The Payment/Cancellation Policies

In most BRGs, you will need to compare "Free Cancellation" rates to free cancellation rates. Non-refundable rates must be compared to non-refundables. You get the idea.

With the Choice BRG, it's perfectly fine to compare their "Best Available Rate" - a "Pay at Hotel" type of rate - with a lower "Prepaid" rate on a competing booking site. We know this because hundreds, if not thousands, of claims have been approved in cases when a competing site such as Expedia.com, Travelocity, Venere.com etc. have been used. (and with these sites, prepayment for the rooms is required) Once in awhile, probably because of a rogue agent or two, a claim may be denied because the competing sites payment criteria does not match with Choice's, but this is usually not the norm. The same can be said of the Best Western BRG - their "Flexible Rate" (usually a pay-at-hotel) may also be compared with prepaid rates (just not "sale" or promotional ones).

All of this is based on experience, both from myself and my blog's readers. Of course, Choice and Best Western always have the right to "crack down" on these payment requirements in the future - requiring them to match. But for right now, this is what we're seeing.

I'm often asked, "Are cancellation deadline times required to be an exact match"? My answer is: usually not. Let me explain:

If Choice says that you can cancel the booking up to 6 pm on the day of arrival and the competitor site says you can cancel up to 10 pm, 24hrs prior to the arrival date, this shouldn't concern you too much. I won't say that this holds true 100% of the time, but don't let time differences deter you from filing a claim with an otherwise exact itinerary match. Smaller differences in cancel deadline times (such as a few hours) will probably be overlooked. Major differences in times (let's say, beyond a few days) stand a better chance of swaying your claim agent in a negative way, resulting in a denial. Ideally, try for an almost-exact (or exact) match, but again, don't stress if the times are a bit off - I never do! Will your claim be denied if the match isn't "exact"? .. it's possible, I won't lie.

Again - the degree of enforcement is always subject to change in the future!

One notable exception is with the IHG BRG, where cancel deadline times ARE highly enforced at this time!

The Bottom Line: You are the Best Judge!

Based on all the information we provide, you should be able to determine which of our featured opportunities offers you the best chances. It's never easy knowing which ones will work, and which ones won't. As we have always stated, the outcome of your claim is totally dependent on the agent's own interpretation of a "match". No two agents think alike! Some will focus primarily on bed type while others will also look at matching more specific amenities like those we've discussed.

So do your best with matching, and don't worry too much about those slight variations - nothing matches 100%!

As we often say: "YMMV" (your mileage may vary). Best of luck!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

IHG just rejected a claim due to the cancellation policy not matching 100% ... matching website was until 12am the night of stay, IHG was until 6pm the day of stay. Ridiculous!

David said...

Anonymous: When the IHG "free night" Best Price Guarantee was new, your claim probably would have been approved, despite this. ONLY LATER (when folks were getting too many claims approved), did IHG decide that they would require the cancel times to match.

I guess they needed to "create" an excuse (cancel times) to limit your opportunities for a free night. As you say, ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

David,
Dixie from IHG has approved claims for me before - so I can see that they must have changed their internal policies re strict enforcement of cancellation times. Do you know of a website which has the same cancellation time as IHG (6pm - day of stay)?

Thanks.

David said...

I wish I knew! Once in a while, sites like Hotels.com and Expedia will match time-wise when they have a sale for a IHG property. Although, most of the time they'll be less flexible than IHG by about 24 hours (for example: 6 PM, 1 day prior to check in date)

Anonymous said...

IHG just rejected my claim for the Richmond Hill hotel, saying that priceline would ultimately be the same price because I would have to pay $5 when I get there in tax, even though the website doesn't mention that and it adds tax to the room rate at checkout.

Shruti Pothnis said...

I have a doubt. Wht is the matching room type for a "standard room" in choice hotels ??
I came across a website with a Lower rate. But it only mentions standard room , no specifications of the number of beds or room amenities .. I am confused which room type shld I book on choice to get a BRG .
Thanks in advance .

David said...

A "Standard Room" on a third-party website is unspecified. In other words, the hotel decides (based on their availabilty at the time of your check-in) which room type you will get. This will never work for BRG claims! (unless, of course, a 1 King, 2 queens, etc. is specified within the Standard Room's description)