Aug 25, 2014

Why do Choice claims get rejected? Here are 10 top reasons why they might ...


Here's our top ten list of the biggest mistakes newbies make when filing Choice claims, resulting in rejections, and causing some to lose faith with the whole process altogether:

10: Neglect to match up room types exactly.

The wordage must be exactly the same. If one site calls the room "Business Room" and the other doesn't, your claim will most likely be denied. If one says smoking and the other says non-smoking, this also won't be a match. The bedding and room description must be exactly the same. This isn't hard to do once you get the hang of what you are looking for. First, look at the beds, then, compare the overall room description. Look for similar wording that means the same thing - this is OK. But, if one noticeably stands out from another, there is a good chance it is not BRG-able.

9. Expect that a room type with the same description, but with multiple instances on the Choice Hotels site, will be approved.

If Choice offers what seems to be the same room twice on their booking pages, you'll be told "We are unable to verify which room is being offered (on the other site)" and thus you're out of luck. The Choice room types must be somewhat distinguishable (and the same goes for the competitor site).

8. Being rude or demanding on your claim form to get your point across.

Being snooty, rude, demanding, or just plain unpleasant will not get you anywhere, and you can pretty much expect that you'll be on the bottom of the reply queue from then on. Be nice, and say thanks, and tell them you appreciate their hard work. They're saving you hundreds of dollars, after all.

7. Expect that a claim will be approved for 2 adults, 2 children when the site you are basing your claim on says "based on double occupancy".

In many cases, you will never get a claim approved for more than 2 adults in a room, no matter how hard you cry to them. Most competitor sites contain the clause "based on double occupancy". Some sites list other occupancies (most notably, Booking.com, which often shows the price for 3 or 4 people along with the double occupancy rates). Still, it is very possible that a 1 adult claim will never be approved. Same for 3 adults. Same for 2 adults, the kids, and the dog. We prefer you play it safe - book "2 adults", even if you're alone or with multiple family members.

Some have claimed to have received approvals on 3 person occupancy, but this is usually if they have found a site that neglects to specify occupancy, if the agent simply didn't notice, or if the competitor site quoted a 3 person occupancy rate. But, again, this is rare.

6. Expect that a claim will automatically be approved just because the "rate" on the competing website is lower (before taxes and fees).

Let's say that ChoiceHotels.com has a "Best Available Rate" of $79.99 for a "Standard King", and Cheaperhotel.com has a rate of $75.99 for this same room type. The room descriptions from both sites are identical. Sounds like a valid claim and a guaranteed approval, right? Well, not exactly. Here's why ...

Some online travel sites will improperly manipulate the rate that is supplied to them by the hotel by classifying part of the rate as a “fee”. For example, a hotel will provide the travel site a rate of $79.99. The travel site will then list the rate as $75.99 and claim that there is an additional $4 fee so that their rate appears lower to the consumer.

Take a look at this example: 

ChoiceHotels.com - $79.99 + 8.00 (tax) = $87.99 (total cost)

Cheaperhotel.com - $75.99 + 8.00 (tax) + 4.00 fees = $87.99 (total cost)

In this scenario, a denial will result. The "total cost" is the same on both sites. The competing website has tricked you into thinking that they have a better price. Not so. Choice Hotels views such practices as improper and deceptive. If a third party website does this, then its Competing Rate must include the additional fee so that the Competing Rate and the Booking rate are being compared on a relative basis.

Now, if the third-party website ONLY offers an "all-in" or "taxes included" rate, this is what Choice has to say about that:

"In the event that a tax-inclusive rate on a third-party site is less than the pre-tax rate on ChoiceHotels.com, Choice will approve the claim."

PLEASE NOTE: Choice will reject your claim if you declare a search engine (such as Kayak.com) as the site where you found the lower rate. The lower rate must come from a third-party booking site (those sites search engines redirect you to - such as Expedia, Priceline, Booking.com, etc.). Choice does not consider a search engine itself to be a third-party site.

5. Make a typo in your confirmation number or other info.

If you type in your confirmation number or other crucial info on your claim form incorrectly, it may be denied. Now, perhaps your mistake will be recognized, but there is nothing worse than waiting all day for a BRG claim to be answered, only to find you made an innocent typo, resulting in an even longer wait.

4. Book a nonrefundable advance purchase rate on ChoiceHotels.com and expect them to give you back your money.

Remember, to remove the risk of having to pay the full cost of your hotel room, only book Choice's "Best Available Rate". This way, if your claim is determined to not be valid, you can always cancel the booking and try once again. Booking a Choice Hotels Advance Purchase (non-refundable) rate commits you to paying for the room if the claim doesn't work out.

3. Neglect to click through to the billing page on the competitor site.

Wow, you've just found a sweet $90 rate on Travelocity (the biggest culprit for this situation) when Choice wants $110. You file your claim, and you're rejected. What happened? Well, if you would have clicked to book the rate, you would have been instantly informed that "this room is not available at this rate" or "the price of your room has changed". Never base your claims on rates you see in search results. Always follow through to the page that asks for your credit card.

2. Neglect to compare addresses when filing claims.

Many hotels have the same name. There can be many "City X Comfort Inn". They can look the same in the photo. Don't let ignorance lead to a "the hotel you are booked is a different property than the hotel you see on CheaperHotel.com". Do your homework and file only good, solid claims. You'll just look foolish, and you'll just waste the claim reviewers' time.
 
And finally, the Number One mistake most people make: Linger!

There is nothing more damaging to your free room potential than to twiddle your thumbs and debate whether or not to file a claim. Planning airfare, discussing the situation with your significant other/family, and otherwise pondering if its a good decision is a time-waster (even if it's necessary). Sure, you'll want to think about it a bit since you're only entitled to 1 free room per month, but don't think about it too long. You may lose your chance! There's nothing worse than going to file your claim and finding that the rates have changed. Act fast .. BRGs are time-sensitive!

So start searching! .. and the best of luck with your claims!

Search for hotel and BRG deals by comparing room rates from dozens of travel sites! ... Click here.

19 comments:

Kyle said...

When you say, "You are entitled to one free room a month." Does that mean you are allowed to submit one claim per month or have one BRG stay per month?

David said...

One BRG (free night) per month.

If you wanted to, you can file several claims on any given day. But the free night stays must have a 30-day spacing between them.

Anonymous said...

When filling out the claim form, do you write the base rate, or after taxes?

David said...

I've always put the before-tax, base rate down. Just make sure that the "total cost" after taxes is lower as well (than Choice's total cost).

Anonymous said...

Thank you! Submitted with total price, but broke it down in the comments. Hope it works!

cell said...

What if Choice Best Available rate offers free cancellation (they do not have a prepaid rate on their website) and the lower competing website's rate is prepaid and non-refundable... Will they deny the claim most likely? Choice does not offer a prepaid rate on the website...

David said...

The lower rate on the competing site must be free cancellation (refundable) and can be either a prepaid or "Pay Later" type.

Never compare the Choice "Best Available Rate" that you're booking to a nonrefundable one on a competing site. If you were to do this, Choice would deny the claim.

cell said...

Ok so then even if the lower rate is non refundable, and choice doesn't offer a similar non refundable rate to book, the claim would still be denied? Seems really picky... Marriott and ihg would both approve the above..

David said...

Choice states (in the T&Cs) that the lower rate must have the same cancellation and change policies (as your booking). So if you book free cancellation and the lower rate cannot be cancelled, they are different. Somewhat ridiculous, I know.

Hannah said...

First, thanks for all the great info. I'm ready to submit my first claim for Choice BRG, but the button to submit form doesn't seem to work. (When I press it, nothing happens). I was expecting a confirmation. Is this normal? Is there an e-mail address, I can send the form to?

Thanks!

David said...

Hi Hannah,

I wrote a post on this. It has all the info you'll need:

http://brgdeals.blogspot.com/2015/07/choice-brg-claim-form-submission.html

There's really no excuse for this glitch not to have been fixed by now!

Anonymous said...

Do the cancellation dates need to be exactly the same? For example, if the third-party site has a cancellation date of four days before the reservation but the Choice site has a cancellation date of two days before, will the BRG claim be rejected?

David said...

Cancellation policy matching for the Choice BRG (and other BRGs) are explained in this post here:

http://brgdeals.blogspot.com/2014/04/about-matching-expedia-best-price.html

Anonymous said...

How long does it normally take to be approved. What happens if the OTA changes rate by the time Choice checks?

David said...

Claims usually receive a response the same day if you submit them early in the morning. If you file later in the day, the response will likely come the next morning.

If the OTA rate changes (to meet or exceed Choice's rate) before the review, you will be denied. This is always a possibility, but one never knows - it is always a gamble.

Anonymous said...

Good News. Was approved 2 hours after posting.

JJ said...

Curious, if I book a non-refundable reservation with choice for a BRG, do they refund your card back automatically when they approve it?

David said...

My understanding is, the reimbursement is handled by the hotel at check-in (bringing your paperwork with you is an absolute must!). For clarification on this, you can call the BRG line directly @ 866-633-4100. They only answer the phone during normal business hours. If the hotel hassles you in any way over reimbursement, Choice folks, once notified, will intervene and take care of reimbursing you. They are very good about this!

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Choice deal is bust. They have now changed it to a free $50 gift card instead of a free night for US customers. International customers still get a free night (for now Im guessing that will change in the future)