How I stayed in Paris for free and why I don’t write about Best Rate Guarantees

I reviewed my Junior Suite at InterContinental LeGrand in Paris (photo below) three days ago.  Very pleasant it was too – as it should have been, given the €690 per night price.

Luckily for me, I didn’t pay for it.  The room was comped under IHG’s Best Rate Guarantee programme.

Most of the major hotel chains operate a Best Rate Guarantee.  These generally work along the lines of ‘if you find a cheaper price outside our website for the same room, we will ….’ with benefits including price matching, price matching with an extra discount or (in IHG’s case) giving you your first night free.

Unfortunately, Best Rate Guarantee programmes are a HUGE can of worms.  Some hotel chains let you claim before you book, which is fine.  You point out a cheaper room elsewhere, the chain checks it and then allows you to book your room directly with them, usually for an extra discount.  No risk to you.

InterContinental LeGrand Paris Junior Suite

More often, though, a hotel chain insists that you must book and prepay your room before you claim.  They will then often use the most pathetic pieces of small print to deny your claim.  hotelhomepage.com offers 2pm check-in whilst Expedia is £50 cheaper but advertises 2.30pm check-in?  Your claim is denied.  hotelhomepage.com says a room has a double bed whilst Expedia is £50 cheaper but says the room has a king bed?  Your claim is denied – even though it is actually the same bed, just wrongly described on one site.

Even if your claim is valid, you are still at risk.  With InterContinental, you need to email your claim.  It takes them at least four hours to reply – which is better than last year, when it took a couple of days.  If the deal disappears from the competing site in that time, your claim is denied.  Sometimes the agent cannot find the competing rate even if it is there, if the site is unfamiliar to them.

Because there is quite a high risk to Best Rate Guarantee claims, I have not written about them much.  I do not want to be responsible for readers being out of pocket if their claim is turned down.  I will discuss some of the more sensible Best Rate Guarantee chains in a forthcoming post in a couple of weeks.

With InterContinental LeGrand, though, I got lucky.

IHG usually stops selling non-refundable rooms in the last week before arrival.  This means that you no longer have any risk, since the cheapest room you can book is fully cancellable anyway.  If you can then track down a cheaper room online, IHG will give you your first night free.

If your stay is only for one night, as mine was, your full stay is therefore free!

I did manage to find a site selling LeGrand cheaper (I will not name that site here).  It takes time, though – you won’t find it cheaper on Expedia.  You need to seek out niche travel sites where the hotel thinks it can sneak out rooms without IHG noticing!  And you will rarely find the same deal on the same site twice, as IHG then starts flexing its muscle with the property.

Even then, it is not all plain sailing.  Once IHG has confirmed that your cheaper rate qualifies, it contacts the hotel and tells them not to charge you for your stay.  Fairly often, the hotel fails to respond to these emails from IHG.  In these circumstances, IHG tells you to pay the hotel directly and then reclaim your money from them.

Three weeks after my stay, I am still waiting for €690 from IHG.  I have no doubt that they will pay me – I have their promise in writing in a number of emails – but at the moment I am out of pocket and have had to settle the credit card bill already.

(The upside of this, of course, is that the stay counted as a Qualifying Stay on my IHG Rewards Club account and netted me 15,000 points!)

The IHG Best Rate Guarantee application form is here.  You are VERY strongly advised to read the terms and conditions – and make sure you understand them – before making a claim.  (IHG also likes to change the T&C’s of the Best Rate Guarantee every couple of months, so you need to keep up to date.)  One key point is that the competing website must be selling the room in the same currency as the IHG site – it is very hard to claim against, say, Dubai hotels unless you find a site which prices in Dirham by default.

More on Best Rate Guarantees – ones which are more reliable to claim than IHG’s – soon.

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Comments

  1. Dannyrado says:

    Please read the terms and conditions, and DON’T expect IHG to honour this, I can fully understand why raffles urges caution. They can turn it down for the most minor things you could imagine, and do.

  2. “The upside of this, of course, is that the stay counted as a Qualifying Stay on my IHG Rewards Club account and netted me 15,000 points!”

    Does that mean that nights you don’t have to pay for thanks to the best price guarantee are usually not classed as qualifying stays?

  3. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    I had a very easy claim with Hilton a couple months ago. Matched Expedia rate and $50 discount. Processed within an hour on the weekend.

    • I had success with Hilton too last year but it took a week, five emails and the involvement of their Twitter team plus a followup chaser re the gift card to the Diamond Desk following the stay.

    • squills says:

      I somehow think it’s rather easier to match a cheaper rate and give $50 discount on top than to comp a EUR690 room ;-)

  4. I had success early this year with IHG BRG for a property in London I was planning on staying in anyway, I look on it as a bonus. I think there are restrictions IIRC on how many BRGs can be claimed in a certain timeframe, e.g. you cant book a bunch of one night bookings and claim for all of them.

    My BRG claim was responded to within 2 days and they refunded the cost, the hotel booking was amended to 1p per night. The annoying part was that IHG when checking the booking website must have used my email address to set up an account (!) to fully verify, it certainly wasn’t me, and the welcome email arrived overnight about the same time as the IHG email confirming my BRG had been checked and verified.

  5. I used hotels.com price match guarantee recently and it took several emails and phone calls to get them to match. They tried the old double bed versus King bed get out even though the hotel advertises as fully King bed only! After persisting they finally refunded me the difference.

    • I submitted a claim to hotels.com a few weeks ago and didn’t hear anything. Fortunately, I was involved in a user forum and mentioned the lack of response. I’d had 2 emails and a £58 refund by the end of the day.

  6. I submitted a claim for a Radisson hotel booking that I’d found $50 cheaper elsewhere via their “always cheapest direct” guarantee where they give you the cheaper price plus 10%.

    They wriggled out of paying by the fact the other website offered a different cancellation policy.

  7. As CV says above, the important thing is to look on this as a bonus, not a given. I’ve used this BRG several times, always with success in the end, though they have tried to decline it based on things like the fact that the hotel is offering ‘Full breakfast’ and the competing website is offering ‘English breakfast. But I have always managed to bring them round.

    Due to the hassle and chance of being declined, however, you should NEVER book a room that you can’t cancel or that you wouldn’t be willing to pay for anyway, just in the hope of getting the first night free.

    Like Raffles, I once had to pay for the room and got the money 6-8 weeks later from IHG direct – besides getting the stay posted to your account, you also get the credit card spend for free, which can be helpful if you’re trying to meet a spending target. My experience is that one-night stays otherwise tend to post as non-qualifying, while longer stays with the first night free tend to post as normal, including the free night.

  8. Starwood are one of the best for this, I have a rate with them currently which is 30% cheaper than they can offer on their website. plus I have never had to prepay my rate with them. All you have to do is be a SPG member.

    • What code do you put in for Starwood to get 30% off as I am a points holder with them ?
      Thanks

  9. What about sites like secretescapes and voyage-prive who are essentially a third-third-party agent? They usually advertise rates below the ‘best guaranteed rate’ (which sometimes you can get from the hotel directly anyway, but others not)?

    Can you claim for those offers you reckon?

    • I would doubt those would count. I have had success in South Africa and Hong Kong with IHG BRG and with Hilton. Opaque sites and where you need to be a member, are usually excluded from all hotel BRG’s.

      I would like to re-enforce the points being made here about T&C’s. Read all BRG T&C’s twice so you understand them fully. This is especially important if you are booking a non-cancelable rate.

    • You cannot claim for anything which is a ‘membership site’ – and that tends to include anything which you need to sign up to before you can see rates, even if the site is free to join.

  10. Quark999 says:

    I had success with Hilton – they turned down my first request because the cancellation policy was one day better with them, but I didn’t take that lying down so submitted another request against a rather dodgy Thai website, which I am sure would have been turned down on the bed description.

    However, they sat on it for four days, and then matched the rate + gift voucher based on them being late! I was very impressed – that doesn’t happen with IHG I don’t think. So with Hilton, it’s worth a shot – just swamp them with one request after another, and they are bound to be late :)

    Having said that, I didn’t see that actually mentioned in their BRG conditions – I think it’s just a nice gesture, so probably worth not abusing…

  11. I agree that its worth trying, but not relying on. I’m going to Warwsaw next week and staying at the Hilton. Booked already with Hilton but the price is quoted in Polish Zloty, any ideas how I find a comparison site that will quote in Zloty also? I’m assuming if I submit a cheaper deal in £ or $ they will reject it?

    • Not sure about Hilton. IHG would definitely reject a claim where the website did not price in Zloty by default.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Long time Hilton Diamond here, who stayed at the Hilton WAW quite often. As it is always kind of cheap, it’s not worth spending 1 zloty since they have their new GM. I moved over to IHG and stay at the IC WAW since then. Never regreted my decision. You may think about getting a BRG for the IC instead staying at the Hilton. The IC quotes in Euro so it’s easy to find a BRG. I will also be there on the weekend. If you have any questions, drop me a note at servus73@hotmail.de

  12. Quark999 says:

    They were fine when I submitted a website where you could manually flip the currency – I told them to flip to USD when I asked them to match a booking for a US hotel. Maybe that’s an option?

  13. I’ve had success with hotels.com several times with no bother at all. They matched a price in Venice last year for me that was so different I thought it might be a mistake. They even match their own prices if they go down, which I’ve managed with them as well (for the sake of a couple of Pounds!).

  14. squills says:

    Not sure you can claim EUR690 as a business expense Raffles (if you got it free) ;-)

  15. MilesAhead says:

    Sounds like a good result.

  16. IHG wangled their way out of a claim I made as they said the competing website wasn’t publicly available as it was a uk site and not a worldwide one, they wouldn’t accept publicly surely had to mean in one in your own country, if not why not didn’t the T&C’s say worldwide

    • That is nonsense! I assume it was a .co.uk address? How can a website not be ‘worldwide’?

      • They said (correctly as I asked them) that they only took uk registered credit/debit cards, the site was http://www.holidaynights.co.uk/

        • Thanks, interesting datapoint. Is it possible to only accept UK cards?! Must not have accepted Amex as they do not have geographical verification.

          • I think there is a code within the credit card number showing the country of origin. I was minded to push the decision all the way but as they have a clause restricting claims which can be at their and I’d recently had 2 free stays with them (this was last summer) I let it drop. as I feared being blacklisted

  17. At their “discretion”

  18. Incidentally now noticed holiday nights only appear to take 7 or 14 night bookings, not individual nights, where they were very competitive

  19. Forget the last comment you can still book individual nights, oh for an edit facility ;-)

  20. http://www.holidaynights.co.uk/info/ohg-update/

    and now (final word) I find they’ve gone into administration, thought the rates were too good to last

  21. “You need to seek out niche travel sites where the hotel thinks it can sneak out rooms without IHG noticing!”

    >> What truly happens is that the niche website is usually re-selling rates that aren’t supposed to be public, e.g. wholesale rates, against all established rules. Properties never deal with such websites directly. I just thought I’d put it out there.

Trackbacks

  1. […] InterContinental LeGrand in Paris.  This was booked on points, though.  A week before the stay, I switched it to cash and claimed a Best Rate Guarantee.  This should have also made the room free and non-points earning.  However, as I explained here, […]