This opportunity works for both hotel stays and airline tickets. The purpose of the vendor offering a guarantee is to entice you to book your room or flight directly with the vendor site you are viewing at that given moment. This guarantee states that if you find a better rate anywhere else online, your rate will be reduced to the competing rate, and/or you’ll be given a discount voucher or coupon for a future stay or flight. Let’s face it, there are so many booking sites that they need to entice you to use their service. Look at hotel rooms, for example. I know of at least 30 different sites where you can book a hotel room in addition to the actual website of the hotel.
Historically, the finest Best Rate Guarantee was offered by the Wyndham hotel program. Wyndham offered a free first night’s stay if you found a better rate anywhere else on the Internet. Enterprising free hotel junkies would find acceptable lower rates, submit their guarantee requests and get their first night free. What Wyndham did not count on was that the guarantee junkies would only book one night at the hotel and then move on to another hotel, repeating the free night scenario.
I’m guilty as charged. One year when traveling from Traverse City, Michigan to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for the winter, we took our time, as my bride had just undergone shoulder surgery and couldn’t sit for long hours in the car. We took five nights to make the trip and I found a free Best Rate Guarantee each and every night of the trip. Many reported staying numerous nights in the same city, and just hotel hopping from one free night to another.
Wyndham killed the bonanza and went to a more traditional award for finding a cheaper rate which consisted of matching the lower rate and providing a discount on a future stay. That reward and guarantee is now the norm with hotel Best Rate Guarantees. A typical award would match the rate and provide a $50 off voucher for your next night if booked with the same site.
One of the shortcuts I’ve used to find viable Best Rate hotel guarantees is to use the multiple search sites to check more than one provider at a time. Here is an example: I want a room in Boston for a given night. I begin my search at Kayak.com or Hotelscombined.com because these give you the best available rates from up to 30 different websites with one search. If I find an acceptable hotel listed at $87 on Travelocity and $89 on Expedia.com, I have found a potential Best Rate Guarantee to be filed with Expedia. Expedia’s guarantee is to match the lower website’s rate and give you a $50 voucher good for a future booking on Expedia. My cost for this room night will be $87, the matched rate, but I’ll have a $50 voucher for my next stay. In the future, I can apply my $50 voucher to a future reservation and even file another Best Rate guarantee claim if I can find one. The best source of online information for hotel best rate guarantees is called the Best Rate Guarantee Blog.
The airlines have been equally active with Best Rate guarantees. American Airlines offers a $50 guarantee if you find a lower airfare for the same flights on the same days within the same fare classes from another website (other than their own). United’s and Delta’s guarantees are $100 on future travel. The policy makes sense from an airline’s standpoint. Airlines don’t want to pay another online booking service a booking fee. Every airline wants to increase their percentage of captured reservations. It is economically in their best interest.
The great thing about these airline guarantees has been that they work for one-ways. If you book two one-way trips instead of a round trip, you could acquire $200 in guarantees. Rules change constantly and you need to check the terms and conditions of the website Best Rate guarantee program.
There were numerous occasions when I have purchased tickets from the east coast to San Francisco as two one-way tickets for around $100 each way. And with my accepted guarantees, have actually flown for free when figuring in my future vouchers. The best runs were flying free and then getting bumped off a flight and actually earning $200-$400. More about getting bumped here.
The keys to earning the Best Rate guarantees are in finding exactly the same terms and conditions between the websites. The airlines, hotels and other booking sites offering Best Rate guarantees are not thrilled about issuing coupons and vouchers so they have some very strict guidelines. The terms, conditions and amenities of the hotel room must be an exact match. There is also a time component which requires you to file your claim typically within 24 hours of making your reservation. Some companies make you file your claim online. Others accept the claims by phone. I like the phone system better as you can find out if you have an accepted claim by the end of your phone call. The online claim can take several days to secure a response, and the company you are filing the claim with can always say they could not find the competing websites better price. I want to know immediately if I have been successful.
The Best Rate reservation does not have to be prepaid to qualify. You need to be careful to make that distinction when reserving your room with the company you plan to file a claim against. If you prepaid for the room, you own that reservation regardless if your claim is approved or not.
The better system, and the one I like to use, is to first find the better rate that I will be using before I even make my reservation. I use this information when making the reservation with the company offering the Best Rate guarantee. The reservation will not be prepaid and I’ll try to do business with companies that will answer my claim request on the phone immediately when I file the claim.
[Image via Getty]