Don’t be blinded by loyalty and burn a pile of money: shop around

A couple of months ago, I put together a resource page on hotel chain Best Rate Guarantees. I recently had occasion to put one of these to use, and the savings were pretty sweet. I wish I could take credit for being smart on this one – but really, I was just lucky. I had been busy and asked a family member to do me a favor and look for my best hotel option. It turned out to be quite the favor.

I was in need of a 3-night hotel booking. Actually, a family member was checking prices for me and she told me she found a Hilton property that fit the bill for $176. I pulled up Hilton.com and didn’t see similar pricing at all. Thinking we had a misconnect, I asked her where she saw the price — and she told me Orbitz. Being a Diamond guest courtesy the Hilton Aspire card (which I wrote about this morning — see: Maximize Hilton resort credit without staying every year), I wasn’t too keen on booking via Orbitz. Irrational as it may be, I wanted my free breakfast. Further, with Hilton offering as many as 54 points per dollar this month for Diamond members with an Amex Hilton card, I didn’t want to pass on the points.

But when I looked it up on Hilton.com, it was $215.44 per night.

That was a lot more than the $176 my family member had fond on Orbitz. I thought for sure the Orbitz rate must have been some type of nonrefundable advance purchase rate for a broom closet in the parking garage or something of the sort. I took a look on Orbitz, and sure enough — the same room with 2 double beds and complimentary Wi-Fi was available for $176. Aware that the devil is in the details and that many chains play the game by denying your claim due to a difference in cancellation policy, I compared the limits of flexibility. Wouldn’t ya know it — cancellation deadlines matched up. Both Hilton.com and Orbitz.com listed a cancellation deadline of 5 days in advance. Actually, Orbtiz also had a slightly higher rate (~$183 if I remember correctly) that had a better cancellation deadline (3 days in advance), but I was going tor savings over 2 extra days of flexibility in this case.

I went ahead and booked it through Hilton.com, and then immediately proceeded to file a Best Rate Guarantee claim form (check the requirements for a BRG claim with Hilton here). As soon as I submitted it, I went back to Orbitz. I wondered if I had booked the last of that room category / rate type. Hotels typically promise to respond to claims within 24 hours, but as we all know, Internet pricing can change at any moment. The cynic in me figured that either that room or rate came out of inventory the moment I booked it or it would come out of inventory before a claim specialist looked at it the next day.

And as fate would have it, that sure looked like what was going to happen. When I searched the hotel and dates on Orbitz again after booking through Hilton, it still showed the $176 price — but when I clicked “book” on that specific room type / cancellation policy, Orbitz kept giving me an error. When I chose any other rate it worked — but not that one. Ugh. I thought for sure I’d get a response from Hilton saying that the $176 rate wasn’t bookable on Orbitz. I had tried to hedge my bets by noting in the Best Rate Guarantee claim that Orbitz actually also had a room with a better cancellation policy that was cheaper than Hilton’s rate, albeit more expensive than the Orbtiz rate with a matching cancellation policy. I was hopeful they might honor the BRG based on the slightly higher rate if nothing else, obviating the need to submit a second claim.

Much to my surprise, about 18 minutes after submitting my form, I received the following email:

Dear Mr. Reyes,

Thank you for filing a Best Price Guarantee claim for your booking at the XXX Hotel. My name is Betty, I will be assisting with your claim.

I have taken the liberty to review your reservation, as well as, the rate available on www.orbitz.com. I was able to confirm that a lower rate of $176.00 per night (before tax) is being offered and will adjust your reservation to reflect the lower rate. In addition, as per the terms of the program, we will also apply a 25% discount to your adjusted rate. Please allow 48 hours for your rate to be adjusted and to receive a re-confirmation email.

We realize that every guest has a choice when traveling and we thank you for making Hilton family of hotels your choice. We look forward to the opportunity to serve your future travel needs.

Best regards,

Betty J.
Corporate Guest Relations Specialist
Hilton Reservations and Customer Care

That was much faster than I expected and exactly what I was hoping for. And it didn’t take 48 hours to receive a re-confirmation email — in fact, I had a new confirmation email in my inbox before I even got Betty’s email.

That’s good for a difference of $288.49 — a difference of more than 38% from the price Hilton wanted for the Hilton Honors rate. And not only that, but after a couple of small incidentals charges, I did earn more than 18,000 Hilton points:

And that’s not including the 14x I’ll earn from paying with my Hilton Aspire card. I expect another 7,000+ points from that — for a total haul of about 25,000 Hilton points on top of saving $288 over the Hilton.com price. Based on our Reasonable Redemption Values, 25K Hilton points are worth more than $112.

Bottom line

I like a good free breakfast, an occasional suite upgrade, and a boatload of points as much as the next guy. But I’ll admit that I have at times fallen victim to loyalty and failed to comparison shop. They don’t give you Diamond status on the Hilton Aspire for nothing — they want you to be blinded by visions of chafing dishes bursting with eggos and egg beaters. Thank goodness my family member shopped around and reminded me of the all-important lesson: don’t let these loyalty programs lure you into the realm of blind loyalty. And she learned a lesson, too — don’t just see the cheap price on Orbitz and book it without trying a best rate guarantee claim. In the end, we looked an awful lot like the kind of consumers I imagine Hilton and Orbitz prefer: I would have paid too much; she would have forgone the points. In the end, we made out a heck of a lot better than either of us would have on our own, and thank goodness for that….because I may have needlessly burnt up a pile of money.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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Glenn Lee
Guest
Glenn Lee

I did the same with IHG but got denied. I found a better price on Priceline (not the express deals but the normal “know your hotel before you book” deal). They said Priceline was excluded, and won’t listen to anything else I need to say. BRG agents seem to be incentivized to deny claims.

Paul
Guest
Paul

We all see how things trend from time to time. I’ve seen and experienced so many great things from Hilton this past couple of years that I now see them as my most attractive option. The Aspire card is amazing and diamond upgrades we’ve had at several Hilton properties this year have been wonderful. They just seem to be doing all the right things to win loyalty.

WR2
Guest
WR2

This is even more reason to get the Aspire. Chasing status is an even bigger financial drain than being married to your already achieved status. You overpay just to achieve the goal of the status.

Of course once you spend thousands (probably overspending) to get a status, you will be blinded by the sunk cost of getting that status.

Just get the Aspire, and you don’t need to chase status anymore. You can make clear decisions about what presents the best value for each particular stay.

Pam
Guest
Pam

I went thru that same experience recently with a Hotwire 40% off hotel deal over the holiday. Room was $70/night (with fees & taxes) but was boutique & so very pretty, inviting, & unique.

The Granduca Austin was built several years ago by a Milanese couple on a wonderful vista west of downtown Austin overlooking the green hill country. We were so blown by all the authentic Italian touches thoughout the property.

I sometimes get so wrapped up in hotel points & chain loyalty that I forget about the charm & graciousness of staying boutique. I still got my 3x travel URs from Hotwire (to finish out my bonus spend on a CIP), but sometimes the experience of a property that is non-chain overrides chasing loyalty credits, etc. Sunday brunch was by no means included but with a $70 all-in cost going in it was still enjoyable!

There is another Granduca in Houston I hope pops up someday on another Hotwire Hot Deal!

Blue
Guest
Blue

It’s funny, I was thinking of doing a bunch of Raddisson stays on our road trip this summer and got rejected on a price match because the bed type was different (king v queen) even though the prices were exactly the same. So I cancelled all the stays I had booked with the chain and went to Marriott instead. I don’t think the hotel companies have a good handle on the ill will generated by “guarantees” they seek to get out of on the slightest technicality.

Brands
Guest
Brands

Great point, Blue. The hotel chains try to lure us in with a guarantee when booking direct, but renege over any minor term or condition that they can. That is a great way to lose my business, and to think they screw you over less than $100 most of the time. I am glad to hear Hilton is not interested in playing those games.

Anastasia
Guest
Anastasia

I absolutely agree. Every minute I’ve spend arguing with the BRG people is one more ounce of my loyalty to the program slowly draining away. Most people aren’t miles and points nerds who know the fine print, and so are even more likely to get denied than us who know more about the rules. Being denied for something that seems so transparent must leave a sour taste in their mouth too. The problem is, these loyalty programs don’t seem to know how to put a price on goodwill generated by their generosity, so they argue over every penny, without realizing that it’ll end up costing them money down the line when I go elsewhere.

trackback

[…] Do Not Be Blinded Loyalty In This Hobby:  This story highlights something that I’ve been guilty of.  I have Diamond status with Hilton, so I tend to book my hotel stays with Hilton.  However, I need to go back to my roots and comparison shop to ensure I’m getting the best deal! […]

Anastasia
Guest
Anastasia

This is why I don’t have status in any program: I always shop around to see which hotel looks the most interesting and unique, and if it belongs to a loyalty program, great! But I’m not tied to a particular brand, and so end up having lower tier status with a few. Then again, I don’t eat breakfast in the mornings (it makes me nauseous) and neither does my partner, so the free breakfast benefits of the upper tiers are worth exactly $0 to us. That makes it harder to calculate the value of status, since I do like the idea of upgrades, but they alone aren’t worth the cost of status. So, I just go for whatever hotel looks like it offers the most interesting “experience,” and find that more rewarding.

JoeHeg
Guest
JoeHeg

I haven’t looked for a BRG for a while. It looked like filing a claim would be too much of a pain. I might start looking again for paid stays.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Trust No One !!!
I’m on medication (of course) and using Costco and the price went UP $800 More per year . I could afford it so was going to just pay BUT went home and looked $800 saving as in more trips .
TRUST NO ONE LOOK EVERY SINGLE TIME U REFILL !!!!

CHEERs

fll
Guest
fll

Totally agree.

We have been with Statefarm Auto Insurance for ions. Never have any claim.

Their rates went up 20% each year regardless inflation or whatever macro trend. We kept it because it was relative easy to do vacation suspension when we went on long trip. We justified the ever going higher rate with the $100 to $150 we got back each year with vacation suspension.

The latest renewal in March Statefarm really went out of hand – the rate went from $705 to $820. We decided to shop around. Geico gave a quote that offered twice the coverage, less deductibles, and only $605. And Geico these days actually has local office in major cities. There are 1 office in each of the Tri-Counties in South Florida for example. Geico also handles vacation suspension. We got back $72 refund on our 35 days trip when the car was considered as “in storage”.

I am sure Geico would raise rate as time goes by, but I am also confident it would not be as outrageous as Statefarm, judging just by how transparent their quote is on how much discounts you get, with itemized items to add to a total of $120ish – all are clearly understood – no accident, no young driver, higher education, versus Statefarm was just a lump sum and their agents could not explain what made up for that mysterial $450 discount. I dont believe Statefarm would sell the policy at $1250 without the $450 discount which sounds so bogus.

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[…] about a best rate guarantee claim I made with Hilton that was approved in eighteen minutes (See: Don’t be blinded by loyalty and burn a pile of money: shop around). In short, it’s possible to get these approved, it just requires some diligence in finding […]