Stephen reported a few days ago that Hilton changed the terms of its Best Rate Guarantee program. When I saw the new terms, I was instantly excited. A couple of months ago, I wrote about stacking a best rate guarantee with the Citi Prestige 4th night free. When I saw the new terms, I thought that it would make for some really awesome opportunities to stack savings since you could get a claim pre-approved, making it easy to go after prepaid rates. Furthermore, since Hilton’s guarantee maintains the promise to beat a lower rate by 25%, the potential savings are huge when fully stacked. Unfortunately, I found that Hilton is actually doing something right in pricing — because finding a new claim has proved to be quite difficult.
A claim made before the changes
I had actually made a successful Hilton Best Rate Guarantee claim last month, before the changes in the Best Rate Guarantee terms. I had been waiting on the final results to share the details, but with this new change and my subsequent difficulty in finding new opportunities for a best rate claim, it seemed worth including here even though I don’t have the full and final result.
As was the case with my last claim (See: Stacking 4th night free + BRG for big savings), I made a booking via the Citi Prestige Concierge (over the phone) for the 4th night free (see that post or our Complete Guide to Citi Prestige 4th Night Free for more on why you don’t want to book online). Whereas I’d booked a nonrefundable rate on my previous Hyatt claim, this time I booked at the lowest flexible rate (a Hilton Honors rate). I made a successful best rate guarantee claim against Booking.com. I actually got denied initially (they said the cancellation policies didn’t match, but they did…I think the rep looked at the nonrefundable rate on Booking.com rather than the flexible rate initially). I pushed back that the cancellation policies matched and they honored it — giving me 25% off the Booking.com rate. Here are the key details:
- Total rate for 4 nights through Hilton.com was $1,023.22.
- Total rate for 4 nights through Booking.com was $959.32
- Total rate after the Best Rate Guarantee claim (they take 25% off of the competitor rate) was $719.48
- Citi’s 4th night rebate was $219 based on the full nightly rate.
- The new nightly rate after the BRG claim was $154.58
Depending on whether they apply the original rebate or they re-do the rebate based on the actual new 4th night cost (I don’t yet know the final outcome), the total for 4 nights will either be:
- $500.48 (based on original $219 per night rate / rebate)
- $562.90 (based on $154.58 updated rate)
In the end, that’s 45-51% off the flexible rate at Hilton.com by stacking the 4th night free with a best rate guarantee. That’s excellent. And what’s more, it’s (theoretically) replicable. If you’re able to successfully stack the 4th night free with Hilton’s promise to beat a better rate by 25%, you’ll end up with savings of a similar percentage.
In fairness, there was a deal on the hotel’s promotions page that came to something like $959 total for 4 nights but required a coupon code, so the truth is that it’s not quite as much savings as the above percentages show. However, that coupon code was for an advance purchase rate. I much preferred flexibility in this case – and I’m happy to have gotten that flexibility for a lot less than sticker price.
Updated terms / terminology
I find it interesting that Hilton changed the name of this program. Whereas it used to be called the “Hilton Best Rate Guarantee”, they have changed the policy name to the “Price Match Guarantee”. They note that they are still taking an additional 25% off the room rate for each night of your stay when your claim is approved — though I have to wonder if they don’t intend to eventually make this a price match rather than beating the competitor’s price. Change the name today, change the terms to eliminate the 25% discount on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend when they think nobody is looking….time will tell.
But for now, Hilton is still beating the best price you’ve found elsewhere. As Stephen previously noted, here’s a list of changes notified by HonorsRepresentative on FlyerTalk:
- If you find a lower qualified price for the same accommodation and terms at any point before your reservation is made, or up to 24 hours after making your reservation through one of the official Hilton booking channels, you can submit your claim by filling out the online form or calling our Hilton Reservations & Customer Care center directly. If we can verify your claim, we’ll honor the lower price AND take an additional 25% off the room rate for each night of your stay.
- Claims previously required completion of an online form and the inclusion of an existing Hilton reservation number to process. We’re now encouraging guests who have yet to book their stay to contact Hilton Reservations & Customer Care directly and submit their claim over the phone.
- We are also now accepting same-day claims. Until recently, we would only match a lower rate for day-of arrival. Now, in addition to matching the rate, we will also apply the 25% discount. For same-day reservations, guests must contact Hilton Reservations & Customer Care directly and submit their claim over the phone.
The key change to the terms is that you can now verify your claim in advance. That’s awesome for a couple of reasons:
- It takes the guesswork out of a BRG claim on an advance-purchase rate since you can make sure it’s approved before you book it.
- It cuts down on time invested in the process. Rather than waiting what could be 24 hours for a response, you get your claim resolved over the phone.
At least, it seemed awesome….
Has Hilton just made it more difficult to find a BRG claim?
Until I began searching, I hadn’t considered whether this change might indicate that Hilton is just doing a better job taking the reins on controlling pricing across the board. But I’ll say this: I searched all day yesterday. And all night last night. And into the early morning hours this morning. I couldn’t find a best rate guarantee claim.
I started out searching for a claim at a specific hotel. I searched high and low and couldn’t find a better price than on Hilton.com.
So I expanded to other cities and dates where I knew I’d need a hotel in the coming months: Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Fort Lauderdale, the Washington, DC suburbs…I tried splitting stays into smaller chunks or adding a day. I couldn’t find a better price than on Hilton.com.
I cast a wider net and started looking at speculative bookings for 2019 in cities where I know there’s a chance I’d be staying and I don’t yet have a room lined up….Tokyo, Athens, Los Angeles…I didn’t find a single Best Rate Guarantee claim.
That’s not to say that it isn’t possible. On the contrary, there was a data point in the Flyertalk thread about Hilton Best Rate Guarantees who noted having submitted a claim just yesterday. But I spent hours upon hours searching different hotel sites — mainstream sites, meta-search sites, smaller sites I’d never heard of but found in success stories about past claims, etc., and I came up empty. The Hilton Honors rates were consistently a few bucks below what I could find elsewhere. For the record, that included different room types and different cancellation policies. I intended to compare whether Hilton would allow me to make a Best Rate Guarantee claim on a rate with a 2-day cancellation policy if there were a lower rate on Hilton.com for a room with a 4-day cancellation policy. I just couldn’t find either one…
I won’t necessarily give up the fight in searching, but I eventually had to wave the white flag in defeat on this one.
As I had previously guessed, it seems that it is possible to stack the Prestige 4th Night Free benefit with a Hilton Best Rate Guarantee to save nearly half off the cash rate. That said, finding a best rate guarantee claim that will be successful looks like it will be the major challenge moving forward. Being able to get a claim approved over the phone should be a great benefit, especially if you find an advance purchase rate you’re willing to book. If any readers have tips as to where to look for successful Hilton claims, I’d love to have your suggestions.