The major hotel chains put a lot of effort into getting you to book directly with them rather than through online travel agencies like Orbitz, Expedia, etc. That’s because hotels have to pay a commission of 10%+ when you book through an online travel agency, which they don’t have to pay when you book directly with them.
This is one of the main reasons that a few years back many hotel brands introduced “members only” rates for those who book directly with them. These rates offer up to 10% off the best available rate, and are intended to get you to book with the hotel directly rather than through an OTA.
One of the other ways that the major hotel chains try to get you to book direct is by offering best rate guarantees. The intent is that they’ll match the better rate that you find elsewhere and offer you some sort of a discount. This is a smart marketing technique, as it’s intended to reinforce the idea that you’ll always find the best rate when booking directly on the hotel’s site.
Now, it’s clear that hotels use this more as a marketing technique than actually intending people to consistently take advantage of it. The idea is that if someone booking a hotel sees that they offer a best rate guarantee, they just assume they’ll get the best deal when booking direct.
However, in reality this has been an opportunity many people have taken advantage of to consistently score deals on hotel stays, since often slightly better rates are available elsewhere. As a result, we’ve seen a trend where many hotel groups have devalued their best rate guarantee.
Well, there’s some good news for Marriott Rewards members, as Marriott has just improved their best rate guarantee. Specifically, up until now Marriott offered 25% off the matching rate if you found a better rate elsewhere. But now Marriott has added a second option members can take advantage of. Rather than getting 25% off the matching rate, you can instead receive 5,000 Marriott Rewards points. This actually isn’t listed on the best rate guarantee page, but when you go to the claim form you’ll see the option.
Personally I value Marriott Rewards points at ~0.8 cents each, so to me that means that 5,000 points are worth ~$40. That would make the breakeven point between 25% off and 5,000 points a ~$160 rate. So this is definitely a nice option to have, especially if you’re doing a best rate guarantee on a short, cheap stay.
Kudos to Marriott for making this improvement to their best rate guarantee, as they’re certainly bucking the trend here, as other hotel programs devalue their guarantee.
(Tip of the hat to LoyaltyLobby)