The truth about “best rate” guarantees

Like many travelers, Rob Voss didn’t want to overpay when he booked a room in Kansas City recently. But like many travelers, Voss was foiled by the fine print. displayed a rate at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Kansas City $8 lower than But Marriott’s best-rate guarantee was too tempting to pass up. “Look no further,” it urged him. If he found a rate advertised elsewhere for less, they’d refund the difference plus 25 percent.

You probably don’t need me to tell you that the travel industry is always looking for creative ways to persuade you to pay extra for your flights, hotels and rental cars. But you, like Voss, probably thought the “best rate” guarantee was a reliable safeguard. It turns out there are few ways to ensure you’ve paid the lowest price, and the best-rate guarantee isn’t one of them.

After he submitted a claim, a Marriott representative turned down Voss’ request for a refund. He’d dotted every “i,” and crossed every “t,” even taking screen shots of the site to prove it was offering a lower rate.

“They said they couldn’t verify the price,” says Voss, a retired air traffic controller from Chicago. “Of course they couldn’t.”

A Marriott representative said its rate guarantee is legit, but comes with a few restrictions. Special rates don’t qualify and it must be able to independently verify the price. In his case, Voss booked a special AAA rate on the Marriott site, and the hotel couldn’t confirm the price.

Best-rate and best-fare guarantees are notoriously hard to invoke, say industry-watchers. “It is definitely frustrating when companies promote a seemingly consumer-friendly policy, because they know that in practice they’ll make it so difficult that nobody will actually be able to take advantage of it,” says Dan Miller, a loyalty program blogger based in Cincinnati.

Miller knows what he’s talking about: It took him five tries before Best Western finally fulfilled his request to honor a rate through its guarantee.

DealNews’ Jared Blank agrees that best-rate guarantees can be an effective tool — when they work.

“If you believe you’ve found a fare or rate that qualifies for a match from a best-rate guarantee, you can save yourself a ton of time and trouble by reading exactly what the provider wants from you to prove you qualify for the price match,” he says.

Besides asking a company to honor a “guarantee” that’s undermined by fine print, there are two proven strategies for dealing with worst-price problems.

One is to throw technology at the problem. Remember, the other side is already using sophisticated computer systems designed to predict how much you’re willing to pay. These yield management systems give travel companies an edge. So why not use similar technology to give you the edge?

Well, you can. For example, just unveiled an improved “when to fly” calendar that helps you instantly identify the cheapest months and days to travel from your home airport to your destination. Think of it as yield management in reverse. It also has a price predictor that tries to forecast future fares based on historical pricing data. Hopper claims that in 95 percent of cases, following the price predictor’s advice will land you a cheaper flight.

Another site that can help is (accessible via Kayak). The service tracks your flight or hotel rate after you’ve booked, and lets you know if there’s a lower price. For example, Alaska Airlines will offer a refund if any of its prices drop after you’ve booked, and JetBlue and Virgin America will offer a refund if there’s a price drop of $75 or more.

But, can you actually automate the search for the lowest prices in the same way travel companies harness entire server farms to do their bidding? Kind of. InvisibleHand is an app that runs on your desktop and searches for the lowest prices on hotels, flights, rental cars and other products, such as electronics. True to its name, InvisibleHand doesn’t pop up until it finds something, and, even then, it displays the results discreetly at the top of your browser.

Use the technology at your disposal to make sure you never have to file a best rate guarantee claim (see below). Shop hard before you push the “buy” button — and then stop fretting. After all, you got a pretty good deal.

Best rate ‘gotchas’ you need to know

You probably knew that best-fare and best-rate “guarantees” are filled with exceptions. But, did you know …

The clock’s ticking. Not only do you have 24 hours to file a claim, but the claim must also be made a full day before you travel, in some cases. So don’t wait.

It has to match exactly. If you’re booking a hotel and want to invoke an online travel agency’s best-price guarantee, you have to match the room type, rate and cancellation policy. For airlines, it must be the same cabin class, booking code and cancellation policy. Good luck.

Don’t forget taxes and fees. Airfare claims can be tricky because some travel agency websites display fares that don’t include all taxes and fees. When you think you’ve got a better fare, you might want to check the extras — they need to be included or you can’t file a valid claim.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend