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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why do Choice claims get rejected? Here are 10 top reasons why they might ...

Updated 10/10/2014:

Here's our top ten list of the biggest mistakes newbies make when filing Choice claims, resulting in rejections, and causing some to lose faith with the whole process altogether:

10: Neglect to match up room types exactly.

The wordage must be exactly the same. If one site calls the room "Business Room" and the other doesn't, your claim will most likely be denied. If one says smoking and the other says non-smoking, this also won't be a match. The bedding and room description must be exactly the same. This isn't hard to do once you get the hang of what you are looking for. First, look at the beds, then, compare the overall room description. Look for similar wording that means the same thing - this is OK. But, if one noticeably stands out from another, there is a good chance it is not BRG-able.

9. Expect that a room type with the same description, but with multiple instances on the Choice Hotels site, will be approved.

If Choice offers what seems to be the same room twice on their booking pages, you'll be told "We are unable to verify which room is being offered (on the other site)" and thus you're out of luck. The Choice room types must be somewhat distinguishable (and the same goes for the competitor site).

8. Being rude or demanding on your claim form to get your point across.

Being snooty, rude, demanding, or just plain unpleasant will not get you anywhere, and you can pretty much expect that you'll be on the bottom of the reply queue from then on. Be nice, and say thanks, and tell them you appreciate their hard work. They're saving you hundreds of dollars, after all.

7. Expect that a claim will be approved for 2 adults, 2 children when the site you are basing your claim on says "based on double occupancy".

In many cases, you will never get a claim approved for more than 2 adults in a room, no matter how hard you cry to them. Most competitor sites contain the clause "based on double occupancy". Some sites list other occupancies (most notably, Booking.com, which often shows the price for 3 or 4 people along with the double occupancy rates). Still, it is very possible that a 1 adult claim will never be approved. Same for 3 adults. Same for 2 adults, the kids, and the dog. We prefer you play it safe - book "2 adults", even if you're alone or with multiple family members.

Some have claimed to have received free nights on 3 person occupancy, but this is usually if they have found a site that neglects to specify occupancy, if the agent simply didn't notice, or if the competitor site quoted a 3 person occupancy rate. But, again, this is rare.

6. Expect that a claim will automatically be approved just because the "rate" on the competing website is lower (before taxes and fees).

Let's say that ChoiceHotels.com has a "Best Available Rate" of $79.99 for a "Standard King", and Cheaperhotel.com has a rate of $75.99 for this same room type. The room descriptions from both sites are identical. Sounds like a valid claim and a guaranteed approval, right? Well, not exactly. Here's why ...

Some online travel sites will improperly manipulate the rate that is supplied to them by the hotel by classifying part of the rate as a “fee”. For example, a hotel will provide the travel site a rate of $79.99. The travel site will then list the rate as $75.99 and claim that there is an additional $4 fee so that their rate appears lower to the consumer.

Take a look at this example: 

ChoiceHotels.com - $79.99 + 8.00 (tax) = $87.99 (total cost)

Cheaperhotel.com - $75.99 + 8.00 (tax) + 4.00 fees = $87.99 (total cost)

In this scenario, a denial will result. The "total cost" is the same on both sites. The competing website has tricked you into thinking that they have a better price. Not so. Choice Hotels views such practices as improper and deceptive. If a third party website does this, then its Competing Rate must include the additional fee so that the Competing Rate and the Booking rate are being compared on a relative basis.

Now, if the third-party website ONLY offers an "all-in" or "taxes included" rate, this is what Choice has to say about that:

"In the event that a tax-inclusive rate on a third-party site is less than the pre-tax rate on ChoiceHotels.com, Choice will approve the claim."

PLEASE NOTE: Choice will reject your claim if you declare a search engine (such as Kayak.com) as the site where you found the lower rate. The lower rate must come from a third-party booking site (those sites search engines redirect you to - such as Expedia, Priceline, Booking.com, etc.). Choice does not consider a search engine itself to be a third-party site.

5. Make a typo in your confirmation number or other info.

If you type in your confirmation number or other crucial info on your claim form incorrectly, it may be denied. Now, perhaps your mistake will be recognized, but there is nothing worse than waiting all day for a BRG claim to be answered, only to find you made an innocent typo, resulting in an even longer wait.

4. Book a nonrefundable advance purchase rate on ChoiceHotels.com and expect them to give you back your money.

Remember, to remove the risk of having to pay the full cost of your hotel room, only book Choice's "Best Available Rate". This way, if your claim is determined to not be valid, you can always cancel the booking and try once again. Booking a Choice Hotels Advance Purchase (non-refundable) rate commits you to paying for the room if the claim doesn't work out.

3. Neglect to click through to the billing page on the competitor site.

Wow, you've just found a sweet $90 rate on Travelocity (the biggest culprit for this situation) when Choice wants $110. You file your claim, and you're rejected. What happened? Well, if you would have clicked to book the rate, you would have been instantly informed that "this room is not available at this rate" or "the price of your room has changed". Never base your claims on rates you see in search results. Always follow through to the page that asks for your credit card.

2. Neglect to compare addresses when filing claims.

Many hotels have the same name. There can be many "City X Comfort Inn". They can look the same in the photo. Don't let ignorance lead to a "the hotel you are booked is a different property than the hotel you see on CheaperHotel.com". Do your homework and file only good, solid claims. You'll just look foolish, and you'll just waste the claim reviewers' time.
And finally, the Number One mistake most people make: Linger!

There is nothing more damaging to your free room potential than to twiddle your thumbs and debate whether or not to file a claim. Planning airfare, discussing the situation with your significant other/family, and otherwise pondering if its a good decision is a time-waster (even if it's necessary). Sure, you'll want to think about it a bit since you're only entitled to 1 free room per month, but don't think about it too long. You may lose your chance! There's nothing worse than going to file your claim and finding that the rates have changed. For more info on why you need to act quick with these claims, click here.

So start searching! .. and the best of luck with your claims!

Compare Rates from Hundreds of Hotel Bookings Sites @ Wego.com!


Anonymous said...

Recently I have been filing claims and within hours, before they get approved the rates are being updated to get my claims denied.

Do you think if I booked on the 3rd party site to lock in the rate before they change it, would this count as concrete proof to get my claim approved? Naturally I would cancel the 3rd party reservation after approval, the point would be to concrete my claim even if they do change the rates on the competitors site.

David said...

Unfortunately, it won't work.

The lower rate must be publicly viewable and available on the Internet "at the time the claim is reviewed by Choice".

Any deviation from this will not be accepted.

J said...

Have you been having any issues with third party rates suddenly becoming "unpublished" hours after a BRG claim is submitted? I've tried to file two claims for Choice properties in the past 48hrs---both ended with a denial because what was previous advertised publicly became a "call now" rate.

David said...

It's frustrating, but it happens to me from time to time too, especially when the lower rate is found on Getaroom.com. Knowing this could happen, I go ahead and book anyway and keep my fingers crossed that the rates don't get played with. Sometimes I'm successful with the claim and at other times I'm not so lucky.

There was also a time when Choice responded to my claim by saying that "the rates were the same". After checking myself, I still clearly saw the lower rate and then re-filed. A few hours later I did get approved and my persistence payed off. Also, I got an email from a guy a few days ago who had to refile 3 times (2 denials-3rd time approved!)

You're not alone in this situation - it happens. Don't let it deter you though, okay?

J said...

I try not to let it deter me, but this particular claim has me flustered. Like clockwork, the lower rates seem to go public during off-peak hours (when BRG claims aren't processed) then get pulled during the working day.

Same property, same date, same room type. Three denied claims over three days for the same reasons - the rate that I saw at night was no longer visible in the morning. It'd be one thing if the lower rate just ceased to exist, but this seems like disappointing attempt to skirt claims.

Hopefully you've been having better luck with Choice these days.

David said...

I'm quite confident that they do play with the rates to affect BRG claims, but to what extent - nobody really knows. Over the years, I have noticed patterns that suggest this happens (with all BRGs, not just Choice).

When a BRG is newly-introduced, claims are generally quite easy to get approved. As the BRG becomes more established over time, claims become more and more difficult. Rules tighten (or in other words, get "played with")and the rates quickly get "fixed" so that fewer people can get free nights or coupons.

Bruce said...

This happened to me today. I had a BRG approved for a choice hotel. My date was for next weekend. today i gat an e-mail saying the hotel i booked shut down as of today. i tried to get rebooked at another Choice Hotel at the same 0.00 rate. They said the BRG is non-tranferable and there is nothing they could do. So if if you have a confirmed BRG, you still may get denied anyway.

Anonymous said...

If we book 2 rooms for 2 adults each (but each room can sleep up to 4), but show up with 4 adults and a child...what next? If we admit to the 5th person, do we risk losing the BRG? Or do I check in saying we're 4 adults, and hope they don't notice?

David said...

You won't lose the free night. The hotel will likely check you in without questioning the occupancy of your room (and neither should you bring up the topic!). There is no need to offer this information unless they press you on it, which is not likely. The clerk usually just accepts whatever your reservation states. So say nothing, and certainly DO NOT have all 5 of you standing under the clerk's nose at check-in!

Yes, the occupancy is 4 and 4 would be allowed to stay in the room. The very worst-case scenario, I suppose, would be an extra person charge should they somehow learn of 5 people. But again, I wouldn't worry. I myself have exceeded room occupancy on many BRGs and never had a problem.

Anonymous said...

Tried one BRG for NYC hotel. The terms on the competitor site said "Advance purchase rate - non refundable" but it can be cancelled. Choice has refundable and can be cancelled. BRG claim was denied as the terms were different. Still not sure what refundable and non-refundable mean (if room can be cancelled on both the sites).

David said...

Anon: I can relate! The Sleep Inn JFK Airport has this advance purchase non-refundable rate (with free cancellation) on Expedia. Very weird. I've seen other properties like this and assume it would be a match if, in fact, it can be cancelled. I hesitated to post the deal because of my uncertainty. It's contradicting, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I'm happy, get approved BRG with referenz site booking.com

Since the claim is online, expedia write now:
The Best Price Guarantee applies only to prices both advertised and available to the general public on an "English-language website".

expedia.ca = the same BRG and online claim too.


Alvin said...

if i book a room for 2 adults, and show up with in a group of 4 (including 2 kids), will hotel refuse my check-in or ask for additional payment?


David said...


Since there are 4 in your group, I assume you booked a room with at least 2 beds. On the Choice website, these rooms indicate that you are allowed a 4-person occupancy at the posted rate (and in some cases more). Notice that even if you type in "2 Adults" and "2 Children" the rate does not increase in most cases. Because of the room's occupancy allowance, the hotel could not justify charging you additional for your kids.

My advice is that you check in alone, say nothing about the occupancy stated on your reservation (they won't likely question you about it) and discreetly go about getting the family into your room. I doubt you'll have any issues.

k8marketing said...

Just looking for clearification.

On Sept 19, I got an email that my BRG for a choicehotel was approved, and I would receive a free night for October 19. Right after I went ahead an tried to get another approved for 9/27/2013 and received the following message back from the CSR:

"I have reviewed your current submissions and see that you have been approved for a free night within 30 days of 9/27/13. This information connects the reservations to the same household. "

So it was denied. What Im confused about is the 30 day time frame they are referring to is it a) 30 days since I filed a BRG claim itself, or b)30 days from the approved BRG hotel check-in date.


David said...

It's 30 days between (free night stay) check-in dates. You can file as many BRG claims as you'd like during the month, but again, all free nights must have a 30+ days spacing between them.

Anonymous said...

it seems that lots of my requests got denied due to "the other websites require pre-payment". Does anyone else see the same denial? How shall we get around this requirement?

David said...

Anononymous: This has been known to happen on occasion, but this is not the norm. There may be a claim agent or two out there that simply denies these types of claims - that's my best guess.

There are countless approvals everyday on claims where the lower rate is "prepaid" (rates from Expedia and Hotels.com for example).

Unless something has changed in terms of enforcement, we'll have to assume that you just got one of those rogue agents.

If you can re-submit your claim (within 24 hours of the booking) you may hear back with a different response. Other than that, we're basically at their mercy!

nan said...

I am confused as to what a "standard room" can be compared with for a Choice BRG. This is very common on Elvoline and some others. Could you explain.

Thank you

David said...

A room listed as a "Standard Room" on any competitor's website will never work for comparison with any room type on ChoiceHotels.com.

On Choice's website all room types are specific (1 King, 2 Queens, 2 Doubles, etc.) The competing website must list the same.

"Standard Room" simply means "Run-of-the-House". In other words, it is an unspecified room type that the hotel will issue you once you arrive at the hotel. It is almost always a basic room, but bed type is unknown at the time of booking. You and the hotel decide on this once you arrive.

"Standard Room" often works for comparison with the IHG BRG and sometimes Expedia. Choice is just unique, as they never list a room type on their website as Standard.

Chris said...

Just to let you know I have just had a claim rejected as 'the rate on the competing website requires pre-payment, but the rate on choicehotels.com is pay when you stay.' Am I unlucky with the agent that has reviewed my claim? I have never had this happen to me before. I note that many of the successful BRG claims on the blog relate to comparisons made with expedia or hotels.com, both of which require pre-payment even for Best Available Rate bookings.

David said...

Rejections for this reason have happened before and are likely the result of a rogue agent. If you can, refile and see what happens. Many who re-file immediately have been approved on the second attempt.

More than half of the deals I post have a competitor site with a prepaid rate. They are approved all the time. You just had a stroke of bad luck on this claim. But rest assured, you are doing things right.

MaaYanky said...

1)Can I get 2 free consecutive nights by making a BRG claim for the last day of one month and another for the first of the next month?
Is it one claim filed per month or the claimed date needs to be in a separate month of another claimed date?
2) Can I make a claim for one day and another guest staying with me make a claim for the next day in order to get 2(or more people for more) consecutive nights?

David said...

For questions #1 and #2:

You cannot book the last day of the month and the first day of the next because there must be a 30-day spacing between (free night) check-in dates.

If going with another person (who has a different household address than yours), you can get 2 consecutive nights free at the same hotel (or a different hotel). Your information and your friend's information are completely different, so why not?

Anonymous said...

Hi, David.
I'm new here, but very interested! I got here from Dan's Deals (hope it's okay to mention -- you have it on your blogroll). I just purchased a night at Choice in Foxboro, MA, based on a confirmed BRG in one of your blog posts from last week. I got the e-mail confirmation that Choice has received my claim. When should I expect to hear a decision from them? The reservation is for later this week....
Thanks for all you do to help others!

David said...

Hi Zow. Welcome to the blog!

There's a very good chance you'll here back from Choice sometime tomorrow if you filed the claim today (Tuesday at the very latest).

Dans Deals is a great website. You probably heard about this blog through their hotel forum!

Good luck with your claim!

Zow said...

Thanks for the response! I'll post another comment when I hear back from Choice.

Zow said...

As you predicted, I heard back -- favorably! -- from Choice. My first BRG at Comfort Inn Foxwoods is confirmed. Thank you for all your help.

Anonymous said...

Just filed my 1st claim .Rejected.By the dreaded Greg."Must find a lower rate on a competing 3rd party website and not on a search engine .Please help a newbie!

David said...

Hi newbie, and welcome!

It does state (in the terms and conditions) that a search engine cannot be used. I updated this post to highlight this fact.

Don't get too frustrated though - we all make mistakes in the beginning. It's a learning process. It takes a bit of time to get the hang of how things work!

Devon P said...

First time trying a BRG for any brand, do you input the rate before taxes and fees or after? I input the rate before taxes and fees for both Travelocity and Choice in the claim form. Thanks!

David said...

You did right!