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!