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If your hotel price drops by $1,000, this is how to get a refund

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Consumer reporter and ombudsman

What happens if your hotel price drops after booking your room — by $1,000? That’s what Jackie Ng wants to know.

She booked a hotel in Singapore that dramatically reduced its rates after Ng prepaid for her nonrefundable stay. Ng thought that the Hotels com best rate guarantee would protect her. But the online booking agent swiftly rejected her $1,000 price reduction refund request.

The surprising reason why might leave you as bewildered as Ng.

Unfortunately, this case is a reminder that even with all the facts on their side, consumers can still hit insurmountable walls of resistance to reasonable requests. But never fear! That’s why our advocacy team is here.

The hotel price dropped by $1,000 after I booked it! I want a refund

In April, Ng and her husband decided to spend Christmas and New Years in Singapore. They would need a 15-night hotel reservation.

Ng found what she thought at the time was a great rate on the Hotels com website. For $5,400 the couple and their children would have a two-bedroom apartment with breakfast included. She booked the nonrefundable, prepaid reservation and soon received her confirmation.

About a month later, Ng went back to the website and rechecked the rates for the same hotel. To her surprise, the hotel’s price had significantly dropped for the identical dates.  The site now listed the same room for $1,000 less for the 15-night stay. Ng was familiar with the best rate guarantee and assumed she would easily qualify for an adjustment to her rate.

That was an incorrect assumption. In fact, Ng was in for a giant battle to receive her price match refund.

Why don’t I qualify for the best rate guarantee?

When Ng sent her first request to Hotels com, she sent a screenshot of the current rates for the dates of her reservation. The representative quickly explained that the reservation must be exactly the same as the original to qualify.

Ng looked over her reservation and compared it to her screenshot. They were the same. But the agent saw things differently.

In review of the request we do find that request was declined due to a difference in room type but it is also noted that the lower rate was not able to be verified.

Ng was confused. Even then, she was able to pull up the lower rate for the room. She asked the representative why she didn’t qualify for the best rate guarantee and why the agent could not see the same rate. Ng reiterated that the rate was available at that very moment. She told the representative that if Hotels com did not honor its best rate guarantee, she would cancel.

The agent quickly responded:

We do apologize but, after checking again for the rate you have noted, we do not show that that rate is available. We are unable to issue any refund for this particular request.

Please note that this booking is nonrefundable and, if canceled, no refund will be provided per the terms of the booking.

Like many of the consumers who contact us, Ng wondered if she was only communicating with a bot that could not “see” the evidence she had provided. Her screenshots clearly supported her request for the rate adjustment, but the anonymous response from HotelsCom disregarded her proof.

What is a best rate guarantee?

HotelsCom, like other online booking agents, offers a best rate guarantee. The company lists the details of the best rate guarantee on its website.

If you book a hotel on the website and later find that the hotel’s price for the same room for the same dates has dropped, in theory, you should qualify for the guarantee. And if you’ve booked a nonrefundable rate, as Ng did, the company provides a future travel voucher to cover the difference in rate.

If your booking is non-refundable…

Once we’ve checked the details of your booking, we’ll give you the price difference in the form of a coupon to redeem on any future booking on Hotels.com. We’ll send it to you by email. Terms and Conditions apply.

Ng sent the screenshot that she thought provided all the evidence that the company needed to see that she qualified for the rebate.

Pre-paid hotel booking problems.
The lower rate Ng found a month after her pre-paid booking for this hotel.

But the devil was in the details, as Ng was about to find out.

Your room must match exactly to qualify for the price match guarantee

Following all the problem solving guidance our team offers to consumers,  Ng escalated her complaint.

Now she was about to hear some unusual reasoning for this price match guarantee rejection.

The reservation she found for a two-bedroom apartment included a “continental breakfast.” However, Ng’s original booking included “breakfast on weekdays.”

Prepaid hotel booking, hotel reservation, hotel room details.
Ng’s reservation notes that continental breakfast is only on weekdays.

Incredibly it seemed that the words “on weekdays” was what the representatives were referencing that made these two room categories different.

When Ng tried to reason with the customer service agent, the representative simply reiterated that the reservation must be an exact match.

That’s when Ng gave up and contacted my advocacy team.

This hotel room looks like an exact match

When Ng’s complaint landed on my desk, I took a quick look over her entire paper trail. It seemed clear that no one at Hotels com was looking at her evidence that certainly proved she qualified for the $1,000 reduction.

In less than two minutes, I was able to pull up rates that qualified for the best rate guarantee. The rates I found were drastically lower than the price that Ng prepaid for the same reservation two months previously.

And although the Hotels com website listed rates for the two-bedroom apartment with “continental breakfast” and with “breakfast on weekdays” the top of the page noted that the hotel only provides breakfast on weekdays. So all reservations will only include continental breakfast on weekdays.

I scoured the information page about these two categories and I could see that the rooms were identical. So why was the Hotels com representative unable to see what I was seeing?

Hotel room description, proof that the categories are the same for these two rooms.
These two room categories look identical at this hotel.

I reached out to our friends at Hotels com to see what happened here. I sent a screenshot that showed that the hotel price had dropped by $1,000 for Ng’s dates.

This couple booked a hotel in Singapore for this coming Christmas and New Years for a total of $5,500. She has a variety of screenshots that show that the rate for this room went down after she booked the trip on Hotels. She tried to claim the Best Rate Guarantee and asked Hotels to refund the difference, but it was denied because your agent told her that he couldn’t replicate the rate ($4,400). I’m wondering since this was all on [your website] isn’t there some way that your company can check the rate fluctuations on this room? I’m getting the same lower rate for her dates and room even today.

Michelle to Hotels com

Soon Ng received the news she was hoping to get.

Oh my goodness, Michelle, I just received five emails with coupon codes amounting to $1,000!!! Thank you so much for advocating for us!


And our executive contact at Hotels com explained what happened with Ng’s request:

The best rate guarantee is available only for the exact room type. In this case, the room types did not match, so we were not able to honor this request. As you know, rates vary for each room type – bed types, breakfasts inclusion, etc. all reflect differently depending on the room type selected. Though that is our policy, we went ahead and looked at this specific property listing and believe the differences in room types aren’t as clear as it could be. We intend to make an exception to our policy in this instance and provide her a credit for the difference in room type.

Hotels com to Michelle

How to make sure you get a refund if your hotel price drops after booking

  • If you want to claim a price match guarantee, make sure you qualify: Our team often gets requests from consumers who want to challenge a best rate guarantee rejection. The majority of these complaints do not qualify — either the consumer hasn’t booked the same room or the same dates. Read the fine print of the guarantee carefully so that you understand the terms. If you don’t qualify, the company is not going to provide reimbursement.
  • Take screenshots: Many times travelers contact us about great rates they’ve found that they insist should qualify for a best rate guarantee. Unfortunately, these consumers often have no evidence of what they’ve discovered. Remember, if you want a company to reimburse you hundreds or thousands of dollars, you’ll need proof. Take a screenshot of what you’ve found. Ng had many screenshots that, ultimately, proved her case. A successful claim often hinges on these photos.
  • Use caution when booking nonrefundable hotel rates: The difference between a nonrefundable rate and a refundable rate is often negligible. But should you need to cancel or change your dates, the financial impact can be immense. If Ng had booked a refundable rate, she could have easily canceled and rebooked at the lower rate and entirely avoided this frustrating battle. All travelers should carefully consider the pros and cons of nonfundable hotel rates prior to booking.
  • Consider booking direct: Keep in mind if your hotel price drops, it’s always easier to negotiate without an intermediary. For that reason, booking directly is almost always the traveler’s best bet. (Michelle Couch-Friedman, Consumer Rescue)

Related: Don’t miss Stephanie Patterson’s excellent guide to shopping for the best hotel.

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle Couch-Friedman is the founder and CEO of Consumer Rescue. She is a consumer advocate, ombudsman columnist, mediator, writer, and licensed psychotherapist. Michelle is a public speaker, and her expert guidance has been cited in MarketWatch, Consumer Reports, Travel & Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Popular Science, CNN, CNBC, Boston Globe, CBS News, National Geographic, Travel Weekly, Reader's Digest and more. You might even catch Michelle on TV reporting on a situation. :) Michelle is also the travel ombudsman columnist for The Points Guy and is the former executive director of the nonprofit Elliott Advocacy. During her six years in that position, she resolved thousands of cases for troubled travelers and other consumers. You can read hundreds of 5-star reviews Michelle earned during her service to the nonprofit since 2016 here on Great Nonprofits. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Today, she continues to spend as much time as possible fiercely defending consumers and traveling the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Couch-Friedman or on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.