After airfare, accommodation costs are probably one of the highest expenses you’ll incur when traveling (with the possible exception of food, if you’re like Mrs. Selfish and I!).  For stays over 5 days we like to rent apartments, but for fast travel we usually stay at a hotel.

For our trip to Ireland, however, Mrs. Selfish and I planned on driving through 6 cities in 7 nights.  This entailed staying at 6 different hotels – a booking feat which I used to loathe, but now enjoy.  Why? Because of Expedia’s Best Guarantee.

What is the Best Rate Guarantee?

Expedia claims to have the lowest price for all hotel rentals and flights everywhere and even go so far as to back it up with a Best Rate Guarantee:

“We’re so confident you’ll find the best price for your trip on Expedia that we guarantee it. Find a cheaper identical trip within 24 hours of booking and we’ll refund the difference–and give you an Expedia travel coupon worth $50.”

That’s right, in the event that you manage to find a cheaper rate, not only will they match the price, but they’ll give you a $50 coupon for your next Expedia purchase! This seems ripe for exploitation…

How to Exploit the Best Rate Guarantee

Step 1. Find the Hotel on Expedia – For our Ireland trip I did a quick search for 6 hotels in 6 cities, using Trip Advisor and Hotels.com as cross references with Expedia to find places worth staying.

Step 2. Use other websites to find your hotel at a lower price. Once you’ve got a hotel you want to book, simply do a search on a few hotel aggregator sites.  I like to use hotelscombined.com and kayak.com.

Step 3. Verify the price is lower and take screenshots. Once you’d found your hotel at a lower price, take screenshots of the competitor’s site and make sure the rooms are identical. If Expedia has you staying in a King Size bed, but Travelocity has a lower price for two double beds, you’re flat out of luck.  Also make sure that you’re comparing final prices since some sites don’t tack other charges until later on in the process.

Step 4. Book through Expedia.com. Now that you’ve found a better price it’s time to book!  Double check all of your information and pay up.  Depending on your level of risk-aversion it may be a good idea to book a room with a lenient cancellation policy.

Step 5. Call Expedia within 24 hours of your booking. Now comes the waiting game – call up Expedia on their normal number: 1-877-787-1207. While they’re always professional and courteous they will put you on hold while they attempt to reproduce your claim.  Expect each claim to run you at least 20-30 minutes per, and you may be required to help depending on the skill of the customer service rep.  For our Ireland trip I was on the phone for a good 2-3 hours and had to help the operator reproduce the prices I found, since she had a little difficulty changing the price of the hotel from Euros to Dollars.

Step 6. Smugly enjoy the savings. Expedia usually refunds you the difference for hotel rooms in less than a week, and often deposits the $50 coupons in your account while you’re on the call with them.

Limitations and Gotchas

  1. Expedia only allows 3 Best Rate Guarantees per person a month.  So if you’re booking like crazy, don’t expect to get anything beyond that.
  2. The Best Rate Guarantee works best when you pay Expedia upfront for the booking.  In the event that you have to pay the hotel itself upon arrival the process is much more laborious.  For the Ireland trip, Mrs. Selfish and I were required to fax in our receipts for the three hotels we didn’t pay immediately through Expedia.  After 2 phone calls to Expedia I was told that the receipts are being reviewed and my refunds are still being processed – keep in mind we stayed at these hotels over a month ago.
  3. You can only use one coupon at a time.  Even if you’ve stock piled twenty $50 coupons, you still can only use one per booking.
  4. You can’t use a coupon and do a Best Rate Guarantee at the same time.  Mrs. Selfish and I made that mistake once before – in that case the customer service rep rewarded me with a $25 coupon even though he technically was not supposed to.  For future bookings through Expedia we intend to use the coupons on short distance flights since flight prices seem to be the same across multiple sites.

For Ireland we ended up getting 6 Best Rate Guarantee coupons for a total of $300.  Since we paid about $800 for those rooms, we ended up saving 37.5% off of future hotel rooms – not the same as cash in pocket, but not too shabby!