As a Platinum rewards member, who has been dealing a lot with getting significantly reduced 'Look No further' rates for all my bookings, I wanted to share with you my experience & overview on this issue:
Marriott's 'Look No Further(SM) Best Rate Guarantee' policy is one of the biggest advantages reward members can enjoy when booking a Marriott hotel and is offered for ALL reward members, regardless of their membership status.
Simply, what it says is that if you find a lower rate elsewhere for your booking than Marriott will match the lower rate you found and grant you an additional 25% reduction for that booking (by filling in & submitting a simple online claim form).
Obviously, this is a big candy given to us which we can take a good advantage of, thus saving ourselves a lot of money. In my past experience I had many cases where I was able to reduce my booked rates by more than 50%!
Yes, as I indicated above, it's their official POLICY - meaning you can enjoy it to the full if used wisely. So what is 'wisely'?
Using it wisely means that, first of all, you need to follow their rules: terms & conditions. I do recommend everyone who wants to submit a claim form to click this link and go through the rules (lots of claims are being denied only because people are not aware of those rules).
I won't mention all of the rules but I intend to briefly take you through the main T&C:
1. They limit the policy to be applied only to some of the Marriott brands (most of them but not all of them).
2. They require us to first book through an official Marriott reservation channel and only then submit a claim form.
3. They exclude special rate types (for instance: AAA, senior rate, Marriott members unique rates achieved by using a promotional code, package rates that include more components than just the room or just room+breakfast, etc').
4. They apply the policy only to rates which are available to the general public (excluding auction rates, secret rates, or any other discounted rates).
5. The lower rate you found must still be available to be found when they process your claim (which can take up to 24 hours from the time of submitting the claim form).
THE RIGHT WAY TO DO IT:
For finding lower rates I've always been using the internet (other websites) and only the internet. Although they allow the lower rate to be found through other methods (for example: travel agencies) I never saw any use of spending my time with bothering to do it. In my opinion the internet is the most reliable & quickest option.
So now I'll provide you with my recommended solution to each of the above 'catch' sections:
1. There's nothing much we can do about this. If you like to have the option of reducing your rate than just make sure you book your stay in an included hotel brand.
2. An official Marriott channel may include, in most of the cases, the Marriott reservation call centre or the Marriott website (I personally have been using only the Marriott website as it's much simpler & quicker if you know your way around, and it always offers the same rates they offer you on the phone). So the key here, no matter which way you choose to book, is to book a free cancellation rate. If you book an 'Advanced Purchase' rate you need to consider the fact that you may cancel your booking only within 24 hours. This is a critical issue as sometimes, after a while (more than 24 hours), you need to cancel and rebook for submitting a new claim (claims need to be submitted within 24 hours after your booking). I will elaborate on this later on...
3. There's nothing much we can do about this. If you like to have the option of reducing your rate than just make sure you book your stay with a room only or B&B rate.
Despite the fact that lots of other rate types, including more amenities, may be offered to you for what you may think is an attractive rate, the 'Look No Further' rate will always be the most attractive one as it will always save you the most significant amount of money! So why book an unrequired rate (which is always higher because it always includes those extra amenities!!) just for including dinner and\or a bottle of champagne or even some extra reward points (etc')??? If you really want those you can pay for them separately. Anyhow, the reduced rate you'll get will most probably pay you back the extra charges you're interested in spending (and sometimes even more).
4. The significant discount you're given by the 'Look No Further' rate doesn't originate in the lower rate you find but in the 25% of the additional reduction (most of the lower rates found are not too far from the original rate booked). Therefore, when looking for a lower rate make sure it's legit, meaning it's a regular rate which is available for everyone to view (no promotional codes or any other special methods used for viewing it).
5. The 'Look No Further' team of Marriott is the one which process the claim forms we submit. They reside in one of Marriott's offices in the US (in Omaha, Nebraska if I recall correctly) and it can take them up to 24 hours to check & email us back with the decision regarding our claim (depends on how busy they are). Since rates are very dynamic and tend to change with time, we have no control when they disappear or being raised in the websites we use for the comparison after we viewed them and submitted our claim. In that case we have nothing to do - if they're no longer available by the time the 'Look No Further' team processes our claim than it's just a bad luck... You may find a lower rate on another website and then just reply to the denial email you got with a reference to that website. If you can't find a lower rate elsewhere and you're still not happy with the booked rate than just cancel your booking.
A. Book as much as you can in advance. Lower compared rates are hard to find in the last minute or even a week or two before your check in time. A free cancelation rate will allow you to cancel free of charge anytime (in most cases up to a day before arrival).
B. Make sure you explore all your options before submitting a claim: if you found a lower rate on one website it still doesn't mean you can't find even a lower one on another website.
C. As indicated above, rates are dynamic and tend to change with time - not only for the worse, but also may decrease! If you booked in advance it's always wise to check the rates periodically as a lower one may be found and you could get even a bigger reduction. This is true for both the original booked rate (sometimes Marriott's rates decrease as well) and the lower rate found, and this is exactly why I mentioned more than once above that it's wise to book only free cancelation rates, since in such cases you will need to cancel your booking with the old 'Look No Further' approved rate and make a new booking for which you'll submit a new claim form (for getting a lower 'Look No Further' rate. NOTE: since you can book as many times as you like, don't cancel your old booking until the new reduced rate has been approved! In the worse case you will keep your old reduced rate and just cancel the new booking for which the claim was denied). Of course, if you're booking shortly before the check in date and you're sure of your stay than it may be better to book an 'Advanced Purchase' rate in case a lower rate can't be found elsewhere.
D. Pay attention to the laws regarding taxes in the country you book your stay: In the US & Canada taxes are always added on top of the rate and claim forms are always referred to the rates exclusive of taxes (and any other fees). In the UK, for instance, taxes are always included in the rate and claim forms are always referred to the rates inclusive of taxes. I had a few cases when I submitted a claim for a hotel in the UK and the 'Look No Further' team denied it because that agent made a mistake by adding taxes on top! That was most embarrassing for them as I had to explain to her that the UK is not the US and that she can't just add the taxes on top of the rate again. Of course they had approved my claim afterwards...
So before submitting a claim make sure if taxes should be inclusive or exclusive in the compared rate and also in the website you use for your comparison so you know you make the right calculations and your claim is accurate and true.
E. Some of the people in the 'Look No Further' team are not experienced enough in validating websites used for rate comparisons and most of them may make mistakes. According to my experience they're making more than a few mistakes (genteelly described). It's very important that even if you got a denial response regarding your claim you'll still check and verify that their response is correct. I had many cases when after replying to their email claiming they did a mistake they actually confirmed I was right and approved the claim (for example: they claimed the rate was no longer available on the website I indicated but it was still available indeed, so I provided them with specific instructions of how to reach it).
Even when they do approve the claim you need to make sure their calculations of the reduced rate given to you are correct. You'll be surprised how many of these people don't know simple math thus not reducing the rate for you properly (I had many cases when I had to reply and provide them with the error they made).
F. If you have a dispute with the specific person from the 'Look No Further' team who handles your claim and you can't make him understand his mistake, you can always ask him\her to consult one of his\her colleagues or, in a worse case scenario, ask him\her to escalate your claim to his\her supervisor. This is acceptable and I've used this method a few times before.
G. For any special need you can also contact the 'Look No Further' team on the phone: 18007715665 (this is a US toll free number which can also be dialled free of charge from outside the US using Skype). However, most of your needs can be answered through the email correspondence of your claim.
H. The most familiar comparison websites, such as hotels.com, booking.com, orbitz.com, priceline.com, hotels4u.com etc', often match the rates we see on Marriott.com and don't actually provide us with any advantage...
I struggled a lot to find and establish a descent list of other websites which can be used for a useful comparison: getaroom.com, lastminute.com, zenhotels.com, alpharooms.com, roomhopper.com, superbreak.com, discounthotels.com, booked.net, hotelmix.com.
A best practice I'd recommend on (in addition to all the above) is to always use a hotel comparison engine such as hotelscombined.com and skyscanner.com. These are very useful in finding 'hidden' lower rates on different other websites which pop up occasionally.
Not every hotel chain offer its members a best price guarantee policy, but Marriott does! Not taking advantage of it will be a great miss and unfortunate as you will be paying much more than what you really could!!
The savings can be very significant and I can give you one example: Several years back I booked a stay in the 'Philadelphia Marriott Downtown' hotel for 3 nights. The lowest rate they could provide me with on their website was over $700 for those 3 nights. Using the 'Look No Further' policy I managed to get a $90 per night rate and when I checked in the front desk lady was so surprised and asked me: "Are you really on a $90 rate?? I've never seen that kind of a rate here". So I guess I broke a record in that hotel, and it's truly my pleasure. :-)
You're welcome to comment here and share your experience with getting reduced rates using the 'Look No Further' rate - what website did you use and for which hotel? How much did you manage to lower the original rate? or any issue you had with finding a lower rate or with struggling with The 'Look No Further' team which could teach us all how to be smarter next time :-)
I hope this info was helpful and that you'll make a good use of it for saving your money.
UPDATE: The terms & conditions have recently changed, and now LNF claims for bookings hotels outside the US & Canada no longer require to use only a direct reservation website for comparisons! (this section in the guide has already been deleted, as it's no longer relevant).
UPDATE: The rules of the Best Rate Guarantee policy have now changed and excludes several websites to be used as comparison source. This change was made due to evidence obtained that supports certain websites do not result in a reservation when attempting to confirm through the comparison source. The websites excluded are: Booklethotels.com, Bookmoreroom.com, Bookmorerooms.com, Bookamorehotels.com, Ostrovok.ru (including all versions of this webpage), Happyrooms.com, Hotelspay.com, Hotelsepay.com, Allcheaproom.com