Hotel Award Cancellation Policy
I’m enjoying the process of booking award flights a bit more this year, but the process of using hotel points remains my favorite type of travel redemption. I don’t run out of desirable uses for hotel points, whether they’re for aspirational stays or travel needs. Booking hotel awards is simpler, and I don’t think that’s a controversial statement. I spend more waking hours in hotels than planes, too, which I perceive as a higher “enjoyment” return on the booking process. But there’s one benefit of hotel awards that I feel needs more attention. It’s the greatness of the hotel award cancellation policy.
Cash Rates – Buyer Beware!
You may have noticed everything costs more, including travel. Not coincidentally, hotel chains and OTA’s have gotten better at putting their cheapest rates out front and burying their terms.
A few clicks later, an individual can still see that cheap rate, but this time with a stringent cancellation policy. And often, it’s the worst type – a nonrefundable rate. Perhaps an individual pays a slightly higher cash rate for a bit more flexibility to change or cancel. Others may choose for the nonrefundable rate or opt out of the property altogether. Or worse, that false hope can seemingly trap an individual, as they’ve become emotionally committed to a bigger purchase than they initially intended.
But active points and travel hobbyists can have the best of both worlds.
Book with Points, and You’re Done (Pretty Much)
In general, when one books a hotel award stay with that chain’s points currency, they receive a more liberal cancellation policy. Many chains allow cancellation of hotel awards up to 24 hours prior to the stay. In recent years, we’ve seen more stringent policies, but not by much. The worst policy I’ve seen is a property requiring a cancellation two weeks prior to the stay in order to receive a full points refund. Everyone’s different, but many of us have pretty solid plans a few weeks in advance. I know my family does.
During the pandemic, airlines have improved their award ticket change/cancellation policies to varying degrees. But many strings still exist there compared to hotels’ policies.
The biggest challenge for some of us who take advantage of hotel award cancellation policies is remembering to cancel stays once plans change. It’s fun to jump on those competitive points rates at desirable properties, not so much remembering to cancel certain ones. Keep good records!
Not Enough Points? No Problem!
Inevitably, one may end up in a situation where they don’t have enough points for a given hotel stay. As a hotel points and free night certificate hoarder, I can’t say I’m here often. Individuals can still pay competitive cash rates and obtain the change and cancellation flexibility they need. AAA and AARP rates are quite reasonable at a variety of hotel levels without costing much more, and that extra few bucks could be worth the ability to cancel. Many of you are already AAA or AARP members, so take advantage of this benefit! If you aren’t, consider signing up for a variety of benefits.
Perhaps I shouldn’t fall in love with the hotel award cancellation policy benefit too much. Like the airlines have done with a variety of perks, hotels could start monetizing their own more, and these awesome policies could eventually disappear. Regardless, I think we should all appreciate the flexibility of hotel awards more now. What do you think of cancellation policies on hotel award stays?
Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.