Hotel Free Night Award Change and Cancellation Policies

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It’s common for life to get in the way of travel. Work and family commitments, crazy weather, postponed meetings, or a change in dates or destination can all contribute to a situation where we need to modify or cancel a hotel reservation. And while the majority of hotel loyalty programs offer straightforward cancellation policies for free night awards, it's often buried deep in the program T&C’s and difficult to find.

We’ve rounded up free night award change and cancellation policies for the major hotel programs (bear with us as this post is huge, but we wanted to create a single resource to tap back to), and thrown in an example to show when you need to cancel to receive a full refund of your points. A quick summary: Make sure you check the cancellation policy of a property when you complete your booking to be 100% sure!

hotel-free-night-cancellation-policies-feature

Read Hotel Booking & Cancellation Policies Before Booking an Award

It pays to be aware of room and booking policies that appear on-screen for every rewards booking. Change and cancellation policies are typically set by the hotel, not the rewards program, and in some cases free night awards are non-refundable.

“Cancellation Policy – If you cancel for any reason, attempt to modify this reservation, or do not arrive on your specified check-in date, your payment is non-refundable.”

It’s also worth noting that to change your reservation, you'll need a standard room available to book for the same number of points or you must pay the difference.

Marriott Rewards Free Night Change & Cancellation Policies

Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Starwood share a common set of rules in the merged Marriott Rewards program. You need to cancel an award stay a minimum of 48 hours out from your reservation to qualify for a refund of your points, and potentially longer if the property dictates a longer cancellation period. Again, the policy is dictated by the hotel you’ve booked, so it’s essential to check the T&C’s when you book the award.

The policy below is pulled directly from the new Marriott Rewards T&C's, and is the most current policy we could find:

“3.2.c.  The standard guarantee and cancellation policies of a Participating Property will apply to Award Redemption Stay reservations including, without limitation, all minimum length of stay requirements, credit card guarantee requirements and charges for late cancellation, no-shows, and early check-out.

i.          A Point refund may be issued for a stay that is less than the number of days on the Redemption Award, but the Member must inform the Participating Property’s front desk in advance of the early check-out time in order for the Point refund to be issued to the Member’s Account.

ii.          If a Member fails to cancel a guaranteed Award Redemption Stay reservation within the permitted cancellation period, the Participating Property will charge the applicable cancellation fee to the credit card provided by the Member at the time the reservation was made and the Points that were redeemed will be re-deposited into the Member’s account.”

Marriott-5-day-award-cancellation-policy
A perfect example of why you need to check the cancellation policy before booking an award. At the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas, Australia, you must cancel your award stay 5 days in advance to avoid a cancellation fee.

World of Hyatt Free Night Change & Cancellation Policy

Hyatt announced a new cancellation policy at the end of 2017, extending the default policy from 24 hours to 48 hours. As of January 1, 2018, World of Hyatt properties require minimum 48 hours notice to cancel or change a free night award. The policy is still set by each individual hotel, but you can no longer take advantage of 24 hour cancellation policies unless they are Explorist and Globalist status.

“If a Member cancels an Award Reservation in compliance with the applicable hotel’s or resort’s cancellation policy, any corresponding points that have been deducted from the Member’s account will be returned to the account within approximately three (3) days of the cancellation. If a Member does not follow the proper cancellation policy for the applicable hotel or resort or if a Member does not check into the hotel or resort when scheduled, the credit card provided with the Award Reservation will be charged in accordance with the hotel’s or resort’s cancellation or no-show policy and any points redeemed for the applicable Award Reservation will be returned to the Member’s account.”

From the Andaz New York which requires 48 hours notice to change or cancel an award:

World-of-Hyatt-free-night-cancellation-policy

From the Hyatt Place Mohegan Sun which requires just 24 hours notice to change or cancel an award:

Cancellation-Policy-Hyatt-Place-Mohegan-Sun

Hilton Honors Free Night Change & Cancellation Policy

Hilton Honors offers up a perfect example of why it's essential to check the cancellation policy of the hotel. From experience, the majority of Hilton's provide a 24-48 hour cancellation policy, but the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton in New York presented us with a policy that requires a mammoth seven days notice to cancel an award booking without incurring a cancellation penalty.

Revision/Cancellation: Should you need to cancel, please do so before the local hotel hold time to avoid cancellation fees. Cancellation of reservations for which payment was guaranteed or for which a deposit has been sent must reach the destination hotel by the local hotel hold time on the cancellation date indicated to avoid your credit card being charged or the forfeiture of your deposit. Cancellation numbers are issued at the time of cancellation provided the reservation is canceled by the date and time specified in your e-mail confirmation details. Please make a note of the cancellation number for your records in the event of questions regarding cancellation of guaranteed reservations. A new deposit is required for revisions to reservations received after the cancellation refund due date. Any changes to the arrival date, departure date, or room type of this reservation is subject to the hotel's availability at the time the change is requested and may result in a possible rate change and/or service fee. If you need to make changes to your reservation click here, or call Hilton Reservations and Customer Care at 1-800-HILTONS (445-8667).

From the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel New York City – Times Square:

“Cancellation Policy
If you wish to cancel, please do so 7 days prior to arrival to avoid cancellation penalties.

Points will be deducted from your balance and a Reward Certificate will be issued at the time of booking confirmation…

…No-shows or cancellations of Reward Stay Reservations outside of the time frame set by the hotel's individual cancellation policy will be charged one night's room and tax at the hotel's Best Available Rate for that date.”

hilton-honors-free-night-award-cancellation-policy

Radisson Rewards Free Night Change & Cancellation Policy

Properties across the Radisson group require just 24 hours notice to cancel an award booking, with the penalty for a no-show dished out in dollars rather than forfeit your points.

“Can I change or cancel an Award Night reservation once it has been made?Cancellations or changes can be processed via Member Services or clubcarlson.com only (hotels cannot modify or cancel award bookings). Points will be credited back to the Member's account provided the hotel's cancellation policy was followed.”

From the Radisson Martinique on Broadway website:

“Cancellation 24 hours prior to 6:00 PM hotel time, Nov 21 2017 = no penalty.Late cancel or no show will be charged 274.32 USD.”

Club-Carlson-free-night-cancellation-policy Le Club Accor Free Night Change & Cancellation Policy

As Le Club Accor is a revenue-based rewards program where members redeem points as a direct reduction in the dollar cost of an eligible stay. The cancellation policy allows members to cancel an award booking up to 24 hours before check-in.

“Rewards Points used by a Member can only be re-credited to the Member’s account in the following cases:- automatic cancellation of a reservation as a result of payment failure or payment refusal;- cancellation of a reservation by the Member before Check-in for rates where cancellations and changes are permitted;- change of reservation by the Member entailing a reduction in the number of Rewards Points used when making the original reservation, for rates where cancellations and changes are permitted (unless the member has already checked in);- Member’s failure to arrive at the hotel for rates where cancellations and changes are permitted (the amount of the first night will still be charged);”

From the Sofitel New York:

“Cancellation Policy. No cancellation charge applies prior to 16:00 (local time), up to 1 day prior to arrival. Beyond that time, the first night will be charged.”

Le-Club-Accor-free-night-cancellation-policy

IHG Rewards Free Night Change & Cancellation Policy

IHG also has a standard 24-hour change and cancellation policy. But again, it's essential to check the hotel policy when you book as policies change between hotels. IHG charges one night per room cash on your credit card if you cancel after the deadline.

How soon can I cancel a Reward Nights reservation? Most Reward Nights reservations will allow you to cancel a day before your check-in date. Please check your confirmation details for specific information.

How soon will I get my points back if I cancel a Reward Nights reservation? You will get your points back instantly when you cancel a Reward Nights reservation.”

From the Intercontinental New York Times Square which requires 24 hours to change or cancel an award without penalty:

CANCELLATION POLICY: Canceling your reservation before 4:00 PM (local hotel time) on Monday, 20 November, 2017 will result in no charge. Canceling your reservation after 4:00 PM (local hotel time) on 20 November, 2017, or failing to show, will result in a charge of 1 night per room to your credit card.”

IHG-Rewards-free-night-cancellation-policy

Wyndham Rewards Free Night Change & Cancellation Policy

Wyndham has different policies for Go Free Hotel Awards, Go Free Condos, and Go Free Homes, with condo and home awards dependent on the time of year and the type of property. With that in mind, the details below only apply to Go Free Hotel awards, which require 24 hours notice to cancel an award. The cancellation penalty is to forfeit points for the first night as opposed to deducting a payment from your credit card.

“A Member who wishes to cancel a previously booked Go Free Award must do so by the earlier of (a) 4:00 pm the day before a Member’s scheduled check-in date (in the time zone of the Participating Hotel), and (b) the applicable Participating Hotel’s deadline. For clarity, Participating Hotels may have policies that require cancellation prior to 4:00 pm the day before a Member’s scheduled check-in date; in such cases, the Participating Hotel’s cancellation policy will govern. The cancellation policy applicable to a Member’s Go Free Award will be displayed, in the case of an online reservation, or explained, in the case of a reservation made with Member Services, prior to finalization of the reservation. If a Member cancels his/her reservation through Wyndham Rewards Member Services or online at WyndhamRewards.com in accordance with the applicable cancellation policy, all points redeemed for the Go Free Award will automatically be returned to his/her account (provided they have not expired as of the date of such cancellation), but if a Member cancels his/her Go Free Award reservation outside of the applicable cancellation policy, he/she will forfeit the points for such reservation. If a change or cancellation is made on a Go Free Award reservation after some or all of the points redeemed for such Go Free Award have expired, the expired points (a) will be forfeited; (b) will not be usable in connection with the modified reservation (in the case of a change), any future reservation or for any other purpose; and (c) will not be re-credited to the Member's account, even in cases where the change or cancellation has been made in accordance with the applicable cancellation policy.”

From the Wingate by Wyndham Manhattan Midtown:

Wyndham Rewards: GO FREE Award Wyndham Rewards Free Night Redemption/Cancellation Policy: If you need to cancel, you must do so by 4:00 PM 11/20/2017. Wyndham Rewards points will be considered used from your account if you do not show up for a free night stay reservation. If you cancel the free night stay according to the hotel's cancellation policy, the points will be posted back to your Wyndham Rewards account.”

Wyndham-Rewards-free-night-cancellation-policy

Credit Cards That Offer Trip Interruption & Cancellation Coverage

If you pay the hotel free night award taxes and fees with a travel rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you may also be covered under the Trip Interruption & Cancellation Insurance supplied as one of the card perks.

Trip Interruption & Cancellation Insurance covers you if you miss your award booking due to any of the events listed under ‘Covered Loss,' which includes severe weather events, sickness, and injury, and covers cardholders and immediate family members. Catch our post on the best credit cards to pay for awards fees and taxes for more details.

Final Thoughts

Free night award stays are one of the staples of rewards travel, but don’t get caught out because you don't know the cancellation policy. You can save a ton of cash or points if you’re aware of the hotel’s free night award change and cancellation policies. If you would like us to add any programs to the list, please reach out in the comments.

Hotel Free Night Award Change and Cancellation Policies
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Comments

  • Although this has never arisen as an issue for me, I always read the terms, it certainly would be nice if there was more consistency property-to-property within each brand portfolio.

    • worldtraveller73 says:

      I totally agree. What happens when your international flight to a hotel is cancelled through no fault of the traveller? Beg for mercy and hope your elite status offers you some goodwill?

      I am yearning for the days of old policies of cancel by 6PM day of arrival.

      • That is a very good point. It seems really harsh that you could be charged an amount that you don’t know at the time of booking because you can’t arrive at your airport hotel due to a flight delay or cancellation. If you booked with points it is likely that the cash rate at the time of booking was already high. It would seem fairer if you instead just lost what you paid, i.e. the points. Hopefully if such a situation arose the hotel would show some sympathy as a gesture of goodwill.

      • Agree on this. we are at mercy of our loyalty. once my spouse could cancel past the time line using the Marriott plat helpline. Not sure if that will be accommodated now a days.

  • Great post!

  • A great summary of information. Very useful, thanks!

  • good examples – bottom line is always check the specific deal of the place you are staying

  • Wow! Incredibly comprehensive. Thanks for keeping us in the know with cancellation and change policies.

  • Kevin Szarka says:

    Yet another change to deal with……

  • Bertrand Say says:

    It seems like hotels are getting more stringent.

    • Yeah they are. Not so long ago I was redeeming a free night award at a hotel in HKG… flight delayed until next day, so I forfeited the night… then the hotel e-mailed me and asked I contact them with my CC # so they could charge me for the missed night.

      Needless to say, I ignored the email and will not solicit it again.

  • Between changes to cancellation policies and the expansion of many of the lowest rates to non-refundable, hotel programs are moving in the same direction as airlines when it comes to customer friendliness.

  • Thanks for this. Easy to forget that “free” night redemption can cost you something

  • My wife and I had a 5 day award stay at an IHG Staybridge Suites. She was not feeling well and we decided to go home a day early. We cancelled our last night the day before without a penalty and our points were put back into our account for the unused night. I try to book hotels with the least restrictive cancellation policies.

  • Yes, always check the policy before booking since every hotels might have their own rule. My Grand Hyatt Kauai reservation for mid Dec is 7 days and Fairmont Orchid is “90” days!

  • Many hotels have different cancellation policies if you are on a corporate rate.

  • Thanks (again) for getting useful info like this in one, easy to find place.

  • Very useful, consolidating all the information into 1 place!

  • thank you!! I was just working thru some of these earlier this week!! great timing!

  • Good idea, but ultimately it’s the individual hotel that mandates the cancellation policy. Always a good reminder to read it carefully before confirming the reservation though…

  • when it rains it pours… hopefully a chain can come to its senses and unbend the stricter rules.

  • Thanks for this informative post. Years ago my credit card was charged the cash for a points night that I never used due to a cancelled flight. It was a good lesson. (Luckily an inexpensive hotel). It’s definitely a great idea to put any taxes on the Sapphire Cards, that trip interruption insurance can easily make up for the price of the annual fee if there is a situation where you need to use it.

  • Richard Blundell says:

    Really useful. Thanks for collating.

  • If you do get in the situation where you haven’t cancelled in time, if you call the hotel directly they may be willing to reschedule it if they have availability (but not cancel outright). I’ve had this work multiple times.

  • I’ve never had an issue canceling an award room. Just be courteous and cancel as soon as you know you can’t go!

  • updates to policies tend to go in one direction these days – good summary

  • Thanks for the roundup.

  • jason picker says:

    Great post
    not so happy with the info, but ignorance isn’t bliss when it comes to traveling

  • I would always try to contact the hotel in case of a problem arising from exceptional circumstances independent of my will.
    This applies not only to award nights but also to all kind of reservations, including non-refundable ones.

  • Thank you once again for a great post . Please review and update every 6 months if possible so we can be updated on the various cancellation changes that happen from time to time.

  • Thanks for putting this together. I have to admit, I don’t always read the terms before booking. I’m saving this post so that I can have a quick look when I need to before booking.

  • I still find the hotel cancellation policies for award stays really quite generous, especially when you compare with the airlines. I hope they stay this way.

    • Hotel loyalty schemes and airline loyalty schemes seem to operate in completely different ways all round. Points redemptions generally count towards building status in hotels but not airlines whereas bookings through third parties generally don’t count for building status in hotels but do in airlines.

  • Really helpful info especially all combined like this. Though I tend to agree, it’s best to check with the individual hotel you’re booking rather than just assume it follows the same policy as the rest of the chain/program…particularly in the case of SPG and Marriott.

  • Bottom line – read the small print!

  • I have learned the hard way to read all rules with anything. I’m that person sitting and reading ALL the fine print. I’ve even had comments from people that they haven’t really seen anyone read all the fine print! lol! At least now maybe I’ll have to read a little less but things change and I might just read through it all anyway. I would love things to just stay the same!

  • In other words, spend a minute to read the policy. From experience, I’ve seen hotels let you cancel on the day of your stay to needing a month in advance.

  • Great summary. Yes, always read T & C. The hotels in awesome locations are usually owned by someone else not Hilton or Marriott and managed by these big chains. So the real owners sets there cancellation policy which best suits them.

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