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