The days of having the flexibility to cancel your hotel room before 6:00 pm the day of arrival are quickly going away. In most cases they are gone. Welcome to the new world of the hotel cancellation fee!
While not all hotels chains have changed their cancellation policy, it's only a matter of time. Marriott was the first to move to a 48 hour cancellation policy, with the other major hotel chains quickly following suit.
The only way you can be sure to avoid hotel cancellation fees is to make sure you are on top of the policies at each property before you book. That said, you can't control delayed flights, cancelled meetings and the last minute fire drills that frequently cause a business traveler to require a short notice change.
In these situations, you need a plan to get that fee waived and we have some ideas for that.
Here is a quick summary of the various cancellation policies and what to do if you end of incurring a late hotel cancellation fee. Let's start with the actual policies first, then get to what to do if you get hit with a fee.
Marriott Hotel Cancellation Policy:
Marriott introduced this new policy to take effect on June 15, 2017. Guests will now be required to cancel their room reservation 48-hours prior to arrival in order to avoid a fee.
Because cancellation policies vary by hotel and for certain events and rates, guests should always check the cancellation policy that applies at the time of booking. Cancellation information is provided to guests prior to finalizing a reservation on Marriott.com.
Starwood Hotel Cancellation Policy:
Starwood is now part of Marriott International so the policy for Marriott will also apply to Starwood hotel reservations. Guests will now be required to cancel their room reservation 48-hours prior to arrival in order to avoid a fee.
Hilton Hotel Cancellation Policy:
Effective July 31, 2017, Hilton requires travelers to cancel their hotel reservations at least 48 – 72 hours in advance. If you don’t cancel at least two days in advance, you’ll end up having to pay the full price for your first night
Hyatt Hotel Cancellation Policy:
Effective January 1, 2018, Hyatt has implemented a revised minimum cancellation policy.
This new default cancellation policy requires guests to cancel their reservations at least 48 hours in advance to avoid a cancellation fee. However, each Hyatt hotel has the ability to set its own cancellation policy based on local market dynamics and expectations, so you should always check the cancellation policy at the time of booking. The specific hotel cancellation policy will be communicated at the time of booking and in guest emails.
There is a slight benefit for frequent Hyatt guests with elite status. World of Hyatt Explorist, Globalist or Lifetime Globalist members will be able to cancel up to 24 hours before arrival when the hotel’s cancellation policy is 48 hours. This relaxed criteria will apply to all hotels excluding Hyatt Residence Club resorts, Miraval resorts and M life resort destinations and excludes pre-paid and non-refundable rates. It will also not apply when a hotel’s cancellation policy exceeds 48 hours.
Here are 3 ways to get a hotel to waive a late cancellation fee:
There are always exceptions to the rule. If you are about to get hit with a late cancellation fee because you have to cancel last minute, here are some ways to get it removed or avoid it in the first place.
Note that it is always easier to get the hotel to “waive” the fee than “remove” the fee so the first rule is to call the hotel as soon as you know you have to cancel, then apply one of these 3 tips.
1. Leverage your elite status: Hotel chains heavily rely on their most frequent travelers and do not want to give them any reason to look elsewhere. If you have elite status with the hotel, call to cancel your room and tell them of your status. In the case of Marriott properties, they will waive the fee for Gold and Platinum members. I haven't seen this published anywhere, but have had them waive multiple late cancellations at no charge because of my Marriott status. Most other hotel properties will do the same for their elite travelers.
2. Ask to speak with the manager: The front desk associates have some empowerment, but they may not be able to waive cancellation fees. If this is the case, ask to speak to the manager. Be honest, explain your situation and ask for a “one time” exception to the rule.
3. Move your reservation rather than cancelling it: If you don't have elite status and are leery of option #2, try moving your reservation out a week or two. The fees apply to cancelling your reservation, but not for moving it. You can ask to move your reservation a week or two due to a meeting time change, then call back in a couple of days or go online to cancel the reservation. Or even better, if you can keep the moved reservation and everyone wins.