Guide to hotel cancellation policies and elite status changes amid coronavirus


As the pandemic continues shaking up the travel industry worldwide, hotel brands have had to change course from their old cancellation and rebooking policies. Limited numbers of travelers (other than those on essential trips) and travel restrictions have made the easing of harsh cancellation policies not only the right thing to do but also what hotels had to do to deal with this unprecedented situation.

Many of these generous cancellation policies extend over the next few months, as consumers book aspirational travel for later in the year while knowing they may have to cancel or reschedule at some point.

If you’re curious about how your favorite hotel brand is treating cancellations and reservation changes, our comprehensive guide can help.

Hotel cancellation and status overview

Here’s a rundown of how each major hotel brand is handling its cancellation policy right now, as well as any changes in elite status requirements due to coronavirus.

Note: You can also find information about flight cancellations and airline elite status changes, here.

Best Western
Reservation changes and cancellations

While Best Western originally offered an updated cancellation policy that allowed cancellations 24 hours before arrival through June 30, 2020, they have not updated their policy since March. They now state that their hotel reservation and cancellation policies vary by location.

Member status

However, Best Western is taking steps to help its members retain their elite status without having to travel. All Best Western Rewards Members globally can now maintain their current status through Jan. 31, 2022, without needing to fulfill the usual necessary qualifications.

Further, members who were downgraded by a tier of status at the end of 2019 were automatically leveled up to their previous tier, which they will maintain through Jan. 31, 2022, without any travel required.

Choice Hotels
Reservation changes and cancellations

Choice Hotels reservations may now be modified or changed online. If you booked a future stay with Choice Hotels before July 10, 2020, the policies that were in place for your booking will continue to apply. For reservations made on or after July 10, 2020, for arrival dates before Sept. 30th, you can modify or cancel the reservation within 24 hours of the arrival date with no cancellation fee. For reservations made on or after July 10, 2020, and for arrivals on Oct. 1, 2020, or after, the hotel cancellation policy that was in place at the time of booking will apply.

Member status

While Choice Hotels has not updated its elite status policy for members yet, the brand has paused points expiration until Dec. 31, 2020.

Reservation changes and cancellations

According to the Hilton website, all reservations through Sept. 30, 2020, can be changed or canceled at no charge, given 24 hours notice. For new reservations, the same policy applies; travelers may cancel up to 24 hours before the arrival day with no penalty.

Member status

Hilton has also extended elite status for all 2019 status members who were scheduled to be downgraded by March 31, 2020. Elite members who fall into this category will see their status extended until March 31, 2021. Further, members who earned elite status for 2020 already will see their elite status extended through March 31, 2022.

The Hilton Honors program is also pausing the expiration of all points that were scheduled to expire before Dec. 31, 2020. And you can use any eligible weekend nights you have as of March 11, 2020, and all new ones issued until Aug. 30, 2020, through a new expiration date of Aug. 31, 2021.

Reservation changes and cancellations

Hyatt is waiving fees for cancellations made on all reservations through July 1, 2020, for arrivals through July 31, 2021, although 24 hours advance notice is required. New reservations made for arrival dates through July 31, 2021, can also be changed or canceled up to 24 hours before the arrival date without penalty. There are exceptions for Special Events Rate reservations and reservations at select Destination properties booked after April 1, 2020.

Member status

The World of Hyatt program has also made the move to extend elite status for another year for its members. “This means that whatever a member’s status was as of March 31, 2020 – whether Discoverist, Explorist or Globalist – it will be automatically updated to reflect a Feb. 28, 2022 expiration date,” according to the site.

Reservation changes and cancellations

IHG is allowing cancellations without any penalty for existing bookings made for arrival dates through Sept. 30, 2020. For arrivals on Oct. 1, 2020, or after, non-refundable and prepaid bookings are subject to the terms and conditions of the policy in place at booking.

For new bookings, IHG is also offering several payment options, including a Book Now, Pay Later option. With this type of booking, no deposit is required and you can cancel up to 24 hours before your arrival date with no penalty.

Member status

IHG Rewards Club elite status members can qualify for status more easily this year. IHG has reduced eligibility requirements (for points or stays) by 25 percent or more across each elite status level. Also, note that members with current elite status will see their status automatically extended through Jan. 2022.

All members with points set to expire from April 1 through the end of 2020 will now have an extended expiration date of Dec. 31, 2020.

Reservation changes and cancellations

Marriott originally allowed a more flexible cancellation policy with no fees on reservations made through June 30, 2020. However, the hotel brand has not updated its COVID-19 policy made since then. This means that you can only qualify for changes or cancellation to your pre-paid reservation up to 24 hours before arrival on future travel dates if you booked before June 30, 2020.

Member status

Marriott Bonvoy program members who earned elite status in 2019 will see their status automatically extended until Feb. 2022. Further, members who earned elite status in 2019 will also receive 50 percent of their tier’s annual Elite Night Credit requirement deposited to their account.

Members who haven’t had any activity posted for at least 24 months with points scheduled to expire before Feb. 1, 2021, will see their points expiration date moved to Feb. 1, 2021.

Suite night awards with an expiration date before Dec. 31, 2020, will now expire Dec. 31, 2021, and free night awards set to expire after March 1, 2020, will be extended through Jan. 31, 2021.

Reservation changes and cancellations

The following policy applies to Radisson properties in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India and Asia Pacific: Radisson is extending free cancellations and reservation changes for reservations made by April 1, 2020, for stays until Sept. 30, 2020. For reservations made by Sept. 30, 2020, for a future arrival date, you can also qualify for free modifications or cancellations up to 24 hours before the arrival date.

For reservations in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, new reservations made by Aug. 31, 2020, for travel at a future date qualify for free modifications and cancellations up to 24 hours before your arrival date.

Member status

Radisson Hotels is suspending points expiration as well. Any points that were set to expire between March 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, will now expire on March 31, 2021, if the account remains active.

All members with elite status in 2020 whose status was set to expire in Feb. 2021 will also see their status extended through Feb. 2022.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts
Reservation changes and cancellations

For new or existing bookings made for arrivals after June 30, 2020, all Wyndham properties are required to “accommodate non-cancellable rate reservation changes if the request is received at least 48 hours prior to arrival and the same number of room nights or more are booked for a future stay,” according to a recent statement.

Further, Wyndham says that guests who are “prohibited from traveling to their booked hotel under applicable law” will also be able to cancel or change direct bookings without penalty.

Member status

Wyndham is pausing rewards points expiration until Sept. 30, 2020, and has extended current member status for all global members through the end of 2021.

How to get a refund on canceled hotel reservations

In many cases, you can cancel your reservation without having to take any steps to get a refund of your money or your points. But you may need to take a few extra steps depending on how you booked your hotel stay.

You booked your stay with a credit or debit card

If you booked a prepaid hotel stay with a credit or debit card and you’re eligible to cancel via one of the policies listed above, you should be able to get a full refund, depending on the specifics of the policy. Be sure to read the specifics of your reservation, though; some prepaid bookings may only be eligible for credit for a future stay.

Also, note that it may take a while to see your money added back to your account. With Marriott properties, for example, refunds of any kind may take up to 90 days to process, meaning you could be left waiting months to receive your money.

While credit cards with trip cancellation and interruption insurance would typically provide coverage in situations like this, most travel insurance policies offered through credit cards don’t include consequences from the coronavirus. For example, in the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Guide to Benefits, you’ll find “your disinclination to travel due to an epidemic or pandemic” on the list of items not covered by their trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

You booked your stay with rewards

If you booked your stay with rewards points from a flexible program like Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, you should first try to see if you can cancel your reservation and get your points back online through each program’s website. If your hotel’s reservation policy allows cancellation without penalty, it’s possible you could take care of the entire transaction and get a refund of your points without calling.

If your booking qualifies for a cancellation without penalty and you’re traveling in the near future, call Chase, American Express, Citi or any other flexible rewards program to find out your options. An agent may be able to cancel your reservation and provide a refund directly. However, you should note that call waiting times may be longer due to the wealth of cancellations currently taking place for travel around the globe.

Chase also allows customers to submit a cancellation request online through a form on their website.

You booked your stay with hotel points

If you booked a stay with hotel points you earned through paid stays or the use of a hotel credit card, you should be able to cancel your booking online and receive a refund of your points right away. If you don’t receive your points back on a reservation that is eligible to be canceled, you may need to call the hotel brand to speak with a customer service representative.

What do you do if your hotel reservation is later this year?

While it’s completely natural to start making contingency plans for travel already booked for the next few months, you may want to wait on reservations for later this year. Nobody knows what the travel landscape will look like come this winter, and hotel cancellation policies will be continuously updated as time goes on.

Chances are good that, if you wait, you’ll have a lot more options when it comes to canceling your hotel reservation without penalty much closer to time.

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