Cancelling My $90 Hotel Stay Will Cost Me $600?!

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest

A few days ago I sorta kinda stayed at the Aloft Abu Dhabi. Due to a series of unfortunate events, I ended up just spending a few hours there (and lemme say I didn’t seem to be the only person using a room on an hourly basis).

While I generally love Aloft properties, I was not a fan of the Abu Dhabi property.

Anyway, here’s something I’ve never been able to figure out. I redeemed 3,000 Starpoints for my one night stay, which is a hell of a deal [update: the hotel can now be booked for 17,500 Marriott points, which is less of a hell of a deal]. The paid rate was reasonable at ~90USD, but since I earn stay credits even for award stays, I figured I was best off saving the cash.


Here’s where it gets confusing. The forfeiture amount if I cancelled my stay within a day of arrival was… 2,200AED (~600USD)?!?


Now, not that I’d ever cancel an award stay within a day of arrival (I’d be better off just no showing), but why would the forfeiture amount be more than six times the cost of a revenue stay?

More generally, does anyone understand how forfeiture amounts on award stays actually work in the hotel industry?

  1. You have time to be pushing these ‘digital garbage’ posts yet can’t even finish all your trip reports from way back when? Just goes to show you don’t give a crap about your readers who made you.

  2. This is an area where being a SPG Plattinum really pays off. Whenever I cancel within the cancellation time (happens often as my business travel often involves last minute changes), I just call SPG and ask them to make the charge go away. They always manage to get the hotel to back off.

  3. If you “kinda sorta” stayed there, then you presumably checked in and checked out? For a one-night stay? So, why wouldn’t you just be paying the one night stay rate instead of trying to do a cancellation after you’ve arrived and been in a guest room?

  4. Had this exact thing happen to us. Booked an award stay in Westin St John last yr. I think it was 12,000 * points/night.
    Got an email from Manager about pool closure and other ongoing constuction and decided to cancel our stay and move to another property on the island. The hotel billed my card for a full rack rate for 1st night stay ($550).
    I think they go by prevailing rate/rack rate as a guarantee, and in case on high occupancy you are bascially screwed.
    I irony in my case was that hotel was offereing a 2 day free stay anytime for next 24 months, if I had just showed up at the hotel and messed around some sheets/towels.

  5. Forfeiture amount for an award stay is supposedly based on RACK.

    This was at times a big deal with SPG, hotels would usually waive it but if someone had cancelled flights and didn’t make their award stay they were theoretically on the hook for real money and not points.

    SPG didn’t want to let the hotel just keep the internal reimbursement rate from the program without a member actually showing up, because they were afraid that the hotels would fraudulently overcharge the program. (And in the case of the Parker Meridien properties this turned out to be a reasonable fear!)

    But it’s not a great idea to build processes to prevent your business partners from taking advantage of you by inconveniencing your customers.

    So a few years ago SPG changed their terms to allow the member to choose to just forfeit the points on an award stay instead of the cash. See 3.2.g…

    3.2.g. If an SPG Member fails to cancel a guaranteed SPG Award reservation within the permitted cancellation time, the SPG Participating Hotel will charge the applicable cancellation fee to the credit card provided by the SPG Member at the time the reservation was made and the Starpoints that had been redeemed will be re-deposited into the SPG Member’s account. For Free Night Awards only, an SPG Member may request a refund of the applicable cancellation fees charged by forfeiting the portion of the Starpoints that he/she had redeemed for the SPG Award necessary to cover the applicable cancellation fees by emailing his/her request to [email protected] no later than 60 days after the reservation arrival date, provided that the SPG Member has adequate Starpoints in his/her account.

  6. @Ben – (not OMAAT Ben) – WoW – Troll much?
    This post is very inline for me as I am a 25+ a year SPG user as well.

  7. I wonder if no-showing would be any better. Seems I’ve been seeing on most of my award bookings lately that typically you get the points back, and they charge your cc the rack rate for no-shows. Since you know you are getting gouged for a late cancelation or no-show, the only reason to do it is because of some sort of problem, such as an illness or canceled flight. So with this policy they are piling injury on top of injury. 🙁

  8. For SPG the cancellation penalty is always cash based. However, you can ask customer service to deduct your originally used points in lieu of the cash penalty – so this is a non-issue.

  9. So, Ben-the-first-commenter, that’s it? That’s all you’ve got? Look, if you wanna be a troll, you really need step up your game. And I don’t mean just a little bit, either. I mean you don’t want to look like one of those idiots at the beginning of Cyrano de Bergerac who couldn’t manage anything more original than “You have a very big nose,” right? That just makes it seem as though you’re not any good at, you know, being a troll — and likely much else besides if you get my drift here.

    Here let me show you how it’s done. So, Ben-who-owns-this blog, you tease us with these little tidbits, these tiny tidbits, about the dark side of no-showing? All the while leaving us panting for a complete trip report, a complete The Apartments review, anything? Really, this makes it look as though you can start something but then, maybe, aren’t so good at finishing — if you get my drift here . . . .

    And then, Ben-the-first-commenter, you could kind of take off from there, now that I’ve gotten you properly started. But that would take, well, what you don’t have.

    As for me, I come back because I like reading the blog, because I like reading the comments, and because I even get a real laugh out of the pathetic likes of you, the trolls. It’s all part of the entertainment.

    And Ben-the-owner, I do offer my sincere thanks for somehow keeping this thing going for another year — how time flies! — and I wish you the best for next year. Your blog really does bring us all laughs and teaches us besides.

  10. @Tom

    You’ve said what I could never put into words. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I think I love you.

  11. First time commenter, long time reader.

    Funny you should post about this today, since I just booked a rewards stay with the Whistler Westin and noticed the exact same thing about the cancellation. 16k for a night, but cancelling late would cost CND$999.00. Impressive.

  12. No-showing does the same as late cancellation, IME. I got totally screwed with Conrad NYC by forgetting to cancel an award and I was charged RACK instead of the 50k points. I was furious and tried and tried to get them to take the 50k points instead of that killaton of money. No go.

  13. I went through the process of booking a room on Jun 1 2015 for one night. Preferred Rate for Aloft Room, non-smoking, King Bed is AED 349. SPG Free Night cancellation info says “the forfeiture amount will be AED 1,000.00”. I thought the Preferred Rate was the rack rate, this cancellation fee is 3x the Preferred Rate. In any case, thanks for the heads up, Ben (blogger Ben, not omniscient troll Ben).

  14. @Rene – sounds like you’re an overpaid blogger too

    @Tom – I’m afraid your Stockholm syndrome is in advanced stages and no longer curable.

    @Travellingwilly – Homosexual marriage is legal in some parts of the world. Maybe Ben can officiate and take all that MR knowledge he loves to preach about at FTU and fly long enough to catch up on all those trip reports he’s been marketing about. After all ,Ben Schlappig is a marketing graduate (great job for homosexuals) so he should know a thing or two about brand promise and marketing a coherent ideology.

  15. lets be easy on Ben, he is either a newbie in the hobby world & after reading a few pieces, cant wait to flex his wings, or he is a teenager, that makes him a typical teenage know-it-all.

  16. @Ben the Troll
    Thanks so much for sharing your illuminating thoughts with us. Sometimes these log posts can be a little on the dry side, so its just delightful when we get some comic relief from folks like yourself. Perhaps in a future post you could also work in some racism to go with your homophobia? That would be the tops.

  17. @HansGolden – see my reply above – Starwood USED TO hit you with RACK but changed the policy so you can request that they refund the charge and remove the points instead.

  18. @Gary: I saw your post. Maybe you should see mine. 😛 Conrad is part of Hilton, not SPG last I checked. 😛 😀

  19. What was the reason for others to use the Hotel for hourly basis? Is it because of the timing of the flights or some other mischievous reason?

  20. Haha this is all pretty funny, except that just this morning, after reading the REAL Ben’s sparkling review of the Apartments, I was beginning to wonder if the blog was becoming simply prurient and less relevant to those of us who deal with issues like this mechanics of canceled stays, etc. Thus, I applaud the occasional discussion of 99% issues!

  21. On a tangential topic — would be great if checking in a day late would actually get you a night credit since you are still paying for the room. For example, we were supposed to arrive on Thursday evening for a five-day stay at an SPG hotel on points. Due to an emergency, didn’t check-in until Friday morning (before noon) — we let hotel know but it was too late to cancel/change reservation.

    We had no problems paying for the first night we didn’t use but not getting a credit for that night sort of added insult to injury 🙁

  22. ff_lover, thanks for pointing out the hourly comment. It reminds me that some hotel I was looking at, maybe in Abu Dhabi or somewhere in Europe, first showed me hourly rates. I was wondering what that was about but forgot to research it later. Is it for layovers or awkwardly-timed arrivals and departures (like middle of the night)??

  23. Interesting. We really liked the Aloft Abu Dhabi just last month for an overnight stay. The breakfast alone (for 2 guests…) was was worth almost 3000 points.

  24. For what it’s worth – a couple of years ago, I forgot to cancel an award night I didn’t use. I wasn’t charged cash, and I got stay credit for the night – just as though I had checked in for the night. I guess YMMV.

    Also, on a Hyatt points stay, I was told that late cancel would cost me a full revenue rate, but the hotel sounded willing to work with me if necessary.

  25. @ Mark — I did. I wasn’t trying to cancel, but rather was just intrigued by the listed amount for trying to cancel.

  26. @ Rangindo — Still deciding if I’ll do my RTW trip with dad or this trip first, as far as the full trip reports go.

  27. I am a front desk agent at a Fairmont property, and deal with cancellations and no shows all the time, and the are effectively the same thing in our world.

    If you can’t cancel outside of the 24hr window, I find it reasonable to assess a penalty – but not more than 1RMTX at the rate paid in either dollars or points, or BAR (1 night RooM and TaX, Best Available Rate) so this seems a little shady.

    My reservations manager waives these fees all the time, especially if we hear from you within the 24 hour period and there is a valid reason (sickness, emergency, flight delays and cancels, etc.) so ALWAYS call the hotel direct and ALWAYS talk to reservations team.

  28. So I booked a spg hotel and they canceled my reservation claiming that the rate was an error and they would not honor.
    So I booked a spg and tried to cancel by calling with skype but they block skype calls so I cannot reach them.
    So I called the hotel directly but because its a points stay they refuse to cancel and say I must call the spg line directly. The hotel refuses to call spg on my behalf, its like they hope that I fail to cancel and they can collect RACK.
    SPG is kinda running a RACKET. They write the T&C and screw the customer and then create technical issues to hope that they can benefit.
    Hilton is no better since the Blackrock take over.
    The think is these chain hotels were suppose to offer better customer friendly policies than random individually owned hotels but I find that now the chains are abusing their positions and using Points Programs to screw customers, just like the airlines use FF programs to maintain monopolistic positions. This is why I prefer airbnb or non FF airlines whenever I can. Let competition disrupt the market

  29. Lucky,

    Curious as to why you didn’t like this property? I am not a fan of the aloft brand, but at 3k it seems like a good deal. I also noticed you can earn 3k by booking a suite at 699AED at the property using the EYD promo.

  30. Usually you can postpone the reservation without penalty if you ask nicely and later cancel within the no penalty time. Just a little trick if desperate .

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