Earlier I wrote about the outrageous situation someone was facing at the St. Regis Aspen. To briefly summarize, a person booked a five night stay for two rooms using points. Their flight to Aspen was canceled (as is quite common due to weather), so they ended up arriving at the hotel one day late.
As it turns out, this hotel has a mostly undisclosed policy of charging $1,000 per night if you no-show for an award booking. I have a lot of problems with this policy. One detail I didn’t get right earlier is that what essentially happens is that you’re refunded the points for that night, and are instead charged cash.
There are many reasons I take issue with this policy:
- If you pay for your stay in points, why does a hotel have a policy that you get charged in cash if you no show? Isn’t keeping the points you redeemed (your full form of payment) sufficient?
- It’s one thing if that were clearly disclosed, but the problem is that it’s not
- During the booking process it doesn’t clarify that this will happen, but rather in a personalized follow-up email they disclose this
- In this particular situation it wasn’t even that someone canceled their trip, but rather their flight just got canceled, so they got there late
- When they contacted the hotel to tell them they’d be arriving late, this outrageous fee also wasn’t disclosed
Well, as it turns out, this is more of a widespread policy than I thought. Several readers pointed out that the St. Regis Deer Valley has a similar policy. Let me once again emphasize that what happens is that you’re essentially charged the cash rate for the night, and are refunded the points.
On the plus side, at least the St. Regis Deer Valley discloses this during the booking process, as it says the following:
You may cancel your reservation for no charge until 6:00 PM hotel time on December 6, 2019. Please note that we will assess a fee if you must cancel after this deadline. If you have made a prepayment, we will retain all or part of your prepayment. If not, we will charge your credit card.
While I still wouldn’t call that completely clear, it is a much higher level of disclosure than the St. Regis Aspen provides, as they only state:
You may cancel your reservation for no charge until December 3, 2019 (60 day[s] before arrival).
If you thought charging $1,000 per night for a no show was a lot, it gets much worse than that. A reader shares how after confirming his booking at the St. Regis Deer Valley, he received the following email:
Please note that in case you need to cancel you do have a 90 day cancellation policy to cancel without penalty. Should you need to cancel after the deadline, there would be a penalty of Full amount room and tax $2,500 per night plus tax (13.42%) which will be charged on the credit card on file and the points will be returned to your account. Trip insurance is highly recommended.
In other words, in the event that your flight got canceled and you arrived at the hotel one day late, you’d be on the line for $2,835.50.
If you ended up getting sick one day before your five day stay, had a death in the family, or decided 89 days before arrival that you had another commitment, you’d be on the hook for $14,177.50. That’s crazy.
My single biggest issue here is the lack of proper disclosure. In the case of the St. Regis Deer Valley, at least they’re telling you during the booking process you’ll be on the hook for some amount of cash if you show up late. The St. Regis Aspen doesn’t do that.
At least if we have the full information we can decide where to take our business.
However, beyond that, I find the concept of charging cash in lieu of points if you no show for a booking to be outrageous. How on earth can they justify this policy? Could you imagine if airlines did this for award tickets? Delta makes you cancel award tickets 72 hours in advance, so could you imagine that if you no showed for a flight (or were running late), you’d have to pay the full fare cost of a ticket?
I guess the next time I go to an expensive resort with a cancelation policy like this I just need to fly in the day before and stay somewhere else, lest I be charged thousands of dollars for showing up late for reasons outside my control.
To me this completely changes the value proposition of award bookings at some properties. People often like to earn points so they can book aspirational experiences they could never pay with cash. So to deal with problems outside your control (like a canceled flight, illness, etc.) and be faced with a $14K+ bill is just outrageous.
Buyer beware… check those confirmation policies when you book, and in the case of the St. Regis Aspen check all follow-up emails as well, because this isn’t properly disclosed.
If you take issue with this policy I’d recommend voicing your dissatisfaction with the loyalty program, because it changes the value of the programs, in my opinion.
In the past I haven’t been nervous about redeeming points. I figure worst case scenario I’ll forfeit the points, and while that sucks, it pales in comparison to being in a situation where you’re having to pay $14K+ in cash for a stay you’re not making.