I learned something new today!
Deciding between refundable and non-refundable hotel rates
Often it can be tough to choose what type of a rate to book at a hotel. Generally speaking hotels have the best rates if you book direct, but even then, it can be tough to decide between a flexible and non-flexible rate.
A flexible rate is a no-brainer if you’re not 100% sure you’ll take the trip. But even if you do know you’ll take the trip, booking a non-refundable rate isn’t necessarily the best option. That’s because hotels often drop prices as the arrival date approaches, and when you book a non-refundable rate you’re committed to that price.
In the past I’ve sometimes booked a non-refundable rate, only to later realize that the flexible rate dropped down below the non-refundable rate. Usually you’re out of luck when that happens. After all, you’re making a gamble, and trading flexibility for savings.
So generally I only book a non-refundable rate if I’m positive I’ll be taking a trip, if the savings are really significant, and if I’m confident that the price won’t drop significantly.
Hilton lets you refund non-refundable reservations
Hilton lets you modify pre-paid bookings for a fee of $25-50 under certain circumstances, and it’s potentially really useful. Specifically, if you want to cancel a non-refundable booking, you can get out of it by making a non-refundable booking at another Hilton property.
Here’s how it works:
- This is possible at hotels in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean
- This is only possible when done at least three days prior to your scheduled check-in date
- The fee to do this is $50 at Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, Embassy Suites, and Doubletree, and $25 at Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, and Home2 Suites
- Once you make your second non-refundable booking, you’ll be issued a refund for the first reservation, less the service fee, within four weeks
Here are the relevant terms that you should see on any Hilton booking page:
Modification of Reservation: Price quoted applies to exact date(s)/nights/stay booked. Modifications to your reservation (including but not limited to name changes, date changes, etc.) are not permitted. However, for bookings in the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean, a request to cancel an existing Advance Purchase/Non-Refundable reservation and book a new reservation may be permitted if at the time you are requesting a change to your reservation, you book a new Advance Purchase/Non Refundable reservation at any hotel in the Hilton portfolio located in the United States, Mexico or the Caribbean, subject to availability. Upon receipt of full payment for the new reservation, Hilton will issue a refund for the cancelled reservation, less a service fee. It may take up to four (4) weeks for the refund to be reflected on your credit card. For stays originally booked at the Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, Embassy Suites or Doubletree brand hotels, the service fee is $50.00 and for stays originally booked at a Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites, the service fee is $25.00. For a cancellation and rebooking to be considered, you must call our Advance Purchase Department to request a change to your reservation at (800) 236-7113 or (972) 726-3361 no less than three days prior to your scheduled check-in date.
Maybe this is something that everyone else knew and I’m the only one who didn’t, though as far as I know no other hotel brand has such a policy. I can’t guarantee this will always be possible, as there is some discretionary language in there, like “may be permitted” and “for a rebooking to be considered.”
I could really see this coming in handy under several circumstances:
- It could be useful if the rate for a stay drops significantly, since you could pay $25-50 to get a difference in the rate
- It could be useful if your plans change, since it sounds like you could cancel a non-refundable booking and just make another booking elsewhere
Based on the way I read the terms, it seems that any new non-refundable booking in an eligible region would qualify. It doesn’t state that the new reservation has to be as expensive (or more expensive) than the previous one. This would mean that you could cancel a $2,000 non-refundable booking by making a $100 non-refundable booking.
I can’t guarantee this will always work, though, so if this would ever come in handy I’d recommend calling up Hilton’s Advance Purchase Department and explaining your situation.
Either way, this is something I had no clue about, and I could definitely see myself using this in the future to book a non-refundable rate, as it decreases the risk of doing so.
Were you aware of Hilton’s generous policy for rebooking non-refundable rates?
(Tip of the hat to LoyaltyLobby)