Guide to hotel cancellation policies and elite status changes amid coronavirus

Courtesy of Hilton
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As the coronavirus pandemic continues impacting the travel industry worldwide, hotel brands have had to change course from their old cancellation and rebooking policies. This is true even as many countries have reopened their borders around the world. With COVID-19 still lingering and impacting leisure and business travel, hotels have had no choice but to become more flexible overall.

Many of these generous cancellation policies could be in place for the long haul, while others may only be extended until we get to a place where the pandemic is no longer turning the travel industry upside down.

If you’re curious 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 the coronavirus.

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, it has not updated its policy since March last year. It now states that its hotel reservation and cancellation policies vary by location.

Member status

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

While Choice Hotels originally implemented a flexible cancellation policy that lasted throughout 2020, it now states that the cancellation policy varies based on your reservation and rate.

Member status

Choice Hotels has not updated its elite status policy for members, but the brand has paused points expiration until Dec. 31, 2021. Choice Hotels also originally reduced the number of nights you needed to stay to earn elite status in 2020, and it extended this policy through 2021. This means you only need to stay seven nights to earn Gold status, 15 to earn Platinum status and 25 to reach Diamond status for the remainder of the year. Further, individuals who reached one of the Choice Hotels status tiers as of May 20, 2020, have seen their status level extended, which will last through Dec. 31, 2021.


Reservation changes and cancellations

According to the Hilton website, all reservations can be changed or canceled at no charge and many of their properties offer this option until 24 hours before your arrival date.

Member status

Hilton has dramatically reduced the qualification requirements for its elite status tiers in 2021. You’ll need half the nights, stays or points to earn elite status than you normally would, and the tier of status you earn in 2021 will last until March 31, 2023. Further, all nights earned in 2020 by members, including promotional nights, will count toward earning status in 2021.

The Hilton Honors program is also pausing the expiration of all points that were scheduled to expire this year or last, with no points expiring until at least Dec. 31, 2021. Further, you can still use any eligible weekend nights issued before Aug. 30, 2020, through the new expiration date of Aug. 31, 2021.


Reservation changes and cancellations

Hyatt previously waived fees for cancellations made on all reservations through July 1, 2020, for arrivals through July 31, 2021, although a 24-hour advance notice was required. All reservations made in 2021 are subject to the cancellation, deposit and/or refund policy disclosed at the time of reservation, which can vary based on the property and the rate you booked.

However, World of Hyatt members qualify for a better cancellation policy. According to the hotel brand, “subject to certain restrictions, reservations confirmed or changed by an Explorist, Globalist or Lifetime Globalist can be canceled up to 24 hours before the hotel or resort check-in time when the hotel’s or resort’s cancellation period is not more than 48 hours prior to check-in.”

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 your status was as of March 31, 2020—whether Discoverist, Explorist or Globalist—it was updated and now reflects a Feb. 28, 2022, expiration date,” according to the website.

Also, no points will expire until at least Dec. 31, 2021. Any unused Suite Upgrade and Club Lounge Access awards with Feb. 28, 2021, expiration dates have also been extended to the same date of Dec. 31, 2021. Finally, all unused Free Night awards with 2021 expiration dates have been extended to Dec. 31, 2021.


Reservation changes and cancellations

While IHG originally rolled out an incredibly flexible cancellation policy, it has moved closer to its normal policy in 2021. Most bookings allow you to cancel up to 24 to 72 hours before your check-in time. If you have to cancel after that time, you’ll be charged a fee equal to the cost of one night of your reservation.

Member status

IHG Rewards Club elite status members can qualify for status more easily again in 2021. 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 January 2022.

All members with points set to expire have an extended expiration date of Dec. 31, 2021. As a reminder, points earned by IHG Gold, Platinum and Spire members never expire.


Reservation changes and cancellations

Marriott reports that reservations made on or after July 6, 2020, for arrival dates through Aug. 31, 2021, can be changed or canceled with no penalty up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date. Guests making reservations with an arrival date after Sept. 1, 2021, should note that individual hotel cancellation policies will apply.

Member status

Marriott Bonvoy program members who earned elite status in 2019 saw their status automatically extended until February 2022. Further, members who earned elite status in 2019 also received 50 percent of their tier’s annual Elite Night Credit requirement deposited into their account in 2021.

Members who haven’t had any activity posted for at least 24 months with points scheduled to expire before Feb. 1, 2021, should note that their points expiration date moved to March 31, 2022.

Suite night awards with an expiration date before Dec. 31, 2020, were extended through Dec. 31, 2021. Further, members with a Free Night Award set to expire before Jan. 2, 2022, as part of their Cobrand Credit Card Benefit, Annual Choice Benefit, promotions or travel package can redeem until a new date of Jan. 3, 2022.


Reservation changes and cancellations

The following Radisson policy applies to properties in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India and Asia Pacific: Radisson is extending free cancellations and reservation changes up to 24 hours before arrival for stays through Dec. 31, 2021.

For reservations in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, the cancellation policy of the individual hotel or resort applies.

Member status

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

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

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts

Reservation changes and cancellations

Wyndham has noted on its website that some properties “may continue to temporarily extend their cancellation policy, with dates varying based on local travel restrictions or temporary resort closures.”

In other words, your specific cancellation policy will depend on which property you make a booking with.

Member status

Wyndham is pausing the expiration of points in its rewards program until Dec. 30, 2021, and has extended current member status for all global members through the same date.

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 details 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 circumstances arising from the pandemic. 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 staffing issues and more customer service inquiries overall.

Chase also allows customers to submit a cancellation request online through a form on its 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 get excited about travel already booked for the next few months, it’s also reasonable to take a “wait and see” approach, or even to book travel at the last minute when you know for sure you can go.

Either way, it’s smart to look for hotel bookings and other travel options that come with flexible cancellation policies. If you make sure your plans are flexible, you’ll be able to rebound quickly if you have to reschedule or cancel due to the pandemic or something else that comes up.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
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