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Guide to hotel cancellation policies and elite status changes amid coronavirus

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Courtesy of Hilton
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The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the travel industry worldwide, for both leisure and business travel. In response, hotels have had to alter their old cancellation and rebooking policies to be more flexible. This remains true even as many countries have reopened their borders around the world. While it’s possible that many hotels’ generous cancellation policies could be in place for the long haul, others’ policies may only be extended until the pandemic is no longer greatly affecting the travel industry.

If you’re curious as to how your favorite hotel brand has updated its policies during the pandemic, continue reading for our rundown of hotel cancellation policies and elite status changes. We’ll cover policies for:

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.

Best Western

Reservation changes and cancellations

While Best Western originally offered an updated cancellation policy that allowed cancellations 24 hours before arrival, it has not updated its policy since March 2020. Best Western now states that its hotel reservation and cancellation policies vary by location, so be sure to review each individual hotel’s cancellation policy before booking or canceling a stay.

Member status

Over the course of the pandemic, Best Western has taken steps to help its members retain their elite status without having to travel. For example, members who were downgraded by a tier of status at the end of 2019 were automatically leveled up to their previous tier. And through March 31, 2023, all Best Western Rewards Members will be able to maintain their current status without needing to fulfill the usual qualifications.

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. The appropriate cancellation deadline will be displayed on the confirmation page before you book a reservation.

Member status

Choice Hotels last updated its elite status policy in August 2021; its policy stated that points expiration was paused until Dec. 31, 2021. During this time, you only needed to stay seven nights to earn Gold status, 15 nights to earn Platinum status and 25 nights to reach Diamond status. However, it’s unclear if Choice Hotels has extended its flexible policy into 2022, as its member tiers on its website appear to have reverted to their pre-pandemic status.

Hilton

Reservation changes and cancellations

According to Hilton’s website, most reservations can be changed or canceled up to 24 hours before your arrival date, and many of its properties offer this feature at no charge. To change or cancel hotel reservations, follow the directions in your confirmation email or go to Hilton.com or the Hilton Honors app.

Member status

In 2021, Hilton dramatically reduced the qualification requirements for its elite status tiers. All elite members will keep their current status and benefits through March 31, 2023. That means you’ll need half the nights, stays or points to earn elite status than you normally would. The Hilton Honors program has also paused points expiration until Dec. 31, 2022, and all 2021 nights have rolled over into 2022.

Hyatt

Reservation changes and cancellations

Hyatt’s cancellation policies vary depending on when you booked your reservation, and other terms apply depending on the property. All reservations made on or after July 1, 2020, 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 booked rate.

However, World of Hyatt members qualify for a better cancellation policy. The hotel brand states that eligible reservations “confirmed or changed by an Explorist, Globalist or Lifetime Globalist can be [canceled] until 11:59 p.m. the day before arrival, when the hotel’s or resort’s cancellation period is not more than 48 hours prior to check-in.” Additional terms apply.

Member status

The World of Hyatt program has extended elite status and benefits for members through Feb. 28, 2022. Hyatt’s elite status requirements—which were reduced by 50 percent in 2021—will then return to their previous numbers.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

Reservation changes and cancellations

IHG offers various flexible booking policies. If you book your reservation directly with IHG, you can change your reservation free of charge as long as you do so before the cancellation deadline listed in your booking confirmation. IHG also offers flexible booking rates (which allow you to change or cancel your reservation with 24-hours notice), along with the chance to book reservations in advance and pay later (no deposit is required, and you cancel up to three days before your reservation). However, note that cancellation policies may change depending on rates, hotel location, special offers or other factors.

Member status

All IHG Rewards members will have their status automatically extended through February 2023. As a reminder, points earned by IHG Gold, Platinum and Spire members never expire, and points expiration for IHG Club members will be extended through Dec. 31, 2022. Additionally, IHG has redesigned its member tiers and earning structure this year. It’s now offering a more flexible points system and a new elite status, Diamond.

Marriott

Reservation changes and cancellations

Marriott offers a number of flexible cancellation options. For reservations booked with Marriott on or after Sept. 1, 2021, the individual hotel’s cancellation policy and rate offer rules stated at the time of booking will apply. Reservation changes will be subject to availability and rate changes.

Marriott also offers travel insurance through Allianz Global Assistance, which can help guests to receive refunds in the event a trip is canceled or cut short due to illness or injury.

Member status

Marriott Bonvoy program members who earned elite status in 2019, 2020 or 2021 will continue to see their status extended through February 2023. Marriott Bonvoy points expiration has also been extended until Dec. 31, 2022. After that time, points will expire if your account has been inactive for 24 months.

Suite night awards with an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2021, have been extended through June 30, 2022. Further, members with a Free Night Award (as a part of certain benefits or promotions) set to expire between January 3, 2022, and June 29, 2022, can redeem it until June 30, 2022.

Radisson

Reservation changes and cancellations

For hotel stays in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, the cancellation policy of the individual hotel or resort at the time of booking applies. For hotel stays in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India and the Asia Pacific, Radisson offers free cancellations and reservation changes up to 24 hours before arrival (until Dec. 31, 2022). Terms apply for rate or promotional offers.

Member status

All members with elite status will see their status extended through February 2023, and all eligible stays earned in 2021 have rolled over to 2022 and will contribute to elite status. Radisson has suspended points expiration as well. Any points that were set to expire will now expire on June 30, 2022.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts

Reservation changes and cancellations

Wyndham’s standard hotel cancellation policy has resumed: For a full points refund, cancellations must be made 15 days or more before the reservation date. However, specific resort locations may offer a flexible cancellation policy. Before making a reservation, you may want to verify the individual resort’s cancellation policy to see if a flexible or standard policy applies. However, if your stay has been canceled due to local travel restrictions or related factors, your points will be refunded within 72 hours.

Member status

All Wyndham Rewards member levels have been extended through Dec. 31, 2022. Wyndham has also lowered its requirements for various elite levels through 2022.

How to get a refund on canceled hotel reservations

In many cases, you can still cancel your reservation without having to take any steps to get your money or points back. 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; 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 Guide to Benefits for Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’ll find that “your disinclination to travel” due to an “epidemic or pandemic” is on the list of items not covered by its 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 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 what your options are. 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.

For Chase, customers can 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 that you’ve earned through paid stays or 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.

The bottom line

Until the pandemic is no longer greatly impacting the travel industry, cancellation policies and elite status changes are likely to remain flexible. However, they may also be subject to change at any moment, and policies may vary depending on hotel location or conditions agreed to at the time of booking.

While it’s completely natural to get excited about upcoming travel that’s already booked, 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 CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
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