Guide to hotel cancellation policies and elite status changes amid coronavirus

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As the impact of coronavirus continues shaking up the travel industry worldwide, hotel brands have had to change course from their old cancellation and rebooking policies. Limited numbers of travelers (other than those on essential trips) and travel restrictions have made the easing of harsh cancellation policies not only the right thing to do — but also what hotels had to do to deal with this unprecedented situation.

Further, many of these generous cancellation policies extend over the next few months, as consumers book aspirational travel for later in the year while knowing they may have to cancel or reschedule at some point.

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 coronavirus.

You can also find information about flight cancellations and airline elite status changes using Bankrate’s guide.

Best Western

Reservation changes and cancellations

Best Western is letting customers who made reservations cancel without penalty until June 30, 2020, provided at least 24 hours notice is given. This policy is for hotels in the Caribbean, Canada and the United States; hotels outside of this area may have different rules. Some high-demand hotels may also have separate policies for cancellations, so you should check your individual reservation to make sure.

Member status

Further, 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.

Choice Hotels

Reservation changes and cancellations

Choice Hotels reservations may now be modified or changed online, and anyone can cancel an existing reservation with no penalty until June 30, 2020 with at least 24 hours notice. For a limited time, guests making new reservations can also qualify for free cancellation up to 24 hours before arrival.

Member status

While Choice Hotels has not updated its elite status policy for members yet, the brand has paused points expiration until May 31, 2020.

Hilton

Reservation changes and cancellations

According to the Hilton website, all reservations through June 30, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at no charge, given 24 hours notice. For new reservations, the same policy applies; travelers may cancel up to 24 hours before the arrival day with no penalty.

Member status

Hilton has also extended elite status for all 2019 status members who were scheduled to be downgraded by March 31, 2020. Elite members who fall into this category will see their status extended until March 31, 2021. Further, members who earned elite status for 2020 already will see their elite status extended through March 31, 2022.

The Hilton Honors program is also pausing expiration of all points that were scheduled to expire before Dec. 31, 2020. And you can use any eligible weekend nights you have as of March 11, 2020, and all new ones issued until Aug. 30, 2020, through a new expiration date of Aug. 31, 2021.

Hyatt

Reservation changes and cancellations

Hyatt is waiving fees for cancellations made on all reservations through June 30, 2020, although 24 hours advance notice is required. New reservations made between now and June 30th can also be changed or cancelled up to 24 hours before the arrival date without penalty. There are exceptions for Special Events Rate reservations and reservations at select Destination properties booked after April 1, 2020.

Hyatt does note that “Special exceptions are in place for all Advance Purchase Rate non-refundable reservations made directly with Hyatt on or before March 8, 2020 for arrivals before June 30, 2020.” Guests with these reservations can receive 10,000 World of Hyatt Bonus Points compensation in lieu of both their stay and the new cancellation policy (if eligible) with 24 hours notice.

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 a member’s status was as of March 31, 2020 – whether Discoverist, Explorist or Globalist – it will be automatically updated to reflect a Feb. 28, 2022 expiration date,” according to the site.

IHG

Reservation changes and cancellations

IHG is allowing cancellations without any penalty for existing bookings made through June 30, 2020. For new bookings, IHG is also offering several payment options, including a Book Now, Pay Later option. With this type of booking, no deposit is required and you can cancel up to 24 hours before your arrival date with no penalty.

Member status

IHG Rewards Club elite status members can qualify for status more easily this year. IHG has reduced eligibility requirements (for points or stays) by 25 percent or more across each elite status level. All members with points set to expire from April 1 through the end of 2020 will now have an extended expiration date of Dec. 31, 2020.

Marriott

Reservation changes and cancellations

Marriott is also allowing cancellations with no penalty for all current reservations made until June 30, 2020. For new reservations made now through June 30, 2020, you’ll also be eligible to cancel with no charge. In both cases, you must cancel at least 24 hours before your arrival date to qualify.

Member status

Marriott Bonvoy program members who earned elite status in 2019 will see their status automatically extended until Feb. 2022. Members who haven’t had any activity posted for at least 24 months with points scheduled to expire before Feb. 1, 2021 will see their points expiration date moved to Feb. 1, 2021.

Suite night awards with an expiration date before Dec. 31, 2020 will now expire Dec. 31, 2021, and free night awards set to expire after March 1, 2020 will be extended through Jan. 31, 2021.

Radisson

Reservation changes and cancellations

Radisson is extending free cancellations and reservation changes through June 30, 2020. New reservations made before that date can be cancelled or modified with no charge at least 24 hours prior to the arrival date.

Member status

Radisson Hotels is suspending points expiration for six months as of March 1, 2020 due to the impact of coronavirus. For elite status members whose status would expire in Feb. 2021, the brand is extending elite status through Feb. 2022. Further, e-certificates from the Radisson credit card that are scheduled to expire before July 31, 2020 may now be redeemed through June 30, 2021.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts

Reservation changes and cancellations

Wyndham is allowing guests with current reservations through May 31, 2020 to cancel or change their reservation with no penalty provided at least 24 hours notice is given. For new bookings made for arrivals after May 31, 2020, all Wyndham properties are required to “accommodate non-cancellable rate reservation changes if the request is received at least 48 hours prior to arrival and the same number of room nights or more are booked for a future stay,” according to a recent statement.

Member status

Wyndham is pausing rewards points expiration until Sept. 30, 2020 and has extended current member status for all global members through the end of 2021. Wyndham says it continues actively exploring additional steps to help Wyndham Rewards members globally.

How to get a refund on cancelled 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 specifics 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 consequences from coronavirus. For example, in the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card 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 lengthy due to the wealth of cancellations currently taking place for travel around the globe.

Chase also allows customers to submit a cancellation request online through a form on their 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 cancelled, 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 start making contingency plans for travel already booked for the next few months, you may want to wait on reservations for later this year. Nobody knows what the travel landscape will look like come fall, and hotel cancellation policies will be continuously updated as time goes on.

Chances are good that, if you wait, you’ll have a lot more options when it comes to cancelling your hotel reservation without penalty much closer to time.