Hotels, like any business, are always looking for ways to make more money. As a result, they have created fees and surcharges that were unheard of a few years ago. One example of this is the enforcement of cancellation policies.
Hotels have always had some sort of cancellation policy–meaning, the amount of time you have to cancel your room prior to your stay, before they charge you for that reservation. While there are some hotel reservations that cannot be canceled without an immediate penalty of one or two nights being charged to your credit card–this is most common in resort areas or in cities with a major event scheduled during your stay–the majority of hotels that cater to business travelers still allow cancellations up to a specified time prior to arrival, without fees being incurred.
In times past, most “no-show fees” could be waived if you simply called the hotel and explained your situation. But hotels are cracking down. They are beginning to charge regardless of reason, should you cancel after the grace period. In doing so, hotels can then keep the money they’ve made from your cancelled reservation, and hopefully re-sell the room to another traveler, thus doubling the revenue on that one room.
However, there are ways to help reduce the cost of cancellation fees and hopefully save you some money.
- Join a hotel loyalty program. If you “attach” yourself to a particular hotel brand and begin earning points by always staying at their hotels when you travel, you will then be recognized as a “brand loyal” customer and the hotel will be more likely to work with you on an occasional no-show reservation. Think of it this way: The more points you accumulate, the more valuable you become to the hotel. And the more likely they are to accommodate your situation.
- If your travel takes you to the same city frequently, try staying at the same hotel each time. The employees at the front desk will get to know you by name and your loyalty could pay off if you ever need a favor.
- If you cancel your reservation and the hotel is refusing to grant you a waiver of their cancellation policy, ask if you can have a credit for a future stay. Many business trips are not necessarily cancelled, just postponed due to some unforeseen circumstance. If you know you’ll be returning, the credit can be applied to your next visit.
- If your travel plans change frequently, avoid hotels that charge at the time of booking. You may also want to avoid those that have a 14, 7, or even 3-day cancellation policy. There are plenty of brands that still allow a 4:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. cancellation on the day of your arrival.
And always, to avoid unnecessary expenses, read or ask about the hotel’s cancellation policy. If it doesn’t fit your travel needs, consider booking a different hotel to save money and hassle should your plans change.