Finance

Choice Tightens Cancellation Policies, Following Other Hotel Cos.

The days of eased cancellation policies for hotels and extensions for loyalty status are coming to an end. Choice Hotels this month announced that, beginning July 14, guests who cancel new reservations will be required to do so at least 48 hours prior to their scheduled arrival. New reservations made by registered Choice Privileges members will require 24 hours of advance notice for cancellations.

The move comes after most other major hotel companies returned to traditional cancellation requirements, in which they often charge the guest for one night plus tax for cancellations after the allotted timeframe. Such policies vary by hotel company, by brand and sometimes by individual hotel, so travelers should pay attention to specific cancellation policies at the time of booking.

For Choice Elite loyalty members, points forfeiture will remain paused through Dec. 31, 2021, and the company has extended its reduced number of nights for status through the end of the year to seven room nights for Gold status, 15 for Platinum and 25 for Diamond.

Other hotel companies have updated for cancellation and loyalty status policies:

Accor: Those with reservations with flexible rates booked directly with Accor may cancel or modify their reservations without penalties, provided that the exact rate policy of the original booking will apply to the revised booking, according to the company website and confirmed by an Accor spokesperson. For non-flexible rates booked directly with Accor worldwide, except Southern Europe and North America, guests with reservations through Dec. 31, 2021, may modify their reservation for a later date without any modification fees, subject to availability and applicable rates and conditions, or request a credit voucher for the full amount of the original booking value for use at a future date at the same hotel within 18 months of the voucher issue date. If the booked hotel is closed at the date of the stay, or if the hotel is not allowed to accommodate the guest based on official orders, the guest can cancel the reservation free of charge and receive a full refund. The same policy applies for North America reservations prior to and inclusive of Dec. 15, 2021. For Southern Europe, the policy had applied for guests with stays booked up to and including June 30, 2021, but its current status wasn’t immediately clear.

Accor last updated its loyalty program earlier this year, with status from 2020 extended through Dec. 31, 2021, status points and status nights earned July 1-Dec. 31, 2020, credited to members’ 2021 balances, and all status points and nights in 2021 doubled so members can earn higher status twice as fast, according to an Accor spokesperson. Point expirations for elite-tier members have been extended to Dec. 15, 2021, and suite night upgrade awards were extended 12 months from the date of issue.

Hilton Worldwide: Most Hilton hotels will allow changes or cancellations up to 24 hours before the arrival day, but some exceptions may apply, according to the company website, which advises guests refer to the property’s rate details when booking or changing reservations. 

Hilton has extended Hilton Honors status to March 31, 2022, for Silver, Gold and Diamond members that were set to downgrade in 2020 or 2021, as well as extended all points set to expire at the end of 2020 to Dec. 31, 2021, according to a Hilton Honors fact sheet and confirmed by a company spokesperson. Hilton also extended the expiration date of all unexpired Weekend Night Rewards as of March 11, 2020, and all new ones issues until Aug. 30, 2020, to Jan. 3, 2022. All 2021-issued Free Weekend Night Reward certificates can be used any night of the week and will be extended to the end of 2022. All nights earned in 2020 will roll over to 2021 and count toward members’ 2021-2023 tier status qualification. In 2021, members can earn 10,000 points for every 10 nights stayed starting at 20 nights instead of 40. 

Hyatt Hotels Corp.: With some limited exceptions, reservations booked directly through Hyatt before July 1, 2020, can be canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before a scheduled arrival, a company spokesperson confirmed. This does not apply to convention and group business. All reservations booked on or after July 1, 2020, are subject to the cancellation, deposit and/or refund policy disclosed at the time of reservation. 

The company is suspending the forfeiture of points through Dec. 31, 2021, meaning that any member without qualifying activity for 24 or more months as of Dec. 31 will forfeit their points in January 2022. All unused Free Night, Suite Upgrade or Club Lounge Access awards with expiration dates between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, have been extended to Dec. 31, 2021. All unused Suite Upgrade and Club Lounge Access awards with Feb. 28, 2021, expiration dates have been extended to Dec. 31, 2021. In addition, all Free Night awards earned in 2020 with 2021 expiration dates have been extended to Dec. 31, 2021, and status levels earned as of March 31, 2020 now reflect a Feb. 28, 2022 expiration date. Those levels have been reduced by 50 percent for all tiers in 2021. 

IHG Hotels & Resorts: Hotel cancellation deadlines and penalties vary by hotel, rate type season, local events and demographics, but a typical cancellation deadline would be the day prior to arrival, according to the IHG website and confirmed by a company spokesperson. There is no standard penalty across hotels, and they are determined at the time of booking in the cancellation policy section. 

For IHG Rewards members, the company has extended status through January 2022 based on status earned in 2019. The company also has extended its 25 percent reduced qualifying points and qualifying nights criteria for 2021. For Gold Elite, Platinum Elite and Spire Elite members, all qualifying nights stayed in 2020 were rolled over into 2021 and count toward status earned in 2021. Points never expire for all members with Elite status. Anniversary Night certificates set to expire in 2020 were reissued with a new expiration date of Dec. 31, 2021. Certificates with an original 2021 expiration date have been extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

Loews Hotels: The company has returned to standard cancellation policies, which differ by hotel and are dependent on the market, according to a company spokesperson. Loews does not offer a loyalty program.

Marriott International: For guests with existing reservations made before July 6, 2020, for any future arrival date, the policies in place at the time of the reservation or as previously communicated will continue to be honored, according to the company website and confirmed by a spokesperson. For guests with reservations made on or after July 6, 2020, for arrival dates through Aug. 31, 2021, Marriott will allow the reservation to be changed or canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date. Reservations made with pre-paid rates and other limited exclusions will be subject to the rate offer rules communicated at the time of reservation. For guests making new reservations for arrival dates on or after Sept. 1, 2021, individual hotel cancellation policies in place at the time of reservation will apply. This policy does not apply to group bookings. Guests who booked via online travel agents or other third parties are advised to contact their booking provider directly for further information.

For Bonvoy loyalty members, status earned in 2019 will be extended to Feb. 1, 2022, according to the company website. Marriott has paused the expiration of points until March 31, 2022. At that time, points will expire only if an account has been inactive for at least 24 months. The company also extended the expiration of suite night awards by one year from Dec. 31, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2021. Further, Marriott reduced the required spend for Ambassador Elite to $14,000 annual qualifying spend for 2021 only. In 2022, the spend requirement will return to $20,000 annually.

Radisson Hotels Americas: For reservations made on or after Jan. 1, 2021, individual hotel cancellation policies in place at the time of booking apply. Guests who booked through online travel agents or third parties must contact their booking provider for any adjustments, according to the company’s website and confirmed by a Radisson spokesperson. 

Radisson also has paused the expiration of its Rewards points. Any points that were set to expire between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 30, 2021 will now expire on Dec. 31, 2021, if the account remains inactive. In addition, Radisson has extended 2020 status through February 2022 for those whose status would have expired in February 2021, and all eligible nights and stays earned in 2020 will roll over to 2021 and be applied toward maintaining or increasing elite status in 2022.

Sonesta Interntional Hotels Corp.: Beginning June 1, 2021, Sonesta returned to a standard one-day prior to arrival cancellation policy for reservations booked directly on the company website or via its reservation call center, according to a company spokesperson. “There are select exceptions driven by special events or other contingencies that allows for policy leniency,” the company said. Sonesta also extended its loyalty program, Sonesta Travel Pass, to include meeting attendees.

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts: Reservations must be canceled in accordance with the cancellation policy outlined by the hotel for the rate and dates booked, according to the company website. The cancellation window varies by property, but is typically 24 to 48 hours prior to arrival, and the penalty usually is a one-night stay, but “guests should always refer to the terms of the rate booked for specifics,” according to a company spokesperson. Select rates, like advance purchase, remain non-cancelable. “The one exception that we continue to make is for guests who booked direct but are prohibited from traveling to their booked hotel by law,” according to Wyndham. “In those instances, cancel or change penalties are waived, regardless of the rate booked.”

The company has paused the expiration of Wyndham Rewards points until Dec. 31, 2021. Any member’s level that was otherwise set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020, was extended to Dec. 31, 2021. In addition, for 2021 members can reach status levels with lowered qualifying nights. A Rewards member will reach Gold status after three nights, the Platinum level after nine nights, and the Diamond level after 24 nights.

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