Last updated on November 17th, 2021
With the holiday season fast approaching, there’s never been a better time to get your travel preparations underway than right now. Maybe you’ll be visiting family or friends in another state or country, or possibly making a last-minute business trip to close that final big deal of the calendar year? No matter what your purpose for traveling is, it’s critical to know what protections you have in the event of an unexpected situation in which you need to cancel your reservations at the last minute. Earlier, we covered what to do in the event of last-minute airline cancellations. Here’s what you need to know about last-minute hotel cancellation.
How Late Can You Cancel a Hotel Reservation?
In the past, some hotel chains offered guests the option of canceling their reservations anywhere up to almost the time of the booking. As the hospitality industry has grown, however, many chains have begun changing their cancellation policies to protect their bottom line and ensure their rooms are fully booked.
48 Hours Cancelation Policies are Common
Most larger hotel chains currently opt for a 48-hour cancellation policy before check-in for bookings. Just some of the major chains that operate with this policy include Hilton, Marriot, and Hyatt. These chains generally allow individual properties to determine their cancellation policies, however, with some opting for 24 hours and others selecting 72 hours for guests to cancel. The time required for a cancellation usually depends on the location of the property and how easy it is to re-book the hotel room.
Does Elite Status Help You Cancel a Hotel Reservation?
You might think having elite status in a hotel loyalty program, such as Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, Radisson Rewards, or any other, will automatically protect you in the event of a last-minute cancellation. Unfortunately, however, that may not be the case. While there may not be provisions within these loyalty programs for hotel cancelations per se, merely being an elite-tier member opens the possibility of receiving reimbursement for a last-minute cancellation. Hotels may even waive the fee for re-booking. These programs are meant to reward loyalty, after all, and part of that comes with excellent customer service. While your results may vary, gaining elite status in a hotel chain can be as easy as applying for and receiving a co-branded hotel credit card and paying the annual fee (if there is one). The World of Hyatt Card from Chase, for example, offers automatic Discoverist status in the World of Hyatt loyalty program for an annual fee of just $95. Discoverist tier provides a wealth of perks and benefits, including:
- Free premium Wi-Fi
- Free continental breakfast at select properties
- Free in-room bottles of water on each stay
- Early check-in and late check-out privileges
- Waived resort fees
- Choice of the preferred room where available
If you want instant elite status but don’t want to pay an annual fee, the Hilton Honors American Express Card is another option. The card offers automatic Hilton Honors Silver status, which provides the following perks:
- 20% bonus points on each stay
- Free 5th night
- Free Wi-Fi
- Free in-room bottles of water on each visit
- Dedicated reservations line
- No resort fees
- Late check-out
Once again, while elite status may not get you a full refund if you need to cancel on the check-in date, it certainly won’t hurt to ask. Plus, just having one of these cards opens the door to increased points-earning potential and additional benefits. As with all credit card and loyalty program offers, be sure to read the full terms and conditions before applying.
Pay with the Right Credit Card to Protect Against Last-Minute Cancellation Losses
The best way to protect yourself from losing your money on a last-minute hotel cancelation is by paying with a credit card that features trip cancelation insurance, trip interruption insurance, or both.
Trip Cancelation Insurance
Trip cancellation insurance protects cardholders and travelers from the unexpected. These unplanned occurrences include illness, injury, or death to the primary holder and immediate family member of the cardholder, or someone else on the travel itinerary. Travel cancellation helps recoup the losses from costs associated with the trip that can’t typically be refunded, including last-minute hotel cancellations and missed flights.
Trip Interruption Insurance
Trip interruption insurance, like trip cancellation insurance, offers protection if a trip is disrupted and all planned reservations need to be canceled or postponed. Trip interruption protection via credit cards typically applies not only to the primary cardholder, but also anyone else on the same travel itinerary.
Credit Cards That Offer Insurance for Last-Minute Emergencies
While our previous blog provides a detailed list of the best credit cards to consider that offer trip cancellation insurance or trip interruption protection, here are a few options to consider if you want protection from last-minute changes to your holiday itineraries:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – Offers up to $10,000 in coverage per trip, up to $40,000 per year. The card has an annual fee of $95.
- Bank of America Premium Rewards Card – Offers up to $5,000 in coverage per trip, up to $10,000 per year, for an annual fee of $95.
- United Club Card – Offers up to $10,000 in travel coverage per trip, up to $20,000 per year – all for no annual fee.