Talking Hilton out of a $678 No-Show Fee

I booked a Doubletree in Indiana several weeks ago. Trying to cancel it this morning was a surprisingly interesting story.

You can get Hilton Diamond status through the Hilton Honors Aspire American Express Card, but I don’t normally stay with them. My primary loyalty when it comes to chain hotels is Marriott and Hyatt because of their superior published benefits.

There’s a Big Ten football game going on that weekend, so rates were insanely high – $687 per night plus tax. At 45,000 points for a redemption, it’s over 1.5 cents per mile in value which is exceptional for Hilton, as normally they are valued at 0.5 cents or less.

Because of this special event, the cancellation policy was one week in advance – Friday at 11:59 pm. I called Saturday, the day after, at 7 am, so I was only a few hours late.

Hilton rules and regulations state that:

No-shows or cancellations of Reward Stay Reservations outside of the time frame set by the hotel’s individual cancellation policy will be charged one night’s room and tax at the hotel’s Best Available Rate for that date.

As mentioned, the room rate was $687 + tax – an absolutely crazy amount for the type of hotel you are getting.

Hilton Hotel Rate

Hilton Hotel Rate

Normally, I don’t have an issue with canceling reservations past the deadline. With Hyatt and Marriott, you can’t modify a points reservation online. However, there’s a lot of flexibility in what the phone agent is able to do. As well, you are able to cancel Marriott redemptions online.

It appears that with Hilton that modifying or cancelling a reservation online is not possible, but phone agents aren’t also able to modify the reservation. The first person I spoke with on the phone told me that I could not do anything. After having contacted the hotel, the Diamond desk’s reservation agent said that I had to wait until Sunday to wait for a manager’s approval to cancel without penalty.

Keep in mind, I wasn’t necessarily wanting to cancel, but rather to change my dates (i.e. modify my reservation). There generally are very few restrictions related to this, especially on reservations made with cash.

I think that if I pushed to speak with someone high enough up in management, I would have been persuasive enough to make them understand that reselling the room at a cash rate would very likely result in higher revenues of receiving reimbursement from Hilton corporate for the points redemption.

Part of this was definitely to do with how busy I was. I didn’t realize that I was already past the cancellation deadline until last night when I received an email reminding me of my stay. Normally, the cancellation period for most hotels is 24 or 48 hours, so I certainly didn’t pay much attention to it at booking. I did know that because there was a Big Ten football game going on, the cancellation deadline was a bit farther out from the arrival date, but think about it – it’s a DoubleTree in suburban Indiana.

The first call I had this morning was pretty frustrating. I spent over 40 minutes talking with an agent as she tried to assist. I appreciated her attempts, but at the end of the day, the outcome is very important in these situations.

After checking the cancellation policy she told me there was no way to modify or cancel the reservation. I asked her to contact the property directly to see if someone could waive this, but even after spending quite a bit on hold, she came back to me saying that I had to wait until a manager was in on Sunday to see if they can help me.

This was after I had asked her every which way to see if a modification was possible if a cancellation was possible to get the points back temporarily or to see if the hotel could move the reservation (they generally cannot with points reservations as they might get stuck).

Personally, I don’t think that modifying a reservation 6 days before arrival while keeping the same room type and the exact redemption amount was that big of a deal, especially when you are coming back on an off-peak period where the rate is not hundreds of dollars.

I am super thankful that I decided to give it another shot. The second agent I spoke to managed in just ten minutes to get the outcome I wanted.

For some reason or another, I requested they attempt the exact same things that happened on the first call, which was seeing if the rate was modifiable on their end without any direct property involvement. When they called the front desk again, someone else who was likely not a manager had some interaction with the phone agent where at the end of the day, I got my points back right away.

What I would definitely like to find out is whether the hotel agent was actually able to automatically cancel the reservation on their system (and that they just needed permission to do so). I’m guessing it is automatic because the second call was very short, but I don’t know because of all the notes tagged on the reservation.

After the first call, I had several backup plans in mind. I could have waited for the manager to get back to me on Sunday, but I definitely did not want to have this hanging over my head for the next 24 hours.

First, I would have tried to cancel the reservation to see what would happen. In a worst case scenario, you could always restore the booking. Further, I would have tried to see if they could shorten the stay by a night.

Finally, I would have escalated a case with customer care as there are no terms that say there is a penalty for modifications, which has been the case in essentially every refundable reservation I’ve made in the past 10 years.

Often, front-line agents have limitations on the leeway they have to do things beyond normal boundaries, but this for sure was a great use of my time. I also learned something new, which is rare for me in this day and age.

At the end of the day, having to stay and getting 1.5cpm in value on my redemption is really nothing bad at all, except that it’s a Doubletree.

There are two other lessons. One is that hanging up and calling back is very important. With this multi-step process of accomplishing what I want, there is a tonne of variables even though nothing changed in the five-minute span I waited between calls. What’s also important is staying on top of your reservations, which requires a lot of attention.

Now, all I need to do is call again to extend the expiration of my free night certificates…

Information current as of October 29, 2022.

The Hilton Aspire American Express Card is one of the best ways to earn Hilton points and get free stays fast. Apply now to earn 150,000 Hilton Honors points and a Free Night Certificate. My value of this bonus is over $1000!

Hilton Honors Aspire American Express Card

Hilton Honors Aspire American Express Card

Application Link: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

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