May 23, 2024

Save on hotel stays by rebooking upcoming reservations

Save on hotel stays by rebooking upcoming reservations

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The price you see when you book a hotel stay isn’t always the one you’re stuck with even after you book it. This is often true whether you’re paying for the reservation or redeeming hotel points.

This is because — unless you book a non-refundable rate — you can often cancel and rebook your hotel stays for free. In turn, you’ll pocket the difference between the old and new price.

Let’s take a closer look at how this works on award stays and paid nights.

Let’s start with a personal example. My wife and I took a trip to Spain last August and had a three-night stay planned at the Westin La Quinta Golf Resort & Spa just a short drive from Marbella, Spain and the Mediterranean coast.

A photo of the pool at the Westin La Quinta Golf Resort & Spa, Benhavis in Spain

I decided to redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for the stay, having found a rate I found to be at least halfway decent for a resort in a beautiful location: 119,500 points, total, for three nights (roughly 39,000 points per night).

Having booked the late-August stay about two months in advance, I noticed the points price had dropped by several thousand points per night just four days before the stay was set to start.

That may not seem like a lot, but over three nights, the difference added up to roughly 15,000 points. This is a meaningful amount and nearly enough points for a free night at a low-end hotel.

Fortunately, I wasn’t stuck with the higher rate I’d already booked. The cancellation policy for my hotel noted that I could cancel for a full refund of my points so long as I did so at least two days before check-in.

A screen shot of the Marriott Bonvoy cancellation policy for an example stay

Though a little uncomfortable so close to departing on the trip, I canceled the whole reservation. Instantaneously, the points I’d used to book appeared back in my Marriott account.

Right away, I rebooked the same stay at the lower rate (105,000 points, total, for three nights) but was now almost 15,000 points richer.

This is just one circumstance where this tactic can work; sometimes your potential cost-savings will be far greater, in fact (in which case, it’s a no-brainer to do this).

Most US hotel loyalty programs let you cancel stays before arrival for a full points refund. This is helpful not just if your plans change and you need to cancel outright, but it also works in cases like this, where you find a better rate and want to rebook.

That said, be sure to check the hotel’s cancellation policy before you book a room. Some higher-end hotels will impose a penalty if you cancel your award stay, even going so far as to charge you the cash rate. Cancellation policies can vary by hotel, even under the same loyalty program.

A photo of a room at the Hilton Cancun

This repricing tactic isn’t limited to stays booked on points, either. You can do this with most cash rates, too.

Standard hotel rates with most major U.S. hotel brands will allow you to cancel your stay, penalty-free, up until a day or before your arrival. That said, this is not the case with most prepaid, nonrefundable rates. As always, be sure to check the specific terms as you book.

For instance, let’s say I’m booking a long weekend stay at the all-inclusive Hilton Cancun. On this example date, the advertised best rate is $345.

A screenshot of the Hilton Cancun listing on Hilton's website

However, that’s the prepaid rate. Open up the details, and you’ll find that, while, yes, you’ll save 10% by prepaying ($121 total for the three-night stay), you won’t be eligible for a refund if you have to cancel for any reason.

That means you’d forfeit the whole $1,036 you prepaid if, say, you got sick, have a family emergency or find a lower rate.

A screenshot of a nonrefundable rate at the Hilton Cancun

On the other hand, if you are willing to book the modestly more expensive standard rate of $385 per night, you’ll have the flexibility to cancel without a penalty up to three days before your check-in date.

A screenshot of a refundable rate at the Hilton Cancun

This does two things for you. It gives you flexibility if your plans change or something unexpected comes up. Plus, it gives you the power to — as I did with points — cancel and re-book if the room rate drops after you book your stay. For example, if the standard rate drops by $50 a night, you can cancel and rebook your reservation at the lower rate.

Always run the numbers and see if it’s worth saving with a nonrefundable rate. Often, the extra cost for the standard rate is minimal, so it’s worth having the flexibility to change your reservation if rates drop or you have an emergency

A photo of the exterior of the Hilton Chicago hotel

With all this in mind, make it a habit to track the price of hotel stays you’ve already booked with points or cash. In most cases, the hotel won’t automatically give you a lower rate if the price drops below what you’ve booked. You have to find these price drops on your own.

The best way to do this is to simply set a reminder to recheck prices once or twice a week. This only takes a couple of minutes and could save you money or points. Doing this is especially important when booking hotel rooms far in advance as prices are more likely to drop.

Though specific cancellation policies differ from one loyalty program and even one property to another, generally speaking, you can typically cancel award bookings and standard (not prepaid) hotel reservations up to a few days before your arrival.

This gives you flexibility to do your own version of a price check if you find a lower rate, while also giving you peace of mind that you can change your trip plans without forfeiting a large chunk of cash or points.

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