Cancelling Non-refundable Advance Purchase Travel Bookings

TM Travel World offers suggestions of what to do if you book a non-refundable hotel and change your mind.

He points out that Marriott will actually let you cancel a non-refundable room if you do so by midnight the following day. Beyond that, call the hotel chain and say you made a mistake and see if they can help. And if they can’t contact the hotel directly, perhaps a hotel manager bill let you cancel the booking to keep a future customer happy.

I’d add a few points:

  • If the hotel won’t let you cancel, consider asking them to let you change the dates into the future to another time when you might be able to use the reservation. At least it won’t be a total loss that way, and the hotel may be more willing to help knowing it will have your future business.

  • I’ve successfully cancelled via central reservations with a bit of a trick, though I admit it’s not among my prouder moments. Rather than just saying I made a mistake and would they let me cancel? I’ve described my mistake as booking the wrong rate type, perhaps your company requires you to book Best Available Rate and you don’t want to get in trouble booking the less expensive Advance Purchase Rate. Perhaps they’d let you upgrade the booking to the more expensive Best Available Rate? Boom, changeable rate, then cancel. I’ve only done this (though on multiple occasions, but not in the past year) with Priority Club.

Non-refundable airfares are usually more cancellable than hotel bookings. Bookings made directly with most airlines can be cancelled within 24 hours or by midnight the following day. (American will even let you hold an airfare on their website still, and those with grease monkey script skills can do so with the United website… so if you’re not absolutely sure, consider holds instead of actual ticketing).

Both Orbitz and Expedia will let you cancel almost all purchases of airfare made within 24 hours, they’ll just void out the ticket you’ve purchased. This works on almost all airlines, the only time I’ve ever had a problem was Expedia telling me that they’re no longer permitted to do this with Airtran bookings. And I assume there are others as well where this is a problem, similar to the Priceline policy.

Priceline’s 24-hour refund policy (for regular, not name your own price, airline tickets) is actually published.

If you accidentally make a mistake with your flight itinerary or passenger names when booking your published price airline ticket, just call us within 24 hours of booking your ticket (and at least 1 hour before departure or check-in) and we’ll give you a full refund, no questions asked. And that includes no cancellation fees from or the airline.

Just dial: 1-800-PRICELINE 1-800-PRICELINE (from the U.S. or Canada) or 1-212-444-0022 (from anywhere else).

Sorry amigo, but there are some limits to my clout (but not many). Refunds do not apply to Air India or Spirit Airlines tickets, paper tickets, or tickets booked using our Name Your Own Price® and Vacation Package services. Optional travel insurance is non-refundable. Also, once The Negotiator deep-sixes your reservation, the booking cannot be reinstated.

JetBlue only has an unofficial four hour cancellation policy, if I recall correctly, but that’s my vague sense because I haven’t booked a JetBlue ticket in many years.

What has your experience been cancelling non-refundable tickets or hotels, and do you have any further tips for doing so?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Or you could live with it! The hotel or airline is almost always giving you a cheaper rate in exchange for your agreement not to cancel. You’d scream Bloody Murder if they tried to change the rate on you, and it’s not fair nor ethical to try to trick your way around the agreement you freely made.

    You can always pay for a refundable reservation/room/ticket. You ARE entering into a contract and trying to find hidden ways out of it is just cheap.

  2. I still steam about a $750 no-show charge for a Marriott room in Russia.

    I booked with MR points because the rate of $450 was unaffordable. Because of BA flight delays and re-routings, we arrived a day late and headed straight for our departing cruise. The reward booking required 24-hr cancellation notice, impossible to achieve with a flight screw-up.

    Credit card statement included a $750 charge, which was the then-prevailing cash rate. Ugggh. Numerous contacts with the property and Mariott Rewards got zippo reduction.

  3. I’ve cancelled a booking with air Canada by calling customer service. I simply told the agent that I booked a wrong date. No further question asked, he void the cancellation fee of 200 CAD.

  4. as a hilton diamond i booked a non-cancellable rate for several days (about $600) at the hilton in greece last year around easter. for a variety of reasons, we didn’t go.

    i tried to get them to credit us, to refund us, to give us something back…but they stuck to their guns and wouldn’t allow me to cancel (despite trouble/riots in athens). i tried contacting the hotel by phone and email, offered to change the dates, contacted hilton honors and american express, all to no avail.

    it still smarts, and is a big part of the reason i decided not to pursue hilton diamond again this year.

    i understand i booked a non-cancellable rate, and they’re welcome to hold me to it….the hotel may have made $600 off me, but the chain lost much more by not allowing me to do something to recoup the loss.

    also, i no longer book non-cancellable rates anywhere. 🙂

  5. This all just goes in the bucket of “if you don’t ask, they can’t say YES!” OR, “you get what you ask for”

    I think that the NON-REFUNDABLE policies are in the T&C’s in order to of course protect the establishment from not HAVING to give a refund and hopefully, having properly informed the customer about the ramifications of this policy. but, as noted there are always caveats, exceptions, and workarounds which seemingly fly in the face of the policy.

    I was recently completely turned around due to the “snowpokalypse of 2010” in New York, with several different reservations, some of which were “prepay non-refundable” for both lodging in Florida (at a Hampton Inn (under the Hilton umbrella) and a property on Kona. When I called them both, they happily allowed me to DROP A NIGHT from the reservations without penalty and refunded part of the pre-pay (this was THEIR process not my request) to my CC. Same with a pre-pay HERTZ rental (which I only accept if it is clearly more than 20% cheaper than the NON-PREPAY rate) Hertz again allowed me to drop a day, and shortened the rental keeping the same daily rate (it was a five day week instead of a six day week so pretty easily done) and credited the amount towards the TAXES that would appear after the rental end.

    NONE of this was automatic of course but when I called it was pretty straight forward to process. Of course this WAS during a massive nationwide travel disturbance, but I got the feeling that this wasn’t a singular exception.

  6. @Wendy – luckily I would assume that no-one cares a button what you think of them, which removes any onus on them to adhere to your own delicate “moral code”. 🙂

  7. Yes, JetBlue has 4 hours, down from 24 hours some years ago. Southwest has 24 hours, and you can cancel online for a refund unless you purchased by re-using non-refundable funds from an earlier reservation.

  8. confirming JetBlue’s unofficial 4 hour cancelation policy, fee waived and monies credited back.

  9. remember its NOT that offers 24hr cancel policy. is by about 10PM ottawa time and the hold times are always at least 2 hours long. plus they are always changing the rules.

    vayama offers only a 1 hour and it is not open 24 hours either so an email request will not cut it, u will be most likely screwed, watch out!

  10. You forgot to mention that if you cancel Orbitz, you will not get Orbitz fees credited back to you. Obviously it’s not as much as the flight, but it’s worth remembering

  11. My wife and I recently had to cancel a trip to France due to medical reasons. It involved advance purchase reservations at both Starwood and Hilton properties, and award tickets using UA miles, only one of which had waived fees due to 1K status.

    United refunded the miles and waived fees with no trouble at all.

    Starwood customer service was outstanding, and the same agent worked with me over the course of a week and was able to get the hotel to refund the prepayment.

    Hilton’s customer service department was initially helpful, but being an international property, they asked us to work with the property directly. It took several rounds of emails, but we were able to get that property to allow us to reschedule our reservation within a period of 9 months from the original dates. I found it interesting that Hilton appeared to have a specific customer service department for advance purchase reservations.

  12. hmm, my problems the opposite. i have 3 refundable tickets on usair that i’m trying to refund but it seems that they’re “refundable” means $200 cancellation fee per ticket. anyone have any ideas how to deal with that?

  13. That priceline cancellation policy is very useful, and USED to be advertised. I can’t find any links to that pop-up on the website anymore. Are folks sure it’s still their “official” policy?

  14. Airtran and United let me change a ticket weeks after booking when I booked it in the wrong direction!:) The price stayed the same. Southwest once let me do it in the airport, since I realized it only there. Am I making too many mistakes? 🙂

  15. When my father had a stroke lat year and I had to leave Paris for the USA, Hyatt let me cancel all my non-refundable bookings for my vacation in Thailand after a short conversation with a Diamond line agent (I am a Diamond).. Thanks Hyatt!

  16. I recently changed a non-refundable Intercontinental Hotels Group booking to another date when my plans changed and I could no longer make the stay as originally booked.

    I was able to make the change online at no extra charge even though room rates on the new date were somewhat higher than I’d originally booked.

  17. To correct and clarify the item 10 posting, there is no cookie cutter rule that can be applied to timelines for the cancelation and refund of International airline tickets sold through vayama. The 1 hr cancelation policy with full refund offered by vayama only applies to “vayama special fares” which don’t allow for disclosure of the airline providing service or specific flight times until after purchase. All other fares can be requested for cancelation and full refund within 24 hrs of issuance. Vayama Customer Service is currently open 20hrs/day and soon to be operating 24/7.

  18. I booked a ticket on 15th July, now its been 25 days 🙁 and I realized that I have booked for very expensive. Its a non refundable ticket but I took an insurance with it whose conditions I dont satisfy 🙁 Anything can be done? The ticket is for Dec.


  19. Travelers who are unable to use their hotel reservation for any reason and are not able to cancel their reservation due to different hotels’/websites’ policies, can sell their hotel reservation in and turn their lost reservation into money.

  20. I reserved a hotel in east orange for , New Jersey but I later read the horrifying reviews about the hotel and the area around. Its just a ghetto and unsafe place so I called them back in like 4 hours after the reservation and they said its a non-refundable reservation. What should I do, my trip is due next week but I don want to stay at this hotel and I haven’t been charged yet. Any suggesstions?

  21. We just got screwed over by Hilton advance purchase and I’m beginning to think they were a party to the error.

    A few days ago my wife booked three nights at a Hampton in Knoxville, TN to begin tonight. When we got to the hotel (10 hrs away) we discovered the reservation had been made for two weeks later. Due to their 14 day advance policy (which we just discovered) I’m thinking their system automatically changed the date and we didn’t pick up on it. When we called they were of no help. When we asked to speak to a supervisor…they refused.

  22. Okay…so maybe I jumped the gun. We received an email this morning from Hilton and they have made a MAJOR exception to rectify our problem. Thanks Hilton! We really appreciate it. 🙂

  23. I booked and fully paid for a non refundable bike through costa rica adventure trip online. Does anyone know of a way or a type of travel insurance to buy in order to get money back because I need to cancel the trip due to a schedule conflict.

  24. Thanks for the tip. I didn’t even realize I’d booked a non refundable rate through Priority Club spent half a day trying to cancel or at least let me use it towards another location. I changed and booked a nicer room and then turned around and cxld. Saved me $500. Lesson learned I’ll be sure to pay more attention in the future.

  25. Always be careful to read the fine print. I recently made the mistake of booking a British Airways Avios points flight. When finalized the booking it said “no worry 24 hour cancelation policy” so I thought I was fine. It said full refund of both miles and taxes/fees within 24 hours. I called back some 20 minutes after I booked only to find out that because the flight was to depart some 22 hours from now that I could not cancel and get my 90000 miles back but the could refund the fees and taxes. Needless to say I flew the flight even though I wanted to cancel as I found a much better flight. Lesson learned with British Airways. My advice always read the fine print and remember airlines often change rules

  26. I made a reservation with JetBlue on the 17th and tried to cancel for medical reasons on the 20th of this month. The JetBlue representative I spoke to on the phone presented as cold and not sensitive in the least to my issue, asking very pointed questions, including my doctor’s name and phone number. I was told that the airline would be calling my doctor to ask if I really was too ill to go on a trip unless I wanted to just pay the $150 cancellation fee. I had no business making the reservation in the first place, due to my pain level, and this made me feel all the worse.

  27. never book with Priceline! The website does not offer to let you inspect your hotel reservation dates until AFTER you’ve paid and gotten the confirmation. All the airline website give you a chance to confirm that everything is correct BEFORE payment is processed. P/L filled in wrong date and I was unable to modify even by calling within 1 minute of the original booking. The $15 per night saving by choosing ‘non-refundable’ was just NOT worth it.

  28. Copy of email sent to Hilton on date. Self explanatory

    Sent: Thursday, January 08, 2015 12:40 PM
    To: ‘’
    Cc: ‘’; ‘’
    Subject: COMPLAINT
    To whom it may concern,
    This email is to start a thread expressing my dismay and regret of ever siding up with Hilton hotels as well as your Grand Vacation farce. In life it’s not the mountains you face that wear you down, but the constant erosion caused by the pebbles in your shoe that get under your skin. I have had too many of the constant pebbles caused by the Hilton Corp. The latest indignation concerns a reservation I tried to reschedule due to illness.
    The reservation in question is number 3163193466 made for January 10th 2015 at the Hilton Boston. My wife and I have been sick with the flu and I needed to reschedule. I made this reservation on the Hilton Honors website as I make all of my Business reservations. No 3rd party was involved that I was made aware of. I understand there is a no cancellation policy. I called HHonors to ask for a favor and reschedule due to illness and some pinhead by the name of Elizabeth Carter in Advanced Purchases gave me her canned response that “I’ll need to get a note from my doctor before it can be considered.” What the hell is this, third grade? My record and expenditures through Hilton speak for itself. All I wanted was some help, a small favor of rescheduling. Instead I get the indignation of a programed robot spewing your corporate policy. Your agent’s inability to think outside the box and insistence of corporate policy for this trifle matter has now cost you a customer. In terms that your bean counters can understand, this equates to about $8000 a year in hotel charges. Add another $8288 per year in mortgage payments and fees to your Not So Grand Vacations (catchy isn’t it) and I pay Hilton way too much money to be again disregarded like this when in need. I know the amount I spend is peanuts on your spreadsheet but keep in mind the hidden cost of a disgruntled customer spreading the word and selling against your programs. My Marriott rewards card has been idle way too long. You can follow this thread on Facebook and other social medias under Hilton Sucks. Arrivederci…

  29. my husband who is disabled just booked a hotel on priceline because he didn’t understand what he was doing. it was charged to his credit card and he is not even taking a trip .we are on a fixed income ,priceline .com will not let us cacell.1000 dollars means we cant pay rent and food.

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