Hyatt Award Policy That Needs To Change: Cash Penalties When You Miss A Stay

If you book an award stay and your flight diverts on the way to your vacation, and you can’t check in as scheduled, call your mortgage broker for a second or third lien on your house – quick!

Hyatt, like Marriott, charges you cash in an undisclosed amount (rather than points) if you have to cancel an award trip inside of the cancellation deadline for your stay.

Starwood Preferred Guest used to have a friendlier feature where you’d choose the cash forfeiture or just to lose the points you used to book the stay which is what most people assume they’re on the hook for anyway.

Three years ago I wrote about the St. Regis Aspen charging points guests $1000 a night for cancelling reservations within 60 days of arrival. Even customers whose flights were delayed or diverted, and showed up the next day, were getting hit with $1000 charges for their missed nights. $2000 has to be a record, though.

  • When a guest doesn’t stay on an award, the program doesn’t pay them for the award stay
  • The hotel instead goes back to the guest to charge them a forfeiture instead

I’ve also written about Hyatt’s Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica, which has non-cancelable rates during certain peak periods. Since those rules apply to paid stays, they also apply to awards. One guest booked nearly a year in advance, several months later needed to cancel, and was surprised by a $7000 cancellation fee. I brought the issue to Hyatt’s attention and they intervened to reverse these charges. However the policy remains in place.

I recently booked a hotel through my Hyatt concierge where I didn’t realize there was a 30 day cancellation policy at play. The concierge didn’t mention it, though it was included in the email after booking. My plans were disrupted, and I went to cancel a week out. They let me know there’d be a charge of 50% of the paid rate to cancel my award.

  • I do think it’s a good idea for agents to call out non-standard cancellation policies when making a booking. I assumed this hotel had a standard cancel policy, since nothing else was mentioned.

  • I made the reservation about 45 days in advance of travel, but if it had been within 30 days of travel then reading the email alone would have been too late – I’d have learned the booking was non-cancellable only after having made it.

  • The confirmation email does not actually mention a cash penalty. Instead it says the penalty is “50 PCT OF STAY” but the ‘stay’ cost was 90,000 points. I could see a 45,000 point penalty, based on that confirmation, but I do not see how cash forfeiture could be possible since no cash amount is even mentioned in the confirmation.

  • And nowhere during the booking process, no matter how you make a reservation, nor in the email confirmation is there ever any mention of an actual cash amount you’d be charged to cancel.

Cash forfeiture for cancelling too close to arrival, or for missing a trip for reasons beyond your control, is both an unnecessarily customer-unfriendly policy and so poorly disclosed that I do not see how it can even be enforced. Hyatt needs to be better than Marriott here, and substitute the cash forfeiture with points forfeiture for failing to cancel a trip within the allowable window.

Fortunately after I pushed back on the charge my Hyatt concierge relayed that she spoke to the property and they waived it. I wasn’t looking at a four figure cash forfeiture on a three night stay. I’d have been far more understanding of being charged 50% of the points for the cancel, however that wasn’t requested.

I believe Hyatt has the best hotel loyalty program – by several orders of magnitude. However there are ways it can still improve. This policy is one of them. Their concierge program could be improved and so can their free nights.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. What is especially frustrating about this is that the properties which are most likely to enforce it, high demand beach or ski resorts, are in fact the most likely to fill the room last minute anyway. Essentially they are double dipping in this regard, getting penalties while also selling it again. I have noticed this a few times as I forfeited a deposit, etc and the hotel still ended up being sold out by the arrival date. However, no way to prove it in reality and the hotel will often ignore you in this regard simply stating, “we did not resell it, sold out reflects your original booking still.” Yeah, right.

  2. I suspect you would easily win in Small Claims Court – but that will likely lead to a poor relationship with Hyatt (or any hotel chain).

    I had a similar issue with a bank (whose name I cannot mention as part of my settlement) some time ago but it poisoned the relationship ever since.

  3. I too love the Hyatt loyalty program for Globalists but abhor the Hyatt T&Cs and especially their phone reservations team. When I’ve had reservations technically in the non-refundable period, I’ve had much better success calling the hotel directly and explaining the situation.

  4. TL;DR: Loved Ziva PV, but will never book with them again.

    I was just bitten by this by surprise and it has pretty dramatically changed my opinion of WoH. I’ve been Globalist since the SPG/Marriott merger and have been really happy with Hyatt.

    I’ve stayed at the Zilara Cancún and two Ziva’s and have thought that they offer a really solid product with spectacular staff, and even pretty-alright food if you stick to the Mexican restaurants.

    We booked the Ziva Puerto Vallerta for the New Years Eve week and thought it was a screaming deal. (+Alaska Companion Cert FTW!) Then omicron made us really doubt whether we wanted to go. We were on the fence, until the Seattle snow hit and we thought it was a sign we should listen to our gut and decided to cancel. I realize there are folks out there less concerned about omicron, and that’s fine. But even vaccinated, we weren’t comfortable going, knew we wouldn’t have a good time, and made the right decision for us.

    Then we found out that cancelling would be an almost $8000 fee! We straight-up can’t afford that. I had two different phone agents on the Globalist line ask if the fee could be waived or reduced, or even if the stay could be postponed a few months, but there was no flexibility, so we double-masked and went. My other half was super worried the whole time and we didn’t leave the room other than to eat at Blaze, the outdoor Mexican restaurant (Which was great. Shout out to Jesus, the awesome waiter.)

    We liked the property, we liked the people, I would have loved to have made a week at the Ziva PV an annual-ish thing for us. But because of this corporate policy, I have been forbidden from booking us at a Playa Resort (they own all the Zivas) again. And I can’t really argue with that marital policy.

  5. Your point should be that this is a bad policy…not that “Hyatt needs to be be better than Marriott.”

  6. Good points, Gary. Yes, Hyatt needs to be more transparent regarding cancellation penalties.

    A few days ago, I cancelled a Hyatt reservation in Canada (that has been booked for months) planned for May due to uncertainties about Covid travel testing policies. If you get turned away at the border (or arrival airport), then that day’s hotel reservation would be subject to (unknown) penalties.

  7. Seems like this could be easily resolved with a credit card charge back. Especially if you never agreed to a price in dollars.

  8. @Frank – when you say poisoned, can you elaborate? For example, is it a bank that issues popular credit cards and they are no longer willing to approve you for cards?

    @Gary – do you have any high-level contacts at Hyatt? If so, have you discussed this issue with them and what has their feedback been?

  9. A Hotel at Atlanta airport still expect $7000 cash from me and they’re holding like 1,000,000 points hostage and locked my Hyatt account until I pay them!! Can someone bail me out, that rule is stupid! And I cancelled way ahead of time… lmk

  10. If I booked and paid for the room 9on points and don’t show up-Take the points and call it non refundable

  11. Thanks for calling this out. I was considering a stay at the Hyatt Centric Park City next December but it is fully non-refundable on a points stay. Knowing I will be penalized with cash rates rather than simply forfeiting points means I won’t consider them. It’s a poor policy that just isn’t clear when you book.

  12. I believe Hyatt has the best hotel loyalty program – by several orders of magnitude.

    LOL. Keep believing that demonstrably bogus claim, whose only effect is to move your uncritical sycophant to go broke patronizing the most expensive hotel loyalty program with a tiny footprint and garden-variety elite perks that we’re to believe are the very essence of nirvana, even though they not include the single most valuable perk in hotel loyalty — the 4th or 5th award night free.

    G’day!

  13. This policy is absurd, poorly disclosed, and impossible for the average client to guess — the obvious assumption is that a non-refundable reservation regular forfeit the points.

    The fault seems to be with Hyatt Central. They obvious solution is for them to take the points and pay the hotel as if you had stayed. The hotel would still be able to resell the room if the market is busy.

    The only tiny benefit I can see is if the cancellation was due to one of the limited reasons covered by trip cancellation insurance. In that case I imagine you’d get (some) of the cash back, but nothing off you paid in points.

  14. This exact issue made me shoot nervous about our 5 night stay at Marriott Wailea in Maui for 280k points which had a 60 day cancellation policy and cash price for the 5 nights about 9k, and policy for cancellation would be getting our points refunded and being charged all of the full cash for 5 nights!

    What if one of us god forbid was sick with covid at last minute or flight to Hawaii was cancelled so we couldn’t reach on needed day. Not sure the hotel would’ve allowed a remote check in or by phone to only limit the loss to burning up the redeemed points!

  15. Obviously not a good way to treat your loyal customers. I would think any manager who focused on this for 2 minutes would decide this is a bad policy. Of course, you can also have a bad points forfeiture policy as well. It’s usually easy to cancel car reservations if your plans change, but with Hertz you lose all or some of your points for any award cancellation if you’re not a top elite member. You wonder how such a plan could possibly be implemented.

  16. @Sam
    That is crazy, I did not know that was the hyatt Ziva cancellation policy! We have a reservation coming up in April at Hyatt Ziva Cancun with a suite booked with points. The terms are as below, which is a little confusing to me. Were your terms similar? They way I read it, they will charge my credit card the going rate for 5 nights at 14 days prior, and if I cancel, I’m out the entire amount? I guess that could easily be 5-6K.

    Terms & Conditions
    Deposit Policy
    Deposit By Credit Card Required Deposit Required By March 26, 2022 5 Night(s) Deposit Will Be Charged To Credit Card
    Cancellation Policy
    Full Nonrefundable Deposit Due 14 Days Prior To Arrival

  17. @Kurt, I believe that policy was similar to mine, but it was 30 days, not 14, possibly because of the holiday season. But mine was complicated by putting a suite upgrade certificate on the reservation (20k points/nt + suite upgrade: a smokin’ deal!) But that changed my cancellation policy to this:

    CANCELLATION POLICY:
    COMPLIMENTARY SUITE UPGRADE CONFIRMED/FJT/FULL NONREFUNDABLE DEPOSIT DUE 30 DAYS PRIOR TO ARRIVAL

    How they calculated what the fee would be was what it would cost someone to book *the suite* that we were in that day, which was over $1200/night. I had assumed that they’d keep the points and the cert, but no, we’d get both of those back and pay that close-in suite rate.

    It was especially obnoxious because I was aware of the 30-day deadline and my spouse and I had a conversation at 31 days about whether we would feel comfortable going, and decided we would. But late November was well before Omicron had hit the headlines. Once it did, I didn’t expect them to let us cancel for free because of the new turn in the pandemic a la mid-2020 (though that would’ve been nice), but I did expect to be able to walk away having given up what I’d already paid. I thought I was just being polite by calling them to say we weren’t coming, so maybe they could better manage their resources or make the suite available to someone else.

    Giving up the points would have sucked, but we could afford the vacation we planned, so I was totally blindsided by not being able to afford *not* going.

  18. @ Sam,
    Thanks for the explanation. Even though I read the terms when I booked it, it is really hard to believe that is the policy so it really didn’t register. Sorry that happened to you, and thanks for the heads up. I’ve never bought trip insurance before, but it sure seems like a good idea for booking the Ziva on points. However, I would imagine it would get weird with insurance because the stay is booked on points.
    I agree, even giving up the entire stay in points would suck, but definietly better then paying the regular rate.

  19. On the other foot, what is a hotel to do when I read on other blogs how they book several hotels months in advance and will decide later where they want to actually go. The same with the airlines. People tie up seats and rooms on end and then last min CX the whole shbang, meanwhile those who were looking to book and see no standard rooms left (either for $$ or pts) book elsewhere

    Im not saying the hotels are correct for what they charge but if folks didnt take advantage they probably never would have gone down this road

  20. I’m surprised nobody mentioned insurance. Is it exactly what it is for.
    Do I sound naive? Well, I’m a globalist (with gazillion points) so I’m kind of in the same boat. So far I’ve been treated with white gloves. But how far am I from similar experience? Did anyone tried a legal remedy? It is very disturbing and disappointing

  21. I find this especially frustrating as Hyatt does not give you anything when they are unable to keep your reservation booked with points.

    We booked a room with two beds with points at the Hyatt Regency DFW airport because we wanted to be at the airport where we could walk to the terminal as opposed to a room a shutttle ride away. Even though we had already paid with points, they did not have a room for us.

    They found a room for us at the Hyatt Place that was not too far away, but it did not have the same level of convenience for getting to the airport. Additionally, they only had a room with one bed and a couch bed—not a room with two beds.

    I find it upsetting that if a guest misses their stay with points, they get such a high penalty but that the hotel does not have to keep its side of the bargain and can cancel stays booked with points.

  22. Why do you ever leave your real credit card data? No hotel chain requires it, even on prepaid stays, let alone award stays. There are any websites that create valid card data of non-existent cards.

  23. I believe the sole penalty should be loss of the points. The property had accepted the room booking on points, so they had no expectation of any more revenue than what that would provide. I don’t see why they should get a bonanza when a customer has a canceled flight, unexpected illness or the like.

    That said, if they are going to exact a cash penalty in case of a no show, then that needs to be stated prominently and early in the booking process. Indeed there should be a “I understand this policy” checkbox to be absolutely certain. What is being described here is absolutely unethical and should be illegal if it isn’t already.

  24. Just to add a positive data point here – a few years ago I had a cancelled flight. Lufthansa put us on Thai Air and we ended up skipping a one day stopover and instead just flew directly to our destination. We had a one night Hyatt stay booked in the stopover city. I called Hyatt from the Lufthansa lounge, and the agent just said something like “oh, if there’s a flight cancellation we can just cancel your stay with no penalty.” The call took maybe two minutes and was exactly what I hoped for.

  25. For all the people who say they would not book at these properties with points ever again — well it seems to me that IS the point of the policy. The hotels want to be part of the brand to attract paying customers and if they could they would just tell the brand “we don’t accept points.” The Ritz Dorado Beach does this. You can’t use Marriott points to stay there.

    I suppose these hotels don’t have the pull that Dorado has, so they have these fees and I suspect they want you to post the fact you got burned all over social media so no one ever uses points there again.

  26. Hi, long time globalist and honestly I have never had much to complain about wrt to Hyatt. I recently stayed (3) nights at the Hyatt Centric Park City with my wife on points – it was lovely. I had booked the same (3) nights on points at the Hyatt Place Park City but one week before our arrival, the Centric opened up so I canceled and re-booked at the Centric (on points) which is just a couple miles away. To my surprise, I was charged a $987 cancelation fee for canceling the points reservation. Firstly, this was never clear to me that canceling a points reservation would result in a cancelation fee, and second, I re-booked at another Hyatt. Thoughts or experiences that might help my case?
    Thanks in advance,
    Brad

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