I’ve written about the risk you run booking an award stay with Hyatt or Marriott, that if you cancel after the cancellation deadline (say, for instance, your flight is cancelled) you don’t lose your points – you lose a cash forfeiture amount instead.
And your cash penalty can be really high. I once helped a guest avoid a $7000 charge for an award stay they cancelled six months in advance. They booked the stay a year out but it was completely non-refundable, something that hadn’t been disclosed to them at the time of booking.
Most people think you lose your points if you make a points reservation and fail to cancel by the deadline. But that’s not how it works. Here’s a story of a guest that’s being charged $11,212.50 when they went to cancel a reservation at Hyatt’s Montaneros in Vail, Destination Residence. The hotel had a policy requiring cancellation within 60 days of the stay, and it was 58 days prior to check-in when the guest called.
— Saianel (@saianel) January 13, 2023
Hyatt’s program terms say that the guest will be charged cash and their points will be returned if they fail to cancel a reservation by the hotel’s deadline,
If a Member does not follow the proper cancellation policy for the applicable hotel or resort or if a Member does not check into the hotel or resort when scheduled, the credit card provided with the Award Reservation will be charged in accordance with the hotel’s or resort’s cancellation or no-show policy and any points redeemed for the applicable Award Reservation will be returned to the Member’s account.
However nowhere during the booking process are you ever told how much money that will be. And even after booking, Hyatt’s confirmation emails do not tell you how much money is at risk.
On one confirmation I consulted I saw a cancel penalty of “50 PCT OF STAY” – but the cost of my ‘stay’ was 90,000 points, which certainly seemed to suggest the penalty would be 45,000 rather than thousands of dollars.
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.
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 (you could choose). Both Hyatt’s and Marriott’s programs are run by ex-Starwood people.
If you’re ever in this position you’re better off keeping the stay, call and see if the hotel will be flexible. I’ve had a hotel waive their penalty. They were happy to get the room back to sell for cash instead of taking the points compensation. A hotel might also be willing to let you reschedule, if not completely cancel.
However if the hotel isn’t flexible, and you’re going to be charged for cancellation, don’t cancel! You might be able to find someone to take the reservation off of your hands. Just add them as a second guest name on the reservation. And if you can’t find someone to stay at the property, you might be able to pay someone less than the forfeiture amount to check in for you, avoiding the need to mortgage your home.
Update: A Hyatt spokesperson offers,
Please know this is not the experience we want for our guests and valued World of Hyatt members and take feedback like this very seriously. We have communicated with this guest and the property will be processing a full refund. We are also examining the cancellation policy terms and conditions language for Destination Residences properties.
Hopefully they’ll reconsider their approach and allow members to simply forfeit points in the event of late cancellation, and that this will apply across all of their brands.