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Lesson learned – how I saved myself a £261 fine for no-showing on an IHG reward night

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This is a slightly embarrassing story because, let’s be honest, I should know better.  However, I am running it because some people might learn something from it.

On Saturday night I had a room booked at a Central London Holiday Inn.  I won’t name it because the hotel came good in the end and they were acting within the rules.

The room was for my brother and his family.  It was booked in January using a free night voucher from the IHG Rewards Club credit card.  The voucher itself was due to expire in February.

Unfortunately, between February and July, other important commitments came up and his London visit got delayed.  I couldn’t – despite trying, both online and by phone – move the reward night because it was locked in the IHG system.  Because the original voucher had now expired any changes would lead to the voucher disappearing.

I decided not to cancel the room when he changed his dates two months ago.  After all, something might come up before the stay date and there was no upside to cancelling immediately – the voucher was lost anyway.

I then forgot about the booking.

On Sunday morning, I was idly playing with my phone around 9.45am when a notification from Amex popped up.  My card had been charged £261.

The hotel had invoked this clause which – to be fair – is in the rules of every IHG Rewards Club redemption you make:

Canceling your reservation before 4:00 PM (local hotel time) on Saturday, 2 July, 2016 will result in no charge. Canceling your reservation after 4:00 PM (local hotel time) on 2 July, 2016, or failing to show, will result in a charge of 1 night per room to your credit card.

I rang the hotel and they confirmed they had charged me £261 because I was a ‘no show’.  They thought that I would get my points back in compensation, but of course I wouldn’t – because it hadn’t been booked on points, it was on a credit card free night.

I asked when their check out time was.  They said 11am.  I told them that I would be there before 11am to check in, which technically means that I would NOT be a ‘no show’.

‘You can’t do that’, said the hotel manager.  ‘You must check in on the day of arrival, before midnight.’  This is complete nonsense, of course.  I had booked a room from 2pm Saturday to 11am Sunday and, legally, I can check in whenever I want!  We discussed this for a while but he was adamant that he knew more about how hotels work than I do 😉 simply because he happens to run one.  I told him to call IHG ….

Irrespective of his view, I knew I had to check in before 11am to have any legal leg to stand on.  My wife and daughter had gone jogging.  I ordered a cab, threw my five year-old (still in his pyjamas) into the back and we sped off.  25 minutes later we were at the hotel.

To give the manager credit – and this is why I haven’t named him or the hotel – he rang me whilst I was in the taxi to apologise.  He had spoken with IHG and they had told him he was wrong.  I was entitled to check in at any point until 10.59 am.  The hotel had been trigger happy in charging my Amex card for £261 – but, of course, that was my saving grace.  If the hotel had waited until 11am to charge me then I would have had to pay.

As it turned out, all was well.  The manager greeted me warmly, I checked in and he gave me a 2pm late check-out. My son and I played in the room for a bit, my wife and daughter joined us an hour later and we did some touristy stuff near the hotel.  The weather was kind and it all worked out well.

So …. the moral of the story is:

If you book a hotel free night using, say, an IHG or Hilton credit card free night voucher and you cannot make the stay, ensure you cancel the booking.  Don’t ignore it simply because the voucher is not reusable!

What is not clear is why this penalty exists in the first place.  IHG is not the only chain to act like this.  If I do not turn up for a reward night, OK, I agree I should forfeit my points.  But how can the hotel justify charging me £261 (their fully flexible rate) as a no-show when – if I had shown – it would have got just $25 from IHG Rewards Club assuming occupancy that night was under 95%?


IHG Rewards update – July 2021:

Get bonus points: The current IHG Rewards promotion is ‘Triple Your Points’ – our full article is here. It runs from 15th May to 16th August. You receive double base points on your second stay and triple base points on your third and subsequent stays. You can register on this page of ihg.com.

New to IHG Rewards?  Read our two-part overview of IHG Rewards here and here and our article on expiry rules here.

Buy points: If you need additional IHG Rewards points, you can buy them here.

There is a 75% bonus when you buy IHG Rewards points by 13th August.

Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from IHG and the other major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.

Comments (43)

  • harry says:

    O/T the Holiday Extras 15% statement credit has now popped up on my BAEC card (not on my Gold, though). It has been on Connect for non-Amex Amex cards – such as MBNA Amex cards – for some time. Should be online offer for most Amex cards.

    Remember, sign up your card to offer first
    Then find a discount site for Holiday Extras – for eg airport carparks or hotel + carpark – such as http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-airport-parking
    Find your deal and progress through to payments
    Pay with your Amex card

    You get both the discount AND the statement credit

    On Heathrow Meet & Greet with Drivefly, I got 31% discount through MSE discount site + 15% statement credit from Amex = 45% off! (bodge math!)

    You know you have got the success credit because the Amex email gets sent immediately you pay.

    To get 31% off on Drivefly Meet & Greet, go through the MSE site to payment – initially discount looks to be 15% – but leave it idle for an hour or so without paying, then press ‘back’ to start process again – discount has increased to 31%.

    • Worzel says:

      Booked up some Heathrow parking(for September) last week thanks to your comments and another contributor- who’s post I can’t now find.

      Mrs Gummidge entitled to a discount- 14 days + safety net hours came out at £86. Haven’t got the 15% extra for using the Amex Offer-however I paid a fee for full refund cancellation.

      About to cancel the booking, rebook, and save £9ish-just to “hack off” the cape fox! 🙂 .

  • evelyn thomas says:

    OT TAP Portugal have limit of 7kg for hand luggage. Does anyone know if they tend to enforce this at the gate at Gatwick.?
    Many thanks…and love the site

    • The_Real_A says:

      Whilst not particularly dignified, I can save 3kg by carrying my laptop charger and battery in my coat pockets.

  • Mikeact says:

    You were lucky the hotel was nearby, must have been a great Sunday morning sight. …..man dashes out of a taxi dragging a boy in pyjamas, “I want my mum” !

    • Rob says:

      You’ve probably the forgotten the article I ran last year showing showing both my kids in Heathrow Express F in their pyjamas, because they insisted on going to the airport like that before an overnight flight to Singapore!

      • Callum says:

        Did people really look twice at your kids wearing pajamas in scenarios like that?

        It seems complete normal for a kid to be wearing them to me (they aren’t on the catwalk!), but I know some people can be ridiculously judgemental!

    • Alan says:

      Although I suspect most 5yo boys would see it as a fun adventure 😉 Good work, Rob, on doing this and poor show from the property!

      • Rob says:

        Indeed. He was very excited to be outside with no pants on 🙂 Not something I am desperately keen on but I am not 5 ……

        He loved it and wanted to stay all day. Every weekend he asks if we are going to a hotel (my kids do 50 nights a year in hotels). Hotels = kids club, swimming pool and chocolate-covered breakfast cereal.

        • Manuel Gonzalez says:

          Apart from the height of the human being, I see NO difference with this no-pants scene and any ‘Brits on a sunny island’no-pants scene

  • Kimberly says:

    I’m really shocked that this is how they handle a no-show rewards night booking. I never would have thought that they would charge you actual cash, figuring that they would just take the points. You booked in points, so that is all they should be able to take, anything else seems like they’re just trying to pull something shady. I also never considered that they would take more than the rate at which you had made your booking. From my reading, this is not all clearly spelled out in their cancellation/no-show policy. I wonder if they could actually get away with this if someone challenged it though.

  • CV3V says:

    Had a similar experience at Christmas time with one of the bargain Travelodge deals, room booked for £12, didn’t check in for the booking and assumed as I had prepaid it all I would lose is £12. Next day I received an invoice for £89, with £12 deduction for what I had paid. The ironic thing is don’t know how they could even have cleaned and serviced the room for £12, I must have saved them money by not showing up. In the end after explaining why I couldn’t attend they cancelled the new invoice.

    • Andy S says:

      This is amazing – all my life I’ve assumed that “if you don’t show you’re charged for the first night” wouldn’t apply if I’d already paid for the entire stay! Not that I’ve ever not turned up, but will bear it in mind for the future.

      • Andy S says:

        In fact I wouldn’t even have thought of cancelling a non-refundable room since you wouldn’t get anything back !!

        • CV3V says:

          exactly, but buried away in Travelodge TnCs it did state that for a no show you would be charged at the full prevailing rate. I did get out of out it though, it was at the time the Forth Road Bridge was closed causing traffic chaos across the whole of central scotland. Once i explained my reason for not making it the hotel were ok about it.

  • John says:

    Oh well, you know if you aren’t paying anything in advance, you can reserve rooms with “non-genuine” credit card details, so if you no-show there is not much they can do without a lot of trouble.

    Surprisingly, in the past few months some big city Hiltons haven’t asked to see a card on arrival.

    • BillyBoy says:

      “Oh well, you know if you aren’t paying anything in advance, you can reserve rooms with “non-genuine” credit card details, so if you no-show there is not much they can do without a lot of trouble.”

      Does this mean they don’t validate cards used to guarantee bookings? Sounds highly unlikely to me !

      • harry says:

        I kept a few pence on some of my 3Vs for this sort of purpose!

        Anybody not so prescient, just buy a Tesco £25 Visa card and use that instead.

  • will merrett says:

    I had this to the tune of $1200 last year. I booked 4 nights in the Pallazo as separate reservations on points on a special 25k per night offer.

    Plans had changed by a week since reserving the rooms and I booked the new dates with cash.

    Thought I’d cancelled the points but had not, got charged $1200. Luckily because I had a cash booking the week later the hotel did refund me!

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