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Weird but true – Hilton non-refundable rooms ARE refundable in the US, Mexico and Caribbean

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Yes, this is a weird one but it is a trick you may find useful one day.

Non-refundable Hilton hotel rooms ARE refundable in certain countries.

This originally came up pre-covid when a reader dropped me a note to say that he had been forced to cancel a non-refundable reservation at a Hilton in the US.  It was a four night stay costing $1,707.

He was resigned to losing the full sum but called Hilton anyway.  He was then told something odd.

Hilton non-refundable hotel rooms ARE refundable in the US, Mexico and Caribbean

If he booked – whilst on the telephone – a non-refundable room for just one night at ANY other Hilton property in the US, his original booking was fully refundable less a $50 administration fee.

Our reader found an obscure Hampton Inn charging $69 plus taxes, for a total of $81.  This was a one-night booking.  He obviously had no intention of showing up.

Hilton then agreed to refund his entire $1,707, less the $50 fee and less the $81 cost of the Hampton Inn booking.  He was getting a 93% refund on his non-refundable room. 

The money was repaid to him as promised.

Hilton non-refundable hotel rooms ARE refundable in the US, Mexico and Caribbean

Can you really get a refund on non-refundable Hilton hotel bookings?

You might think that this makes no sense.  However, if you try to book a pre-paid room at a US hotel you will see this in the rate rules:

Modification of Reservation:  Price quoted applies to exact date(s)/nights/stay booked. Modifications to your reservation (including but not limited to name changes, date changes, etc.) are not permitted. However, for bookings in the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean, a request to cancel an existing Advance Purchase/Non-Refundable reservation and book a new reservation may be permitted if at the time you are requesting a change to your reservation, you book a new Advance Purchase/Non Refundable reservation at any hotel in the Hilton portfolio located in the United States, Mexico or the Caribbean, subject to availability.

Upon receipt of full payment for the new reservation, Hilton will issue a refund for the cancelled reservation, less a service fee. It may take up to four (4) weeks for the refund to be reflected on your credit card.

For stays originally booked at the Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, Embassy Suites or Doubletree brand hotels, the service fee is $50.00 and for stays originally booked at a Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites, the service fee is $25.00. For a cancellation and rebooking to be considered, you must call our Advance Purchase Department to request a change to your reservation at (800) 236-7113 or (972) 726-3361 no less than three days prior to your scheduled check-in date.

Hilton was totally correct in what it did.  Our reader had been charged the correct $50 cancellation fee and had correctly booked a non-refundable stay at another Hilton in the US.

I’m not sure that this guarantee means that you should book an Advanced Purchase rate even if you think that cancellation may happen.  The $50 fee and the cost of booking another Hilton property would, on a smaller booking, still be a substantial part of what you had originally paid.  It was only a great result for our reader because he had booked four nights at an expensive property.

Still, at least you now know that there is no need to take a 100% loss on any Hilton booking in the US, Mexico or Caribbean.

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How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards (January 2023)

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Hilton Honors points

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

Comments (17)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Jonathan says:

    The way things currently are, don’t book any plane ticket or hotel stay that doesn’t offer any flexibility

    It’s a shame many of us weren’t able to predict what was coming round the corner when coronavirus was first detected

    • Sam says:

      Absolutely. I would only book anything cancellable nowadays and even if it’s cancellable I’d avoid booking well in advance it’s just a pain to ask for refund that takes ages

  • krys_k says:

    Interesting article. But why is this the case in those territories?

    • Rob says:

      Good question, no idea. It can’t be for legal reasons given it covers multiple countries.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Is it because Hilton book and bill these reservations directly rather than via the hotels systems etc

    • John says:

      Probably similar to why flights departing the US could always be “FTVed”

  • Rich says:

    The inverse is true too. I’ve seen ‘flexible’ rates at Hilton where the cancellation deadline is surprisingly early, and/ or you forfeit the first night’s cost.

  • mr_jetlag says:

    Hilton hotels *hate* this one weird trick…

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    Four years ago, bought basic tickets from Scotland to the USA for cash through Delta.

    Was then unable to fly, so very surprised to find Delta (like all US airlines), was willing to give a future travel credit for cancelled flights.

    Makes me wonder: when did the policy of offering non-refundable cheap tickets/hotels etc appear? Who was the pioneer of this?

    Or did it work the other way round: were all hotel/flight bookings non-refundable and then someone came up with the idea or a premium price for flexibility?

    • mr_jetlag says:

      Before the Ryanair / LCC era most tickets had some form of flexible conditions of carriage. The other side was that they mostly were ticketed through travel agents and you couldn’t buy a ticket at a moment’s notice.

      My family was based out of the Philippines and in 1986 during People Power, had to arrange a flight for an uncle of ours. American agent on the phone would ticket it, but my parents had to read out (I kid you not) thirty travelers cheque serial numbers to book the flight, but it was “fully flexible” and could even be assigned to someone else.

    • 1ATL says:

      AA too.
      I changed plans on a trip in 2012 whereby the value of my purchased domestic flight that were no changes no refunds could be used towards another AA flight. I didn’t know it existed but I used the voucher towards my new reservation which covered most of the cost. Was an unexpected surprise as I wasn’t aware but from what I can work out it’s a quirk of US airlines…. they all seem to do it.

  • Save East Coast Rewards says:

    If you have a non-refundable rate and you just want to change the dates then contacting the hotel directly has worked for me. I’ve only done it a few times but the hotels I’ve asked to do this have always said yes.

    I’ve also had refunds for unused nights on rates that have been non-refundable but these were in hotels that I was staying a lot on business at the time.

  • Mzungu says:

    I don’t know if this was a one-off, but I cancelled a non-refundable booking at a Hilton in Washington DC a few years ago. I had booked for an exhibition, but needed to change location/dates for some reason.
    I called the hotel, and the agent suggested that I upgrade the booking to a fully refundable one. I did this, paid the difference, and was then able to cancel my fully flexible booking for a full refund!

  • Joe says:

    Strangely similar thing happened for us early in the pandemic for a booking in France. French national policy was credit only and no refunds but we got Hilton vouchers, direct from Hilton, AND credit from the hotel for a future stay.

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