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.
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.
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.