Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Got a pre-paid hotel room you can’t use? Do mobile check-in anyway ….

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Mobile check-in is becoming increasingly common with the big hotel chains. You can check-in via the hotel app, often selecting the exact room you want from a floor plan, and then go straight to your room without bothering the front desk.

I’ve never been too happy with this. Take my stay at Hilton Bournemouth this weekend. If I had bypassed the front desk, I wouldn’t have received a suite upgrade (I wasn’t upgraded pre-arrival in the app), I wouldn’t have got four free drinks vouchers to compensate for the lack of a lounge at weekends and I wouldn’t have got a sheet of paper detailing the complex opening hours of each hotel facility.

However, you can occasionally use mobile check-in to salvage some value from a prepaid hotel room when you can no longer make it.

How does Marriott mobile key work?

If you have a pre-paid hotel room that you can no longer use, you should use mobile check-in regardless.

It will sometimes – and only sometimes – trigger the credit of hotel loyalty points from your stay.

In theory the hotel is meant to monitor whether the room is accessed or not during your stay before awarding points, but this does not always happen.

I did this at Marriott Manchester Airport (now a Delta hotel) a few years ago. The stay credited as it should.

A reader sent me a similar email last time we discussed this topic:

“I booked a non refundable / exchangable cheap room in the DoubleTree by Hilton [Name Redacted] hotel which I was unexpectedly unable to use last week.

As there was no benefit in cancelling the room, I checked in online and went for the keyless entry option, giving me access via my phone. I was at all times 120 miles away in Norwich.

The following morning I was asked if I wanted to check out via the app, which I duly did.

I have just had an email thanking me for my stay and confirming my points.”

There is clearly no guarantee that this trick will always work, and you’d be crazy to book a non-refundable room as a mattress run with zero intention of personally checking in.

However, if you end up facing the loss of a pre-paid hotel room due to a change of plans, this is a way to try to salvage some value from the situation.


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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.

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Comments (47)

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  • Tony says:

    Mobile check in is useful if you use a corporate rate code and want to avoid potentially awkward interrogations at the check in desk.

    Or so I’ve heard.

    • Harry T says:

      Not if you need to show ID at the front desk, which is a pretty common requirement in most countries, even when using mobile check in.

  • AirMax says:

    I was in a HI Express (I know, not very ABC1) last week and the receptionist was arguing on the phone with someone who had booked a prepaid and wanted to cancel.

    She (the receptionist) said it was through booking.com so nothing could be done but if it had been booked direct, it could have been cancelled or changed without any issue

    • Harrier25 says:

      That seems fair enough.

    • Hilda M says:

      Sadly, a Holiday Inn in Paris wouldn’t oblige me this August (hotel was full so could easily resell). I rarely book prepaid as often changing plans & hadn’t read the rules for the Senior Rate I booked many months earlier – lesson learned 🙁

      Also, don’t most European hotels require you to present your passport- certainly necessary in Spain.

      • Michael Jennings says:

        Depends on the country. In some countries (like Spain), yes, always. In others no, hardly ever.

        • Roy says:

          ISTR that in some countries (I don’t recall which) they’re obliged to refund you a significant proportion of the rate if they succeed in retiring the room you cancelled

    • Harry T says:

      That sounds completely fair.

  • Ranger43 says:

    Our LNER train from Scotland to Newcastle has just been cancelled, our hotel booking is with Hampton, spoke to the hotel, they would’t refund or move the booking, (Diamond Member).

  • Iain says:

    Had 3 hotels booked on a TP run last year which fell at the first hurdle when BA cancelled flight on the morning of departure. Radisson/IHG/Sofitel all allowed me to defer until next trip

    • AndyC says:

      Perhaps similarly, had booking at a Grand Mercure, as part of a round-Thailand trip a year ago this month. Unfortunately, couldn’t go due to local flooding. Fortunately, the reservations manager accepted the cancellation, as well as arranging full refund, on the basis that we confirmed our intention to visit at a time of our choosing.

  • Julia says:

    I’m not sure paying the extra price for a refundable room is worth it anymore. Going through this year’s stays I’ve only failed to turn up at one hotel and still got the points anyway and they credited the stay to a promotion they were running. I think you can do what Rob’s done occasionally but a serial buyer of cheap rooms the other end of the world for a few pounds just for the points may not go down well.

    • Rob says:

      If you’ve got Avios flights keeping it all refundable let’s you trash entire holidays at the last minute if, for eg, the weather looks better elsewhere.

      • Camille55 says:

        Completely agree re the weather. Primary factor for us when booking/cancelling & re-booking last minute-ish reward travel. It’s worth paying the cancellation if those valuable days away will be in glorious sunshine.

    • Peter K says:

      Having been burned a few times with non refundable rooms, the relatively small extra fee to keep them at least semi flexible is worth it to me.

      • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

        And the flexibility to cancel and rebook if the price goes down.

    • BBbetter says:

      If Covid taught a lesson, that’s to avoid non-cancellable fares.

    • Harry T says:

      Yes, but the sensible thing to do is book a reasonable flexible rate with cash or points, and monitor the prices. Often the rates go down every close in, and you can cancel the flexible rate for a better one. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the pandemic, is that it’s worth paying a small extra price for flexibility and peace of mind.

      • Julia says:

        I think the ne’ers have it. Perhaps time to review my booking strategy.

  • Matarredonda says:

    Since the pandemic never book rooms I cannot cancel without charge.
    Not worth the hassle of trying to convince the booking source to either refund or allow to use another time.

  • Voldemort says:

    Worth asking the hotel to cancel or move first. Okay they probably won’t but I have had hotels take pity on me before and refunded me – or cancelled before they charged the card.

    • Michael Jennings says:

      I find hotels to often be sympathetic. Send a nice e-mail, always give a reason for the cancellation (“I have Covid”, “My airline cancelled the flight”, etc etc), and stress that you understand that they don’t have to and you are asking for a favour. If you are postponing the trip rather than cancelling, then ask for a change of date rather than an outright cancellation.

  • Tariq says:

    Like others, a politely worded email to the hotel to ask if they can move the reservation has always yielded good results for me.

    • Nick says:

      I totally agree Tariq! Firstly, just accept that you’re in the ‘wrong’! It’s not difficult, unless you’re just some of the increasingly, ‘Me, me, me’ generation, that just don’t appreciate the rules, and why it’s a discounted rate!

      Be pleasant and it’ll hopefully pay off, but that’s also usually better too, if you’re a regular guest at the hotel!

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