Make sure to check the cancelation policy when booking a hotel room
Make sure to check the cancelation policy when booking a hotel room – nicomenijes (canva)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, guests have been skeptical about booking either ahead of time or at all due to the unpredictable nature of the outbreak. Because of this, hotels were forced to implement flexible cancelation policies to eliminate this risk factor and encourage guests to make room reservations.

You can cancel a hotel booking at any time. However, a refund will only be given, depending on the cancelation policy.

Can you cancel a hotel reservation?

You can cancel a hotel reservation but whether you can get a part or all your money back is depend on the hotel’s cancelation policy. Typically you may receive a partial refund if you cancel within 48h-24h before check-in time and a full refund if you cancel before that but again, always read the policy.

What are cancelation policies?

A cancelation policy is a contractual agreement on the reasons and circumstances under which a guest is entitled to cancel a reservation and the penalties for not complying with this agreement.

These policies protect you when unexpected life events interfere with your plans and protect hotels by holding their customers responsible for their bookings.

Cancelation policies are posted on your booking website. Typically, a guest must agree to a contract clause accepting the terms of the cancelation policy before booking. However, not all OTAs offer this feature, so it is important to read the cancelation policy before booking.

More About Cancelation Policies

What is a “cancelation fee” for a hotel booking?

A cancelation fee is an agreement between a hotel and a guest to hold the guest responsible for their reservation. If the guest does not keep their part of the agreement, the hotel is entitled to penalize the guest with a fee.

Cancelation fees protect hotels from loss of revenue due to no-show guests.

Why do I have to set up my credit card to reserve a room with a flexible cancelation policy?

Setting up a payment type, such as credit/debit, guarantees the hotel that the reservation is valid and that you are committed to the booking.

Is a deposit the same as a cancelation fee?

A deposit and a cancelation fee are different, and it is important that you know how hotel deposits work. A cancelation fee is part of a cancelation policy and is incurred prior to check-in. A deposit is a fee charged by the hotel as insurance for the room you are staying in and is incurred after check-in.

What is a customized policy?

A customized cancelation policy is the most common cancelation policy used by hotels to determine the time frame for a full or partial refund.

Some of these cancelations require an advance payment prior to check-in or a credit card to fulfill a reservation.

What is a fully flexible policy?

A fully flexible cancelation policy means that guests only pay when they stay at the hotel, and they can cancel at a time before check-in time and receive a full refund.

Is a cancellation fee a penalty?

Yes, a cancelation fee is a type of penalty for the guest for breaking the terms of the booking agreement.

Can a cancelation fee be higher than the booking fee?

No, a hotel cannot charge cancelation fees higher than what the booking was worth.

Why do hotels offer free cancelations?

Hotels offer free cancelation options to their guests to entice them to book risk-free and maintain their commitment until check-in.

However, free cancelations do not mean you can cancel at any time.

Hotels set deadlines for their guests to cancel a booking free of charge.

Cancelation Refunds

Is a free cancellation the same as a full refund?

Yes, a free cancellation implies a full refund.

What is a full refund for early cancelation?

A full refund means that the accommodation will refund you if you inform them that your booking must be canceled within a specific time.

What is a partial refund for late cancelation?

A partial refund is when the accommodation will refund you half or the agreed amount paid for the booking if you inform the accommodation within a specific time that your booking must be canceled.

How long does the hotel deposit take to return to my card?

The deposit should be reflected within 1 to 7 days of checking out. If the deposit release does not show, call the hotel to question the transaction and then contact your bank to investigate the delay.

When can I see my hotel cancelation refund on my credit card?

On average, it takes up to 7 days for a refund to reflect on your account and 2 billing cycles on a bank statement. If the refund does not show, call the hotel to confirm the refund transaction and then contact your bank to investigate the delay.

Cancelation time frames

What is a safe timeframe to cancel and get a full refund?

7 days before your check-in is a good time to cancel and receive a full refund. However, each hotel has different cancelation policies that you should be sure to check before making a reservation.

What is a safe time frame to cancel a hotel room and still get a refund?

24 to 48 hours is a safe period to cancel a hotel room and still get a refund. However, most cancelation policies might only partially refund you, unless you booked with a flexible online travel agency or directly with the hotel.

One way to increase your refund chance is to book with the top hotel booking sites and use their filter to search for accommodations with flexible cancelation policies. Naturally, do this only if you anticipate having to cancel your trip at the last moment because flexible cancelation policies will increase the room’s rate.

Why do hotels offer free cancelations?

Hotels offer free cancelation to their guests to entice them to book risk-free and maintain their commitment until the check-in date.

How much is the usual cancelation fee?

If you cancel within the agreed time frame, you will receive a full refund of the amount you paid for the accommodation.

If you cancel within 24 to 48 hours, it is considered a late cancelation, and you may be entitled to a partial refund or a percentage of the booking price. Note that all hotels have different cancelation policies.

You lose all cancelation rights if you do not cancel within 24 to 48 hours before your check-in date. For example, you can’t call on the check-in day and say you want to cancel.

How close to the check-in date can you cancel?

Cancelations can be made 48 to 24 hours before check-in. The problem is the cancelation fees. Fully refundable cancelation fees usually occur a few days before the check-in date.

Partially refundable cancelation fees typically occur 24 to 48 hours before check-in. If you miss the 24 to 48-hour window, call the hotel ahead of time to reschedule your stay or request a partial refund if you have a reasonable excuse.

How long after booking a hotel can you cancel?

Cancelation policies generally apply 24 to 48 hours before arrival or days before. Each accommodation facility has its own cancelation policy.

An early cancelation is where you can cancel about 7 days before your reservation and receive a full refund. Late cancelations are between 24 and 48 hours, but you will have to pay a fee.

Where you can find the cancelation policy information

How do I find my cancellation policy before booking?

The cancelation policy is disclosed along with all the information about the booking. If you want to be thorough, check not only the cancelation policy but ask the hotel these 20 questions. It’ll take a bit of time but will increase your chance to experience a comfortable stay.

How do I find my cancellation policy after booking?

If you booked directly through the main website, search for your booking and find the cancelation policy after your booking information.

If you booked through an OTA, look at the Policies and Cancelations tab on the website or browse the Frequently Asked Questions section. Here’s an example of how to cancel if you book from

If the OTA through which you made a booking does not have enough information, contact a customer service representative.

Voucher or Refund, What is better?

When am I entitled to a full refund or voucher?

  • If you cancel before the end of the free cancelation period.
  • If the hotel has reserved the wrong room.
  • If the hotel has been quarantined.
  • If the hotel is located in an area that has been quarantined.
  • If the hotel is located in an emergency area.
  • If the hotel is undergoing repairs and maintenance, that is disturbing for guests.
  • If the hotel’s country of destination is subject to a travel ban.
  • If the hotel you have booked has been double booked.
  • If the hotel “walks” you to another facility.
  • If the hotel’s accommodations are not up to standard, such as bed bugs, dirty sheets, water leaks, dirty bathrooms, etc.

Canceling hotel reservations made with points

What if I book using points and I have to cancel before the free cancelation period?

If you made a reservation with hotel points, the cancelation policy should closely follow standard cash and credit card rates.

This means that the same cancelation fees and policies apply to your booking. Your points are reinstated if you cancel before the free cancelation period.

What happens If I use my points to make a reservation and I have to cancel after the free cancelation period?

If you cancel after the free cancelation period, according to the hotel’s cancelation policy, a pre-agreed amount equivalent to the cash value will be deducted, and the remaining amount will be reinstated.

About travel insurance and cancelation fees

Is travel insurance that covers hotel cancellation worth it?

Insurance at a hotel with flexible cancelation policies is not necessary because the cancelation policies allow you to cancel before check-in without incurring cancelation fees.

Insurance at a hotel with strict cancelation policies is practical because the insurance company can reimburse you for the hotel’s cancelation fees in case of a change of plans.

Does travel insurance cover cancellation?

Insurance covers cancelations as part of basic travel insurance policies. Therefore, it is included in most travel insurance policies. Insurance policies reimburse you if you cancel your trip due to unexpected circumstances.

Travel insurance covers various travel- risks that arise before, after, or during a trip, such as cancellations, loss of baggage, flight delays and cancelations, bad weather, medical emergencies, and trip interruption. Depending on the type of travel insurance there are add-ons to the insurance policies called CFAR (Cancel For Any Reason). With this add-on, you can cancel your trip anytime and for any reason.

Travel insurance does not cover everything, such as pre-existing medical conditions or medical expenses for extreme sports or activities.

What are hotel rates, and how do they affect cancelation policies?

There are many hotel rates like standard rate, best available rate, non-refundable rate, last-minute rate, exclusive member rate, length of stay, family rate, package deal, and corporate rate. Each rate has its own cancellation policy.

For example, the family and corporate rates might have more strict non-refundable cancelation policies than the best available rate. The exclusive member rate might have more flexible cancelation policies for their loyal members. The standard rate has more generic cancelation policies than all the other rates.

What to do if you miss the free cancelation period

Can I sell my hotel reservation to someone else if I can’t cancel my booking?

You can sell your reservation. First, find someone who wants to buy your reservation and agree to the terms for transferring the ticket. Then contact the hotel to change the name of the reservation to the new owner. The only downside to this arrangement is that people who buy resold reservations usually look for a bargain, so the chances of a full return are slim.

What can I do if the hotel won’t give me a full refund because I missed the free cancelation period?

You have two options to get your money’s worth; sell your ticket or move the dates.

Sell your reservation to someone else. You will need to agree on a price with the buyer and then contact the hotel to transfer the reservation to the with the new name.

If you cannot meet the dates of your original booking and the free cancelation deadline is long past, call the hotel to reschedule for another time.

Can a hotel cancel my booking if I have the wrong name on the reservation?

High-end hotels require ID at check-in, and your name must be included in the reservation or the payment. However, most hotels will let you check in with an alias as long as your payment information matches your ID.

Do I get a refund If I leave early?

Some hotels have “early departure fees” where they charge their guests a certain fee if they have to leave their reservation earlier than booked. However, this is not common, and in most cases, an early departure is considered a late cancelation for which the hotel does not provide a refund.

Which is better, to cancel the booking or move the dates, if you need to cancel a booking 24 to 48 hours before the check-in?

If you cancel a reservation within 24 to 48 hours, you will only receive a partial refund.

If you call to reschedule the check-in date and call a few days later to cancel the check-in, you will receive a full refund.

How many times can I move my booking?

Normally, booking dates can be postponed only once. Read the cancelation policy for your booking, as hotel cancelation policies vary.

Can I postpone and then cancel a hotel reservation?

Yes. Call the hotel within 24 to 48 hours to postpone the booking for a few weeks or months, then call a few days later to cancel the booking and receive a full refund.

Remember that you may have to pay a price difference if you postpone the booking. But do not worry, you will not pay for it because you will call to cancel the booking within the free cancelation period.


Hotels used to have strict cancelation policies, but over time, they have become more flexible in their practices. Nowadays, it is easier to find a hotel with flexible cancelation policies, as people are not willing to take the risk of losing their money in case of emergencies.

Before making a reservation, make sure that you book a hotel whose cancelation policy fits your needs and lifestyle.

Do you know that cancelation works both ways? Yes, a hotel can also cancel your booking. If this ever happens to you, here’s what you can do if a hotel cancels your reservation.

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