Asking refund from a hotel: begin by talking to the receptionist – LarsZahner (Canva)

Ideally, we would all like our travels to go smoothly from start to finish, but unfortunately, that is only the case for some. Sometimes factors outside our control, like hotel issues, can cause severe disruptions in travel plans. Knowing when to complain or ask for a refund and how to get your money back without causing too much fuss is essential.

Do hotels refund money?

Yes, hotels can and will refund your money if the issue you present to staff cant be resolved quickly or it is entirely unresolvable. There are a few nuances to this, like if you booked through a third-party site or your hotel room is listed as non-refundable. This can put up a few additional roadblocks, but you can still get a refund.

How to ask a hotel for a refund

It is important to know how to get a refund from a hotel without causing a scene. Staying calm and collected while presenting your issue to hotel staff makes it more likely that they will favor you and try to solve the problem or get you a refund. Following these steps will help you when asking for a refund from your hotel.

Hotels may not refund you if they cancel the reservation before you arrive. They may instead move you to another hotel room or give you upgrades and perks at their hotel. Learn more about what to do if the hotel cancels your reservation and you would still like a refund.

1. Check the hotel’s cancelation policy

Learn about hotel cancelation, and refund policies work. Knowing how hotels structure their policy on cancelation and refunds can help prepare you to discuss them when the hotel staff recites their hotel policy to you.

Remember that the cancelation and refund policy varies from hotel to hotel. You might see a very relaxed refund policy at big chain hotels because they can afford to provide that for customers. When staying at smaller chain hotels or independently owned hotels, they may have a stricter cancelation and refund policy.

2. Start a paper trail

Once you notice the issues, immediately start documenting them. Keep screenshots of your reservation, any prior communication with the hotel or staff, and photos or videos of the problem. This can be anything from bed bugs to broken heater and even hidden cameras.

This will help you when speaking with hotel staff or management about the issue. It will also aid you if the situation escalates and you have to contact corporate.

3. Immediately present the issue in detail

Once you have discovered a pressing issue with your room, take photos and present the issue to the front desk staff. Be prepared to calmly detail what is wrong with your room, how it inconveniences you, and why you want a refund.

Keep in mind that it is a good idea to hear the solutions presented by the front desk staff, even if you aren’t interested in what they offer. If you are set on getting a refund, be prepared to explain why you would like a refund instead of a solution.

4. Remain calm

It is important to remember to remain calm. Hotel staff and management are more likely to help you with your issue if you stay calm and polite while speaking with them. This can also allow you to articulate the issue easily to the staff and repeat the information to the manager.

5. Listen to the solutions

Hear the solutions (if any) that the hotel staff present. If you don’t mind changing rooms, it might be a good idea to learn how to ask for a room change. Hotel staff may offer to change your room if your current room is not up to standard, which may involve a possible upgrade. If the current solutions don’t work for you, you should request a refund. Be prepared to explain why their solutions aren’t suitable.

6. Politely ask for a refund

If no other solutions suit you, you can politely as the hotel staff for a refund. Be prepared to present your case and state why the other solutions aren’t suitable and why you would like your refund. Going into detail about how the inconvenience has affected you, other guests, or your vacation, in general, may help the staff understand the gravity of the situation.

In some cases, staff might give you a refund once you ask for one, but in some cases, the staff might be difficult to deal with. In this case, you should bring the situation to a manager calmly.

7. Contact management

If you can’t resolve the issue with the hotel staff, it might be time to contact management. Politely ask the staff to speak to the manager and be prepared to present your case to management again, as they need to be made aware of the situation. Be sure to state that you would like a refund and why.

Management has the authority to process refunds, but in some cases, they might not want to or aren’t able to give you a refund. If your room was listed as non-refundable or you booked through a third-party site, this might cause some issues.

When management can’t refund you, it might be in your best interest to accept one of their other solutions and contact corporate or your third-party booking site during or after your stay.

8. Contact Corporate

If management won’t give you a refund, research the corporate head office phone number or ask management directly for it. Try contacting corporate via phone or email during your stay and present them your issue and the paper trail to back it up.

Contacting corporate can sometimes be a lengthy process, so it’s best to get started right away. However, if you find it will disrupt your trip further, you can wait until you return home. Although the longer you wait, the more difficult the chances of getting a possible refund are. If you are finding the staff or hotel challenging to deal with, you can also file a consumer complaint.

9. Leave the hotel

If the solutions presented aren’t suitable and you feel uncomfortable staying in your room or at the hotel, it’s a good idea to leave and find another hotel in the meantime. This can salvage your vacation and help make the best out of a bad situation, especially if it’s a safety concern. You can begin contacting corporate or your third-party booking site from the new hotel to get a refund.

How long does it take to get a refund from a hotel?

If you paid for your hotel directly through the hotel with a credit card, and you are within the hotel’s policy window regarding cancelation and refunds, you can expect to receive a refund to your credit card within 1-5 business days.

If you paid for your hotel room directly through the hotel with a debit card, you should receive your refund within 1-5 business days. If you booked with a third-party booking site or your room was non-refundable, it may take significantly longer to receive a refund.

Can I get a refund on a non-refundable hotel booking?

Technically you can’t. Non-refundable hotel rooms are exactly that, non-refundable. These types of rooms are priced at a steep discount compared to other rooms that are offered to entice travelers to book with them and save money. There are some circumstances where you can get a refund on a non-refundable hotel room. All of these circumstances depend on you and your reputation with the hotel and how early you ask for a refund.

Illness

A valid medical reason can sometimes get you out of a hotel reservation. Contact the hotel with your proof of medical reasons or illness, and be prepared to explain the situation. This may take multiple calls to the hotel and usually only works when booking directly with the hotel, not through a third-party site.

Death in the family

When there is a death in the immediate family, that is a valid reason to cancel all travel plans. Contact the hotel to explain your reasoning but be prepared. They may ask for you a death certificate and the relation of the deceased.

Hotel isn’t as advertised

When the hotel room does not match the room as advertised, you may be able to get a refund. For example, if the room is advertised as having a jacuzzi tub or ocean view on the website, and you find that the tub needs to be fixed or the view is subpar, you can ask for a refund.

Sometimes if the room is different from what is advertised, hotel staff may try and move your room. Be prepared to explain why you would like a refund instead.

Bring proof of the room advertisement and proof that your room is not up to par to management. From there, they can decide to process your refund. If they cannot process your refund, they still will be able to upgrade your room to something more suitable.

When plans change

Sometimes you are still able to get a refund if your travel plans change. If you have a good reputation with the hotel or you are a gold or platinum member, the hotel may take your concern to heart and process the refund for you. This likely won’t work for you if this is your first time staying with that hotel or chain.

Can I get a refund if I booked with a third-party site?

If you booked your hotel room through a third-party booking site, it might be more difficult to process your refund, as these sites have cancelation and refund policies of their own. Contact the customer service line for the booking site as soon as you know you would like a refund and communicate to the staff your reason for needing a refund. Keep in mind that if you are outside the cancelation window, this may not work.

Booking sites tend to have below-average customer service, so be prepared to have to talk to many different customer service agents or escalate the situation to their manager if needed. They may also ask you for proof, so keeping photos and any communication with the hotel handy is important.

As a last resort, you can ask your bank to put a hold on or reverse the hotel charge. You may need to provide sufficient proof that you are eligible for a refund and tried to cancel the reservation within a reasonable time.

Can a hotel refuse to give a refund?

Yes, a hotel can refuse to give you a refund under certain circumstances. If you are outside the cancelation/refund policy window or booked through a third-party site, they are not required to process your refund immediately. You may need to go through other channels to get your refund.

The hotel may also not process your refund if they deem your issue solvable. Ultimately they would rather have you switch rooms than give you a full refund, so they will try to go with the solution that suits them best.

What happens if a hotel won’t refund?

If a hotel doesn’t give you a refund, you can politely ask them to walk you to another property. Asking them to “walk” is a lesser-known industry standard that requires hotels to bring you to another hotel property nearby and put you in a room that is of a similar standard to yours. This may help mitigate the issues you are having with the current hotel and salvage your vacation.

If you are within your rights and adhere to the hotel’s cancelation policy, you can ask for a refund. If the hotel simply won’t budge and process your refund, you can, with proper documentation, ask your bank to block or reverse the charge on your card.

If you are outside the cancelation window or booked through a third-party site and the hotel won’t process your refund, you could contact corporate, take to social media, and review sites like Google, Yelp, or Trip Advisor to leave a bad review. In extreme cases, it is entirely possible to sue the hotel, but keep in mind the fees for a lawsuit and small claims court might outweigh your refund amount.

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