Don't Get Bonvoy'd With Marriott's Cancellation Penalties
The Marriott Bonvoy Rewards program isn't always the easiest loyalty program to navigate. In 2017, Marriott harshened their cancellation policy by mandating customers cancel their reservations within at least 48 hours of the scheduled reservation to avoid a penalty fee. The difficult aspect about the cancellation policy is that while all hotels and resorts have this minimum cancellation timeframe, there is no time for how far out a reservation may need to be cancelled to be refunded. So, it's time to read the fine print.
Hopefully this isn't breaking news to most of our readers, but it is important to note that cancellation fees can hurt if you aren't too careful. With over 6,700 properties that are apart of the Bonvoy program, the cancellation time periods and fees can get confusing.
For many of us frequent travelers and points gurus, you may have a habit of booking multiple hotels in multiple locations — maybe you're still unsure if you'll be in California or New York one week, so you book a hotel in each location. Well, the no harm no foul rule may not be so pertinent anywhere you book, as certain properties are now using especially-harsh requirements for cancelling a room with no penalty. If you have to cancel anytime within the given cancellation period, the hotel will refund your points on the award booking. In turn, select hotels will then charge you the full dollar amount that the entire reservation would have cost you if you paid in cash.
For example, if you find out two days before that you cannot make it to your reservation and the cancellation period is a week, you'll get back your points, but you have to pay the dollar amount instead, as if you paid with cash instead of using points.
So where are these particularly punitive locations? TPG reader Justin specifically wrote in about the St. Regis Deer Valley Resort in Utah. The resort, now costing 85,000 points per night, will allow you to cancel your reservation penalty free for 61 days prior to your arrival, but after that time, you'd need to pay for the entire stay. So if you have saved up your points for the vacation of your dreams but unfortunately need to cancel, do so before the 61-day mark or you'll have to pay the normal cash amount.
In the last few months, the Marriott Bonvoy program has improved their transparency by putting the hotel cancellation policy directly underneath your payment option when reserving your stay. Prior to that, some TPG readers had mentioned that certain hotels would email their cancellation after booking, so if you bet on booking three different hotels just in case, well, hopefully you actually read the confirmation email and can cancel without penalty.
A 60-day cancellation period is definitely the exception rather than the norm for Marriott hotels, but there are few other abnormal policies throughout the system. For instance, you'll have to cancel your stay at the category 6 Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Hawaii at least two weeks before your arrival. The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour's punitive policy kicks in a week before arrival. The St. Regis Aspen Resort is the only other hotel besides the St. Regis Deer Valley Resort where we found a consistent 60-day cancellation period; however there may be others out there.
It's worth noting that in many cases, these strict cancellation policies apply to both paid stays and award rooms, so you aren't getting singled out for using your points.
While looking for other hotels, some had various cancellation time periods although most are around the 48 hour mark, but the policy was the same for all: Either cancel before the penalty window or you may have to pay a cash fee. While it can seem strange that some hotels have such an extended time frame to cancel prior to arrival, most of these hotels were top-tier luxury properties. In an ideal world for hotels, they would prefer that all of the rooms are consistently full. So making the cancellation period longer for properties ensures that the hotel has more time to rebook the room. If someone cancels a deluxe suite in an area like Aspen two days before their arrival, the fee shouldn't be shocking as the hotel will most likely lose money from the last-minute cancellation, especially during peak travel season.