The Truth about Non-Refundable Hotel Rates

Are you really getting a great deal by booking at a lower rate? Here are some things to consider when making hotel reservations

Ensure that booking the non-refundable rate is worth it – you may not have to spend much more for flexibility

Many hotels tempt travellers with non-refundable rates, but is the lower price worth giving up your flexibility?

Major chains like the Hilton, Marriott and Starwood have offered lower rates for prepaid and non-refundable hotel reservations for years. Now, more and more hotel chains are jumping on the non-refundable rate bandwagon. Sounds like a good thing for travellers, but is it really?

Traveller Beware

These lower-rate offers will often show up on consumer travel websites, but take caution, as their claims may be a bit misleading. They are often advertised in ways that don’t make their restrictions obvious, using labels like “Book Early and Save,” “Advance Purchase” or “Limited Time Offer.”

So why exactly are hotels taking this new approach? There are a number of reasons.

Why Non-refundable Rates?

By offering the lower rate, the hotel is guaranteed payment for the full stay of the reservation. Customers can’t check out earlier than planned, causing the hotel to lose the extra nights of held space.

Also, by piquing potential guests’ interest with the low rates, hotels know that many travellers will end up choosing more expensive, cancellable reservations.

Travellers have been getting wise to the hotels’ trick of dropping prices at the last minute, so these lower non-refundable rates discourage people from cancelling and rebooking later at a better price.

Choosing the Right Deal

Non-refundable rates can be a great deal, if you’re sure about your booking. If you’re interested in booking one, here are some tips:

  • Read all the terms and conditions carefully before you enter any credit card information. This ensures that you aren’t locked in to a condition you didn’t know about, such as a minimum stay.
  • Do some research. Compare other sites and the hotel’s own website to make sure you are in fact getting a deal, and not locking in to a rate that could be booked elsewhere without the commitment.
  • Ensure that booking the non-refundable rate is worth it. It may not even be that much cheaper than the standard price. So, if you like to be flexible with your travel plans, this is something you’ll want to consider.

Claire Newell is the travel media expert for Global BC, host of the travel series Operation: Vacation, best-selling author, spokesperson, wife and mother of two.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.