If you book a non-refundable stay at a hotel, should the hotel take the full payment immediately or at some point between the booking and departure dates?
There were a couple of reasons for making this early booking:
- My first choice, Hilton (where I have Diamond status), was too expensive.
- Accor had a sale and a deal that included breakfast.
- I was pretty sure that the UK would vote to leave the EU (Brexit) and that the British Pound would fall against other currencies.
Brexit happened and the Pound fell – I was happy that I’d locked in the price of my hotel. Well I was happy until my card was debited on the 23rd July (over a month later) at that day’s exchange rate. That left me almost £50 worse off – in fact I miscalculated and thought I was over £100 worse off.
Had I booked a cancellable reservation, I wouldn’t expected the amount to be charged until I arrived/departed. With this reservation, I might have accepted a charge made on departure but not at possibly the worst time – advance payment but at a bad exchange rate. I booked a non-refundable stay at the Sydney Hilton on the 23rd May – they haven’t charged me yet and although I would have preferred to lock in the rate, if they don’t charge me until I depart in November then I’ll probably be okay with that.
19th September update: Hilton just charged my card and I’m £68 worse off because of the change in exchange rates. I’ve written to them and let’s see what they do.
18th October update: The Sydney Hilton wrote:
I sincerely apologise that your initial email was not responded to and hope that we are able to offer a solution. As this reservation is a fully-pre-paid reservation, unfortunately we are unable to refund this amount to you. However we do understand your frustration and so as a gesture of good will to a valued Diamond HHonors member, we will allow this amount (in the dollar value) to be used towards incidentals during your stay.
And I think that’s a reasonable gesture.
I wrote to Club Accor (where sadly I have basic status). Club Accor used to give Platinum status away like sweets until about a year ago when they decided to stop status matching.
Club Accor said they’d pass on my complaint to the hotel. I waited a few weeks and chased. After another week I received an email from the hotel where they looked at the exchange rate:
Theoretical difference based on this analysis is 622.99-576.77= 46.23 British Pounds.
We shall proceed to the reimbursement of 46.23 British Pounds that will be converted into Japanese yen according to the most favorable for you rate, that of June 15th , as soon as you accuse the reception of this explanatory e-mail.
We wish to reiterate our sincere apology for the delay in charging your card for a prepaid reservation.
I’d already decided that they weren’t going to refund me anything. I was planning to ask for a full refund based on the that fact. So I’d re-checked the rates for the Hilton and found they had become less expensive. I booked the Hilton (on a cancellable rate). Plus I also altered my flights to arrive one day later.
But actually the hotel were pretty nice about it all. I decided to ask for a full refund anyway. Their next reply wasn’t so friendly:
I regret to point out, but your reservation tariff is a prepaid one and thus it cannot be a subject to any change or cancelation according to the sales conditions.
However, taken into account the situation, I can offer you to move your booking for another period and leave the choice of dates up to you.
Please be kindly informed that should the room price be lower than your original booking, the difference will not be reimbursed and should the room rate for the dates you will choose be higher, we shall charge you the difference after comparison with the room rate for your initial stay. Please kindly advise me of your decision.
Finally, may I also inform you that there is no legal obligation for the hotel to process the prepaid booking on the very booking date. We shall not take any responsibility for exchange rate fluctuation with regard to your future bookings. Thank you very much for your kind understanding and cooperation.
So I decided to accept the offer of a change of booking date. I asked for my reservation to be moved forward for one day. That fitted my new arrival date and although I am flying to Sydney on my departure date, that isn’t until 22:00 and so having a room right up until we needed to go to the airport would be handy.
Thank you for your kind response. Your request for booking change has been well noted and is now processed.
We will soon send you a new reservation confirmation e-mail.
The refund of 46.23 pounds (6951 JPY) has been ordered and will be processed shortly.
I thank you for your kind understanding and cooperation.
We all look forward to welcoming you at Mercure Tokyo Ginza in October.
So back to being nice and everything looked good.
Unfortunately today I received an ‘updated’ booking – when I checked the dates were exactly the same and there was no mention of breakfast.
The hotel have since sent an updated confirmation and my dates have been updated and breakfast is still included. So I cancelled my Hilton reservation and I’m looking forward to staying (and reviewing) the Mercure Tokyo.
But what do you think? Should a hotel debit your card immediately for a pre-paid reservation at the prevailing rate? Would you prefer that they debited your card at the end of your stay and take a chance on exchange rates?