Did Holiday Inn lie to me about its refund policy?

It’s bad enough Carole Carson can’t attend her granddaughter’s wedding — but Holiday Inn’s holding on to her money only adds to her pain.

Question:I would like a refund from Holiday Inn. I used their online reservation service on March 14 for reservations for June 15 to 18 to attend my granddaughter’s wedding. Approximately two days later, my plans changed, and I had to cancel the first day of the reservation. At that time, an agent promised us a refund of $137.

In April my American Express credit card was charged the full amount of $431. The refund of $137 has never been applied to my card.

To further complicate matters, a physician-verified illness forced me to cancel the entire trip. On June 8, I contacted Holiday Inn and relayed that I needed to cancel the entire reservation.

I was told, however, that since the reservation was booked online, no refund for any of the amount would be returned to me. Their policy is that since I was given a reduced room rate, I was not entitled to a refund or to let another party use the room.

I discovered a number of complaints relating to this practice online.

I live on our retirement benefits, so this amount of more than four hundred dollars, is meaningful to me. Besides the disappointment of not being able to attend my granddaughter’s wedding, I am disappointed in the unwillingness of Holiday Inn to refund my deposit.

Can you help me get a refund from Holiday Inn? Carole Carson, Carson City, Calif.

Answer: It is interesting that after your original cancellation of the first day of your reservation, you were promised a refund, but when you needed to cancel the entire reservation, you were informed no refund was possible.

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You did attempt to self-advocate in this matter by sending a refund request to the CEO of Holiday Inn, which was answered, though not satisfactorily:

After reviewing your reservation we found it had originally been confirmed for a Book Early and Save rate. Certain restrictions apply to this deeply discounted rate, and a deposit for the entire stay is charged to your credit card between the time of booking and your date of arrival. Canceling your reservation will result to the forfeiture of your entire deposit.

Acknowledgement of the restrictions is required in order to obtain your confirmation number. This provides you with the option of agreeing or declining the terms, and gives you a choice to book a different rate type with a different cancellation policy.

Although not readily available — it appears to be only viewable in a pop-up window — the Book Early and Save rate does have the following disclaimer in their “View Rate Details”: CANCELLATION POLICY: Canceling your reservation or failing to arrive will result in forfeiture of your deposit. Taxes may apply.

This is in direct contrast of Holiday Inn’s general cancellation policy, available through the Virtual Assistant:

Canceling your reservation before 6:00 pm [local hotel time] the day before your reservation will result in no charge. Canceling your reservation after 6:00 pm [local hotel time] on the day before your reservation, or failing to show, will result in a charge equal to the first night’s stay per room to your credit card. Taxes may apply. Failing to call or show before check-out time after the first night of a reservation will result in cancellation of the remainder of your reservation. Points + Cash bookings are charged immediately, and cancellations are refunded in points only.

There are a number of complaints online about Holiday Inn, including quite a list from Consumer Affairs. A number of them address this hidden nonrefundable issue as well.

The term “deeply discounted” seems an exaggeration since my tour through their booking system only offered me a $12 price difference.

Holiday Inn does provide notification that the Book Early and Save rate is nonrefundable, but it is not readily accessible and appears to be the one exception to their general cancellation policy. Their website encourages people to search for a room using the option Best Available, which will list the Book Early and Save listing first.

Perhaps it would be a better policy for Holiday Inn to place their cancellation policies out in the open, as well as to modify their Book Early and Save policy to be in line with their more general policy instead of engendering the ill will that this exception seems to be creating. Certainly keeping the one-time deposit is not worth the cost of losing potential customers and the negative reviews they are generating.

We list contacts for Holiday Inn on our site. Our advocates contacted the company on your behalf, and we received confirmation from you that it has offered you a full refund.

  • Non-refundable rates are starting to creep into the hotel business, but so far I have never seen a price differential that is enough to justify taking the risk. In any case, the Holiday Inn deal stipulated loss of the deposit on cancellation; instead, they charged the whole reservation.

  • Chris_In_NC

    I am seeing more and more “non-refundable” rates.

    Here’s one from Marriott : “Changes to your reservation are not permitted. Please note that you may cancel your reservation for no charge until July 25, 2016.
    Please note that your prepayment for this special rate is non-refundable.”


    The real story is that these so called non-refundable, non-changeable rates DO NOT OFFER much in savings compared to a “flexible” rate. I avoid booking the inflexible rates at all costs. The savings does not warrant the risk (unless it is a same day reservation or if the reservation is made within 24 hours)

    In Carson’s case, it appears she booked a non-refundable, non-changeable rate. These rates are “pre-purchase” which means you are charged immediately. Why the agent promised a refund of the 1st night will be a mystery (perhaps the agent erred, or there was a goodwill adjustment), but it appears she was NOT entitled to the refund.

    The fact that she has a medical emergency is irrelevant, the fact that she is on a “fixed” income is irrelevant. That’s playing the sympathy card. A legitimate issue is whether the non-refundable, non-changeable rate was properly disclosed. Since I don’t book HI, I don’t know.

    Of course the hotel can offer a refund or credit as a matter of good will, but I don’t feel a hotel is obligated to do so. Carson was fortunate to have received a refund, but based on the facts, it looks like operator error.

  • Mel LeCompte Jr.

    Nope, nope, and nope.

    Yes these new ‘non-refundable rates’ absolutely are garbage, BUT they are prominently displayed. Methinks she pulled the old lady card to get out of this one. No sympathy for this one.

  • Annie M

    Did anyone try to book a Holiday Inn and see exactly what the screen says? It CLEARLY says Book Early and Save – Non refundable rate right on the screen when you look at rates.

    Book Early & Save – Advance Purchase

    Non-Refundable Rate
    Deposit required
    Must book 7 days in advance

    ‎ $ 158.10 USD

    ‎ ‎$ 10.00 USD
    Add Breakfast (up to 2 guests)
    Average Nightly Rate
    View Rate Details

    What is hidden about this?

  • Annie M

    It doesn’t matter if it is non refundable – there are other rate options if you want a refundable rate. It’s a choice that everyone booking a room makes. In this case, when I went to book, it clearly stated that the rate is non refundable before you ever choose the room to actually book.

  • Annie M

    Especially since it clearly states on the screen before you choose the room it is non refundable.

  • Pat

    I have been using the IHG web site and app for years. The non-refundable and cancel by a certain time on the day of arrival have been clearly identified. The amount you save with the non-refundable amount is small and not worth the savings. But there will be some people that will look at the lowest rate and book without looking at the conditions of the rate.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    You have to be careful. I was helping my parents (retirees) plan a trip on Air BNB andthe cancellation policy changes whether you stay for 27 days or 28 days. At 27 days it is reasonable, at 28 days, you lose the first month (i.e. their whole trip). Since they were going February anyway, they just went for 27 days,. They plan to stay there, but you never know, if they get sick of something.

  • AJPeabody

    I bet the premium for travel insurance would have used up most or all of the $12 per night savings.

  • RichardII

    A lot of thoughts on this one…
    1) “Lied to her”? Really? Come on now, this phrase is way overused on this blog. Lying means “to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive”. In this case I seriously doubt there was any intention. Yes, Holiday Inn’s agent may have provided false information (see #2) but would they really do so intentionally?

    2) One possibility for the confusion is the agent told Carson incorrect information (new employee confused the applicable policy). Another is Carson would have received a one night refund IF she had shown up and stayed for the remaining nights. Since that didn’t happen, we’ll never know.

    3) (Rant warning!) If you can afford to spend the money ($1 to $100,000+) on something and that thing falls through, please don’t tell us how much you need the money. Yes, I understand you are a (pick one): senior, out of work, underemployed, unable to work, disabled, use mother, care-giver, work at Wal-Mart, etc. That is important to you, but Holiday Inn , American Airlines, Carnival, Viking, Hilton, AT&T, Comcast, etc. should be treating you fairly irrespective of your financial position. If you are due a refund, you should get it. (period). Need should not be a factor.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    As I have stated over the years, it is irrelevant what is actually stated on the webpage especially when it shows that everything was disclosed BEFORE the purchased and it looks like either the OP didn’t read the terms; the OP is ignorant or the OP is lying in order to get a refund.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Buy travel insurance and/or make refundable reservations.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    These non-refundable, non-changeable, pre-pay, etc. rates appeals to individuals who is looking for the lowest rate without analyzing the numbers and looking at the risks.

    If these non-refundable, non-changeable, pre-pay, etc. rates were 50% lower than the refundable rates then I will book them because there is an incentive for the risk that you are assuming. However, at the little savings that they offer, I don’t.

  • jsn55

    Nice of Holiday Inn to refund her. I assume she made a prepaid reservation and it’s not cancellable. It’s not a deposit for the first night,it’s a prepaid res. People booking travel on the internet have got to start reading more than the price of a product before they hit that ‘buy’ button. Prepaid hotel reservations are never a good idea; they’re not necessary, except for exclusive European luxury hotels when you just HAVE to stay there.

  • jsn55

    Nothing is hidden, people don’t read. They think they can book travel online but refuse to read the information, drill down to the fine print, truly understand what they’re buying.

    I actually booked a prepaid hotel stay at a Holiday Inn several years ago by ‘mistake’. My confirmation told me that they were charging my card. I went back into the website the next day and that rate was not marked prepaid, or non-ref. They cancelled the whole transaction when I contacted them, but now I make sure I read the cancellation policy of any hotel before I book anything, ever. I’m an IHG platinum person, so I’m very familiar with the website, and I noticed a short while later that the website had been changed so the prepaid part was prominent, as it is now.

  • jsn55

    If losing your money would bother you, insure ANYTHING that is prepaid and/or non-cancellable.

  • RightNow9435

    Very true. Usually the discount is $5-10, so not worth the risk

  • RichardII

    Several thoughts on this one…

    1) Lying means “to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive”.Holiday Inn’s agent may have provided false information (see #2) but I doubt they did so intentionally?

    2) One possibility for the confusion is the agent told Carson incorrect information (new employee confused the applicable policy). Another is Carson would have received a one night refund IF she had shown up and stayed for the remaining nights. Since that didn’t happen, we’ll never know.

    3) Information about how much the money is needed should not have a bearing on a case. If you are due a refund, you should get it. (period).

  • BubbaJoe123

    That’s correct. The deposit in this case being the entire charge. In any case, the Holiday Inn deal stipulated loss of the deposit on cancellation”
    That’s correct. The deposit in this case being the entire charge.

  • joycexyz

    I have seen Book Early and Save options on other hotel websites, but they always say nonrefundable. Or maybe I always read the fine print. There’s a reason for the savings option–you lose out if you have to cancel. If you haven’t already done so, Chris, perhaps an article pointing out these “gotchas” would be very informative and helpful.

  • Noah Kimmel

    “worth it” is always tough. I agree that I generally pay the extra for the flexibility as I can afford the $5-10, but in terms of percentage, they can be more than a 10% discount. For businesses with profit margins in a similar range, for Holiday Inn, it may represent a bigger discount than it does for you.

    In this case, I feel bad for the OP and hope IHG / Holiday Inn issues a goodwill credit given the medical nature of cancellation, but she is responsible for the rate she booked. Perhaps she can try following up with her credit card company to see if there is trip insurance offered that the medical waiver could help with

  • joycexyz

    It’s a pity we have to be lawyers to understand what the terms are. What are the hotels, airlines, tour operators, etc., hiding? Apparently a whole lot!

  • James

    I have seen it once: At a hotel in London, the difference was £100/night and it was a five night stay.

  • pauletteb

    Yet another lack of personal responsibility issue. I rarely book this type of rate because of the cancellation policy; the price difference is usually paltry anyway. And so what if this rate’s cancellation rules are different from the regular cancellation policy . . . it’s NOT a “regular” rate.

  • MarkKelling

    In my experience, the non-refundabilty of the Holiday Inn pre pay reservations has always been prominently displayed especially on the page where you have to enter your payment info.

    Failure to read and understand, or adopting the attitude that it doesn’t apply to me, is not an excuse.

    Anyway, AAA rates are usually lower than the prepaid and at most Holiday Inn location are also retain fully cancelable rules up to around 24 hours prior to arrival.

  • cscasi

    I recently booked a room through Marriott.com to say in one of their hotels in Zurich, Switzerland. I was offered a non-refundable rate for the room that was about $14 a night less than the refundable rate (with the refundable rate I would have to cancel the day before arrival or pay the first night’s lodging). I chose the non-refundable rate because it was cheaper and because I have travel insurance (including pre-existing waiver and Cancel for any reason) for this trip that will cover the cost should I have to cancel the trip (realizing if I use the “cancel for any reason”, I would only get 75% back). Sometimes, if you book a nonrefundable rate in advance at some of the European hotels, one can get a 20 or 25% discount. That adds up if one is spending several nights.
    Again, it depends on the individual and if he/she is willing to take a risk or if they have insurance to cover things. I think most would opt for the refundable rate.

  • cscasi

    You are right, in this case. However, if your room is $200 to $400 a night (for example), you are staying several nights and they offer you a good prepayment discount, you just might be able to buy that travel insurance and come out ahead or even close to even and it would cover the airfare and other items you included under the insurance. One has to look through everything and make the choice.

  • Annie M

    I am not sure why the writers that write these stories don’t check this information before they write the story. The stories make it seem the consumer had this info hidden when it was clearly right on the screen.

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