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Hotel Hack: Book Award Night When Only Cash Rates Available (YMMV)

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Good morning everyone.  This is a hotel hack that I have used a few times to various degrees of success.  It is definitely in the “gray area” of travel hacking (read Frequent Miler’s Blogging the Line post), but all’s fair in love, war, and award redemptions, right?  I don’t want to state any specific hotel chains or specific hotels that have worked for me, but this should technically be possible everywhere, but your mileage may vary (YMMV).  For this hotel hack, let me paint you a picture…

You are in the middle of planning your trip, the award flights are booked, the discounted rental car is booked, your activities are all planned out, but the hotel you have your eye on is not available on points.  Bummer!  Not to worry, there may be a way to book the hotel on points for the night you want.

a neon sign with letters

Image source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0795957/mediaviewer/rm3400816384

For example, let’s say you want to go to Capital City, USA on Saturday, September 14, but the hotel does not have any rooms available on points.  You see that cash rates are available on that date, but when you search for a points room, there is no availability.  You then start to think outside the box and check to see if there are points rooms available the night before (Friday, September 13) and the night after (Sunday, September 15).  You’re in luck, Sunday, September 15 has lots of points rooms available.  You decide to book a night for Sunday, September 15 using points and then you call the hotel directly to see if you can change your dates.

a calendar with red lines

Do not call the hotel loyalty program because they will tell you that there are no points rooms available for Saturday, September 14 and that they cannot change your reservation (most of the time they see the exact same award space you see online).  You need to call the hotel directly and speak to the front desk agent or someone from the reservations department.  Tell them that you made a reservation for Sunday, September 15 but that your plans changed and you want to change the reservation to Saturday, September 14.

As long as they have availability for the same (or similar) room type for Saturday, September 14, they should be able to change your reservation.  If you are lucky, the agent will tell you that they were able to change the dates of your reservation.  If that happens, ask them to send you an email with the updated reservation details so you can confirm all the details are correct.

When the hotel makes changes on their end, those changes may not be reflected online, so when you log into the hotel loyalty program, your online reservation might still show the old dates.  I know this is a little concerning, but I like to bring a copy of the updated reservation details (that were emailed to you after you called to change your hotel dates) and call up the hotel the day before checking in to confirm the dates.  If everything goes smoothly, you should be able to check into the hotel on the date you want (Saturday, September 14) without any problems.

a reception bell and keys on a desk

Image source: http://shiftindonesia.com/check-in-di-hotel-bisa-lewat-smartphone/

Worst case scenario, if you call the hotel directly and they are not able to change the dates of your reservation, you can always cancel your reservation and get your points back.  Most hotel loyalty programs allow you to make changes or cancel a points reservation for free up to 1-2 days before check-in.  Always double check the cancellation policy of the hotel before you book the reservation since some hotels do not have a generous cancellation policy.

If you really have your heart set on staying at this specific hotel, I recommend continuing to check for points availability online.  Like I mentioned earlier, since hotels usually allow changes or cancellations up to 1-2 days before check-in, other guests may make changes to their reservation or cancel their reservations, so you might be able to snag a points room 1-2 days before check-in.  It is a bit of a gamble, but if you really want that hotel, it might be worth the effort.

a pair of red dice

Image source: https://www.clearwatercasino.com/6-great-songs-about-gambling/

This might seem like a lot of work, but if you are ever in this situation, and the hack pays off, you will thank yourself for going through the hassle.  If you want to read about other travel tips/hacks, read this Frequent Miler article written by Nick – it is full of great ideas!  If you have any questions about this hack, please leave a comment below.  Happy travels everyone!

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13 thoughts on “Hotel Hack: Book Award Night When Only Cash Rates Available (YMMV)

  1. Ivy

    “Tell them that you made a reservation for Sunday, September 15 but that your plans changed and you want to change the reservation to Saturday, September 14.”

    In other words, lie. #NotCool

    1. Grant Post author

      Sadly, you are correct. Lying is sometimes necessary to get the award night you want. I’d much rather not have to lie and just the book the correct date, but the hotel does not always give me that option. If you are not comfortable lying, then this hotel hack is not for you. Thanks for reading and happy travels.

      1. D

        Then simply do it without lying. It is very easy. “Tell them you made a reservation for Sunday, September 15 but you want to change the reservation to Saturday, September 14.” Let’s not over complicate this

  2. Pingback: A hotel hack, cheap cancellation fees, poor service, and more

  3. Pam

    In your example, sometimes 2 nights (9.13 & 9.14 or 9.14 & 9.15) are avail with points that isn’t with 1 night only. I have booked 2 nights then called up to cancel the one I never actually wanted. Can’t do yourself or will obviously cancel out the whole res.

    1. Grant Post author

      Yes, that’s a good idea too. I tried to see if that was possible for my recent reservation but I could not find a 2 night stay that overlapped with the 1 night I wanted.

  4. OR97

    Once you mention ‘reservations ‘ they will typically connect you to the 1-800 of the hotel brand. Potential pitfall, but then there is HUCA


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