Hotwire Cancellation Policy: Yes, You Can Cancel Non-Refundable Hot Rates

by Michael on Jul 5, 2013 · 1 comment

Hotwire Logo

While I’ve complained about Hotwire customer service in the past, I have to give them some credit based on a recent customer service experience.

Though I’ve shied away from using them for car rentals, I still use Hotwire for occasional room reservations when traveling. Even with their less-than-transparent service fees, you can get some great hotel deals through them.

The downside of using a service like Hotwire is that their prepaid “Hot Rates” are non-refundable. The same goes for “Name Your Own Price” bids on Priceline. They do offer the ability to buy trip insurance, but that’s rarely worth the cost.

Saving on hotels with Hotwire

So anyway… We used Hotwire for rooms in three different places on three different nights during the outbound leg of our recent vacation. In all three cases, we saved a bundle vs. the going rate and all was well.

Since our return plans were a bit up in the air, I waited until closer to our departure for home to make reservations for the return trip. Once again, I checked Hotwire and once again their Hot Rates were far better than anything we could get on the open market. So I booked a room for the first night.

And then catastrophe hit. My mom broke her hip and our plans were in shambles. We wouldn’t be able to make it to the hotel and the terms of our prepaid reservation were final. No refunds, modifications, transfers, or exchanges. Period.

Despite this, I decided to give them a call. It can’t hurt to ask, right?

I expected them to simply apologize and say that there was nothing that they could do — especially since they offer optional trip insurance. Instead, they went way above and beyond the call of duty.

Canceling a Hotwire reservation

When I got a rep on the line, I explained the situation. He pulled up our reservation, mentioned that we’re members of their “Express” program* (I had no idea), and said that he’d get an Express rep on the line since they have “more tools” available.

*Note: Hotwire Express is a “special program for our most loyal customers” that apparently provides you with access to “enhanced” customer service. I have no idea how/why we qualify for this status, or how much it affected the ultimate outcome of our situation, but I’ll take it.

Once connected to the Express rep, I re-explained the situation. She took down a few details and then issued a full refund. Wow! At best, I thought they might give us credit toward a future reservation. Instead, we got a straight up refund.

Yes, there were extenuating circumstances, but they could’ve easily said no, sorry, non-refundable means non-refundable. Not only that, but they pretty much took my word for it when I explained our situation. Pretty impressive.

I’m sure that they keep track of these sorts of things and don’t let people abuse it, but… The larger point still stands. It is possible to cancel (and get a refund for) otherwise non-cancelable, non-refundable Hotwire reservations.

Oh, and for the record, even if we had lost out on the money we paid for this one reservation, we still would’ve come out ahead (overall) using Hotwire to book our rooms due to the savings on the other nights.


1 Martin July 5, 2013 at 7:59 pm

That’s amazing. It’s nice to know that there still may be a chance. When I read such “non-refundable” disclaimer, I also thought it was final. Well apparently it is not. Fortunately I don’t have such experience of cancelling a trip, so this can help in case it ever happen.

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