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Hotels happy to cancel non-refundable rooms and keep your cash

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GLENDALE, AZ (CBS5) -

A Glendale man says he canceled a hotel reservation weeks before his arrival date but the hotel still charged him for the room because it was non-refundable. So why did the hotel let him cancel?

When a hotel accepts your cancellation, well in advance of your stay, generally you won't be charged, but not always. With prepaid rooms, hotels are happy to let you cancel but keep your money.

"Thank you, your reservation's been canceled," Terry Kinsey said.

Those words mean one thing to Kinsey; something else to Holiday Inn. Kinsey booked two nights at the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour in Sydney, Australia but then canceled the next day when he found a better deal. He got this official cancellation notice from the hotel.

"Thank you for your business, your reservation has been canceled, so I thought that was it, it was over and done with," Kinsey said.

Kinsey says he had stayed at that exact same Holiday Inn in Australia several times with no problems, and he gave the hotel six weeks notice he wasn't coming this time. But when he returned from his trip, Kinsey discovered Holiday Inn had charged his credit card nearly $800 anyway. It was no mistake.

"They said basically it was non-refundable, the room was canceled, but you don't get your money back," Kinsey said.

The booking wasn't for a regular room as Kinsey thought, it was a pre-paid special rate that couldn't be canceled, and yet it was.

"The thing that I can't understand is, they give me a cancellation number, took my cancellation, but if it's non-refundable, why did they even cancel the room?" Kinsey asked.

That is what most hotels do. If you ask to cancel, they will oblige, but it doesn't mean they will be nice enough to refund a non-refundable room charge. The hotel gets paid twice for that same room. If Kinsey knew he'd never get a refund, he says he would have acted differently.

"We'd a stayed there those two nights, but I thought it was all clear and we moved on and made other plans," Kinsey said.

As expected, Holiday Inn confirmed for CBS 5 News that they do allow cancellations to non-refundable bookings and they expect customers to know they won't be getting a refund. It is mentioned in the cancellation notice, but it is easy to miss.

So be careful whenever booking with any hotel. Non-refundable means no refund, even if the hotel allows you to cancel.

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