Can Award Travel Cancellation Fees Cost You More Than Award Travel?

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I’m sure each of us has experienced these dreadful moments when things are seriously not going our way. If traveling is an integral part of your life; if you’ve spend weeks if not months in anticipation; if you have worked pretty hard at putting everything together, it sucks when you realize you’re grounded. You feel like you’ve deserved it, do you not?

Travel hackers are especially vulnerable. We tend to complicate things in order to optimize our travel. We tend to book more one-way flights; we get creative with connections, and we often book more separate stays. In other words, we might take more risks than a passenger with one airline reservation and one hotel stay.

And so when things don’t go exactly our way, it may cost us more in award travel cancellation fees than we tend to think about.

My 13-day itinerary that wasn’t meant to be

  • JFK to Nassau on JetBlue (10,900 TrueBlue points)
  • Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas (free Total Rewards stay, 4 days)
  • Nassau to Cartagena, Colombia via Miami on American (15,000 BA Avios)
  • Split stay in Cartagena: 4 days in an Airbnb and 2 days at Conrad 
  • Cartagena to Medellin on Avianca (2,500 LifeMiles)
  • InterContinental in Medellin on the latest IHG PointBreaks deal (3 days for 30,000 points)
  • Medellin to JFK on Avianca (17,500 LifeMiles)

As you can see, no business class, nothing fancy this time, LOL.

Here are more details.

  • My stay at Atlantis would’ve still cost me $212  — resort fees.
  • A nice Airbnb would’ve probably cost me $70-80 a day, but luckily I didn’t book it. I usually book vacation rentals at the last minute — easier to negotiate.
  • 2 days at Conrad would’ve cost me $324. 
  • Air taxes would’ve cost me $264.
  • Plus food, booze, tours, entertainment, and yes, of course — souvenirs!

Hey, who was that guy running around here telling people how to travel for free? What was his name, I wonder? 🙂

OK, OK, it wouldn’t have been that bad, actually.

  • My stay at Atlantis included various freebies, which would’ve easily covered the resort fees.
  • My rate at Conrad included $100 hotel credits plus it would’ve almost been covered by the $250 Hilton Aspire Annual Resort credit. 
  • And my air taxes would’ve been covered by my Citi Prestige $250 annual travel credit. 

See, we’re back at [almost] free travel. 🙂 Good for us.

What the award travel cancellation fees are going to cost me

I was staying in Atlantic City last weekend (courtesy of my status matching at the Hard Rock Casino), when I got a call from my mom. She wasn’t feeling well.

Driving back to Brooklyn took me 2 hours, and she was already better by the time I walked in the door, but my trip was now out of the question. The only remaining question was how much it was going to cost me.

JetBlue

JetBlue doesn’t have the exact number for a miles redepositing fee, and charges you on a case to case basis. In my case …

  • JetBlue: $100

Atlantis

Atlantis’ cancellation policy is one week (quite funny, considering my stay was a free travel benefit). By the time I remembered to call and cancel, they were close, and the next day it was too late.

  • Atlantis: $200

British Airways

British Airways also doesn’t have the exact number for redepositing Avios; they just tell you to trust them. 🙂

award travel cancellation fees: British Airways Avios
British Airways doesn’t reveal their award travel cancellation fees

From whatever I’ve read, though, it can be from $5 to $55 per leg. I’m afraid it’s going to be the latter in my case, considering I booked my flight on a partner airline. So, tentatively …

  • British Airways: $110

Conrad

  • Conrad Cartagena: no cancellation fee

InterContinental

I booked InterContinental Medellin on the latest PointBreak deal for 10,000 points per night. That would’ve been my first ever use of IHG PointBreaks

  • InterContinental Medellin: no cancellation fee

Avianca

Avianca would’ve flown me on 2 legs from Cartagena to Medellin for 2,500 miles and from Medellin to JFK for 17,500 miles. I’m not touching the former, but will get a miles refund for the latter, and I know exactly how much it’s going to cost me.

  • Avianca: $50

Grand Total

So all in all, unless British Airways takes pity on me, I’m looking at $460 in
award travel cancellation fees. A tidy sum for NOT travelling, wouldn’t you say? 🙁

Is it really more than I would’ve spent if I did go to the Bahamas and Colombia? Of course, not, sorry for the clickbait-ish heading! But the cost of the hotels and airfare would be pretty damn close, anyway.

There is some hope

My Citi Prestige card does have a Trip Cancellation policy. This is what it says:

To be eligible for coverage under this benefit, your Citi card and/or ThankYou® Points must be used to purchase at least a portion of the Trip. In the event of partial payment, we will only reimburse the lesser of the actual amount paid for with your Citi card (including ThankYou® Points) or the maximum coverage per Trip …

The Covered Traveler’s Family Member, not traveling on the Trip, has an injury or illness that is either life threatening or requires care from the Covered Traveler(s) and is verified by a licensed medical practitioner.


I paid the British Airways and Avianca taxes with the Citi Prestige. Would they even cover the redepositing fees, though? The agent I spoke with didn’t give me a straight answer, just told me to submit the claim as soon as I have the full amounts. I’ve never used any travel protection benefits from any credit card issuers before, so it’ll be a good case study, if anything — stay tuned.

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

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4 Responses to Can Award Travel Cancellation Fees Cost You More Than Award Travel?

  1. HoKo says:

    Interested to see how this turns out

  2. I hope your mom is doing O.K. Good luck with the entire situation, Andy!

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