Should You Ever Book a Nonrefundable Hotel Room?

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One of the major ways you can save on travel is to have a strategy in place when it comes to booking your hotel room.

Money expert Clark Howard is on record as saying that one of the best ways to save on a hotel is to re-shop the rate as the trip gets closer. You only have that flexibility if you book a refundable hotel.

But then, you may be wondering what to do if you come across a great deal on a nonrefundable room.

Is Booking a Nonrefundable Room Worth It?

In this article, we’ll cover whether it makes sense to book a non-refundable room. In the process, we’ll get some money-saving tips from Clark.

Let’s say you’re planning a trip that is a few months away and you’ve booked a flight and are now looking for lodging. Perhaps, it’s a bundle package you’ve found on Hotwire or Priceline.

Because of the way hotel rates fluctuate, yes, you may find a deal on a nonrefundable room. But do you know the total cost of that room?

Clark says that desirable amenities are not enough for him to book a room.

“You want a hotel that is safe, that’s clean, that’s decent, but you also don’t want to get ripped off,” Clark says. “So you always want to know, what are the fees? What are the things you’re going to have to pay in addition to the room rate?”

Clark suggests that you look for additional charges during the booking process. Here are some charges that may not show up until it’s time to pay:

  • Additional taxes
  • Cleaning fee

“Some of the hotel chain websites now will do a disclosure of the rate, but they won’t show all the junk fees. They don’t build it into the rate,” Clark says. “You’re going to have to find that out yourself before you finish that booking.”

When you add up the junk fees associated with that booking, that nonrefundable rate may not be such a deal at all.


Besides that, there are some other drawbacks to booking a nonrefundable room that you need to be aware of.

3 Reasons Why You Should Never Book a Nonrefundable Room

1. You Typically Must Pre-Pay in Full

Because they are exclusive offers, nonrefundable rooms typically require full pre-payment at the time of booking.

Once you’ve pre-paid in full, in many cases, you lose the ability to negotiate if something is not of your liking. Remember, they’ve already got your money, so the incentive for the hotel to make things right may not be as strong.

Clark is not a fan of pre-paying for a room.

“Unless there’s some enormous increase in rewards or awards you’re going to get from [the travel provider] by paying upfront, you don’t want to pay upfront,” Clark says.

2. You Can’t Predict the Future

When you book a nonrefundable room, you effectively lock yourself into a situation where you cannot cancel your reservation no matter what.

But what if you end up not being able to go on your trip? Because you bought a nonrefundable room, you lose that money forever and the hotel has no compunction to let you cancel your room. 

3. You Can’t Re-Shop Your Rate

Perhaps the biggest reason why a nonrefundable rate is a no-no is that it robs you of your ability to find a deal on a hotel room later on.

“If I’m flying somewhere — you usually book your airfare pretty well in advance — I also book a hotel room at the same time,” Clark says. “I book the best deal I can find for where I’m going but always a refundable room.”

Clark never wants you to lose the flexibility to shop and re-shop for a better rate. The only way to retain that freedom is to book a refundable room every time.

Final Thoughts

Clark says hotel rates are a moving target these days, so re-shopping is the way that you can navigate the true costs of a hotel room up until it’s time for your trip.


Do not book nonrefundable hotel rooms,” Clark says. “With hotels, if you book that nonrefundable room, you own that nonrefundable room, even if your trip cancels, even if a much better deal comes along later. So, nonrefundable hotel rooms are a curse.”


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