How Long Does a Hotel Deposit Refund Take?

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Getting a refund on a hotel deposit can sometimes be a frustratingly slow process. When you make a reservation at a hotel, they usually require a deposit upfront.

This deposit acts as a guarantee that you will show up and pay for the room.

But what happens when you need to cancel your reservation? How long does it take to get your deposit back? In this article, we’ll break down the typical hotel deposit refund timeline and steps you can take to expedite the process.

How Long Does a Hotel Deposit Refund Take?

What is a Hotel Deposit?

A hotel deposit, also called a security deposit, is an upfront payment made when reserving a hotel room. It’s usually charged as a percentage of the total room cost.

For example, if you book a $100 per night room, the deposit might be $50. This deposit guarantees the room for you. If you don’t show up, the hotel keeps the deposit to compensate for lost revenue.

Hotels require deposits to protect against last-minute cancellations or no-shows. If rooms sit empty because guests don’t show up, it costs the hotel lost profits. The deposit gives them some compensation.

The deposit also ensures guests are serious about the reservation. You’re less likely to book a room on a whim if you know you’ll lose a deposit by cancelling.

How Much is a Typical Hotel Deposit?

Hotel deposit amounts vary, but are often:

  • 10-50% for regular rooms
  • Up to 100% for peak days like holidays or big events
  • 1 night’s stay for small boutique hotels

Luxury hotels or resorts may charge even higher deposits equal to the full stay. Read the fine print when booking to see the deposit policy.

The good news is you get the deposit back – as long as you cancel within the hotel’s policies. Keep reading to learn how the refund process works.

The Hotel Cancellation Policy

Before we get into refund timelines, it’s important to understand the cancellation policy. This sets the rules for if and when you can get your deposit back.

Every hotel has their own cancellation policy, so always verify this when booking. But some standard time frames are:

  • 24-48 hours notice: Get a full refund when you cancel at least 24-48 hours before the scheduled check-in. This is the most common policy.
  • 7 days notice: For peak times, the hotel may require 1 week cancellation notice.
  • 48 hours to 30 days: Many hotels let you cancel up to 30 days out and still refund the deposit, minus a cancellation fee.
  • Non-refundable: Some hotels have completely non-refundable deposits no matter when you cancel. This usually applies more for special events and peak occupancy.

The earlier you cancel, the better chance you have of getting the full deposit back. Always check the email confirmation for an exact cancellation deadline.

When to Expect Your Hotel Deposit Refund

If you cancel within the policy terms, when can you expect the refund to process? Here is a general timeline:

  • Cancellation request processed: 24-72 hours. After you officially cancel your reservation through the hotel’s cancellation process, it takes up to 3 days for them to complete the cancellation and issue any applicable refunds.
  • Refund review: 3-10 days. The hotel will review to verify the cancellation meets the deposit policy terms. For example, they’ll check you cancelled by the deadline.
  • Refund issued: 7-14 days. Once approved, it usually takes 1-2 weeks for the actual refund to be issued back to your payment method. Some hotels process refunds faster, but 2 weeks is standard.
  • Refund received: 3-10 business days. How quickly the funds hit your account depends on your bank/credit card. Expect anywhere from 3-10 business days after the refund is issued until it shows up.

So in total, from your cancellation request to getting the money back, plan for approximately 3-4 weeks. But it can take upwards of 6 weeks in some cases.

If you cancel at the last minute outside the policy, expect even longer delays fighting for a partial refund. Always cancel as early as possible!

How to Get Your Hotel Deposit Refund Faster

Here are some tips to help expedite a hotel deposit refund:

  • Cancel immediately if plans change. Don’t wait until the last minute. Cancel right away even if it’s earlier than the policy deadline. This gives the hotel more time to process the refund.
  • Double check cancellation policy. Verify the exact cancellation deadline and get request in writing before the cut-off. Missing the deadline means losing your deposit.
  • Follow up if it’s taking too long. Wait the standard 3-4 weeks, but if the refund still hasn’t come through, politely follow up. There may be a hold up they can resolve.
  • Escalate to a manager if needed. If the front desk doesn’t help, don’t be afraid to politely ask for a manager’s assistance. Remain calm and be reasonable.
  • Leverage social media. As a last resort, you can complain on the hotel’s social media pages or review sites. But give them a chance to make it right first.
  • Pay with a credit card. Credit cards have stronger protections and fraud resolution departments to fight for refunds. Debit cards and wire transfers won’t help recover lost deposits.

While there’s no way to instantly get your money back, following hotel policies and being proactive can help speed things along. With some patience, you should get your deposit refund within a few weeks.

Fighting for a Refund Outside the Cancellation Policy

What if you need to cancel last minute and will clearly fall outside the cancellation policy window?

While hotels are under no obligation to refund deposits after the deadline, it still doesn’t hurt to ask politely. Here are some tips to potentially negotiate a partial refund:

  • Highlight extenuating circumstances. Explain any emergencies or unexpected events beyond your control that forced you to cancel. Don’t fake reasons, but appeal to sympathy.
  • Offer to reschedule vs. outright cancel. If possible, ask to move the reservation to a future date rather than outright cancelling. This gives the hotel future guaranteed revenue.
  • Take a partial loss. Politely ask if they can refund even 25-50% of the deposit, absorbing the rest as a loss. Some compensation is better than none.
  • Adjust reservation vs. cancelling. Can you move to a cheaper room, shorten the stay or check-in a day later to lower losses? Flexibility helps.
  • Escalate to management. If front desk staff can’t help, politely ask if a supervisor or manager has authority to make exceptions on deposits.

Keep in mind there is no guarantee of getting any money back past the cancellation deadline. But being reasonable and flexible goes a long way in getting hotels to work with you on some compromise.

When You Can’t Get Your Deposit Back

In some situations, you may miss the cancellation deadline and lose your entire deposit with no refund possible. Common scenarios where your deposit is forfeited include:

  • Cancelling just 1-2 days before check-in or being a “no show”
  • Booking special event weekends like New Year’s Eve that require large minimum deposits
  • Pre-paying through a non-refundable rate or third party site
  • Hotel has a strict cancellation policy with no refunds after deadline

If reasonable appeals directly with the hotel fail, your only recourse is to dispute the charge. You can file a dispute with your credit card company or bank explaining the situation. But they typically side with the merchant if you agreed to a non-refundable deposit.

Next time, carefully review the hotel’s cancellation policy before booking and pre-paying. Set calendar reminders on your cancellation deadline to avoid losing your deposit.

When Can Hotels Keep Your Deposit?

Hotels are entitled to keep pre-paid deposits when:

  • You cancel outside the cancellation policy window
  • You fail to show up for a reservation without cancelling (known as a “no show”)
  • You leave early before the booked stay ends
  • You cause damage or break hotel rules resulting in eviction

By not sticking to the original booking terms, you break the contract and forfeit the deposit. The deposit acts as compensation to the hotel for lost revenue.

Always read the fine print to understand when your deposit is at risk of being forfeited if plans change. Avoid “no show” situations which are the #1 reason deposits are lost.

Getting Future Reservations Cancelled

If you cancel at the last minute, no show, or break hotel rules, another risk is having future reservations also cancelled.

Many hotels share guest cancellation histories and “no show” lists. Get a reputation for cancelling last minute, and you may find additional upcoming reservations automatically cancelled. Some tips to avoid this:

  • Only book dates you’re confident you’ll keep
  • Set reminders on cancellation deadlines
  • Notify the hotel ASAP if plans change
  • Ask politely to reschedule vs. outright cancel
  • Avoid frequent last minute cancellations

Keep communication open and stick to policies to stay in good standing. With planning and courtesy, you can avoid losing deposits and

Jennifer Tuffen
Jennifer Tuffen

I'm Jennifer Tuffen, a travel enthusiast and storyteller, six years and 10+ countries deep into a journey of discovery and cultural immersion.