How To Use The Refundable Hotel Trick

refundable hotel trick featured image

As travel hackers, oftentimes earning points is the easier part of the hobby. Burning points and finding the best or most desirable redemptions can often be exhausting and frankly, everyone has different goals and needs when it comes to using their points. Furthermore, sometimes an individual may prefer cash in their bank account to rewards points if they don’t intend to travel in the near future.

If you follow any of the popular Canadian deals forums, you may have noticed that many people talk about the refundable hotel trick in relation to liquidating your credit card points into cash.

Let’s dive into everything there is to know about the refundable hotel trick.

What is the Refundable Hotel Trick?

As you start to accrue credit card welcome bonuses, you may find yourself sitting on a few piles of bank reward points. While these can be useful, they may sometimes be difficult to redeem especially if you would rather book directly with a hotel or if you hold an elite status such as Marriott Platinum Elite. Many programs require you to book with their in-house travel agency which sometimes simply won’t work for your needs.

For many bank reward programs, the solution is simple: use the refundable hotel trick. This trick involves booking a refundable hotel, redeeming your points towards the booking to generate a statement credit, and then canceling the refundable hotel reservation. This results in you receiving the full amount of the booking back, in addition to a statement credit for the points you redeemed.

The refundable hotel trick has one main use: cashing out points when you don’t have actual travel to redeem your points against. We will cover the details below and speak to what rewards programs allow you to utilize the refundable hotel trick.

Let’s look at how the refundable hotel trick works.

How to Perform the Refundable Hotel Trick

To start, pick the hotel booking site of your choosing. I tend to gravitate towards using Expedia, but not for any reason. Hotels.com or even a booking with a hotel directly can also work as long as it is fully refundable. In the case of Expedia, it works as follows.

Once you are on the Expedia homepage, search for a hotel in a random destination with the dates set as a month or two in the future. Once you are on the available hotel results page, scroll down and click the “Fully Refundable” option on the left-hand sidebar. This is important since we do not mistakenly want to book a hotel reservation that is not refundable and this button will only show hotel reservations that are refundable.

expedia fully refundable option hotel search

From there, simply choose a hotel that relatively aligns with the value of the points you are looking to cash out (e.g. a $600 hotel booking when cashing out $500). Before you finish making the booking, I recommend double checking the cancellation policy to ensure that the hotel stay has free cancellation and is fully refundable. Then, complete the reservation by charging the stay to the credit card you are wanting to cash out points.

From there, go into your chosen bank loyalty program and follow the process to redeem your points against the hotel booking. Note that some programs, such as TD Rewards, vary in the way that you perform the refundable hotel trick. For these details, check out those sections later in this article.

Once you have redeemed your points towards the hotel booking, simply cancel the refundable hotel reservation. The payment for the hotel reservation will be refunded to your card within a few business days, and you will be left with a credit amount on your credit card account. Thus, you have just turned reward points into cash with a roundabout method.

Is Using the Refundable Hotel Trick Always the Best Value?

No, this trick is not always the best option when it comes to cashing out your points. It is simply an option to be aware of when it comes to the various bank rewards programs we have in Canada.

We recommend looking into all of the options for redeeming your points to ensure you are getting the most value out of your points. A great place to start would be to review our loyalty program guides for the program you are looking to liquidate points from. Those pages cover all possible redemption options and the cents per point for each redemption option.

Refundable Hotel Trick: Cashing Out Travel Credits

A number of credit cards in Canada offer a travel credit as part of their benefits, and for many of these cards, you might be able to utilize the refundable hotel trick to turn this credit into cash. Before attempting this method, ensure you double-check what platform you are required to book through and be prepared that this liquidation method may not work (as in, you might be clawed back depending on the issuer).

Refundable Hotel Trick: Cashing Out Points

There are quite a few bank rewards programs that you are able to cash out using the refundable hotel trick, including TD Rewards, Scene+ Rewards, CIBC Aventura, and BMO Rewards.

TD Rewards

The TD Rewards program has an unconventional way to take advantage of the refundable hotel trick. While most refundable hotel trick workflows are pretty straightforward, TD Rewards’ refundable hotel trick involves an additional layer: TD product switching.

Simply put, if you make a hotel booking on Expedia for TD to redeem rewards points and then cancel that booking, the rewards points will be returned to your TD Rewards account. In that sense, this rewards program has a different IT setup compared to some of the more refundable hotel trick loyalty programs that we will cover below.

However, there is a way around this automatic point refund. If you redeem your TD Rewards points for a refundable hotel stay, product switch your TD credit card to one that doesn’t accrue TD Rewards such as an Aeroplan or cash back card and then cancel the hotel booking, you will receive a statement credit in lieu of the automatic points refund (since you no longer have a TD Rewards account that the points can be deposited to).

This is an efficient way to cash out TD Rewards at a rate of 0.5 cents per point (the best rate possible) through Expedia for TD.

Scene+ Rewards

The Scene+ Rewards program is one of the most flexible programs when it comes to the refundable hotel trick.

To utilize the refundable hotel trick with Scene+, you will first need to charge a refundable hotel room to your Scotiabank credit card. One you have the hotel stay booked, you will need to log into your Scotiabank credit card account and select the “Apply Points to Travel” redemption option.

Once selected, you will be presented with a list of valid travel transactions that were made within the last 90 days.

scotiabank gold amex scene rewards travel redemption

Simply click the “Redeem” checkbox on the transaction of your choice and submit the redemption. The statement credit will appear on your account within the next few business days.

With this program, the refundable hotel trick gives you an easy and quick opportunity to cash out Scene+ Rewards points at the best rate possible, 1 cent per point. The process is straightforward, and this is always the go-to method for many people as cash is king when it comes to bank loyalty programs.

If you are interested in collecting Scene+ Rewards points, our go-to card is the Scotiabank Gold American Express card with its outstanding earning rate of 6x Scene+ on grocery purchases at Empire chain stores.

CIBC Aventura

The CIBC Aventura program is one where there is a specific time and place to redeem Aventura rewards through the refundable hotel trick. 

Earlier this year, we saw a stellar offer on multiple Aventura credit cards in which you could earn a bonus that could be cashed out for $562 per card. This was a result of a promotion they were offering an elevated redemption rate if you redeemed through “Shopping with Points”.

cibc shopping with points refundable hotel trick instructions

Through the promotion mentioned above, cardholders were able to cash out Aventura points at a rate of 1.25 cents per point by using the refundable hotel trick. This is above the 1 cent per point value that you can expect when redeeming through other methods. This made the refundable hotel trick the undisputed best option thanks to the promotion, and as a result, the Frugal Flyer team and many others were able to take advantage of it.

Typically, if there is not a promotion running, I would not recommend redeeming your Aventura through this method. If anything, keep this knowledge in your back pocket for when we see another promotion in the future.

BMO Rewards

As of August 2022, BMO Rewards points can now be redeemed towards travel that you book directly with airlines, hotels, and other travel providers. This means that you no longer need to book directly through BMO’s travel agency, and as a result, can now cash out BMO Rewards points using the refundable hotel trick.

bmo rewards travel when you want redemption

With the refundable hotel trick, you are able to cash out BMO Rewards points at the optimal 0.67 cents per point rate.

In order to redeem BMO Rewards towards your travel transactions, simply charge the transaction to your BMO Rewards earning credit card.

Then, within the next 30 days, log into the BMO Rewards site and click the “Pay with Points” option. Select the eligible travel transaction and choose the number of points that you want to apply toward your transaction.

Once redeemed, the redemption will appear on your credit card statement as a statement credit within 3-5 business days.

Will my Financial Institution Issue a Cheque for the Credit Balance?

Possibly. This depends solely on the processes for the individual financial institution in which you have a statement credit.

Your best option would be to start putting your normal daily expenses through the card which has the statement credit; this avoids needing to contact the bank and get a cheque cut.

Alternatively, if you are in the know about manufactured spending techniques, you can spend away the credit balance that way 😉

Conclusion

Like many processes in the travel hacking and credit card rewards space, the refundable hotel trick is simply another tool in our belts when it comes to getting the most value out of our points. Whether you are taking advantage as a method to save money or simply cash in for the best value possible, understanding when and how it can be used to cash out points is part and parcel of having a plan to squeeze out as much value as possible from our credit cards.

Josh Bandura

Josh Bandura

Co-Founder at Frugal Flyer
Josh has been involved in the miles and points game since 2015 but has scaled up his knowledge and points earning potential in recent years. With a consistent attitude of "min-maxing" in many aspects of his life, Josh has transferred this mindset over to the miles and points game. Always looking for the next big opportunity, he aims to share content on a variety of topics including his travels, miles and points, and most importantly, how to get the most out of your credit cards

Previous

Two Card Trip to Japan

Review: Qatar Airways QSuites (777-300ER)

Next

Leave a Comment

All comments are moderated according to our comment policy. Your email address will NOT be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

12 comments on “How To Use The Refundable Hotel Trick

    • It can, but you need to then meet the minimum spend organically before you refund the hotel. Essentially you can use RHT to meet the minimum spend if you think you aren’t going to be able to do it within the timelines of the offer.

      Reply
  1. Hi, do you know how to use the refundable hotel trick for the $200 travel credit from CIBC Aventura Infinite Privilege card? The travel agent said if I cancel the $200 travel credit will just go back to my account instead.

    Reply
    • Hi Dean,

      The RHT is not possible with the travel credit on the CIBC Aventura VIP card. The travel agent is correct.

      Reply
  2. Hi,

    I’m trying to do the refundable hotel trick with TD for Expedia. I made a hotel booking with my points, and then called to product switched from a TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card to a TD Cash Back Card. Ever since I product switched I could not login to TD for Expedia to cancel my booking, as it needs a travel TD card for that. So that means I have to call TD to get my refund in cash?

    Reply
  3. Hi Josh,

    Question regarding RHT for TD Rewards cash out. I’ve done some research but still am confused on two points.

    First, do I need to PS if I already have a secondary TD Visa (like the VI AP)?

    Second, once I cancel the card and then cancel the booking, am I required to call TD and ask them to transfer the credit or issue a cheque? Are you aware what TDs normal course of action would be?

    Appreciate your insights!

    Thank you

    J

    Reply
    • Hi J,

      Lots to unpack in this comment; I’ll share to the best of my knowledge as I haven’t done this for a while.

      Yes, you still need to PS even if you hold a different TD card. RHT relates to one card only, any other cards you hold won’t have any impact on the process.

      Once you make the refundable booking, the credit posts, and you switch cards, you then cancel the booking. The statement credit should stick. I would recommend just drawing down the credit balance through normal spending.

      Reply
  4. Hi – I have tried to use the refundable credit by booking a refundable hotel (US amex plat) the amex refund post – I waited until my statement is posted then cancelled the booking – amex took the $200 back
    Tried this twice and both unlucky – anything am doing wrong?

    Reply
    • Hey,

      There is nothing you are doing wrong; Amex USA is just much more stringent/pickier with tricks like this. I have not yet found a way to cash out the $200 travel credit on the US Plat. It looks like the only way to take advantage is to actually book through Fine Hotels and Resorts or the Hotel Collection.

      Reply
  5. do you know if the td4Expedia refundable hotel trick (with the product switch) is still working as of Dec 16, 2022?

    thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Adrian,

      As far as I know, the trick is still working, but it would be worth checking on the Churning Canada subreddit to see if there are recent data points.

      Reply