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Way too many people these days make bookings for hotels and overnight stays without taking a moment to review the cancellation terms and conditions. Luckily, more companies like Airbnb are making their cancellation policies more easy to understand and also more clearly visible at the booking stage.
In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about the Airbnb cancellation policy. I’ll cover the different types of cancellation policies (flexible, moderate, and strict), cancellation fees, and also will show you what Airbnb “extenuating circumstances” means. Finally, I’ll provide some insight into the cancellation policies for hosts as well.
What is the Airbnb cancellation policy for guests?
Airbnb has three different types of cancellation policies for guests that hosts can choose from:
Each of these offers a different range of flexibility in terms of the guest’s ability to seek a refund and the timeline allowed for cancellation. For example, one type may allow you a 100% refund while another may only offer a 50% refund (all depending on when you cancel).
I will go into detail about each of these different types of cancellation policies below and also talk about some of the less common cancellation policies known as “super strict.”
Airbnb Flexible cancellation policy (24 hours)
The Airbnb Flexible cancellation policy allows a guest to receive a full refund if the booking is canceled within a specified time. In order to get a full refund of accommodation fees the cancellation has to be made a full 24 hours before the listing’s local check-in time.
For example, if you’re booking check in time is 2 PM central standard time on a Friday then that means that if you cancel before 2 PM central standard time on Thursday you can receive a full refund of the accommodation fees. If there is no check-in time that is listed, 3 PM will be the default time.
If the guest cancels within 24 hours of check-in time then they are responsible for paying the first night. This is a pretty standard type of cancellation fee that other major hotel programs like Marriott and Hilton offer (though you can cancel up to 48 hours or longer in many cases).
If the guest chooses to leave early then they can get a refund on some of the nights. Basically, the accommodation fees for the nights not spent 24 hours after the official cancellation are fully refunded. So let’s say that you had a five night stay booked (Monday through Friday). And let’s say that your stay would like this:
- Monday = Stayed
- Tuesday = Stayed
- Wednesday = Left at 2 PM
- Thursday = not present
- Friday = present
In this case if you left on Wednesday at 2 PM you would still be responsible for the accommodation fees on Wednesday night (that night would be within 24 hours after cancelling) but you would not have to pay for the accommodation fees on Thursday or Friday (those nights would fall outside of the 24 hour window).
Airbnb service fee refund
The Airbnb service fee is refundable up to 3 times per year if the guest cancels within 48 hours of booking and at least 24 hours before check-in. It isn’t refundable if the guest cancels a reservation that overlaps with any part of an existing reservation.
The Airbnb service fees can be up to 20% of the booking subtotal (the nightly rate plus cleaning fee and additional guest fee, if applicable, but excluding Airbnb fees and taxes). So you definitely want to be mindful about them, especially since you need to cancel relatively quickly to avoid these fees. You can always view the service fee (and cleaning fee) before you book as shown in the image below.
Cleaning fee refund
Cleaning fees are always refunded if the reservation is canceled before check-in so you’ll be in the clear regardless of what type of cancellation policy they have so long as you cancel before check-in. Cleaning fees can vary widely from something like $10 to $50+. These fees are determined by the hosts, and some hosts actually have Airbnb cleaners whiles others just take care of the cleaning by themselves.
Airbnb Moderate cancellation policy
The Airbnb Moderate cancellation policy allows a guest to receive a full refund if the booking is canceled within a specified time. In order to get a full refund of accommodation fees the cancellation has to be made a full five days prior to listing’s local check in time before the listings local check in time.
For example, if you’re booking check-in time is 2 PM central standard time on a Friday then that means that if you cancel before 2 PM central standard time on Sunday you can receive a full refund of the accommodation fees. If there is no check in time that is listed, 3 PM will be the default time.
If you cancel less than five days in advance the first night is nonrefundable but 50% of the accommodation fees for the remaining nights will be refunded. If you choose to leave early then you can get a 50% refund refund on accommodation fees for the nights not spent 24 hours after the official cancellation are fully refunded.
Airbnb Strict cancellation policy
The Airbnb strict cancellation policy allows a guest to receive a full refund if the booking is canceled within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 full days prior to listing’s local check-in time (or 3:00 PM if not specified) on the day of check-in. So getting a refund under this policy is not practical for last-minute stays.
If you cancel seven full days prior to the check-in time of your booking you can get a 50% refund on the accommodation fees. For example, if check-in is on Friday, you will need to cancel by Friday of the previous week before check in time in order to get the 50% refund.
If you cancel less than seven days in advance of check-in or you decide to leave early after check-in, the nights not spent are not refunded.
So when it comes to the strict cancellation policy you need to make sure that you make a decision before seven days prior to check-in. Otherwise you will likely be responsible for the full amount of accommodation fees, unless an exception applies.
Airbnb Super strict cancellation policies
Airbnb also offers something called the “super strict” cancellation policies. These type of cancellation policies are not available to everybody. Instead, these only apply to special circumstances and are only available on invitation basis. There are different types of super strict policies and I will go over the different types.
Super strict 30 day policy
The first is the super strict 30 day policy. In order to get a 50% refund on accommodation fees you must make your cancellation 30 days prior to the listing’s local check in time. If you cancel less than 30 days prior to the check-in time you would not get a refund on any of your accommodation fees. This includes any unstayed nights.
Super strict 60 day policy
The second is the super strict 60 day policy. In order to get a 50% refund on accommodation fees you must make your cancellation 60 days prior to the listing’s local check in time. If you cancel less than 60 days prior to the checking time you would not get a refund on any of your accommodation fees. This includes any unstayed nights.
The next policy is the long-term policy and this cancellation policy applies to all reservations of 28 nights or more. If the guest books a long-term reservation and decides to cancel the reservation before the start date, the first month of the reservation is paid to the host in full and not refunded to the guest.
Airbnb also states:
If the guest books a reservation and decides to cancel the reservation during their stay, the guest must use the online alteration tool in order to agree to a new checkout date. Regardless of the checkout date chosen, the guest is required to pay the host for the 30 days following the cancellation date, or up to the end date of the guest’s original reservation if the remaining portion of the original reservation is less than 30 days.
Airbnb cancellation exceptions
Airbnb states the following regarding cancellation exceptions:
Cancellation policies may be superseded by the Guest Refund Policy, extenuating circumstances, or cancellations by Airbnb for any other reason permitted under the Terms of Service. Please review these exceptions.
The Guest Refund Policy makes clear that you may get reimbursed for your booking when “Travel Issues” occur. These could include situations where:
- The host cancels a booking shortly before the scheduled start of the booking
- The host fails to provide the Guest with the reasonable ability to access the Accommodation (e.g. they do not provide the keys and/or a security code)
- The Listing’s description or depiction of the Accommodation is materially inaccurate with respect to things like size, location, amenities, etc. (e.g., they don’t actually have a hot tub)
- The listing is not generally clean and sanitary
- Air conditioning doesn’t work
- Lights or plumbing don’t work
It’s also possible that Airbnb will work with you (use “reasonable efforts”) to try to find you other comparable places to stay. Regardless of what happens, Airbnb notes that, “All determinations of Airbnb with respect to the Guest Refund Policy […] shall be in Airbnb’s discretion, and final and binding on the Guests and Hosts.”
Be aware: If you experience a travel issue, you must notify Airbnb within 24 hours of starting your booking or after you discover the issue. They might want to follow up with you on the issue so be prepared for that as well.
Airbnb will also want you to have used reasonable efforts to try to remedy the situation with the host prior to making a claim for a Travel Issue. So make sure you try to at least contact the host before you report them for a travel issue since the host could fix some of these issues.
Airbnb cancellation for extenuating circumstances
Airbnb will allow you to be refunded and/or avoid cancellation fees when you’re experiencing “extenuating circumstances.” They are pretty clear about different scenarios that could constitute extenuating circumstances. Here are some situations that could qualify:
- Death of a host, guest, or their immediate family member.
- Serious illness of a host, guest, or any member of the traveling party.
- Government-mandated obligations including jury duty, travel restrictions, court appearances, and military deployment.
- Severe damage to the home that makes it unsafe to host guests, or that prevents guests from accessing basic amenities like running water
- Airport and road closures that make it impossible to travel to your destination.
You should note that for all of the circumstances above you will need to provide documentation to support your claim.
There are also other situations that qualify as extenuating circumstances where you may not have to provide documentation. These include the following situations:
- Open Homes reservations that have been cancelled.
- Severe security advisories for political or civil unrest in the area that the guest is traveling from, traveling to, or that the host’s home is located in
- Changes to visa or passport requirements that make it impossible to travel to the destination
- Natural disasters that prevent the guest from traveling to or from the destination, or that make it unsafe to host guests. These could include the following situations:
- Severe weather
- Blizzards or severe winter storms
- Endemic disease or illness that suddenly affects a region or an entire group of people.
If any of the extenuating circumstances apply to you keep in mind that you need to file your claim within 14 days of the extenuating circumstances. Read more about these here.
Some countries like Italy and Korea may have different types of cancellation policies. This is why it is very important to review the cancellation terms for your specific booking and I will show you how to below.
How to view your cancellation terms
You can see host’s cancellation policy when you are ready to make a booking, as shown in the image below.
By clicking on “More Details” you can pull up specific information about the timeline for cancelling a stay. The timeline is very helpful and I honestly wish that more hotels would supply this type of graphic to make it easier to see when exactly you need to cancel.
You can also cancel and review any penalties by viewing your travel plans and then clicking “Cancel” on your reservation.
How to cancel an Airbnb booking
To cancel a reservation and/or review any cancellation penalties follow the steps below:
- Go to Trips and choose your trip
- Click Change reservation
- Click Cancel reservation
A word before cancelling
Before you decide to cancel your booking there is something that you should consider. A host will be able to see the number of reservations you have canceled over the previous 12 months when you submit a request to book. So just because you can get a refund or avoid/mitigate fees, that does not mean that you should be carefree about canceling. Some hosts in the future might see you as a liability and refuse to allow you to stay at their place.
Airbnb host cancellation policy and fees
If you are a host and are thinking about canceling a booking then a completely different set of rules applies to you. Basically, after you cancel, a fee will be deducted from your next payout. The fee amount will depend on when you accepted the reservation and how soon before check-in you canceled it. Here’s what you can expect for the host cancellation fees:
- More than 7 days before check-in = $50
- Less than 7 days before check-in = $100
You can avoid the cancellation fee if you have completed at least 10 consecutive bookings without canceling, either since you started hosting or since your last previous cancellation.
Keep in mind that cancelling as a host comes with additional consequences.
- You’ll get hit with an automated review that will be posted to your listing’s profile showing that you have canceled one of your reservations. These cannot be removed, though you are allowed to write a public response to explain the situation.
- If you cancel on the day of check-in or later, guests can leave a public review on your listing’s profile.
- Your calendar will stay blocked and you won’t be able to accept another reservation for the same dates of the canceled reservation.
- You won’t be eligible to earn Superhost status for one year after your most recent cancellation.
Finally, you should note that if you cancel three or more reservations within a year, Airbnb might decide to deactivate your listing.
The Airbnb cancellation policies are pretty straightforward and provide a pretty nice degree of flexibility. I highly recommend that you review your individual cancellation policies for each of your bookings since they could vary depending on the location or perhaps the duration of your stay. Also, it’s a good idea to stay aware of what constitutes an extenuating circumstances in case you ever need to cancel on that basis.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the digital smart wallet, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.