PSA: Cancelling an AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Hilton free night stay

Using your AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend free Hilton night? You'll need to request a new voucher if you subsequently wish to cancel and rebook.

One of the main perks of an AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend is its annual Hilton free night voucher, valid at more than 200 participating Hilton properties across Asia Pacific. This can help cover a significant portion of the card’s S$343.35 annual fee, depending on where you redeem it.

AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend free Hilton night voucher
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend free Hilton night voucher

Now, I’ve always been working with the assumption that free night stays are cancellable, subject to the hotel’s cancellation policy. However, that’s not quite the case, as I recently discovered.

Cancelling an Ascend free night stay

Conrad Bangkok

A couple of months ago, I made a reservation for the Conrad Bangkok using my AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend free night voucher. The booking confirmation mentioned a cancellation deadline of 11.59 p.m on 21 April 2024 (i.e. midnight before the day of check-in).

Due to an illness, I wasn’t able to make the trip after all, so I cancelled the booking at 9 p.m on 21 April 2024. I received a cancellation email, and no charge was made to my AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend, so I assumed all was well.

Then last week, I tried to use my voucher to make a new booking in Perth. When I visited the redemption portal to enter my voucher code, I got an error message saying the code had already been redeemed.

Confused, I contacted AMEX customer service, only to be told that the voucher was valid for “one time use only”. 

That’s indeed stated on the back of the voucher, but my interpretation of this, as I’m sure many people’s would be, is that you can only use the code for a single free night stay. Moreover, the voucher also says “all bookings are subject to each participating property’s policy on cancellations, and/or blackout dates and room availability.” How are we to know that AMEX literally means you can only enter the code once on their website, period!

This also raises other questions. What if you entered the code, but end up just browsing and not booking? Would you be deemed as having used the voucher then?

In any case, the CSO said she’d help me raise an appeal to get the voucher reinstated, as a “one-time exception”. I didn’t like how they characterised it, because in my mind, there was nothing to give exception for- I cancelled the stay within the free cancellation window, and if they wanted to make the stays non-cancellable, they should have printed that clearly on the voucher.

But I wasn’t about to start a fight over semantics, and a few days later I received an automated email saying that a new voucher would be issued.

We are pleased to inform you that your request for The American Express® Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend Credit Card voucher(s) has been processed and will be mailed out to your preferred delivery address via registered post within 10 working days.

We wish to highlight that each Card Member is only eligible to redeem one (1) set of vouchers in each Membership year. Should you receive more than one (1) set of vouchers, please note that only one (1) set will be valid, and any other sets will be voided.

American Express reserves the right to debit your American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend Credit Card for the charges, as determined by us, for any additional or duplicate redemptions made.

I cannot guarantee a similar outcome for you, however, and I can’t tell whether the medical documentation I submitted helped move the needle, or whether they would have reinstated it anyway. 

By the way, the replacement voucher I eventually received had the same expiry date as the original. That means it’s all the more important to request your replacement voucher as soon as you cancel your original stay. If you leave it too late, you may not have enough time left in the membership year to utilise your stay. 

A workaround?

It’s annoying that AMEX/Hilton can’t build a website smart enough to know the difference between merely entering a voucher code and actually completing a stay, but there may be a workaround.

All the redemption portal does, after you enter your voucher code, is to redirect you to the Hilton website with the code ZAMKF1 already populated in the Group Code field. But you can manually enter this code yourself and book rooms, without any voucher necessary. 

Hotels with Ascend free night availability will show up with a “Confidential Price” rate, and all you need to do is make your booking as per normal.

Now, I want to caveat that I haven’t tested this in real life, but it seems like this would avoid the issue of having to request for a new voucher code in the event of cancellation.

Do remember the following restrictions:

  • Ascend free night stays must be booked at least 14 days prior to arrival
  • All stays are for a maximum of two adults, and do not include breakfast
  • Hilton elite benefits do not apply to Ascend free night stays, nor will you earn elite night credits
  • A maximum of one Ascend free night stay can be redeemed per membership year
  • You must present an AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend card at check-in

Interestingly enough, the back of the voucher says “this voucher is not required to be presented upon check-in” (though I’d bring it along still, just to be sure). My guess is that AMEX tracks the free night utilisation by card number rather than voucher code.

Conclusion

AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend cardholders who wish to book their free Hilton night should be aware that the redemption portal only lets you enter your voucher code a single time. If you later decide to cancel your booking, you’ll need to contact AMEX customer service for a reissuance, which may or may not be granted.

A possible workaround is to skip the redemption portal altogether and use the rate code ZAMKF1 to make your bookings. So long as you don’t consume more than one night per membership year, I don’t foresee any issues.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Floyd

That’s odd. I’ve definitely keyed in my voucher code multiple times before to search for availability. I also used the same voucher to book Hilton Mongkok, cancelled it and rebooked Hilton Saigon 8 months later (just before it expired) without any problems.

JW19

Hmm there used to be certain properties excluding Honors elite benefits in the past when using this voucher, but not all of them. Is this a new development? I remember clearly breakfast was included for Conrad Bangkok when I booked using the voucher back in 2019.

chk

Some years back I also had to cancel & could not book again. Didn’t know can ask for replacement Hilton voucher from AMEX.
Good to know!

JP93

Long time lurker here. For additional data point, I booked a staycay back in Apr this year but had to cancel a few days prior. Somehow never had to go through the song and dance and they still allowed me book a new staycay with the same voucher code.

Maybe your case was because it was cancelled right next to the deadline? May be a Hilton backend systems thing…

James

I sometimes wondered what’s the constraint with CSO. If I am CSO, I will just say neutral and polite words like “Sorry to hear that, let me bring it up to management” rather than saying things that can upset customer.

Renz

I always ask for annual fee waiver and give up all the vouchers incl the free Hilton stay.
They always asked me to accept some kind of annual fee discount and still will mail out the voucher… but i always reject lol

James

I’m not defending them since I don’t work for Hilton or Amex, I also hold an Ascend card. If Hilton confirms the booking and thus ‘redeemed’ the room, to be fair, the code is used up. So if a customer can’t fulfil the stay not due to the hotel’s fault, then it’s not surprising that the fair presumption is the customer forfeited the stay. Remember, even a ‘commercial booking’ can lead to a non-refund or a change of stay if the customer didn’t turn up. Lastly, I’ve stopped taking things too personally when it said to me “It’s a one-off… Read more »

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