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I won’t be fooled again by hotel gift cards

a blue card with a blue line

This week I changed two of my hotel reservations for my current travel in Europe from Club Carlson hotels, where I booked free nights using points, to paid stays in order to redeem hotel gift cards I received from Hilton Honors and Best Western Rewards.

Both hotel stays refused my travel card credits.

Hilton Nordica Reykjavik told me my American Express Hilton Honors $25 travel card had no funds remaining. I checked the funds through the American Express website, while writing this post, and there is still $25 balance on the card.

Hilton Honors gift card

Although, there is a good chance this American Express Hilton Honors $25 gift card will truly have $0 remaining balance after entering the card number and pin over an unsecured wifi connection in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Best Western Santakos Hotel, Kaunas, Lithuania refused my Best Western Travel Gift Cards at check-out today. The manager placed the Travel Card rejection on me due to a clause in the promotion terms stating,

Travel Card is only redeemable at check-in on non-prepaid reservations made on .

I accept the manager’s rationale. She is responsible for the hotel’s bottom line.

I have been told many times my facial expressions are an open book to my feelings.

When she saw the expression on my face, she said, “Please don’t be mad at us, read the terms here on my computer.†I read the “only redeemable at check-in†wording.

However, I mentioned to the Best Western Kaunas receptionist at check-in I had $20 in Best Western travel card credit when she asked me if I wanted to pay for the room at check-in. I told her I needed to look up my Best Western Travel Card numbers to apply to the hotel bill. She had no idea what I meant by a Best Western Travel Card.

I explained the last two Best Western Rewards promotions to her about each stay earning a $10 Best Western Rewards travel card. I earned two $10 Best Western Travel Cards from two stays since December I wanted to apply to the bill.

Loyalty Traveler – Best Western Rewards $10 Travel Card every stay Nov 28-Jan 29

Loyalty Traveler – Best Western extends $10 Travel Card per stay Feb 13-April 30, 2017

The receptionist in the morning also did not know how to process Best Western Travel Card credit. She went to the hotel manager who told me it takes a minimum 3 to 4 hours to contact Best Western and verify the travel card numbers.

I showed her the Best Western travel card images with the numbers from my emails.

When she typed in my Best Western Travel Card number on her computer terminal, the computer showed name ‘unassigned’ and she refused to accept the card credit at check-out. She also pointed to the terms on her page stating the Travel Cards are only accepted at hotel check-in.

The Kaunas hotel manager reminded me to present the BW Travel Card at check-in on my next stay. I will be certain to provide the travel card numbers at check-in next time, even if the receptionist does not have a clue how to process the credit, but I do not plan to have another Best Western stay before one of my $10 credits expire. The gift card expiration in May was the primary reason why I changed my hotel stay from a free night at Park Inn Kaunas for 9,000 Club Carlson points to a paid stay at Best Western Santakos.

My Loyalty Traveler Shout Out to Best Western Rewards Managers

Since this $10 Travel Card per stay is the promotion you have been running for six months, how about clearly stating in the promotion Terms and FAQ that the Best Western Travel Card is “only redeemable at check-inâ€.

The T&C and FAQ for the current Best Western Travel Card promotion does not mention anywhere that BW Travel Card is redeemable only at check-in.

Best Western Rewards members are only made aware of the “only redeemable at check-in†clause in the fine print on the email page with the Best Western Travel Card number.

BW Rewards travel card fine print






  • Nun April 6, 2017

    I agree. I got suckered into 3 x $25 BW cards and never get to use them. They’re not allowed on prepaid bookings, even at the BW website which means any savings from the cards is wiped out by the higher price of a non-prepaid.

  • Kerri April 6, 2017

    THANK YOU for this post!! I’ll make sure I never get sucked into that myself!

  • james April 6, 2017

    Gift cards are almost always a pain. You probably need to make a post on the 3 R’s (Ric’s Rules of Redemption):

    1. Read & understand all restrictions.

    2. Make sure they will be accepted in the countries you travel in.

    3. Call front desk manager in advance to go over acceptance & for what charges. (F&B charges? Parking?)

    3. Make sure balance hasn’t been drained before your trip, file a claim if possible

    At hotel:

    1. Re-confirm when checking in about their use. Make sure someone will be there when you check out to process them correctly. Get a front desk manager you called involved if necessary.

    2. Give yourself an extra 45 minutes at check-out so they can struggle unsuccessfully to process, then call the manager who approved their use before.

    Pretty sure I left out 4 or 5 steps –

  • P T April 6, 2017

    Did you ever figure out why the Hilton cards didn’t work? I bought some with the AMEX for you offers (or whatever they are called) and plan to use them for F&B in Oman.

  • Bryan B April 6, 2017

    It’s just easier to stay and pay and not buy into gimmick promotions. Gift cards and easily lost or forgotten and notoriously hard to use in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

  • Rupert April 6, 2017

    Thanks for the article – gift cards rank right up there with “Best Rate Guarantees” on the list of travel offers to avoid!

  • Jim April 7, 2017

    I think that valid only at check in is just an excuse not to use the card.
    If you go next time and ask to use the card at check in they will make up another excuse not to
    honor the card.

    I had a similar experience when i tried to use one of these promo 10$ cards last month.

    The best way to deal with these cards is to make two non prepaid reservation in two hotels ,
    one in best western and one in another chain and if best western refuse the card just cancel the reservation and go to the other hotel.

  • […] I won’t be fooled again by hotel gift cards (April 6, 2017) mentions how my $25 Hilton Honors gift card was rejected by Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. […]

  • Ric Garrido April 14, 2017

    Spoke with Best Western Rewards customer service today. They are sending me a $25 gift card that I will be able to use this summer after one of my $10 Travel Card expires in May 2017.

    That is a good resolution for me.

    Earned another $10 Travel Card from BW Kaunas hotel stay. I have no plans for a Best Western stay before June.

    Net result is I will have a $25 gift card and two $10 gift cards for $45 credit on June/July hotel stays. Hopefully, I will be able to redeem these Best Western Travel cards successfully on a hotel stay in June when I am in Europe next time.

    $15 net gain compared to $30 BW travel card credit, if BW Kaunas had accepted my $20 in travel cards.

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