How Hotel Charges Work: Credit Cards vs Debit Card

At the Comfort Inn Middletown we pride ourselves on guest satisfaction and we are often thanked by our guests for our great service.  The one thing that can quickly irritate an unassuming guest is when they don’t understand how a hotel “charges” their credit or debit card and why.  Our hotel and guests aren’t the only ones running into this issue. Look around the front desk area of any hotel you check into and many have a sign warning about the use of debit cards for hotel charges. If we can inform and make you happier before you arrive, then this post has served it’s purpose.

The difference between an authorization and an actual charge causes the most confusion. This is only exacerbated by the economic times right now where money is tight for just about everyone.  Many people are living paycheck to paycheck and just a small amount of money here and there can throw them into an overdraft situation.  We’ll start from the very beginning and I’ll walk you through how the whole process works and what throws a knife into the works.

There are many ways to make your reservation, lets say you called our hotel directly at 732.671.3400 and  spoke to our friendly Brit, Bridget. Your reservation is for arrival next Saturday. We require a credit card guarantee on our reservations. You tell us you’re coming to stay, we’re saving a room for you.  We’re not giving it to anyone else, a valuable piece of our real estate has been set aside just for you.  We’re excited that you are coming to have a great weekend at the Jersey Shore along with 80 other guest rooms of people.

Our cancellation policy is 4:00pm 24 hours prior to arrival. This means you have until 4pm on the Friday before to cancel or change your reservation without penalty.  This gives the hotel 24 hours to try to re-sell our valuable piece of real estate to the next person who wants it. Otherwise it goes unconsumed and our lovely Inn loses out on revenue.  Around 4:00pm on the day prior, Lois who works the 3:00pm to 11:00pm shift, looks at the arrivals for the following day. If we are expecting a full house, she will go through and authorize the credit or debit card that has guaranteed payment on your room at the Inn. The reason for doing this is 1. to ensure the credit or debit card is valid and 2. to make sure the funds are available to cover the charges the reservation will incur.

An authorization is basically a “check-in” with your financial institution to make sure the funds are available and then set aside for the authorized purchase, i.e. your hotel room. These funds are no longer available in your account because they are set aside to use on your purchase with the hotel.  The authorization often goes unnoticed on a credit card because it’s not your actual money we are authorizing, it’s your credit.  The game changes when it is a debit card. When a debit card is authorized, your actual money is set aside and you may see it on your account as a “pending charge”.

There have been instances where this  causes unsuspecting guests overdraft charges and for this reason we recommend if at all possible, do not guarantee reservations with a debit card.  If you want to pay on the debit card at the end of your stay, leave the room on your credit card and we will gladly change the method of payment upon checkout. The same goes for cash.  The authorization placed on your funds by your financial institution can last up to 7 days and the hotel is not in control of that nor can we really do anything to change it.

At the end of your stay when you come to check out with Ellen, she will then “post” the charges to the credit or debit card of your choosing or take in the cash. We will even split charges between cards and/or cash. This is when the exchange becomes a charge instead of an authorization. If you initially give us your debit card and then decide to change the method of payment to cash or credit, the authorization will remain on the debit card for the amount of time specified by your financial institution.  Again, we as a hotel have no control over the amount of time the money is held.

Please know that we truly appreciate your business and are glad to have you as our guest. We feel an educated guest is much happier and do all we can to make your stay as pleasant as possible. I hope this post has helped clarify how the process works. If I can be of any help and answer any questions on hotel charges leave a comment in the comments section or send me an email. I will gladly reply. Happy Summer everyone and we hope to welcome you to the Comfort Inn Middletown.

Update: Monday, November 15, 2010  Here is a link to another great post on using credit cards vs. debit cards while traveling by Jen A. Miller, a Jersey Shore native.


12 thoughts on “How Hotel Charges Work: Credit Cards vs Debit Card

  1. I checked out yesterday. The authorization dropped but as of right now in still not charges with anything. When should I be expecting a charge? I assumed it would have taken the money out right then. Did someone make a mistake or will the charge take a few days? The fire alarm went off twice in the middle of the night and early morning, but they didn’t say they were giving my a free night. I dont think they would have done that.

  2. I have a question. I recently stayed at a hotel and was charged $75.00 for deep cleaning. I spoke with a hotel supervisor and she told me that we had food grounded into the carpet and now the carpet has to deep cleaned. I have two kids 3 and 1 and when we checked out of the hotel there was popcorn on the floor. I do admit that the popcorn was all on the floor. No one called or emailed me to advise me that they were charging me the $75. I asked for pictures and they were in black and white and I could only see the popcorn on the floor. Is there something that I could do? or should I just leave it alone?

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