Do All Hotels Require a Deposit?

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When booking a hotel stay, you may be asked to provide a deposit upfront for the room. This ensures the hotel can cover costs if you cancel late or incur charges during your stay. But do all hotels actually require a deposit or are there exceptions?

The short answer is no – deposits are not universally required at all hotels. Certain hotel policies, room rates, and membership statuses allow you to skip paying a deposit.

Understanding when deposits can be waived or refunded can help you better manage hotel expenses.

Do All Hotels Require a Deposit?

Upfront Deposits 

Many hotels require a deposit of anywhere from $50 to the full cost of one night’s stay. This upfront payment is also called a security deposit, room guarantee deposit, or advance deposit.

The deposit gives the hotel a way to cover themselves if a guest cancels past the cancellation deadline or skips out on the bill. It also ensures a room is held if someone books well in advance.

Deposits are typically charged at the time of booking and then applied toward the final bill at checkout. Some hotels only take deposits for peak travel dates when demand is high.

Prepaid Hotel Stays

Paying for your hotel stay in advance is another form of deposit. This involves prepaying the full estimated amount of the stay upfront rather than just an incidental deposit.

Prepaid reservations guarantee you have a room and lock in the room rate. The hotel can collect full payment for the stay immediately rather than waiting until checkout.

No Deposit Required

While deposits are common, they aren’t universally mandated. Many hotels waive deposits for:

Direct Bookings – Booking directly through the hotel’s website or calling the hotel removes third-party booking fees, allowing them to waive deposits.

High-Tier Members – Loyalty program elite members may skip deposits as a membership perk.

Qualified Packages – Inclusive vacation packages or corporate bookings often pre-negotiate no deposit terms. 

Discount Rates – Special discounted room rates may come with no deposit needed to incentivize booking. 

In-Person Stays – For walk-in guests, hotels can collect payment in full at checkout rather than upfront deposits.

Partner Properties – If you book through a partner sharing rewards benefits, deposits may be waived.

Credits Cards as Deposits

Rather than charging a deposit, some hotels simply take a credit card on file to guarantee the reservation. This authorizes them to charge your card for a cancellation or no-show penalty if needed.

They may also place a small authorization hold on the card for the deposit amount, but not actually charge unless you incur fees. The hold expires after the stay, releasing the held funds back to you.

Refundable Deposits 

Most prepaid deposits are only refundable within the hotel’s cancellation period, usually 24-48 hours. After that they become non-refundable. 

But some hotels allow refunds for cancellations even after the deadline or for early departures. This is more common with higher room rates that permit flexibility. Check policies about possible refunds before assuming deposits are non-refundable.

Earn Interest on Deposits

A few hotels may provide interest earned on prepaid deposits for lengthy stays. This incentivizes booking further in advance. Make sure to ask if interest applies to long stay deposits that are held for weeks or months in advance of a reservation.

Dispute Excess Charges

It’s possible for deposits to be consumed by accumulated incidentals like room service, parking fees, or in-room movie rentals that are erroneously charged to you. Fix this by disputing inaccurate charges that wipe out your deposit.

Tracking Your Deposit

Keep an eye on how much of your upfront deposit has been applied toward daily room fees during your stay. Doing a quick mental tally ensures you get fully refunded for any remaining deposit amount at checkout.

Some hotels let you opt-in for daily text updates about your deposit balance. You can also call the front desk anytime to check it.

Watch for Double Dipping 

Be wary of hotels that require an upfront deposit and also take a credit card on file as backup payment. This “double dipping” for the deposit is unnecessary and excessive. Push back on hotels that try this tactic if you notice it on your reservation.

Deposit Alternatives

If you prefer not tying up cash in a deposit, ask the hotel about alternatives. Some options are:

  • Paying a small deposit fee instead of the full deposit amount
  • Putting the stay on a travel credit card that provides deposit insurance
  • Using a debit card with enough balance instead of a credit card 
  • Charging the deposit but allowing immediate refund once stay begins
  • Booking through a prepaid hotel rate program

Non-Refundable Stays

Rather than a refundable deposit, some very discounted hotel rates make the whole stay non-refundable. This is common with opaque “mystery hotel” bookings.

The rate is reduced, but you risk forfeiting the entire prepaid amount if you change plans. Read policies carefully before paying for non-refundable hotel stays.

Waver Deposit for Future Stays 

If you had to cancel with short notice this time, ask if the hotel can waive the deposit for a future stay when your travel plans are more certain. Most aim to keep guests happy and gain repeat business.


While deposits are common practice, they aren’t always mandatory. Certain hotel policies, memberships, and rate types can allow skipping deposits or making them refundable.

Carefully review the rate rules before paying required deposits that eat into your hotel budget. Avoid any unnecessary double-dipping too. With some flexibility and research, you can minimize the impact of deposits.

Jennifer Tuffen
Jennifer Tuffen

I'm Jennifer Tuffen, a travel enthusiast and storyteller, six years and 10+ countries deep into a journey of discovery and cultural immersion.