When Does a Hotel Charge Your Card?

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Booking a hotel stay often requires providing your credit or debit card information.

This allows the hotel to charge your card for the room reservation and other charges during your visit.

However hotels have different policies on exactly when and how these charges hit your card.

At Booking

Many hotels will place an authorization hold on your card when you first make the reservation. This hold verifies there are sufficient funds to cover the expected costs.

The hold amount varies by hotel but may include:

  • Room rate for all nights booked
  • Estimated taxes
  • Deposit or incidentals fee

The hold temporarily reduces your available credit or balance, but no charges are actually processed yet.

Before Arrival

In the days or weeks leading up to your stay, the hotel confirms the reservation and may charge your card the room rate and taxes for the full trip.

The timing can range from a week ahead to just 1-2 days before arrival. Some hotels only charge for the first night at this point.

So don’t be surprised if charges appear well before you’ve set foot in the hotel. This ensures payment before providing the room.

At Check-in

When you arrive and check-in at the front desk, hotels often require presenting the same credit or debit card used for the reservation.

At this point, they may charge your card for:

  • Remaining room nights not already paid
  • Taxes not collected yet
  • Refundable security deposit
  • Daily resort fee or facility fee
  • Any advance deposits required

The security deposit is meant to cover any incidentals or damages during the stay. The hotel may pre-authorize this amount separately from other expected charges.

Throughout the Stay

Your hotel charges accumulate as you use services throughout your visit. Common incremental charges include:

  • Room service
  • On-site restaurants
  • Parking
  • Wi-Fi access
  • Minibar snacks
  • Poolside cabana rental
  • Spa treatments

These expenses are usually charged to your card on a daily basis or at point of sale. Bills for dining or other amenities may require showing your card again.

At Checkout

The final hotel charges hit your card when you complete the checkout process. This is often handled automatically the morning of departure.

Expect your bill to include:

  • Remaining room nights
  • Valet parking
  • Unsettled restaurant tabs
  • Other incidentals from your stay

The front desk will print an itemized folio for you to review all charges before departing. Any disputed charges can be handled at that time.

After Checkout

Once you leave, it’s common for one pending charge to remain on your account for 72 hours or more.

This reflects the hotel reconciliation process to finalize your bill. It accounts for any last-minute charges discovered after checkout, such as:

  • Room service trays removed
  • Minibar items stocked overnight
  • Laundry service deliveries
  • Refilling vandalized minibar items
  • Smoke or pet cleaning fees

The pending amount usually matches your authorized deposit. It will eventually drop off or be replaced by the finalized charges.

Cancellation and No-Shows

If you cancel within the hotel’s policy window, which varies from 24 to 72 hours, they will remove any pending charges.

However, if you cancel too close to arrival or simply fail to show up, the hotel will process some or all charges on your card. Fees for a no-show stay often include:

  • One night room rate
  • Applicable taxes
  • Charges for guaranteed early arrival or late departure

Review the rate details and fine print to understand cancellation and no-show penalties specific to your booking.

When Refunds Hit Your Card

If you cancel ahead of time or check out early, it takes some time for any eligible refunds to process back to your card.

Factors like weekends, holidays, and holds from your bank can increase the settlement period. But you can generally expect hotel refunds within 7-10 business days.

Avoiding Surprise Charges

Hotels make it easy by automatically charging your card on file for various services. But this can lead to inadvertent charges if you’re not careful. Follow these tips to avoid surprise fees:

  • Review folio every 1-2 days to catch erroneous charges.
  • Decline housekeeping for stayovers to skip daily cleaning fees.
  • Don’t move items in room minibar without alerting the front desk.
  • Opt out of daily resort fees if possible and not needed.
  • Notify in advance if departing earlier than booked checkout date.
  • Set room TVs and radios to low volumes to avoid disturbance fees.
  • Request confirmation of restaurant bills charged to your room.

When Your Card Is Charged

While practices vary somewhat, most hotels will charge your card upon booking, just before arrival, at check-in, periodically during your stay, at checkout, and then finalize with any last charges in the days following departure.

Understanding this cycle allows you to track expenses and avoid unpleasant surprises on your credit or debit card statement long after your hotel getaway.

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.