Hotels may charge your credit card when you make a reservation, when you check in, or when you check out, depending on how and where you book the reservation. There’s a lot of variation in the way hotels handle credit card charges, even within a single hotel brand or third-party booking website.
Some hotel chains (such as Hyatt) have many properties under their umbrella, and each have different policies for billing. So when your credit card is charged will depend on which property you book with. Other hotels have general billing policies with slight variations. For example, most Hilton properties require a credit card number to hold the room, and they won’t charge your card until you check in. But a deposit is required to reserve a room at some Hilton properties, according to Hilton customer service.
Booking hotel rooms through a third-party website such as priceline.com or hotelguides.com may require you to pay in full when you make the reservation. That’s especially true for discounted room rates, and usually these payments are non-refundable due to the discount.
Generally, booking directly through a hotel requires a credit card number, but that doesn’t mean every hotel will charge your card immediately. Hotels have what’s called a credit card guarantee, so if you don’t show up for your reservation, the hotel can charge your card for all or part of your stay. Some hotels do require a deposit to hold rooms, but they won’t charge you the full amount of your stay until you check in. Regardless, the first time a hotel charges your credit card might not be the last – the hotel will always be able to charge you for incidentals or damage after you check out.
In the end, it’s best to call the hotel’s customer service directly to find out when they’ll charge your credit card. And if you book through a third-party website, be prepared to pay up-front for steep discounts and for little chance of a refund.
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