When you check into a hotel, the hotel is very likely to ask you to put a credit card on file. This is true even if you are using points for a free night or if you have already prepaid for your stay. When you give the hotel your credit card, they will usually place a small hold on your credit card. This is typically a relatively small amount, but it can range from $20 to $200 above the price of your room.
Hotels use these credit card holds because the exact amount of your final bill is not known at the moment of check in. You may charge items to your room, grab some drinks from the minibar, extend your stay, or even cause damage to the property. Once you checkout and your final bill is settled, the hotel credit card hold will usually drop off of your credit card account.
This can be a practice that merits a closer look. Read on to learn more about these credit card holds, including:
• What is a hotel credit card hold?
• How do hotel credit card holds work?
• How much do hotels hold on your credit card?
• How long does a hotel hold your deposit by credit card?
• What is a credit card hold vs. a debit card hold?
What Is a Hotel Credit Card Hold?
A hotel credit card hold is a type of credit card hold that happens when you stay as a guest at a property. When you check in to a hotel, they typically will ask for a credit card to put on file. The hotel will then put a hold on your card to account for any incidentals or other charges during your stay, such as room service or perhaps Wi-Fi fees (yes, some places still charge for that).
You are not responsible for paying the amount of the hold until and unless it becomes an actual posted charge. It may, however, decrease your total available credit in terms of your credit card limit.
How Hotel Credit Card Holds Work
Hotel stays are one of a few types of expenses where you may not know the exact final amount of the charge initially. When you go to the supermarket and buy a week’s worth of groceries, you will be immediately charged for the cost of that food — no credit card hold required. But when you check into a hotel, the management will put a hold on your card to account for any extra charges or damages that could occur in the future.
What Can You Be Charged For?
Most hotels will put a hold on your credit card to account for any extra or additional charges that might come from your stay. Here are a few things you might be charged for:
• The cost of your room (if not prepaid)
• Additional nights if you extend your stay
• Room service
• Other items charged to your room (such as minibar snacks or an on-demand movie)
• Damages to the property
How Long Does a Hotel Hold Your Credit Card?
Generally a credit card hold is processed by the card network itself (e.g. Visa or Mastercard) and not by the merchant. So the hotel itself likely does not have any control over how long the hotel credit card hold amount stays on your account. Generally, most hotel credit card holds will drop off within one to a few days after you check out.
If you’re still seeing the hold on your account after that, reach out to your credit card issuer to see if you can get it removed.
What Are the Benefits of a Hotel Credit Card Hold
A hotel credit card hold doesn’t offer very many benefits to the consumer — it’s more just an artifact of how credit cards work. A hotel credit card hold may provide some semblance of protection for the hotel itself in the case of getting payment for additional charges or damages.
But from the consumer side of things, a hotel hold on your credit card is just something to be aware of and account for, since it will generally lower your amount of available credit.
Other Methods of Reservation
You have a variety of different methods of payment that you might use to pay for your hotel stay. You might use your credit card points, cash, a debit card or prepay for your stay.
But it’s important to know this: No matter how you reserve and pay for your hotel room, the hotel is likely going to ask you for a credit card to put on file and put a hold on your card when you check in. It’s quite typical throughout the industry.
Booking a Hotel Using a Credit Card Hold
One of the most popular ways to book a hotel is with a credit card. Using a credit card to book and pay for your hotel allows you to not have to give a cash deposit or another form of payment when you check in and check out.
If you pay for your hotel room with a debit card, credit card rewards, or cash, you’ll likely also have to show a credit card when you check in. The hotel will generally put a small temporary hold on your credit card account at that time.
Best Practices for Managing Credit Card Holds
It’s unlikely that you have any control over a hotel putting a temporary hold on your credit card. That said, it’s still important to understand what that means and how you can manage it.
Most hotel holds on credit cards are relatively small amounts, even as little as $20. However, if you have a credit card with a lower overall credit ceiling or if you are close to maxing out your credit, this practice may end up limiting your total available credit. You’ll want to be aware of that to minimize the chances of your credit card being declined.
How Do Hotel Credit Card Holds Help Hotels?
Hotel credit card holds help hotels by making sure that they have access to your card in case there are additional charges or damages by guests. In many cases, there are no additional charges. You can make a credit card payment for the total amount of your bill and settle your account.
But if there are any additional charges, a credit card hold helps the hotel to know that your card has at least a certain amount available to pay.
Credit Card Hold vs Debit Card Hold
Holds can be issued on both credit cards as well as debit cards. In both cases, a hold is temporary and for a specific amount. Once the charge is finalized, the hold will usually be automatically removed.
One important difference to note: Because a debit card is tied directly to your bank account, you may be charged additional fees if the hold triggers an overdraft on your account.
In either scenario, it can be wise to understand your total available balance and how any temporary holds affect it.
Recommended: Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards
It is common practice in the hotel industry to request a credit card at check-in and place a temporary hotel credit card hold on the card. This temporary hold is generally around $20 to $200 higher than the outstanding balance on your hotel room. This hold helps to protect the hotel if you have any additional charges or damages to the room. The temporary hold will usually be cleared within a few days of checking out.
Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.
What happens to your card limit when you use it to hold a room?
The amount of credit that you have available to use on your credit card account is reduced by any pending credit card charges like hotel room holds. Your available balance will be at this lowered level until the charge is finalized, which may take a few days after you check out. Make sure that you understand your available balance to limit the chances that your card is declined.
How long does a hotel hold your deposit?
Generally, most hotels will put a temporary hold on your credit card when you check in. This hold usually lasts for a few days after you check out, when it will usually disappear. If you see a hotel credit card hold on your statement longer than that, contact your credit card issuer to see if they can remove the hold.
How much do hotels hold on credit cards?
The amount that hotels hold on credit cards will vary by hotel. Usually the hold will be anywhere from $20 to $200, plus any outstanding balance owed on the room. This helps to protect the hotel over any extra charges or damages that might occur. If you’re not sure how much the hold will be for, you can ask the desk clerk when you check in for the policy at that specific hotel.
Photo credit: iStock/ferrantraite
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