Although policies differ among hotels, debit cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo are typically accepted by hotels. However, using a debit card may not be a good idea if you have limited funds in your checking account: hotels routinely place a hold on funds upon check-in to cover any incidental charges, like bar or room service. What's more, these funds may not be released until after your stay is long over.
Debit Card Is Different
Although a debit card looks like a credit card, the two are completely different. While a credit card ties up your available credit when you use it, a debit card withdraws funds from the checking account attached to the card. Whenever you swipe your debit card at your local grocery store or gas station, the funds will be taken from your bank balance. Unlike a credit card, debit cards don't allow you the option to pay at the end of the month -- or to make partial payments over time.
If you pay your hotel bill with a debit card, hotels generally place holds on your funds. This is usually to cover incidentals like refreshments from the bar or any damages left after check-out -- the hotel wants to make sure that the money will available to cover these costs, if necessary. While this amount can vary among hotels, it is not uncommon for hold amounts to range from $50 to a few hundred dollars. Even if you don't ultimately owe this money, you cannot access the funds once the holds are placed. If you have limited funds in your account, a hold could prevent you from making other needed purchases. Even worse, it may take a while for the holds to be released.
- Bargaineering: The Basics of Debit and Credit Cards Explained
- USA Today: How to Book a Hotel Room Without a Credit Card
- USA Today: Swipe That Debit Card Carefully - Hotel Holds Can Tie Up Your Money
- Consumer.gov. "Using Debit Cards." Accessed July 16, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "When a Company Blocks Your Credit or Debit Card." Accessed July 16, 2020.
- Element Federal Credit Union. "Debit Card Holds and Issues Explained." Accessed July 16, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "A Closer Look: Overdraft and the Impact of Opting-In," Page 1. Accessed July 16, 2020.
- MyFICO. "What Is Amounts Owed?" Accessed July 16, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards." Accessed July 16, 2020.
Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.