The upfront cost of a hotel room isn't always a reflection of its real price. You could have to pay for food, phone calls, access to the gym and a wide variety of other incidentals. Because hotels don't want to end up paying for these items themselves if your card is declined, they frequently place a hold on customers' credit cards to ensure incidental costs will be covered.
What is a Hotel Credit Card Hold?
When you give your credit card to the front desk clerk, she'll swipe it and place a hold on your account. This temporarily makes some portion of funds unavailable to you. The amount can be as small as a dollar, but in most cases it will be much higher. The hold is like a ring-fenced pot of cash that the hotel can tap into. The idea is to ensure you have the money to cover additional expenses like breakfast, gym membership and drinks at the bar. Typically, the hold charge won't be refunded until after you check out. At that point, it can take a couple of days for your bank to return the funds to your account.
What's the Right Hold Amount for Hotel Incidentals?
There's no single amount that hotels routinely charge. The average credit card pre-authorization for hotels, as much as there is one, usually sits in the $50 to $150 range. The quality of the hotel makes a difference. If you're staying at a pricey hotel, you might end up paying much more than you would at a budget establishment. Before you hand over your credit card, ask the front desk clerk the precise amount of the per-day hold you have to pay.
Overdrafts and Over-Limit Fees
Holds on your funds can cause you to overdraft or go over your credit limit, so it's good practice to check your account before you check into the hotel. For example, if your credit limit is $10,000 and you're at $9, 700, a $300 hold will max out your card. If you're concerned about not having access to your money, consider paying a cash deposit. You'll get the cash as soon as you check out, rather than having to wait a few days for the funds to return to your account.
Tips for Minimizing Hotel Costs
If you don't want to lose any money on incidentals, then you'll need to aim for a frugal, careful stay. Avoid using the hotel's wireless Internet access if you're charged for it, and check on costs before you make a phone call. If there are amenities such as coffee or snacks in the room, call the front desk to find out if they're free. Rather than eating at the hotel, try bringing your own food or eating at local restaurants, which are often cheaper.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.