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I work for a state government body in the United States. As a part of my work, I occasionally have multi-day travel. My hotel stays are paid by my employer and are tax-exempt.

I frequently run into a problem when paying for business-related hotels. Prior to travel, my office files a form with hotels, which is supposed to allow the hotel to charge my room to the office's credit card. However, inevitably when I check in, each time the hotel clerk insists that I have to use my personal card. This means that I have to temporarily cover the cost of my room (until I am reimbursed), but also that the state now has to pay taxes (which is a poor use of taxpayer funds).

How can I get a hotel to accept my employer's credit card for payment, rather than insisting on using my personal card?

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    So to be clear, you're asking the hotel to accept a piece of paper authorizing the use of the corporate credit card? And they're asking you to provide a physical credit card instead? – jpatokal Dec 13 '17 at 4:23
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    Prior to arrival we call the hotel to give them our office's credit card information. Ideally, when I arrive they don't need to charge me personally because they have the office's credit card info. Every time the hotel clerk insists on using my personal card, rather than the office's information they already have. – indigochild Dec 13 '17 at 4:26
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    Have you tried bringing a copy of the form with you? I know I've had situations in the past where I've used someone else's card for travel and being able to produce a completed copy of the hotel's credit card authorization form has taken care of it, even if the hotel isn't capable of successfully keeping it on file. – Zach Lipton Dec 13 '17 at 7:03
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO Dec 13 '17 at 16:02
  • The mistake is giving them your personal CC in checkin. So what happens if you refuse and say "I don't have a personal CC"? – smci Dec 18 '17 at 0:25

11 Answers 11

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The problem here is not the corporate credit card, but that you're trying to do this without a physical card. A credit card number is good enough to make a reservation, which is why the phone call works for that, but reception needs to charge a deposit on arrival and their protocol dictates that you need to hand over a physical card for this. The hotel doesn't particularly care if it's yours or the company's, as long as it's valid and has your name on it.

The sane thing would be that your employer gives you a physical corporate credit card, which you can then use to pay deposits and settle the bill. Since your employer is a government body and isn't doing this, I presume they're not sane though.

The other option is to prepay for your hotel room using the corporate credit card. You may still be required to hand over a personal credit card for the deposit (to cover raiding the minibar etc), but this should be returned in full within a day or two of checking out with no cost to you or the taxpayer.

See also: Booking hotel with my credit card for a third person. Will that person have issues at check-in?

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    Paragraph three, "You may still be required to hand over a card..." Quite simply, you will be required to hand over a card. That is the essence of the QA. – Fattie Dec 14 '17 at 14:26
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    (Note that the pre-booking form usually states that you will need the card with you!!!. EXACTLY as with air travel or car rental. It's just a remarkably straightforward thing to be having such a long conversation about; these procedures have been established for 20? 30?!? years now...) – Fattie Dec 14 '17 at 14:36
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    @Fattie The point you keep missing is that government travel is a special case. The US Government is the largest purchaser of travel services in the world. They can, and do, make their own rules. – user71659 Dec 14 '17 at 20:41
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    @user71659 OP may not work for the US federal government, they could work for some smaller local government (even city government)... Federal government sometimes (often?) issues "travel cards"--credit cards for each employee, which are used for travel expenses and then reimbursed. – user3067860 Dec 14 '17 at 23:32
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    @user3067860 When I worked for a quasi-state government institution, we followed most of the same procedures (per diem rates, special airfare, central travel booking). A discussion of how central travel booking uses virtual credit card numbers is in the chat. – user71659 Dec 15 '17 at 0:43
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We had a similar situation in our business, where we wanted to book and pay for accommodation for visitors but (obviously) without providing those visitors with our payment card details.

Originally, we did what your employer appears to be doing: sent a third party card authorisation ahead to the hotel for each booking, and hoped that it would be tied to the reservation/picked up by the hotel staff. Alas, as you have found, it often didn’t work as planned—our visitors often had to, embarrassingly, call around on check-in to get things sorted. Of course, it may have been (as others have suggested) that they were only being asked to give a pre-auth for extras, but even that should have been charged to our card so it was still unsatisfactory.

We ended up solving this problem by opening a corporate account with the hotel chain, which was specifically designed to handle precisely these sorts of bookings. Not only is the problem now solved, but we also get discounted rates and interest free credit from the hotel, together with itemised monthly billing by cost centre. It has alleviated so many pain points!

I guess this is something that most the big chains offer, but for what it’s worth the programme we enrolled with is Business Advantage from IHG. An added benefit of their scheme is that the person making the booking receives Business Rewards points whilst the guest staying in the hotel still receives their own Rewards Club points as normal (and if the two happen to be the same person, bonus points!).

  • Big discount rates. I often stayed in a chain of hotels, and the corporate rate was 50% of the normal one. – Rui F Ribeiro Dec 14 '17 at 11:47
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In the past, I've had my company pay for hotel stays using the company travel agent credit card. The process has been for my company travel agent to fill in a credit card authorisation form and fax it to the hotel. Ideally this should be followed up by a phone call to confirm receipt and that the third party payment has been accepted.

An example credit card authorisation form looks like this

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Here's one way to get your office to prioritize this to the top.

First, prior to leaving, ask the business office if they've resolved the credit card issue with the hotel. If they haven't, inform them you can't go until they do. They'll likely just blow you off and say "yeah, it's good."

Then make sure that when you are checking in, it is during normal business hours. In other words, when you are sure that your business office staff are at their desks.

You start the check in process. Hotel asks for your credit card. You tell them it's on file. They then ask, again, for the physical card. At this point you call your business office and tell them you can't check into the hotel. Do NOT offer to use your own card. Let the business office talk to the hotel.

One of two things are going to happen. Either the business office / hotel sorts it out right then or you get back on a plane and go home. If you end up going home, your manager is probably going to be mad. Make sure it's directed towards the business office.

Someone will then make sure you have a corporate card, with your name on it OR they'll make darn sure that no credit card needs to be presented the next time you check in.

  • The question isn't "how do I make this a higher priority for me office". I'm actually pleased with their response since I brought this to their attention. Also, that question wouldn't be on topic here. – indigochild Dec 13 '17 at 15:57
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    @indigochild: The answer to your typed question is: you can't. That leaves only one other option, which is to get your office to fix the problem. The problem being that you do not have a physical credit card from your employer. – NotMe Dec 13 '17 at 16:03
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Your perspective is one which presumes fraud doesn't exist. What keeps Frank Abagnale (or even a garden variety swindler) from faking all this stuff with stolen credit card data?

"Card Not Present" transactions are inherently risky for a hotel. The credit card companies take a certain amount of responsibility for fraud. Now, when the nature of a business absolutely requires the customer be physically present, it's rather hard to explain to risk managers why you are doing "card not present" transactions at all.

The risk manager would say "Just do business the normal way. The customer physically presents a card, the end." In other words, if your employer won't give you a physical card, they consider that Not Their Problem.

Their response to people like you, is that your baseline method of payment is still the card you physically present that is plausibly your card. They are also willing to try it the way you ask them to (or not)... and if that actually works, then you're off the hook. Bottom line, they get paid by you unless something else works out.

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One solution is to use Samsung Pay (if your phone or your watch support it)

  1. You enter your company credit card information into your phone

  2. When you need to make a payment, you trigger Samsung Pay and you authenticate by using a PIN or your fingerprint.

  3. The phone generates a unique credit card number for each transaction.

  4. Important part: Samsung Pay is backward-compatible. So even if the payment terminal doesn't accept mobile NFC payments, you can just tap the back of your phone to where the magnetic reader is and your phone will mimic the magnetic strip of the unique credit card it generated (this will work on all the terminals that have their magnetic readers on the edge of its machine and not embedded deeply within the machine itself).

  5. If it's a pre-authorization, it initially shows up as a $1 amount with the bank, which will later morph into whatever amount the hotel decides to finally charge you. If they make you fill out a paper form in addition to the electronic pre-authorization, you only put the last four digits of the generated credit card number on the form, along with asterisks in front of it. And if they want to check the authenticity of your signature, you present your phone (or your watch to them) so they can compare signatures.

  6. Tax exemption part: I'm not an expert, but upon further research, you may additionally want to take a screenshot of the transaction confirmation screen from your phone and send it to the hotel for their tax records. That confirmation screen will contain the last 4 digits of the uniquely generated credit card number, but it will also show in the background the last 4 digits of the original government credit card which is what the hotel might need (in addition to the other tax exemption documentation required) if it doesn't want to be forced to have to pay the sales taxes out of its own pocket.

Note. To take a screenshot on a Samsung phone, press the power button and the home button simultaneously. To take a screenshot of a Gear S3 watch, press the home button of the watch while simultaneously swiping from left to right on the watch.

  • Most hotels still have their card readers behind the counter. You would have to hand your phone to the staff. – nstenz Dec 15 '17 at 18:08
  • @nstenz, Yes, I've done that before. These days, you won't even surprise the employee. This technology is at least two years old. If you want to surprise the worker behind the counter, use the Gear S3 watch. The Gear S3 watch is still relatively new enough that most cashiers still expect it to work only with NFC, but the watch is the same as the phone, it works equally well on both NFC and non-embedded magnetic strip readers. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 16 '17 at 7:09
  • This should be the accepted answer! – JonathanReez Dec 16 '17 at 8:49
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Here is what I would do:

1: Notify the hotel corporate offices of your issue and get them to assign an account for the State Employees for your office - generally when this is done they expect a certain number of stays a year but they will also give a discount for that as well.

Your state might also already have such a travel program set up with a hotel chain, your states accounting and travel offices might be able to provide you with more detailed information. Generally such a system you can have direct billed or billed to a specific accounting number assigned by your employer [State Office] - typically these arrangements EXCLUDE incidentals such as phone and alcohol.. for which the clerk will ask for your card info..

I am also guessing that the form sent to the hotel has a tax exempt id on the form.

2: If this hotel is a chain you could also join their benefits program and have the office card info on file for that, this scenario of storing the government card on file is probably more difficult as I think they will desire to have the Physical card upon check in.

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    @Fattie I have spent many a night in hotels (so much so I should own one) 51 weeks out of 52 over several years (about 200 plus nights a year). In many instances I have had clients pick up the tab; the corporate offices of these companies have a direct bill agreement. I only had to put up for incidentals. You just need to speak to the right people to get this done - depends on the hotel chain how and if they do it,some do it specifically at the local level (hotel) others do it at the corporate level or mix it up depending on the local hotels business relationship with their corporate office. – Ken Dec 13 '17 at 14:03
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    @Fattie - you don't have to choose to have incidentals, you can declare no phone calls, no alcohol etc. Clients exclude incidentals for a reason. Also incidentals may not be reimbursable expenses for the ops employer. Some pay a per diem (since he works for the gov't) that is probably their poison. These are completely different charges and might be covered differently - depending on ops particular situation. – Ken Dec 13 '17 at 15:18
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    hi @ken, I fully appreciate how much time you spend in hotels, but I have never, ever, ever, been able to say "I do not want to leave a deposit for the incidentals because I do not want any". The response is "You must leave a credit card swipe." – Fattie Dec 13 '17 at 15:59
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    @Fattie rather than argue with all of the answers in comments, maybe put your expertise into an answer yourself? – Mr.Mindor Dec 13 '17 at 21:10
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    Except you don't "obviously" need credit card. Your personal experience is not universal, as demonstrated by yet another person indicating the ability to check in without a credit card to a number of hotels. @Fattie – Nij Dec 16 '17 at 2:18
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How can I get a hotel to accept my employer's credit card for payment, rather than insisting on using my personal card?

"Sorry, I don't have a personal credit card."

In my experience, they will then ask you to leave some cash deposit for drinks taken from the mini bar, which will be returned to you when checking out.

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    The response will be "Sorry, you don't get a room." – Nelson Dec 13 '17 at 10:34
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    @Nelson Then the OP should call their employer and tell them there's a problem. I'm pretty sure the employer will do a much better job preparing the trip next time. – Dmitry Grigoryev Dec 13 '17 at 12:03
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    This all might have been true the previous century. newsflash, you cannot check in to a hotel, or rent a car, without a credit card. – Fattie Dec 13 '17 at 12:35
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    @Fattie I've done exactly that (check in without a credit card) weeks ago in central Brussels. – gerrit Dec 13 '17 at 12:46
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    @Fattie: It was possible a few years ago (from personal experience) - and yes, they did initially act as if it were necessary (before admitting that it wasn't, when I told them that I don't have one). Did anything change there? If you can link to a reputable source, I will remove my answer immediately. – Heinzi Dec 13 '17 at 13:52
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First, make sure you carry all relevant paperwork, physically. So, if the company has an agreement with the hotel, carry a copy, if there is an email where they agreed to accept that card, print it, etc.

That by itself may solve it in some cases. A customer saying "my company agreed with the hotel X" is not the same as a document with the chain letterhead, sent by the main branch, saying X.

(Also, it may help clarify the position of both, as there may be fine print in the X-with-company-Y that neither you nor the clerk knew about)

Still, it may be the case that they insist that accepting your employer credit card is "impossible" or even "illegal". Make them document it. Ask them to provide you a form stating that you asked them to accept card 1234, according to document XYZ, but that they can't do it because <their excuse>, there's no other option than using your personal credit card and that they accept that if it's an error on their part, they will be accountable for any or extra costs caused by that. Have it signed by the employee, and ideally also with the hotel stamp.

Preferably, prepare the text in advance and review with your legal department, and have such document prepared with the relevant legalese and a space where they can fill a description of the issue.

If it is really impossible to do otherwise, there should be no problem to acknowledge that in writing, right?

Well, you will probably find out that before doing so they will try extra hard to do it. Or suddenly, there's actually another alternative.

If they refuse, argue that you need to justify such irregularity (after all, why would your company reimburse you if they already handled everything?). If they do, give them your personal card and continue. Later at the office your accountants can review the stated problem and decide the best course of action. It is possible that some part of the agreement with the hotel was unclear, and they need to add extra clauses on next booking. It is possible that the hotel is at fault, in which case you have both a document where they agree to accept a card and another where they refuse to do so, which seems a pretty clear case for requesting them to reimburse your company the taxes, the cost of the work of your accountants processing your reimburse, the consequences if your card was compromised due to a breach... Or they may prefer to not pursue action about that (yet), simply complain to the hotel liaison that agreed to accept the card (which should make the hotel aware of the problem, eg. it may make them teach their clerks about the proper procedure on these cases), or even do nothing. In any case, you are forcing the hotel to state their contradiction, and should be the starting point.

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In my experience hotels will take a credit card at check in and put a hold on it but won’t finalize the charge until near the end of the stay. So you can give them a personal card and once you’re in the room, call the business office and have them sort it out with the hotel before you check out.

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I've been doing what you want to do for a few years. My employer uses Concur, a major travel agency. When I book a hotel via Concur, they give the hotel a virtual credit card number. (They never trust me with that number!) When I check in, it usually just works. I can call the hotel before traveling to check that everything is set.

Exceptions would be very small hotels and special event rates, like conferences, that must be booked on the conference site. For those, I use my CC.

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    This doesn't answer the question, where the problem is that a physical card made of plastic is required. They already provide a "virtual credit card number" by filling in the form. Ignoring the problem by saying "it usually just works" is completely pointless. – Nij Dec 16 '17 at 2:14
  • You missed the major underlying requirement for the OP's question. While Concur seems to have some facilities for calculating different VAT taxes for invoicing purposes, it doesn't seem to have a tax-exemption checkbox for customers in the US using a government credit card. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 21 '17 at 5:31

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