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I used my debit card to book a hotel. Then I received a confirmation but I wasn't charged as well. Will I be charged on the day of check in?

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Short answer: It depends. Read your booking confirmation or ask the booking agent/hotel.

Long answer: Different hotels have all sorts of different policies. Here are some common scenarios:

  • Pay on check-out (traditional)

    • You settle your hotel bills when checking out
    • You may be charged a deposit at booking or check-in (or any time in between)
    • The hotel may open an authorisation (but not actually charge) your card, either for the cost of your stay or some other amount (the latter is analogous to a security deposit) at (or just before) check in
  • Pay on check-in (hostels, some hotels)

    • You settle your hotel fees when you check in. The full charge is made to your card at that point. Other fees (e.g. meals, minibar, etc.) will be charged either at time of use or settled at check-out
    • In addition, as above, the hotel may charge a deposit to your card at booking or any time before check in. This will be subtracted from the fees you settle at check in.
    • In addition, the hotel may open an authorisation on your card as a security deposit
  • Pay in advance (cheap online deals, cheaper chains such as Travelodge)

    • The full cost of your stay (including pre-booked extras, excluding unbooked extras) is charged to your card in advance
    • Typically the charge is made at time of booking, but can be made anytime between booking and check-in
    • You may be required to present this card at check-in, to reduce the risk of card fraud
    • Fees for, e.g., meals that weren't pre-booked will be settled either at the time of use or at check-out
    • The hotel may open an authorisation against your card as a security deposit

The exact details will vary from hotel to hotel, rate to rate and booking site to booking site. Many sites, such as booking.com do not (always) process payments, and you will pay the hotel directly. Other act more like traditional travel agents and you will pay the site, who will pay the hotel.

Sometimes (as seems to be the case with you) you'll book a cheap advanced-payment rate, but don't actually get charged until check-in or check out - you'll still be on the hook for a no-show, though. And be aware they could charge you at any time between booking and check in, in this case.

Also, just because a booking is pay at check-in or check-out, doesn't mean it can be cancelled without penalty.

  • Good answer, +1, (one small point, did you intent to say, in pay in advance, second bullet point, between check in... or booking.) – Willeke Feb 18 '18 at 19:12
  • Great answer! The note about a security deposit is especially important. Many people will use a credit card, as opposed to a debit card, for hotels, to avoid having their own money blocked for some time (holds can take days to release). – Zach Lipton Feb 18 '18 at 19:30

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