Every time I check out of a hotel, they ask me if my stay went fine, let me review my incidental charges and ask if they should charge the credit card used to check in.

But what if I simply walk out of the hotel without formally "checking out"? They have my credit card on file and these days you don't even have to return your room key if you want to keep a souvenir. Would it be rude and create more work for hotel employees?

The question arose after spending 15 minutes in the check out queue at a major US hotel.

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    More than 50% of my check outs are silent check outs, I simply leave but I usually settle the bills a day before.. Can't remember if I done this in the US but most likely I did. However, do not forget to throw the keys in that box 😂 – Nean Der Thal Aug 12 at 0:43
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    This is a completely common way to check out of a hotel. There's nothing unusual about just leaving. Most of the time, there's a drop box for card keys in the lobby if you didn't just leave them in the room. And I don't think I've ever been charged for not returning a card key, happens all the time. – James Moore Aug 12 at 23:39
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    I stayed in a hotel recently that had completely abolished the checkout, with bills sent after the stay by email only (on request). – gerrit Aug 13 at 9:12
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    @gerrit The entire Hilton chain is like this. My checkout involves dropping off the keys at the front desk on the way out. As a courtesy, I give them my room number so they can have housekeeping clean it sooner, but if they're busy, I don't worry about it. – Jim MacKenzie Aug 13 at 20:33
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    Depends -- how many pillows are you stealing? – Hot Licks Aug 14 at 14:11
up vote 53 down vote accepted

I've been traveling a lot for work lately, and I don't want to waste any time in the morning standing in line at check out. In the morning, I'll just drop my key with the little paper holder that has my room number at the front desk, say "bye" and walk out. No need to wait for "checkout".

I think it's polite to at least tell them you are leaving so that the hotel staff can start cleaning and be ready for the next guest, but if you don't need a receipt, then you shouldn't have to wait in line. Once or twice I've accidentally left the key in the room on my way out, and then just tell the front desk clerk, "I was in room XXX and I'm leaving, I left the key on the dresser".

US Hotels always make you pay in advance when you check in. If you ask they can even print out a receipt for you at that time. They do have your card on file and would add any incidental charges if needed, but I don't ever have anything to add (pay per view, room service, stolen or damaged property, etc).

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    In many hotels the keys are just cheap RFID or magnetic stripe cards and they won't care even if you don't return them. However, it is courteous to leave them in the room so that they can be reprogrammed and reused. – Sourav Aug 12 at 18:47
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    @MarkDanielJohansen They really don't care. Those things cost a few cents. The hotel I work for has thousands sitting in boxes. – Belle-Sophie Aug 13 at 7:19
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    If the hotel accepts the cards back AND if they re-write cards instead of trashing them, then it's greener and produces less landfill to return the cards, all costs aside. – user79075 Aug 13 at 12:45
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    @user79075 unless of course you collect room keys as souvenirs. – JonathanReez Aug 13 at 13:13
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    @progo I am not talking about cleaning between guests but about everyday towel changing when a guest is staying for 3 weeks. – Sulthan Aug 14 at 10:42

At many hotels, particularly those affiliated with major chains, it's perfectly fine. It's common for such hotels to leave a copy of your bill under your door sometime during your last night (they'll later add any charges you incur in the morning, of course) with a note that you can simply accept the charges to your card on file by leaving. There's usually a box by the front desk to drop off the keys so they can be reused. In some cases, there's an option to "check out" on the TV's interactive menu or the phone system, which lets them know you're done with the room. Many hotels now can simply email you a copy of the bill as well.

For example, this express check-out feature is expressly stated as a member benefit of Hilton's rewards program.

If your hotel doesn't offer an express checkout scheme, I would find it rude to leave without checking out, yes. They need to know when you're out of the room for housekeeping purposes. If you just disappear, the staff may take extra time to contact you with a copy of your bill. And while I've never had it happen to me, it's always possible some hotel manager will accuse you of staying past check-out time because you never checked out, and that's a bunch of trouble you don't want.

If you aren't sure about a particular hotel's policy, you can always ask when it's not busy. Even if the hotel doesn't have a formal express checkout policy, when I've known I'd want to leave in a hurry in the morning, I've asked to "settle the bill" the night before, and they've arranged things to expedite my departure.

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    you can always ask during check in what the easiest way to check out is. – ratchet freak Aug 12 at 12:53
  • Yes. In the absence of an "express check-out" policy, I'd worry that the hotel would say that as I didn't check out, they assumed I stayed passed check out time and charge me for another day. From the hotel's point of view, they want to know when you left so they can clean the room for the next guest. – Mark Daniel Johansen Aug 13 at 5:58
  • In the last 10 years or so of US hotel stays, I've found the bill under the door nearly 100% of the time, so I'd agree with this completely. – FreeMan Aug 13 at 13:55

Housekeeping reports back to the main desk when a room is empty (back in the 80s when I was a desk clerk there was an automated system using the room phone), and it gets rented again. Whether or not you checked out isn't actually the trigger. Checking out puts the room on the cleaning list, it doesn't put the room on the rent-me list.

And in the mornings, by the time there's a queue at the desk for checkout (usually populated by tourists who rarely travel, not business travelers), housekeeping is working at full capacity, so actually checking out doesn't really matter. If you're checking out very early, then they'll probably clean the room early too, but then there's a clerk at the desk with no other guests to deal with.

At the hotel I worked at, the key point was around 3pm; housekeeping was finishing up, and then they'd have to check the rooms that were scheduled to check out that day, but housekeeping had reported occupied + cleaned before checkout time. If they were empty, they got a fresh clean (pretty cursory) and then went on the rent-me list. (The only time you'd get charged for a late checkout was if you actually checked out at the front desk after checkout time. If you just left, we'd never know.)

You will simply get charged the pre-agreed amounts on the credit card you gave them when booking.

Many frequent-travellers don't check in or out - you get your electronic room key in the app, and just leave when you are done. All major chains support something similar; I haven't visited any check-in/out desk for years.

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    Of the major chains, I believe only Hilton does a digital checkin key. – Ankur Banerjee Aug 12 at 18:30
  • @AnkurBanerjee Some Starwood hotels have this feature now, but... I've never actually gotten it to work on my phone :\ – hairboat Aug 13 at 18:43
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    @hairboat the Hilton one is a bit flakey too. I'm only running about 60% success. Sometimes I can just show up, already have a room and an ekey and not even stop at the front desk. At other times, I have to do the whole checkin dance like always (my online checkins are sometimes ignored). – Jim MacKenzie Aug 13 at 20:36

One advantage of checking out at the counter is that it gives you an opportunity to receive a paper invoice and verify on the spot that the amount charged by the hotel corresponds to what you were supposed to pay. Mistakes do happen -- once a hotel had added a $50 "valet parking" charge even though I don't own a car...

Probably it is still possible to dispute such charges after you have left the hotel and they have charged you for the stay, but this is more complicated than fixing the error at checkout -- especially if you live abroad in a country where you can't easily dispute credit card charges.

  • Another popular one is a "safe fee" that is apparently for using the in-room safe, if provided? They add it by default but they'll remove it if you just ask them to. – Nate Eldredge Aug 13 at 20:28

This practice is very common in the US, since a credit card is taken at registration. However, I have family members who, accustomed to US practices, attempted to pay at registration at a hotel in Scotland. They were not allowed to do this; they then forgot to checkout the next morning. They spent a night in jail in Scotland before things were sorted out!

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