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I made a reservation for a hotel using Booking.com and upon confirmation I was charged the amount for the price of the first night of stay plus tax. This was specified albeit in fine print, and I was curious if this is normal? Also, do hotels usually refund that first night pay if I happen to cancel my stay within the free cancellation period?

I was just curious because if I'm paying the amount for the first night and that's non-refundable, that's not exactly a "free cancellation." Regardless, perhaps I'm simply not knowledgeable regarding this. Thanks for any tips.

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It is not uncommon for a property to take a deposit at the time of booking, even if there is a free cancellation period.

If they don't do this, then they have no way of knowing that the credit card number provided for the reservation is valid (or will be valid at the time of the stay), and thus they potentially have no way to charge you fail to show up for the booking, or attempt to cancel after the cancellation deadline.

By taking a deposit at the time of booking, if you fail to show, or attempt to cancel after the cancellation date, then they already have your money so there's no way for you to skip out without paying!

Generally they will only take the charges for 1 night as the deposit, as that's normally what the late cancellation/no-show penalty is.

If you cancel your booking before the allowed cancellation date then they will issue you with a full refund shortly after you cancel.

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    They can also check your card by putting a reservation on it, either just a small amount or the full amount you are going to pay. I have several of those on my card at the moment. – Willeke Dec 25 '19 at 11:13
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    @Willeke Doing that confirms that the card is valid now, but not that it will still be valid at the time of the stay. The authorization will disappear within a week or so. – Doc Dec 25 '19 at 16:25
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Yes, if promised free cancelation you get free cancelation even when a part or the whole has already been paid.

They will return your money to you.

That being said, as they have your money, it will be harder to force your point if there is a problem.

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    That's only true if you pay them in cash. On a card, you can dispute the charge. I would fully expect hotels to try to not refund you, as that is free money if they succeed. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 25 '19 at 17:08
  • Booking.com has been known to repay you and claim it back from the hotel, but most stories I heard is that the hotels do pay you back when you do cancel after having paid, by card or in cash. Disputes should be saved for when they decline re-payment. – Willeke Dec 25 '19 at 19:39

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