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I tend to stay at smaller boutique hotels or local apartments when I visit a city but recently due to some credit card issues I will need to depend on prepaid Visa. But I noticed when I try to shop online a lot of retailers don't accept prepaid credit cards so I'm thinking hotels would be even stricter. Is there a list somewhere of countries or particular hotel chains than ban prepaid cards? If so, how does one book online or reserve a room without a card? Do all hotels worldwide accept cash?

  • Note that there are three possible kinds of charges - securing (holding) the room, security deposit and room+extras charges. These have different requirements in terms of cards / cash / etc – Gagravarr Aug 19 '14 at 4:55
  • An excellent question. 100% of hotels will accept cash for payment when you are finished, so that part is easy. I do not know if, generally, you can use a prepaid, for the reservation. Just as you say, prepaids often do not work in normal say online commerce situations, and you sometimes/often/maybe have trouble with rental cars – Fattie Aug 19 '14 at 10:04
  • @JoeBlow But when you check in can you pay the deposit in cash too? That's a large amount usually... – verve Aug 25 '14 at 18:47
  • That's a great question about the deposit. I just don't know. I fear you "often" need a card for the combined issue of reservation/deposit. – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 18:55
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    And it's worth noting that, let's say in Europe, surprisingly often they just 'completely trust you' when you checkin, and you don't have to pay at all until the morning. Particularly at smaller or family hotels. they just can't be bothered with the deposit/etc nuisance, and they can tell if you're the type that will "run off in the morning!" – Fattie Aug 26 '14 at 10:25
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TL;DR - Depends, on your pre-paid card, the hotel, and how you book the hotel.

There are a few different charges to consider here:

  1. Pre-payment of the room at/shortly after booking
  2. Holding the room on a flexible booking
  3. Deposit at checkin
  4. Room charge, meals, drinks, extras etc at checkout

With many OTAs and hotel websites, if you make a non flexible booking, or some kinds of flexible bookings, they will charge your card for the room rate during the booking process. With some others, they'll send your card details through to the hotel, who'll put it through their tills later. (Maybe that day, maybe during a weekly sweep). In order for this pre-payment to go through, your card will need to support offline / cardholder-not-present transactions. As long as your card advertises itself as "suitable for online shopping" or similar, and as long as the card issuer doesn't block travel booking, you should be fine. Speak to your card issuer to be sure.

Alternately, when reserving the room, you might opt for a flexible rate where you pay at checkout, with no pre-payment. This is typically offered on the hotel's own site, and some OTAs. They will normally ask for a credit card to "hold" the reservation, which would be charged in the event of a no-show, but as long as you turn up as planned the card won't be charged. These rates are normally a bit more expensive than non-flexible pre-paid ones, but this style of booking should be fine on any card.

At checkin, most hotels (but not all) will want to take some sort of deposit. Typically this covers any unpaid parts of the room rate, along with expected spend in the restaurant / bar / etc. The details taken would also be used in the event of damage. If you've pre-paid the room and don't plan to run up extras in the hotel, many hotels would let you not leave a deposit, but not all. Very small hotels may take a look at you, decide you look fine, and tell you to pay everything at checkout. Some hotels may want to take something no matter what.

For the deposit, this is normally done as a pre-authorisation. Not all pre-paid card support this, which would be a problem. Some pre-paid cards do support it, but badly, and might take a week or so to release the reserved funds, which could be a problem. Check with your card issuer about this. Alternately, many hotels which require a deposit will be willing to take a cash deposit, but they may well want a larger cash deposit than they'd normally authorise on a credit card. (They can't charge extras to the card later for example). Expect to leave a hefty chunk of cash as a deposit, expect checkin to take a while, expect several people to count the money, bills may be checked for counterfeits, and expect a receipt at the end. Speak with the hotel first to see if they need a deposit, and if they take cash ones. As a datapoint, I once got stuck in a checkin queue behind someone doing a cash deposit, he was asked to leave something like 4 nights room rate as a deposit on a 2 night stay.

Finally, we have settling up the bill at the end. If you pre-paid, and didn't eat there, you could well find there's nothing to pay, or just a few dollars / pounds / euros in city taxes. Alternately, if you didn't pre pay (or they didn't take it), ate in the restaurant lots etc, you could have a decent amount to pay here. You'll be present, so any card which supports in-person transactions will be fine for this. Well, as long as you have the money on it for the bill that is! If you did a cash deposit, you should get the choice between taking the bill off that and getting the remainder, or getting the whole deposit back in cash and paying on a card.

Oh, one more possibility - charges not noticed at checkout. Maybe you forgot to tell them about the minibar charges, maybe that morning's breakfast didn't go through, something like that. If you used a credit card for the deposit, expect them to charge it to that later when they notice. If you paid cash, expect to get a bill in the mail some time later.

Can it be done - sure! Can it be done at one specific hotel with one particular kind of pre-paid card on one specific rate booked one specific way? Depends...

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I did some research and could find some information about the standards of Hilton Hotel Chain. They are one of the leading hotel chains and might set the standards for smaller hotel chains.

Hilton offers also an American Express Prepaid credit card. See link: Hilton AMEX prepaid card. And you would expect that their own prepaid credit card would be acceptable for Hilton, but think again.

In their FAQ, they state:

Where can the Card be used? Are there any usage restrictions? THE CARD MAY ONLY BE USED AT THE FOLLOWING SELECT MERCHANTS AND RETAILERS AROUND THE WORLD THAT ACCEPT THE AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD ("SELECT MERCHANTS"):

Hilton Worldwide portfolio of brands, which include Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels and Resorts, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Doubletree by Hilton™, Embassy Suites by Hilton™, Hilton Garden Inn™, Hampton by Hilton™, Homewood Suites by Hilton™, Home2 Suites by Hilton™, and Hilton Grand Vacations™.

RESTRICTION: Card may not be used to hold hotel reservations.

We reserve the right at any time to add other merchants to the list of Select Merchants or to remove merchants that cease business, change locations or stop accepting the American Express Card from the list of Select Merchants.Please note that while the Card is usable at the Select Merchants listed above, it may not be usable internationally at non-affiliated third party establishments that are located within or on the same property as Select Merchants (e.g. coffee shops, boutiques).

I have checked many other hotel chains and I can't find anything else about this. I do notice based on the information on the internet that if a hotel would accept it, they would hold at a minimum the total amount of your stay + 15% + additional amount for minibar and other used services as a guarantee.

Some hotels would hold up to 3x the amount of your stay (I can't verify if that is really true). Just realize that a prepaid credit card is usually (not always) for people who have a bad credit record. Hotels take more protection when dealing with these kind of risks.

I'm not sure if the information will help, but at least you know Hilton Hotel is not an option.

  • I've seen people checking into Hilton hotels before with a large pile of cash for the deposit. I see no reason why you wouldn't be able to do that, then pay on a pre-paid credit card (+ get your deposit returned in cash if you wanted to) – Gagravarr Aug 27 '14 at 5:43

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