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Why would a hostel I book through HostelWorld want my credit card's security code (on the back)?

Are they going to use this to charge their own deposit and essentially mess around with bookings instead of letting HostelWorld manage it?

They say the reservation won't be saved unless you give this information, that's pretty poor for a hostel to use a website like HostelWorld and simply 'disrespect' any booking made via it.

You will need to send on our email the security code (CVV/CVC) of the card you used when booking in order to fully secure your booking, failure to do so may result in you losing your reservation.

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    I'd definitely bring it up with Hostelworld, since their website says that by booking through them Your booking 100% confirmed, so a hostel should not require a separate card number to hold the reservation that was already booked through Hostelworld (and presumably you paid a deposit for the reservations). – Johnny Sep 3 '15 at 3:26
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    Update @Johnny . I brought it up and HostelWorld simply said, 'yeah they say they do that, so they can do that.' wtf... So essentially if a hostel says that one line, they can completely negate any deposit I put down or any benefit of booking through HostelWorld... – insidesin Sep 7 '15 at 14:44
  • NEVER SEND ANY CREDIT CARD INFO OVER EMAIL. Sending emails is like sending a post card. There's nothing to prevent anyone from reading it on the way to its destination. – Andy Apr 7 '16 at 22:51
  • That could be a phishing email. I used my credit card with hostelworld before and since then there were fraud orders going through. My bank alerted me, I canceled the card for fraud. Be careful with hostels! – pbu Apr 9 '16 at 13:01
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+50

I had this same issue with a hostel in the UK. I pressed the hostel for an explanation, and also found a forum thread of hostel managers discussing this policy. Both gave the same explanation.

From their point of view, it was so they could take the money out my account if I didn't show up. They said they do it only in busy periods when they know they'll be full, so they don't lose money turning customers away only to find the booked customers don't show up.

But don't do it!

Even if you trust this hostel not to deliberately rip you off, you're putting all the credit card information someone would need to commit credit card fraud, unsecured, unencrypted, stored on (if you're lucky) a knackered old laptop sitting in a reception, or (if you're unlucky) in a pile of paper printouts left lying around unattended while the sole staffer that shift fixes some emergency. It would be shockingly easy for a criminal, or even just a random opportunist like a disgruntled hostel staffer, local computer repair guy or guest, to obtain enough information to clone your card or raid your account.

I refused - and instead agreed to pay part (60% if I remember right) of the bill up front via PayPal. This safely resolved their no-show concern and, while not ideal, it secured the accommodation I wanted when everywhere else was full. It's not super uncommon for busy places to insist on upfront payment - my only unhappiness with this was that it seems dishonest that this hadn't been apparent at the time I made the booking, and that they didn't respect the deposit I'd already paid.


HostelWorld give some card details like card number, name, etc to the hostel, but (for good reason) not enough for the hostel to simply take a debit using a standard card machine.

A common, expensive problem for hostel owners is people booking in busy periods then not showing up, leaving rooms and beds empty that could be full. Also (apparently) the deposit you pay to HostelWorld stays at HostelWorld as their fee, so in the event of a no-show, the hostel itself gets nothing, not even a deposit (I only have one hostel's word on this).

This is a crude, low-tech, possibly illegal and certainly non-PCI-compliant workaround.

Here's a thread on a hostel-manager forum where they discuss it alongside other ways of dealing with no-shows from HostelWorld and hostelbookers. Somebody rightly points out it:

may breach your T&C's with your card provider, as well as not being PCI compliant!

...but it appears to be moderately popular none-the-less...

It's unlikely that the hostel itself would scam people (but possible), as hostels live and die on their reputation (except well-located tourist traps where all bets are off including "will I wake up with all my luggage and both kidneys"), but still, I'd strongly recommend not complying because:

  1. Your full credit card info will be sitting unencrypted on a computer system not set up to safely store credit card information. They might even be in a pile of printed emails sitting on a table, for all you know. For an online shop to accept and store credit card details, it needs to pass tough checks on its server security (PCI compliance) or face a heavy fine. Plain text in an email would definitely fail those checks.
  2. Even if you trust the hostel, you don't know that you can trust everyone who uses the hostel computer. The hostel owner might be legit (albeit ignorant/reckless with their guest's credit cards), but it'd just take one disgruntled underpaid receptionist, or one dodgy local computer repair person, or one guest who convinces the receptionist that they "urgently" must use the hostel computer for 5 minutes, or one tech-savvy guest or neighbour (email is not secure)...

Since the motivation is usually all about the hostel protecting itself from no-shows, you should be able to negotiate a compromise where you some of the fee up front.

If they won't, stay somewhere else: they either have more sinister reasons, or are not sufficiently tech-literate to receive money by PayPal (therefore definitely can't be trusted to keep your card details secure!).


Here's some excerts from my email exchange to give you an example:

Them:

Thanks for booking with us !

During busy periods we pre authorise credit cards in order to cover your booking fee should you not arrive I'm afraid were not able to complete pre authorisation. In order to do this we need your CVC number that unfortunately was not provided when you made the booking.

In order for us to guarantee your reservation please contact us immediately

Me: (paraphrasing) hell no, I've never been asked this before, I'm not putting my card details in an email, and you've already got my deposit. Play nicely or I'll claim a refund on the deposit, book elsewhere and report you to HostelWorld for attempted credit card fraud. (but worded more politely)

Them:

We do not receive deposit . £8.64 was paid already and it is a Hostelworld.com fee. In our Terms and Conditions is stated ,that we do pre -authorization and in order to do that,we need CVC number.

There is option to pay in advance by paypal instead of pre - authorization.

Buried in their terms and conditions:

Pre-Authorisation Policy

The pre-authorisation is not a charge and no funds have been debited from your account.

Why is the credit card pre-authorised? When you give us a credit/debit card, the pre-authorisation guarantees us that the funds are available to pay for any charges incurred.

How much is a pre-authorisation? The amount that we pre-authorise will depend on the value of your booking and the booking channel you used to book your reservation

When is the card pre-authorised? All credit or debit cards are pre-authorised within 24/48 hours of you making your reservation... HSBC Merchant Services are responsible for the maintenance and management of the pre-authorisation process.

I didn't want my card details sitting unsecured in their emails etc, and by this point everywhere else was booked up, so I paid upfront by PayPal instead, which worked fine with no issues.

  • HostelWorld charges a 15% deposit. This 15% deposit goes to HostelWorld, but what happens when I arrive at the hostel, I'm not going to pay the 100% am I and never see that deposit again? (It's not a fee is it?) Thank you so much @user568458 for your feedback!!! There's no way they're getting any money from me until I arrive, if that means they can't guarantee my booking, then I'll book somewhere else. – insidesin Sep 4 '15 at 15:41
  • The place I stayed, there was some weird compromise policy, something like, I paid 15% to HW, 60% upfront by paypal, then the remaining 25% when I arrived... Quirky, but better than risking card fraud or being homeless! – user568458 Sep 4 '15 at 15:48
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    But not that good if you wanted to change plans.. :s Which is a nasty move sure, but shouldn't cost you 75% of the booking. – insidesin Sep 4 '15 at 16:09
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    @user568458 +1 for ignorance of the hostel. I worked in a hostel and hundreds (if not thousands) of credit card details were stored, unencrypted in the very unreliable hostel laptop. They just have no clue what they are doing. – Adrien Be Sep 5 '15 at 0:50
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    They do? I've never once had a hotel ask for a CVV code. Certainly not by email. – user568458 Sep 10 '15 at 9:57
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Giving out your security code via a non secure connection is a very bad idea. By doing this you essentially turn your bank account into a self-service account.

Storing the CVV code in any form is against the PCI DSS Requirements (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), and by sending it via email it will be stored on someones computer which might not be secure, has a key logger installed, has some unpatched bugs in the OS exploited by malware or is shared between multiple people. If it's a hostel then quite often they have other backpackers handling the reception part time, who are up and away after a few weeks. How do you know they are not taking a copy of the card details with them?

The CVV is your proof that you are in possession of the card, because no online dealer is allowed to store the CVV in any form. That's why all online dealers who get this right will ask you for your CVV number when you do another transaction with them, even if you clicked "store my payment details" before.

Without the security code all leaked credit card number lists on the internet are useless, because every time you want to make an transaction you will be asked for the CVV (except for recurring payments).

TL;DR: find another hostel, otherwise you are just giving out full access to your bank account.

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    Yeah I did. HostelWorld kept saying 'no they are correct, they can do this.' then following up with 'yes your booking is guaranteed.' so essentially contradicting themselves. It was a nice hostel, but not nice enough to destroy myself over it. What a stupid 'policy' being backed up by HostelWorld too! What.. – insidesin Sep 9 '15 at 8:17
  • Plenty of stores let you order without asking for the CVV code repeatedly, including Amazon. – JonathanReez Sep 10 '15 at 9:30
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    @JonathanReez There are different levels of compliance. It's a while since I worked on this but I remember at least three levels: a low level for mom&pop stores that don't store any CC data and just use PayPal / Braintree / Stripe etc; an average level for medium sized businesses whose servers store everything except CVV (I think this requires annual audits?), then a super-high level for storing CVV etc for instant payments, where the security standards are so strict you need a full time team to keep up with it. X random hostel does not have a professional Amazon-level data security team! – user568458 Sep 10 '15 at 10:16
  • @JonathanReez As far as i know a merchant is allowed to make recurring payments (such as monthly payments, subscriptions etc.) without asking you for the CVV number, but not for one-time transactions. At the company I was working for at the time, we would not get any transaction approved from the bank/payment provider without having the correct CVV number with each transaction. – iHaveacomputer Sep 11 '15 at 2:38
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There is no legitimate reason why the hostel should ask this. What is going on here is that charging the credit card without CVC code will incur more costs for the hostel. These costs could be lower if the hostel has a good record. Presumably the hostel has yet to prove that the way they conduct their business is secure enough for the credit card company they deal with to lower the costs for card not present transactions without CVC code.

protected by Community Apr 9 '16 at 5:18

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