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When traveling to hotels in the United States, they frequently require that you show them your driver's license when you check in and then they make a copy of your driver's license. I recently read an article talking about how this is bad from an identity theft perspective (some unscrupulous hotel workers will steal a copy of your driver's license, give it to criminals who commit crimes, and then you get blamed since they show your driver's license to the police).

Is this practice of requiring hotel guests to give a copy of their driver's license true at all US hotels or just certain chains? Is there any national US hotel chain that does not make copies of visitor's driver's licenses?

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    I've stayed in hundreds of hotels in the US over the last few years and nobody has ever copied my ID. I frequently have to show an ID but it has never been taken from me. – Berwyn Jul 16 '16 at 21:34
  • @Berwyn which of course doesn't make it true for everyone else, just you. – CGCampbell Jul 16 '16 at 23:29
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    @CGCampbell The question didn't require knowledge or experience of every hotel in the US, but just required counter-examples sufficient to fully answer the question, which I provided. – Berwyn Jul 17 '16 at 4:34
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    @CGCampbell If you hold answers to that standard, then no question could ever be answered here. I too have checked in literally 100's of times and never been asked to copy my ID, which I would immediately refuse. – Johns-305 Aug 11 '16 at 18:48
  • It would be nice, however, if someone were to sample some actual hotel websites and come up with statements pro or con to this, instead of anecdotes. I would, but don't have the personal time to do it right now. it's not about "holding to a standard" as much as personal opinion vs actual fact. Which of course, points to this being too broad a question. I'll try to word a meta question about this (holding some answers to require facts (visas for instance) and allowing opinions on others. If the community decides we want to work this way, so be it.) – CGCampbell Aug 13 '16 at 17:49

11 Answers 11

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As Li Zhi said, showing an ID is for the protection of the hotel. Hotels are in a very risky business, that is, letting complete strangers stay in their rooms. Any said stranger could easily steal things, or destroy things.

As for why some hotels copy them: that's so they have proof who was in the room, should any legal need arise. When I worked at a hotel, we always had to look at the ID to take down basic information such as name and address. But, for cash paying customers, we also had to get a copy of their ID. The reason we only did it for cash paying customer was because if they stole or destroyed something, we couldn't just charge them after they left. Whereas, with a credit-card, we could bill after the customer checks out.

As for whether or not it's common practice: depends on the hotel. Most hotels are franchise locations. That's why you will find a lot of differences between how things are managed from hotel to hotel, even if they're the same brand. It's up to the franchise owner to determine policies for things like copying IDs. Because of that, saying things like, "When I stayed at [Hotel] in [Other City], they didn't do [X]" is pointless, because it's a different owner.

I will also re-affirm as others have stated that a passport also works, if you're from out of the country. If you hand them a US passport, they most likely will not take it, as that just seems really sketchy (like you're planning something, and thus don't want to give them your full information).

Touching on the identity theft part, it's all basic or useless information that is kept. For the one I worked at, we kept:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Birthdate
  • Issue Date
  • ID Number
  • Gender

Also, making fake IDs is very difficult, there are several layers of security built in to the ID itself that help to prevent fake copies. I will say that if you're worried about the paper copy (some states issue a paper version before the card version), then it is illegal to copy the ID at its original size. They should blow it up if they copy it.

So, in summary: yes, it's common, but it's also hotel dependent. It may also depend on how you pay whether or not they will take a photocopy of your ID.

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    why would a passport contain less information than a driver's license? In most countries it's the other way around... – jwenting Sep 12 '17 at 8:21
  • @jwenting In the US, you (usually) get the bulleted information (states may differ). On most passports I saw, there was typically a name, an issue date, and a number. My memory is a bit foggy at this point though, as I've been out of the business for two years. But normally, most of the fields were left blank. – David Sep 12 '17 at 13:01
  • @David A passport will definitely have the birthdate and gender. It probably won't have an address though. I have used a US passport when checking in many times and never had an issue with that, though I was definitely paying with a credit card. – jcaron Aug 5 at 10:07
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I have never been allowed to check into a hotel in the US without showing ID. I assume they record it. There is nothing on a driver's license that wouldn't be available from public records easily except the driver's license number itself, which is useless from an identity-theft point of view.

  • This is what I have seen as well. If a chain simply takes your credit card, without verifying who you are, they open themselves to too much possible litigation. Would be nice to get some chain policies, however. – CGCampbell Aug 13 '16 at 17:50
3

You can use other forms of ID if you prefer, but the hotel typically wants a recorded proof of who you are (with many rooms being prepaid, this is understandable); and sometimes it's even legally required.

As mentioned, there is nothing on a Driver's License that would not be public information and legally available to anyone, if someone cares to dig for it.

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Showing ID is to protect the Hotel/Motel from theft (or perhaps other criminal activity). I have been asked for ID, and very, very rarely has the ID been copied. A passport should do the same job, and that's not an identity theft issue, is it? I don't see the identity theft issue with a driver's license, but perhaps it's widely used in your country. If you're paying by check, then getting ID'd is very common, expect it. And if your bill is going to be many hundreds of dollars, then they're more likely to copy an ID for their files.( Almost all require a credit card (or substantial cash deposit), whether you're paying by check or not. ) I believe you're more likely to be subject to greater scrutiny if you don't have a reservation, are young, or don't have a car. You should call the chains since I don't know if ANY of them have one single policy - I'd guess it depends on the LOCAL manager's experience (and paranoia) as well as the local frequency of problems (for instance a motel in a college town or near a military base). You should ask when you call their 800 number (toll free).

3

I have checked into every major chain in the US and abroad and never been asked to copy any ID. So, no, this is not policy at the major chains. Independent hoteliers may be different.

I would consider that a very suspicious request and immediately refuse. If it is a major chain, I would call their membership line an report it too.

However, there are legitimate reasons to ask to verity id such as:

  • Verify they are giving the room to the right person
  • Verify you qualify for certain discounts based on age, residency or other
  • Verify you are over 21 in case the room is equipped with a mini-bar
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    Really? What is there on your driver's license (or State issued photo ID) that isn't already public information (or looking at it another way, what on an ID is PII and required to have special handling?) For Virginia, the answer is nothing. (I know this, as I am legally required to deal with PII for my job.) – CGCampbell Aug 13 '16 at 17:54
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Some of the answers here are irresponsible. Guard your information closely. I read an answer that states the following:

Touching on the identity theft part, it's all basic or useless information that is kept. For the one I worked at, we kept: Name Address Birthdate Issue Date ID Number Gender

This is irresponsible information... and dangerous. While it's true most of it is useless alone, together that information is a goldmine! I always get asked for my ID when checking into hotels, but they have always just glanced and made sure the name matched up. A couple of days ago, an employee placed it behind the counter and asked me if the number on the front was the ID number. I said yes and asked why... she said she was typing it into her system. I told her absolutely not; I want it deleted and I want my ID back. She said it was fine and gave it back.

I have had my identity stolen THREE times. I won't go into why I think I've been a victim three times... oy. That said, the first time I had an NCIC warrant for my arrest. The second time I had a warrant and a hit and run charge... oh, and a false auto claim because of it. In addition to opening credit cards, pawning stolen items at pawn shops, trashing hotel rooms rented with my name, etc., they had a DL with ALL of my information excluding the photo, which was actually the criminal who had gone so far as to dye her hair to match mine.

Be careful about what you give out. Sometimes one key piece of information is all they need; it's just a giant puzzle and a smart criminal can easily put it together, one by one... especially these days. It's really quite simple.

  • It is quite common for IDs and Passports to be copied in hotels all over Europe. Yet identity theft is not such a big issue here. Why is it in the US? – Krist van Besien Aug 5 at 5:07
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As someone who has managed several inns, I will say that:

  1. I want to know who is renting the room.
  2. I want to know that the person renting the room is the one on the credit card used to pay for the room, in case there is a dispute.
  3. I want guests to be deterred from renting a room for other people who may not have an ID.
  4. In many areas, local ordinances REQUIRE the hotel to obtain and keep a copy of a state issued ID for the person renting the room. In some cities, these ordinances also require an ID for each adult that will be staying in the room. This would be the case in cities that are trying to combat and clean up drug dealing and drug use at hotels located in areas known to be drug infested.
  5. Lastly many hotels are equipped with ID scanners or readers that make the check in process quicker by taking the guests name and address information off the ID and automatically inserting it into the hotel's computer system. It saves us from having to type in the information manually and also avoids spelling and other errors. Just makes life easier when we have several people in line waiting to be checked in.

99% of the time, this (#5) is the real reason hotels prefer and ask for the driver's license or state issued ID, rather than a passport or military ID. We're just lazy and would rather let the computer get the guest info from the ID rather than take the two minutes to type it in manually!

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I had to show my ID card at the Bowery Grand Hotel in New York, but they did not copy it.

At the Hotel Antonio in LA, I don't remember whether I had to show my ID. I think I only presented my debit card. They definitely did not make any copies.

In Chicago the hotel (don't remember the name) also required my ID, but did not copy it.

I assume requesting and possibly copying identity documents of guests is to facilitate investigations in case the guest does something they're not supposed to do.

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Hotels that want to photocopy your driver's license are usually lower quality ones that may have customers that are financially not reliable.

For example, I have never been asked to hand over my license for photocopying at Hampton Inn. But sometimes in Ramada. Days Inn, etc. have asked to photocopy the drivers license. They always have an excuse and explanation why they want to photocopy. But I think mostly they are paranoid that someone would turn out to be a criminal and may cause a problem.

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Hampton Inn at Cortez will photocopy drivers license and credit card when you check in and offers no reason as to why they do it. They will do that even if your on official federal government business and present a federal ID.

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Many lower tier hotels insist on photocopying the driver's license. This is especially true if they have many customers they might suspect of theft, etc. They photocopy everybody's driver's licence. If one can get hold of a social security number in addition to information available on a driver license then he will have just about everything for identity theft.

  • not sure about a US driver's license (and it would likely differ per state anyway) but mine includes the equivalent of a SSN. – jwenting Sep 12 '17 at 8:23

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