the hotel for a job interview was charged to my credit card — without my authorization

A reader writes:

In mid-September, I was contacted by a defense contractor to come in for a job interview the first week of October. The company’s travel agency sent me email of the hotel reservations at the end of September. The email stated that the hotel room and taxes would be direct billed to the company. Also, the company’s policy states that the hotel will be direct billed to the company.

On check-in, I confirmed that my credit card was to cover incidentals, not the hotel room and tax. The front desk people told me that there was a note to direct bill the company. I had ordered room service for breakfast since I had to check out around 6:30 AM. The bill, that is slipped under the door overnight, showed the hotel room but not the room service was charged to my credit card. I contacted the front desk about the error before I checked out. They corrected the hotel room error because of the direct billing. On check-out, I received a new final bill at the front desk which showed only the room service charge billed to my credit card.

A week later I found out that a separate charge for the hotel room and taxes were charged to my credit card. I’ve contacted my credit card to dispute the charge. I also contacted the company that I interviewed with about the problem. The company’s representative for the reimbursement of the travel expenses said that there must have been a misunderstanding and she would look into it. The hotel is claiming that the travel agency for the company did not set-up the reservation as a direct bill through the hotel’s accounts payable.

At the end of October, three weeks after the interview, I emailed the company to find out the status. No response. It is now a month after the interview, I have not received any response from the company. My credit card company has asked the hotel for a copy of the bill. And they asked me to contact the company for proof that they paid the bill. The hotel is telling my credit card company that it will take up to 30 days to get a copy of the bill to them.

Any suggestions on resolving this issue? Also, how can I prevent something like this in the future?

Before you assume the worst — that the employer is trying to get out of a bill that they seem to have intended to pay — first assume a simple mistake. And continue assuming a simple mistake (or ineptness or slowness) until you really have evidence that it’s something more than that. But right now, all you have is one email that wasn’t returned, and there can be all kinds of reasons for that — from it accidentally getting overlooked to someone being out of the office.

That means that you should just assume they need a reminder, and you should contact them again. Forward that email that you sent three weeks ago back to the person you’re dealing with and say, “I haven’t heard back about this and I’m still being billed for the charge. What can we do to get it fixed?”  Cc the email to the person you interviewed with.

Then, wait a week. If you still haven’t heard back at that point, pick up the phone and call your interviewer and ask for their assistance in getting it resolved, and/or call the person you’re dealing with directly. At that point, you might point out that the simplest way for them to fix this would be for them to simply cut you a reimbursement check, rather than messing around with the hotel and the credit card company, and request that they do that.

Yes, it’s a pain that you have to follow up on this and they didn’t take care of it as soon as you told them what happened. But it’s far, far more likely to be ineptness or oversight than anything more troubling.

As for what to do to prevent it in the future … I don’t think it’s that kind of thing. They told you they’d have it direct-billed to them, the hotel confirmed that it was set up that way, and then something went awry. Sometimes mistakes happen, but I don’t think there was anything you could have done to ward this off or that it requires doing anything differently in the future.

{ 62 comments… read them below }

  1. FD*

    When you say “the hotel says”, did you talk to a desk clerk or to a manager? Because front desk clerks are usually entry-level positions, you can really get a wide range from utterly incompetent to very good.

    If you haven’t spoken to a manager at the hotel, I would suggest trying that. If the company did send the direct bill form to the hotel (which I would think they did, based on what the clerk who checked you in said), it may be a pretty simple fix–I know I could do it in about two minutes tops once I had located the form. If the person you called at the hotel was a manager, then Alison’s advice is best.

    I know you are probably pretty angry right now, but if you do call the hotel, try to be as calm as possible. I would suggest something like this:

    “I’m calling in regards to the charges that were put on my credit card on [DATE]. Now, when I checked in, I was told that the company had sent the direct bill information to the hotel, and I was told that my credit card was for incidentals only. When I checked out, however, I was charged for the room. The company assured me that they were paying for the room, so I’d like to see what we can do about getting this taken care of.”

  2. Nonprofit Office Manager*

    Oh boy. This kind of thing has happened to me before. Several times, actually. Twice a year, our staff travels to the Bay Area for staff “retreats” (really, these retreats are just incredibly long meetings, but I digress). As the Office Manager, I am in charge of arranging hotel rooms, etc. Despite always faxing over credit card authorization forms in advance and repeatedly reminding the hotel sales coordinator that the nonprofit will be paying for the hotel rooms, there is almost always confusion at the front desk. Typically it’s “there’s no note in your file about that.” So for the past several staff retreats, I have printed out emails between myself and the sales coordinator that clearly spell out the payment arrangement. Then, when I get the inevitable blank stares from the front desk, I just whip out the emails. “Here. Here’s the note for your file.”

  3. Barbara in Swampeast*

    It’s probably the hotel’s fault. It’s just easier for them to charge your card. Have you tried asking for reimbursement from the company you interviewed with?

    Bad weather forced a commuter plane I was on back to where we started. The airline put me up in a hotel and silly me gave them my credit card for “incidentals.” Yep, I got charged for the room. I called the hotel and was told someone would call me back. No one did. I called the airline and they cut me a check because they had had so much trouble with that hotel.

  4. Ivy*

    “On check-out, I received a new final bill at the front desk which showed only the room service charge billed to my credit card.”

    Why isn’t that enough to settle the dispute? You have a hotel invoice that shows the correct charge

  5. Sara M*

    Definitely email the company and assume it’s a mistake.

    I have booked rooms for a convention before. 75% of the time, the hotel screws it up, and if the guest provides their own credit card, that’s what gets charged no matter what else we try to do. :P

    It’s slightly amazing actually.

    And, sorting out stuff like this is harder than it looks, on the company’s side–but that’s not your problem, or at least it shouldn’t be. Email the company and get this straightened out. Be gentle and persistent.

    1. Nonprofit Office Manager*

      Does anyone know why hotels so frequently screw up in this regard? I’m genuinely curious. Like Sara M, I’ve dealt with my fair share of payment mix-ups, often at hotels that are otherwise competent. These mistakes are so rampant, I’m inclined to believe that the crux of it relates to faulty procedures, rather than incompetent people.

      1. TL*

        The worst part is it’s really hard to not give them your card – my friend got into a 30 minute argument at 3 a.m. during a conference with the hotel because the conference providers and the hotel had assured her that she didn’t have to provide a credit card and when she got there, they said they had to put a $600 hold on her card!

        1. Sara M*

          It happens because there are too many people involved at the hotel’s end to fix something like this. So yes, faulty procedure perhaps, but it might help prevent fraud if the hotel requires a lot of people involved. On that point I don’t know.

        2. FD*

          Most hotels have to ask for a card for incidentals because companies will normally pay for the room and tax but generally not any damages, etc. that the guest incurs. In our state, if you’re providing a card for incidentals, the hold can be up to 15% of the expected total room bill.

          1. TL*

            It was the entire cost of the room on hers – and her coworker didn’t have $600 left on his credit card. It was quite a mess.

        3. Threeohfive*

          $600 hold is not uncommon. Most higher end hotels authorize $200 per day for incidentals. Even if your room/tax is paid by a third party, hotels will authorize your card. The hold is released a few days later.

          1. fposte*

            I think we’re also talking about a debit card rather than a credit card there–they’re particularly vulnerable on the holds.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I think they do it on purpose. It’s just too easy to take a payment on a card like that because it’s such a hassle to reimburse it, and many people don’t look at the bill–they just pay it.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It is rampant! Even at luxury hotels where they allegedly value great customer service. I wrote an epic complaint letter to the Mandarin Oriental last year after a weekend stay there was filled with so many problems that it became comical, from being charged twice for things to having unsolicited free food sent to our room after pointing out a different problem and then getting charged for that “complimentary” apology food when we checked out, and oh so much more.

        (Although in response to the letter, they gave us a free 2-night in a ridiculously fancy suite with everything comped, and that is in fact where and when my now-husband proposed. So there’s that. Of course, that means our marriage is on some level rooted in an epic complaint letter.)

        1. Josh S*

          “Of course, that means our marriage is on some level rooted in an epic complaint letter.”

          This seems fitting for the site, somehow. :)

        2. Karyn*

          I feel your husband’s proposal and the start of your marriage is hilariously appropriate in relation to the contents of this blog, and will make a great story for friends and family years down the road! ;)

        3. Jessa*

          Still at the level of that hotel you should have been able to pick up a phone, call someone at a high enough level to deal (Manager, Lead Concierge,) and get it fixed. It’s crazy. It’s not perfection that makes a great hotel, it’s all in what they do when they screw it up. Because humans work at hotels.

        4. Anonymous*

          Love this story! Here’s my advice for dealing with a situation where you are not hearing back, such as the hotel mistake, or even something you need from a semi-regular vendor, customer, coworker, etc. Once you talk to a person who seems as though they are willing to help and/or smart, get his/her name and direct line if at all possible. For ‘regulars’ you already know this. Then, at a set time each day, week, or month, depending on how urgent it is, you call. I like 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. And you say the same thing. “Hi, this is Wendy, and I’m following up on that claim we talked about last week. Have you had a chance to look into it? I’m re-sending the email with the original problem and account number for your convenience. Hope to hear from you soon!”
          This will almost always make that person EVENTUALLY say to themselves, on Monday afternoon, or Tuesday at 9:00, “Wendy is going to call here at 10 a.m. and bug me or leave a voicemail that will make me feel guilty. I’d better look into her problem and get it over with.” For most people, it’s just being too busy or disorganized, not malice.

          And, if you have to go over their heads, you have records of regular, cheerful correspondence trying to get it straightened out.

      4. FD*

        Generally speaking, it’s a combination of hotel systems written by programmers with absolutely no experience of actually working in the hotel industry, people who don’t really understand computers, and incompetence.

        For whatever reason, there are a lot of people in hospitality who never really figured out how computers work, and the fact that most hotel systems are incredibly badly designed doesn’t help.

        1. TychaBrahe*

          The hotel really has no incentive to fix it. There’s no “Our hotel doesn’t screw up your third party payment,” category on Yelp, and if someone doesn’t notice they get the extra money. Even if someone does notice, they have a month’s free loan.

          As a young college student with a $500 limit on my credit card, I checked into a hotel before my mother, who was paying for the room. I had to give them my credit card. They promised they’d bill my mother. They billed us both, and I was instantly $300 over my credit limit. Then they got mad at ME because the charge was refused.

          1. FD*

            Trip Advisor is a much more important review source in the hospitality world than Yelp, and people definitely do leave negative reviews there sometimes if we screw up the billing. Even if there’s no online presence regarding a mix-up, bad word of mouth is a big deal.

            In other words, the incentive is there, but unfortunately, sometimes mix-ups do happen–and doubly unfortunately sometimes hotel managers don’t care enough to do their best to prevent such errors and correct them when they do happen.

            Memo to all hotel managers? This is shortsighted and stupid. Don’t do that.

      5. Dulcinea*

        I don’t know why they screw this up so much, but the fact that they do is the reason that my employer now just has employees pay the for room ourselves and submit for reimbursement later. Which sucks in its own way because then I have to wait to get my reimbursement check and meanwhile the interest runs on my credit card.

        1. Jessa*

          They screw it up because the LAST card entered is the first in the system, they have to go in and CHANGE that in order to bill the other information. There’s no easy way for them to see this. The first thing I do if someone else is paying is tell them upon check in to UN TICK the box for “automatic check out.” That this stay is unusual and that I will check out personally at the desk where I can watch them get it right. It’s the thing where they stick the bill under the door that’s messing things up. Because they stuck the bill for incidentals but forgot to actually charge through the stuff they took off your card, so that went right back on the card they took it off of. Taking it off your card isn’t sufficient, they have to actually process the full billing to the other payment method.

          ALSO if the other payment method is slow to pay? They will go back and whack it onto whatever they have on file because well, they want to get paid in a timely manner.

      6. Happy Hotel Gal*

        Speaking as someone who works front desk at a hotel…
        There are not set in stone ways to communicate things like this across the board. Each hotel uses their own system, and reservations come in different ways. Our system actually has manually entered notes from a clerk, and all it takes is a lazy clerk or one in a hurry to overlook and authorize or pre – authorize the wrong card.

        My hotel requires a credit card to secure a room, period, unless it is directly billed to the company. Rarely is it directly billed; instead, the company provides us a company credit card. Easy to mistake or mess up! Even seasoned hotel workers can mess up if one bit of information taken at the initial reservation is off.

        My suggestion is to print off reservation confirmations, or emails, and tell me BEFORE you hand over a personal card. A good clerk will make an obvious note to use cc xxxx for incidentals. :)

        My suggestion to the OP is to call the hotel and speak with the manager. This is likely not the company’s fault at all, instead, make sure the hotel didn’t mess up first. That way you do not lose the potential job correcting the hotel’s snafu.

    2. Kou*

      Absolutely. I would be shocked, really shocked, if it was the company’s error and not the hotel’s. And it will take a lot of persistent calling and demanding of the hotel to get it fixed, if my experience serves true in general.

  6. Michele*

    I had this happen to me. It really wasnt’ that big a deal. A pain in the butt yes. My credit card reversed the charges when I filed the dispute. I contacted the company that I interviewed with and provided all back-up. They took care of it on their end. It took about 4-6 weeks but it all worked out.

  7. KAS*

    This happens with our travel arrangements ALL>THE>TIME. It’s really bad when it happens with clients and analysts. Speaking with the front desk manager is a good approach. It seems like hotels just charge whatever card is right in front of them, which in your case is YOUR card.

  8. Zahra*

    Alison, is our model letter and CV writer from a few days ago a regular reader? Would it be possible to point her to this post? It would be interesting to know why it’s so common and how you can avoid being in this position.

  9. T*

    I used to do A/R at a full-service hotel. I would need authorization to direct bill a client for a guest’s room, and it sounds like that was already taken care of in your case. The front desk still gets a credit card to cover incidentals (room service, movies, etc.). Your situation definitely sounds like a mistake on the part of the hotel’s front-desk staff. I would contact whoever at the hotel is responsible for direct billing and send them copies of your e-mails or whatever shows that the company was responsible for the room charges.

    1. Threeohfive*

      I used to be a Front Office Manager a few years ago. We had to manually set up direct billing at the front desk as reservations came through. Could have been a newbie at the desk, or maybe someone just wasn’t paying attention to the billing instructions.

  10. EngineerGirl*

    I’ve had this happen numerous times. It’s the hotel and yes, they do charge your card without authorization.

  11. Nancie*

    Hotels can be endlessly creative with their billing.

    A few years ago, my parents and I stayed at a hotel while visiting relatives; I paid for my room and they paid for theirs.

    The following year, only my parents were able to make the trip. A few weeks after they got home the charge for their room showed up on my CC. My parents just reimbursed me directly rather than muck around with the hotel.

  12. Anonymous*

    Don’t forget that you always have the option to contact your credit card company to dispute the charge.

    1. Another Emily*

      I think the OP should definitely dispute the charge with the credit card company. They could be helpful in sorting this out.

      It definitely sounds like a hotel screw up, but what an annoying thing for you to deal with!

  13. HR Comicsans*

    I book a lot of corp travel and this happens all the time. I think common reasons for errors is the reservation line is often not part of the actual hotel staying at and hiring and keeping good people at the front desks is a real challenge.

    1. Anonymous*

      HR Comicsans — probably because they pay front desk staff such awful wages and you must be available evenings, weekends, and holidays.

  14. FD*

    Per Zahra’s request weighing in here! I know this is the procedure in at least two of the major chain umbrellas, but I can’t speak for everyone.

    There are four major billing issues that I see on a regular basis:

    1. The hotel charges a credit card that was on file from a previous stay, or from your hotel rewards membership.

    2. The hotel charges your personal credit card when it should have charged a business card, or done a direct bill.

    3. The hotel double-charges your credit card, frequently by inadvertently charging you for a completely unrelated room.

    4. The hotel puts a hold charge on your card far in excess of what the hold should be.

    In all of these cases, there are a few main factors that cause hotels to have a high failure rate in billing:

    1. Hotels usually pay their desk clerks slightly better wages than retail and food service. As a result, many hotels have a fair number of career clerks, who have no particular ambition to climb into a management position. While some of these are very good, know everything about the hotel, and are truly passionate about customer service, many more are there for the paycheck and have remained in the same position simply because they lack the talent to move up. As a result, at many hotels, there are a fair number of clerks who just don’t care that much. (In my opinion, a great part of this issue is that many hotel managers have valued longevity in the position over actual quality, when the useful ‘life span’ of a full-time clerk is generally about 2-5 years.)

    2. Hotel reservation systems are frankly terrible. Some of them still run DOS-based systems; others are so bloated and complicated that almost no one fully understands them. Hotel reservation systems are generally written by programmers with no hospitality background, and they’re pretty much never updated to reflect the actual needs of the front desk staff. This means that even fairly experienced desk clerks may make mistakes simply because they don’t understand the system they’re working with.

    3. Companies do not always understand what hotels need from them, and don’t always fax or e-mail the necessary forms in advance. Hotel staff, in turn, don’t always clearly communicate what they need.

    4. There are a lot more failure points in charging a hotel stay than there are in buying a few pairs of shoes at a store or in getting dinner at a fast food restaurant. When you check out in a retail or food service environment, you see your purchases, you swipe your card, and you sign your receipt. In most cases, in a hotel, you scan your card at check-in, don’t know how much is being held until you look at your online pending charges, and only see your total on the day you check-out. This means that even for a 1-day stay, there’s usually at least 8 and up to 20-ish hours between the time you swipe your credit card and the time the final charges are submitted to your card company.

    In order to minimize your chances of having billing issues, I suggest taking the following steps:

    1. If you are paying for the hotel room with a card you physically have on you be sure they swipe the card when you check in. Especially if you travel frequently, or have stayed in the past, the hotel may have a credit card number on file for you, and the room might get charged to that card. Swiping the card should help minimize this issue.

    2. If your company is paying for your room either by credit card or through direct bill, make sure you know who was responsible for sending the form. Most hotels will require the business to be filled out and faxed or e-mailed to them which approves the use of their card or which approves that your room can be invoiced to them. If possible, bring a copy of the form. (This will not be possible in all cases, and is more likely to be permitted with a direct bill form than a credit card authorization form.) If you cannot bring the form, call the hotel either during the business day when you are due to arrive, or the last business day before you are due to arrive to confirm that the form has been sent. If it hasn’t been sent, calling during the business day will allow you to contact the person at your company who was supposed to send it.

    3. Always confirm your first and last name before you give the hotel clerk your credit card. Unless you have an extremely unusual name, I suggest confirming your city too. When I see people get either double-charged or end up with a hold of more than what it should be, it’s almost always because their credit card was run for a room with a similar name.

    4. In most hotels, you receive the bill under your door overnight before the day you check out, but the charge isn’t actually submitted to the card company until you physically check out. Always check your bill carefully. It should list the last four digits of the credit card that will be charged; make sure that’s correct. I suggest coming down to check out, and verbally confirming the total amount of the bill. As a rule, it’s much easier to fix billing problems before a guest checks out and the charges are submitted.

    5. If you’re given a choice of hotels, I suggest checking the Trip Advisor reviews first. They tend to be very accurate, on the whole. Look not only for the overall tenor of the review, but especially look for any manager responses. When guests complain, does the manager politely apologize and offer to make it right? That’s generally a good sign.

    6. If billing issues do happen, you’re going to be frustrated. You might wonder why the hotel can’t get something so simple right. Try to keep your temper. If you are angry, shout about it to an empty room before you actually get on the phone. Remember that people who work in hotels get a lot of people who are genuinely unreasonable. If you are calm and polite, and take a collaborative tone, you’re more likely to get help. This is not entirely fair, I know–the hotel screwed up, why should you have to take the high road–but people just tend to be more helpful to people who are nice to them.

    1. FD*

      Oh, and one more note; HR Comicsans’ comment upthread reminded me of it.

      If possible, whether you book travel for yourself or for your company, I strongly suggest calling the hotel directly to make reservations if possible. The people who work the main reservation lines are rarely even in the same state and may not actually know what the amenities offered really are. At a minimum, if you are arranging for a company to pay for a stay, make sure you talk to someone who actually works at the hotel to make sure you know what the hotel needs to charge the room to the company instead of the guest.

    2. Joey*

      Funny. Alison’s approach worked well when I worked at the Four Seasons as a kid- shout loudly from the rooftops and they will give you the world. A dramatic email, letter or phone call to the GM or corporate always resulted in big freebies-comped nights, comped meals, etc ( we once bought someone a set of new golf clubs because we dented one club), Reasonable people got smaller stuff like flowers, a bottle of wine, a discounted rate, or an upgrade on their next stay or extra ff miles.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hey, I was reasonable in my letter! In fact, I just dryly reported the facts without any commentary of my own. Given how many problems there had been, that alone was enough to make a pretty astounding letter. (I like that approach for complaint letters in general; let the facts speak for themselves without a bunch of verbal flourishes.)

        But I did send it to the GM, which I think makes a difference.

        1. Joey*

          I’m sure you were. I just don’t think hotels are used to seeing people who can clearly convey their dissatisfaction AND severity of the problems.

          1. FD*

            Good hotels respond to all complaints–regardless of how reasonable. But being human, we’ll really go above and beyond if you treat us like decent human beings, simply because so many people don’t.

    3. Threeohfive*

      RE: Billing issues

      1. Yes, this can happen a lot if a prior reservation is duplicated. Regardless, the front desk always needs to physically swipe a card to confirm which card the customer will be paying with. Even if its the same card on file, it needs to be swiped.

      2. This can happen quite easily. Depending on the operating system or access the front desk has, often they can only see the type of credit card and the last for digits. Hard to tell if all you can see is AMEX 1234 or AMEX 5678 which one is the correct card to charge.

      3. This can happen if the same card was used to hold several reservations. If Jane checks in to a room that Joe reserved for her and the front desk doesn’t swipe her card, then Joe’s card gets charged.

      4. The front desk has no control over this. The operating system is automatically set up to authorize the card based on an internal formula.

      1. FD*

        #1. Actually, this varies from state to state, and from hotel to hotel. Hilton branded hotels aren’t supposed to ask to physically swipe the card if it’s a high ranking reward member, unless state law mandates it. And most hotel systems will at least allow you to check in without actually imprinting the card. It’s just not best practice.

        #2-3. I absolutely agree!

        #4. You mean the amount that is authorized is predetermined by the programmed formula? Yeah, though there are some workarounds I know for the system I’ve worked with the most.

    4. fposte*

      Hey, FD, does that mean that great cover letter was yours? Go, you!

      You’re talking just about credit cards here–as I mention above, my impression on the customer side is that people get hit worse if they’re using a debit card, because the hold isn’t actually processed to your account on a credit card. Does that seem to be true? (I know people often don’t have a choice, but in my experience that if you do, credit cards generally protect you more than debit across the board.)

      1. FD*

        It was, yes! I used OP there in the comments for clarity’s sake.

        This is reaching the end of what I know, and into my sense of the way things work, based on the credit cards I carry and on what guests say, so I can’t say this is true for every card.

        Debit card holds are a Very Big Deal because an authorization hold on a debit card actually takes the money from your account, as I understand it. The leftover amount will be returned when the charges are finalized, but it directly affects your balance.

        When you use your credit card at a hotel, in general they do a hold charge. This does affect your available credit, but if you went online, you would see it as a pending or temporary charge. The finalized charges aren’t actually submitted to the credit card company until you check out, so they won’t appear on the bill.

        For example, let’s say you checked into a hotel on January 30 and checked out February 2, at a rate of $100/night in a city with a 10% net hotel tax and where the hotel holds an extra 15% for incidentals. This means the hotel will be holding $379.50 altogether.

        Your credit card statement closes out at the end of the month. Let’s say that you have a total credit line on the card you used of $3,000 and that you used $450 of that credit during the month for other purchases. We’ll also assume you pay off your balance at the end of each month. On February 1, you will have $2170.50 in available credit ($3,000 total credit line – $450 in other charges – $379.50 tied up by the hotel) but when you get your January statement, it will be for $450, since your bill only includes final charges that have been submitted to the credit card company. (You could, however, see the temporary authorization if you looked at your online statement.) When you check out, assuming there were no incidentals, your total bill will be $330, charged to your credit card on February 2.

        Let’s say you use a debit card instead. You have a balance in your account of $1,000. You use your debit card, and $379.50 is taken from your account as a deposit. This leaves you a balance of $620.50. If you have a bill of, for example $650 that’s due on February 1, you might overdraft your account because the incidentals won’t be returned to your account until you check out.

        Technically speaking, you still have $379.50 unavailable to you in both cases. But debit cards tend to matter more for several reasons. First, most people carry a smaller balance in their checking account than they have available in their credit lines, regardless of whether they usually go anywhere near their limits. Second, credit cards forward the balance towards a future time, whereas debit cards take the amount out immediately. Additionally, I have heard–but can’t confirm–that some hotels hold more from debit cards than they do from credit cards. I don’t know if that’s really true or if that’s an industry urban legend; I know the one I work at doesn’t.

        Finally, as you said, credit cards are simply way, way safer to use. There are quite a few legal protections available to you when you use your credit card (I think most of them fall under the Fair Credit Billing Act, but I’m not a lawyer) that aren’t available to you when you use a debit card.

        Does that make sense? I can get a little obscure sometimes when I’m discussing financial stuff.

  15. AB*

    Just one more anecdote that shows how common this is. I was asked to speak at an event in another state, was told numerous time that the room would be billed to the organization that invited me, and ended up with the charge in my credit card. I was lucky that simply calling the hotel fixed things — the next day they credited the amount to my credit card. They had actually billed twice, the organization and my card. It happens, and unfortunately there’s not much we can do except for contacting the responsible parties to get it fixed.

  16. KayDay*

    Oh gosh…I didn’t realize how common this was until I read all these comments. I’ve had a lot of minor issues with hotel bills, but the worst story is as follows: I went to a wedding and was sharing a room with a friend. Initially, my friend offered use her card to pay the hotel directly and I would pay her back. But when we checked out, the desk clerk offered to split the bill for us. How nice of him! So we split the bill and each paid. A few days later I checked my statement and I was charged four, yes four times for my half of the room!! After I picked my jaw off the floor, I called the hotel and spoke to their receivables person. She said she would fix it right away–which she did. But it still took a few days for my account to be updated online.

    The moral of the story is that these things can usually be fixed with just a couple of phone calls, but it does take some time, and you need to stay on top of it. When sucks, but I don’t think there is much else one can do.

    1. Another Emily*

      It seems like this would solve all problems, but will they actually let you check in without a credit card?

      1. Night Auditor*

        No, at least not where I work. Even if you intend to pay entirely in cash, the front desk needs to see that you have a credit card for ID purposes.

  17. Keith*

    I arrange travel for interview candidates frequently, and even though we work almost exclusively with hotels who have had a contract relationship with our organization for years, I’ve still had hotels screw this up several times. You should definitely begin by assuming a simple mistake.

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