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Hotel rooms F.A.Q

Can I rent a hotel room without a credit card?

Yes, you can absolutely rent a hotel room without a credit card. You won’t be able to reserve a room in advance with cash, but hotels do accept cash payments upon check-in. To book a room in advance you’ll need either a debit/credit card or a prepaid card. Some online booking sites even let you pay through PayPal. Most hotels require a deposit in addition to the cost of the room to cover things like incidentals, damage, or theft. Generally, hotels will place a pre-authorized hold on your debit or credit card for the amount of the room plus the deposit amount. The hold is released a few days after check-out as long as you have not damaged the room or stolen anything. However, if you plan to use a prepaid card to book your room, you’ll need to provide another form of payment for the hold, like a debit card. Some might let you pay for the deposit in cash, but even that is hit or miss.

Can you walk into a hotel and book a room?

Yes, you can walk into a hotel and book a room. However, whether or not you actually get a room depends on the hotel’s vacancy. If there are no rooms available, you will not be able to book a room. If there are rooms available, you will be able to book it as long as you have an accepted form of payment like cash, debit, credit card, or prepaid card as well as photo ID.

How do hotels charge for rooms?

If you book in advance, some hotels will immediately charge your card and you’ll see the funds either clear your bank account, or a charge processed onto your credit card statement. Other hotels will simply put a hold on your card for the amount of the room, meaning the transaction has not actually gone through but the funds have been earmarked for the anticipated transaction. Holds reduce the available funds you have access to either through your bank account or credit card account, depending on the method of payment you used. Many hotels require a deposit to cover any theft or damage you may cause during your stay and will place a hold on your card for the amount of the deposit. The hold is released a few days after check-out as long as you have not caused any damage to hotel property or stolen anything. Other hotels won’t charge your card or place a hold at all. They’ll simply keep your payment information on file and process the transaction upon checkout.

How do you cancel a hotel reservation?

If you book a hotel through a third-party booking site, you should contact them first to request a cancellation.  If they are unable to cancel the reservation, then you should contact the hotel directly. Depending on the cancellation policy, you may need to pay a cancellation fee or pay the full cost of the room. To avoid the fee, choose a hotel that does not impose a cancellation penalty. Cancellation policies are typically advertised on third-party booking sites, and you can find them on the hotel's website or by contacting them directly.

How to get out of a hotel cancellation fee?

Get out of a hotel cancellation fee by avoiding it in the first place. Choose a hotel with a no-cancellation penalty policy, or the most flexible cancellation policy you can find. You can also purchase private trip cancellation insurance to cover the cost of your trip including penalties in the event you need to cancel. If you reserved the room through a third-party booking site, the cancellation policy is usually disclosed in the ad for the room. Sometimes it's even advertised upfront as a perk. If your cancellation is subject to a fee you should contact the hotel directly, explain the situation and ask them to waive it. If you booked with a credit card, contact the credit card company to see if they offer travel insurance and if the cancellation fee is eligible for reimbursement.

Is it cheaper to book a hotel room through a travel site or directly through the hotel?

The cheapest way to book a hotel depends on your situation. It is cheaper to book directly through the hotel if you have travel or loyalty points you would like to use to cover the cost. You should also go through the hotel directly if you are part of a loyalty program and want to collect points for your stay. If you’re booking last minute, want a travel package, or love snagging a mystery deal, you’re better off going through a third party booking site. For example, you could use our hotel comparison tool. Having said that, you should always contact the hotel directly and compare their pricing to what online booking sites have to offer.

Do I have to pay resort fees?

In a word, yes. But there are things you can do to avoid them. Resort fees can also be called destination fees or facility fees. When booking directly through a hotel site or third party platform, make sure you expand the quote to see a breakdown of the taxes and any other charges before you pay a dime. You also need to determine how the fees are charged, either a flat rate per night, a percentage of your total bill, or cost per person so you know the true cost before you book. You can avoid these fees booking directly through the hotel using their in-house loyalty rewards if you have them. You can also ask them nicely if they’ll waive the fees. A more extreme approach is to just refuse to pay them and see what happens. They might cave to keep your business, or they’ll refuse accommodation unless you pay the fees. The only sure fire way to avoid resort fees is to choose a hotel that doesn’t charge any.

How to get a free hotel room upgrade?

The best way to get a free hotel room upgrade is to book directly through the hotel, then simply ask if they’d be willing to upgrade you. If it's a special occasion, like a honeymoon or anniversary, let them know and they may give you a complimentary upgrade. You can increase your chances by signing up for their customer loyalty program, branded credit card, or both. You’re also more likely to get an upgrade if you book during the off-season, stay during the week instead of a weekend, and when you check-in later in the day.

Does travel insurance cover hotel cancellation?

Not necessarily. There are different types of travel insurance that cover different things. Generally, the term travel insurance refers to the coverage of emergency medical treatment abroad. It can sometimes include cancellation insurance, but not always. Trip Cancellation or Trip Interruption insurance is specifically designed to reimburse you for the cost of a non-refundable trip or travel package in the event you need to alter dates or cancel altogether. Some credit cards automatically insure trips booked with the card. But you can also purchase private trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance on your own.

Are hotels cheaper than apartments?

Apartment vacation rentals, such as Airbnb or VRBO, are generally cheaper than the cost of a comparable hotel accommodation. Hotels have a lot more overhead costs than owners who rent out their property through vacation rental sites. However, you do lose some benefits like room service and an onsite team for things like customer service issues, emergencies, or maintenance problems. Prices on private vacation rentals tend to remain more stable and consistent, while hotels practice surge pricing when demand is high. On the downside, sites like Airbnb and VRBO do not have loyalty rewards programs, whereas many hotel chains do. Private rentals tend to be further away from attractions and other amenities, which adds to your shoe-leather costs. And there is always a risk the host will cancel your reservation last minute. If a hotel overbooks and needs to cancel your reservation, they typically pay for your accommodations elsewhere. 

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