If you’re new to credit or have a blemished credit history, you might be wondering if you need a credit card to book a hotel room. Ideally, yes. Generally, you should be able to book a hotel with either a credit card, debit card or prepaid card. Having said that, booking a hotel without a credit card isn’t exactly easy. 

Most hotels require a credit card for booking to protect themselves from unforeseen circumstances that could cost them money. Like if you clean out the mini bar and take off without paying! Seriously though, don’t do that. 

Even though booking a hotel is an essential part of travel, trying to pay for a hotel room without a credit card can be unnecessarily complicated. Booking policies vary from one hotel to another. So, before choosing a hotel, find out if they accept reservations with your preferred method of payment. 

Here’s why it’s easier to use a credit card to book a hotel, and some tips to get around it if you don’t have one. 

Why do most hotels require a credit card?

Credit cards are the best tool hotels have to protect themselves from unforeseen losses. A credit card helps the hotel mitigate risks like damage or theft. In cases where you can pre-book a hotel without a credit card, you might still run into problems when it comes time to check into your room. 

Here are some specific reasons hotels require credit cards to confirm room booking: 

Guaranteed payment

When hotels have your credit card information on file, payment is almost guaranteed. It’s easier for merchants can charge your credit card without you present, unlike most debit cards. So hotels can charge you whatever is necessary to cover the cost of your stay. Especially if they discover damage or theft after you have checked out and are long gone.  Credit cards usually have a spending limit much higher than the balance in your bank account, or cash in your pocket. 

For instance, if you damage something during your stay, your credit card will cover it, even if you don’t have any money in your bank account. The same goes for theft. Furthermore, if you suddenly cancel your booking without due notice, the hotel can recoup some of the loss according to their cancellation policy.  

Before booking a hotel, read the terms and conditions on what the hotel can and can’t do with your card. 

Faster check-outs

Hotels experience rush hours and periods of high demand, just like any other business. But no one likes to be delayed or inconvenienced, even when they see how busy the hotel attendants are trying to check people in and out. If your credit card information was taken at booking, checkouts are a lot faster. Sometimes, all you have to do is drop your key off at the front desk at the end of your reservation, then leave. Attendants can take care of charging your card later when the rush is over. 

Additional room charges & other expenses 

When you visit a hotel, there’s a good chance you’ll end up spending more than just the cost of booking your room. For instance, you may decide to order room service, like a fancy dinner from the hotel restaurant, and charge it to your room. 

It can be hard to keep track of your spending while on holiday, and you may run out of cash on hand to cover all the additional charges. Rather than getting stranded trying to sort out the situation, your credit card can end a stressful scenario before it starts.

Prevent employee theft & armed robbery

Using a credit card to book a hotel is actually a lot safer for you. It helps prevent employees from stealing your stuff, which helps protect both you and the hotel from loss because they would be liable. If hotels deal with cash, there is a higher chance an unscrupulous employee will be tempted to steal it. However, providing services on a cashless basis almost eliminates that risk entirely. 

Similarly, if hotels don’t hold cash payments, they are at less risk of being targeted for a robbery. Also, because employees don’t have to deposit cash into the bank, there’s a lower risk of running into problems while moving large sums of money from the hotel to the bank. 

Read More: 10 Credit Card Benefits That Are Often Overlooked

The best credit cards to book a hotel 

So, do you need a credit card to book a hotel? The best credit card to book a hotel reservation depends on your preferred hotel chain and budget. Whether you are staying at a luxurious five-star hotel or a budget-friendly one, accommodation while travelling is usually your biggest expense. 

You can get the most benefit from the right credit card if offers amazing bonus points and other features that align with your needs, goals, and preferences. The best credit cards to book a hotel are:

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

Earn up to 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points
Marriott Bonvoy Card - American Express
  • Annual fee: $120
  • Interest rate on purchases: 19.99
  • Interest rate on cash advances: 21.99
Offer: New Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Cardmembers earn 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points after you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership. Subject to change at any time*
Rewards & Perks:
  • 🏨 5X points on purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 💳 2X points on all other purchases
Apply now
*Condition Apply

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card is created to benefit those who travel frequently and belong to the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. Members get the opportunity to earn an extraordinary introductory bonus. Its reward offers and features include:

Rewards

  • Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status membership
  • 50,000 bonus Bonvoy points when $3,000 is spent in the first three months.
  • Earn up to 5x Bonvoy points when you purchase at Marriott properties
  • In the second year of using the card, get a free night award worth 35,000 Bonvoy points per year
  • Get bonus Bonvoy points when you refer family and friends.

Features

  • No foreign transaction fee is charged. Perfect for oversea transaction
  • Receipt of loyalty rewards, 11x Bonvoy points for being a Marriott member.
  • Protection from travel accidents and hotel burglary.
  • Status can be upgraded and fast-tracked to Gold Status when you spend $30,000 yearly.
  • It has insurance that covers theft and damages

Scotiabank American Express Platinum Card

Annual Fee: $399

Interest Rate: 9.99% on purchases & cash advances

Rewards: Up to 2pts$$1. Conditions apply.

The Scotiabank American Express Platinum Card is one of the best travel cards from Scotia. It gives benefits such as access to at least 1200 VIP lounges around the globe. But you must present your priority pass membership card to gain access to the lounges. When using the American Express Platinum Card, you also enjoy freedom from foreign transaction fees. 

This means you won’t be charged a foreign currency conversion mark-up on any purchases made with foreign currency. Here are some other rewards of the card, including its offers and features.

Rewards

  • You earn a 50,000 bonus Scene+ points after making a $3000 purchase for the first three months. 
  • You also earn 10,000 Scene+ points when $10,000 is spent on eligible purchases in the first 14 months of getting the card

Features

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Insurance against new devices purchased with the card, in cases where it gets stolen, mechanical failure, or damaged.
  • Accessibility to over 1200 VIP lounges across the globe
  • Flexibility to arrange your trip
  • Exclusive access to global events with a VIP pass

Read More: Scotiabank Platinum American Express Review

6 Tips  to book a hotel without a credit card 

Credit cards benefit hotels, but it’s not always the case for individuals looking for a room. You probably don’t have a working credit card or can’t access one yet. The following tips should come in handy, though they may involve extra charges and can be complicated. 

Try a debit card

The major advantage of using a debit card is that you won’t spend more than you have. A hotel’s system often may not even recognize if you’re using a debit or credit card. So, it’s worth a try. 

Having a credit card can make you fall into craving luxury you can’t afford, etc. With a debit card, except you’re ready to borrow money from family and friends, you’d keep your craving in check. 

The disadvantage to using a debit card to manage your hotel booking is that you get a hold on your account for the security deposit. You won’t be able to use the money as long as the hold continues. So, if you book a month ahead, you get a one-month hold on the money. 

Beyond the hold, booking a hotel with a debit card allows all expenses to be pulled from your checking account when you check in. 

Debit card booking policies differ from hotel to hotel, and some even include charges. Do your research to know the number of potential debit alerts to expect. 

Earn up to 90,000 Membership Rewards points
Platinum Card - American Express
  • Annual fee: $699
  • Interest rate on purchase: n/a
  • Interest rate on cash advances: n/a
Offer: Earn up to 90,000 points after making $6,000 in net purchases on your Card in the first 3 months of membership*.
Rewards & Perks:
  • 🍴 10X points on purchases at restaurants, bars and bistros (welcome offer)*
  • 🥡 3X points on qualifying dining and delivery purchases
  • ✈️ 2X points on eligible travel purchases
  • 💳 1X points on other purchases
Apply now
*Condition Apply

Use an online travel agency (OTA)

OTAs are businesses that serve as middlemen between hotels and potential customers. They exist to reduce the complexities and difficulties existing between hotels and customers. 

A major service of OTAs is curating price details of different hotels to make for an easy read for customers. They also provide booking and payment portals for people through PayPal. 

If you have an active PayPal account, your bank account is most likely already linked. If not, you can easily set one up to get started with OTAs like Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, etc. 

Kindly note that the PayPal portal on OTAs is to make payment and not book the hotel. Each OTA has a policy on how they help with booking hotels – either foreign or local. Do more research on each OTA. 

Read More: Expedia Review

Try a prepaid card

Another way to book a hotel without a credit card is with a prepaid card. Some hotels provide this option, but not all of them, so proceed with caution and a back up plan. A prepaid card functions like a debit card but is accepted where most major credit cards are accepted. Before you book, call and ask the hotel if they accept prepaid cards for check-in and payment. 

Read More: The 11 Best Prepaid Credit Cards in Canada

The hotel will put a hold on the card for a certain amount of money. That means that sum is earmarked for the hotel, and the hold reduces your available funds for spending, even though payment hasn’t actually been processed yet. Popular hotel chains that accept prepaid cards are Choice Hotels’ Quality inn, but you must call and confirm per location. 

Hotels are far less likely to accept an anonymous prepaid card, like the kind you can purchase with cash at a gas station or convenience store, for example. You will have much better luck booking a hotel room with a prepaid credit card that your name embossed on it, and linked to a bank account that collected your personal information upon opening. These types of prepaid cards are offered by banks and financial service providers including, but not limited to: 

Get in touch with smaller hotels

Smaller and independent hotel chains are more flexible. They are more likely to accept alternative payments like cheques, cash, debit cards, etc. You can avoid credit card trouble if you compromise on getting a fancy hotel room. 

So, if you don’t have a fancy credit card and would love a safe stay at your destination, find independent hotels. Your aim should be to speak with the owner or manager. 

It’s easy to negotiate convenient booking and payment options here because they don’t report to a larger corporation. Once you get in touch, you can confirm more details about the room, location, etc. 

Ask about cash payments

When asking if a hotel accepts cash, be prepared for a resounding ‘no.’ Accepting cash puts hotels at risk. Though, smaller chain hotels recognize their target audience and may accept a cash payment. 

Independent hotels may ask for a cash security deposit to book your room. The security deposit is in addition to the total room cost. 

For major hotel chains, you may be lucky to get the option of switching payment to cash during checkout. But you can’t book with cash, and you may not even be able to check in with cash. 

Get someone else to book for you

If you have a family member or friend that’s nice enough, you can book with their credit card info. They’ll add you as a guest. Then, you can check in on your own. Be ready to provide a valid means of identification at both reservation and check-in. You can also inquire about booking with another card, then changing the payment method when checking out. 

Tips to book a hotel in Canada

There are many hotel options for travellers in Canada, regardless of where you want to go. Nevertheless, narrowing down the location considerably shrinks the pool of choices. Once you pick a specific destination, the rest of these tips should help you book a hotel in Canada with ease. 

Read More: 10 Best Money-Saving Travel Apps for Canadians

Figure out where you want to go &  what you need before you book

This goes without saying. For some of us, navigating a foreign city is stressful. You can avoid getting overwhelmed by going over your travel plans and figuring out a suitable location to book a hotel. Google Maps should help pick out hotels not far from the hotspots you want to visit. 

Read More: The 20 Best Places to Visit in Canada

Check the online reviews

There is no shortage of sites that offer honest guest reviews of hotels. Such reviews allow you to assess customer satisfaction within the hotels on your list that relate to amenities, facilities, and experience. This should help narrow down the options even further.

Book directly through the hotel whenever possible 

Travel agencies are more convenient and save you the hassle of making calls. Still, they are essentially middlemen, and such intermediaries need to make money. 

In other words, you are footing a more expensive bill than you need for that extra convenience. Therefore, we advise booking directly with the hotel and saving yourself some cash.

Look for hotel rewards

Take note of loyalty programs and rewards offered by hotels. This is more common with big-name hotels and could enhance your travel experience. 

In many cases, such hotels offer rewards to customers with point-earning hotel credit cards such as the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card.   

Through these loyalty programs and the associated hotel credit cards, you can earn some of the following:

  • Free night certificates
  • Signup bonuses
  • Bonus points and credits
  • Elite status, etc.

And one more thing…

Pay attention to your experience booking and staying in hotels, whether attending a conference or chasing the wild waves of a beach vacation. Before you plan all the activities you want to do, book a hotel room first! 

The most important thing to do when you book a hotel is to call the hotel ahead to confirm details you find online or negotiate potential flexible payment options. Major hotel chains need your credit card details to confirm your booking. But there are workarounds you can leverage if you understand the ins-n-outs.