Some people are shocked when they check their accounts and find additional charges after checking into a hotel. The hold placed on their credit card is called an “incidental charge” made by the hotel.
So what are these incidental charges, and why do we have to pay them?
Incidental charges are payments for anything that goes outside of your main bill for your hotel room. These expenses can include charges to the room, phone calls, rentals, and anything else outside of the room rate and taxes. It appears as a hold on your account and is usually removed after you check out.
Incidental Charges at Hotels and How They Work
When you check into a hotel, the hotel puts a hold on your credit card. The hotel will tell you that this hold is placed to cover “incidental charges” that can pop up during your stay.
Your main bill at a hotel covers your total cost of the room (rate per night X how many nights you stay) and any taxes added on top of it.
Incidental charges are charges that are outside of the main bill. These charges can include fees for damage to the room, missing items in the room, smoking fees, parking, mini-bars, charges to the room, rentals, room service, etc.
The hold on your card is removed if you don’t charge anything to the room. However, additional charges will be made on your card listed as “incidentals” if needed. This will make the final amount on your bill larger than initially quoted.
Generally, the incidental charge is collected when you check into the hotel and removed from your account sometime after you check out.
Processing times, refunds, and policies surrounding incidental fees can vary, depending upon the hotel you choose to stay at.
Why do hotels charge incidental fees?
Hotels usually charge incidental fees to protect themselves and for the convenience of the guest staying there.
The hold is convenient because it allows guests to purchase items quickly without charging them on their cards. So, for example, a guest can grab a snack at the front and charge it to the room instead of the hotel going through another transaction every time.
The incidental charge also protects the hotel from any damage to the room or additional costs a guest may incur.
Long-distance phone calls from your room are charged to the hotel but covered under the incidental charge. Any damage to the room, accidental or intentional, is also covered by this charge.
How are incidental fees processed?
Processing times vary depending on the hotel, your form of payment, and sometimes the hotel’s location.
Credit cards are the most accessible form of payment because it allows the hotel to place a hold on your card instead of a charge. The hotel can remove the hold without going through the process of charging the card and then refunding the amount.
Debit cards are a bit trickier because they don’t allow holds. The hotel must charge your debit card for the amount of the incidental fee, then refund the amount owed after you check out. The refund can take up to ten days, meaning that money won’t be available in your account.
You can also pay for your hotel stay in cash. When you pay with cash, the hotel holds your money in an envelope and gives you a receipt. Then, when you check out, any charges you made while at the hotel are subtracted from that amount, and the hotel gives you your cash back.
How do you avoid incidental fees?
When you check-in and present a card to the hotel, you authorize them to charge or put a hold on that card for incidentals. You can ask the hotel to waive those fees and be granted that waiver in some instances.
If you ask for a fee to be waived, you’ll have to give the hotel a reason. Some reasons can include if you’re using a debit card and have limited available funds or a previous bad experience with a hotel that didn’t release those funds in a reasonable time frame.
You can also ask to turn off your ability to use the incidental funds. This will keep you from accessing charges to your room and things like their premium internet, charges at hotel shops, and rentals in the room.
Another option is to join the hotel’s frequent visitor program. Even on basic levels, this program can be enough for the hotel to waive any incidental charge to your card.
Unfortunately, you may be unable to completely avoid a charge or hold on your card account, depending on the hotel you stay with. In this case, you can limit paying for incidental charges by not charging anything to your room or damaging the room.
Some hotels may be unwilling to waive the charge in full, especially those of more prominent brands or luxury hotels. These will sometimes hold a low amount instead if you request a waiver. As a result, you may only have a $1 hold on your account, instead of the full charge.
Paying your incidental deposit with cash is another option to avoid a charge on your card. The hotel will hold the money until you check out, but their system will register that you paid.
Hotel incidental charges are a charge, or hold, on your card that the hotel places to protect themselves and make your stay more convenient. They cover any charges or damages to the room, and long-distance calls you make, making it easier to pay for premium services at the hotel.
Once you check out, any charges you made are subtracted from the incidental charge, and the rest is refunded to you or removed from your account. There are some ways to get around these charges, but many hotels require they be placed on your account when you check-in.