Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases

When Do Hotels Charge Your Credit Card? (An In-Depth Guide)

When booking a hotel stay, travelers often wonder when exactly their credit card will be charged. Will the hotel charge you immediately at reservation? Or will they wait until check-in or check-out?

The answer depends on several key factors related to hotel policies, reservation types, and payment methods. Understanding when your card is likely to be debited can help avoid unpleasant surprises on your statement.

This guide provides an in-depth look at the variables that determine when hotels charge your credit card and how to best navigate hotel payment policies.

Hotel Billing Policies

One major factor is simply the individual billing practices of the hotel itself. Policies vary significantly between properties and brands.

Charge at Reservation

Some hotels have a standard policy of charging your card as soon as you book. This could be the full estimated amount or a percentage as a deposit.

Typically it’s a portion upfront, such as the room rate for one night, then the remaining balance at check-out. But occasionally 100% is immediately due.

Hotels may charge at booking to:

  • Guarantee the room is paid for in case of no-shows or cancellations.
  • Ensure they collect enough revenue, especially during busy periods.
  • Reduce the number of guests who skip out on the bill.
  • Streamline checkout by pre-collecting most fees.

Major chains like Hilton and Marriott often debit your card when you book for at least a portion of your stay.

Charge at Check-In

Other hotels don’t charge anything until you arrive to check-in. This gives guests flexibility in case plans change last minute.

Your card may be pre-authorized for the full stay cost. But the actual charge doesn’t process until you check-in in person.

Some independent and boutique hotels prefer this model. Travelers who booked through third-parties may also not get charged until arrival.

Charge at Check-Out

Less commonly, some hotels wait until after checkout to charge your credit card. The front desk typically collects a card at check-in to use for incidentals during your stay.

But the actual room/stay charges don’t get billed until the final morning when you settle your folio. This allows maximum flexibility but is risky for hotels.

High-end and international hotels sometimes use the post-stay billing method. But it’s less common with major brands.

Reservation Type

The type of reservation you book also affects the payment timeline.

Prepaid Reservations

If you make a prepaid non-refundable reservation, the hotel will always charge your card immediately for the full stay. This guarantees them your business.

Prepaid rates offer a discount with trade-off that you pay upfront and can’t cancel or change dates. Your card is debited instantly when booking.

Refundable Reservations

For regular refundable reservations, billing timing depends on the hotel’s standard policy.

If they normally charge at booking, they’ll debit your card a deposit or full rate immediately.

But if they bill at check-in, your card won’t be hit until arrival if rates are fully refundable.

Third-Party Bookings

Booking via online travel sites like Expedia often means upfront charges, even for refundable rates. Those platforms collect payment when you book.

If you reserve directly on the hotel’s website, you may avoid immediate charges for flexible reservations based on their billing practices.

Packaged Stays

Bundled packages that combine lodging, flights, and activities frequently process upfront charges with little refundability.

Since the hotel can’t easily parcel out components, they bill the full package cost when you book to pay suppliers.

Payment Method

How you pay for your reservation will also dictate charge timing.

Credit Card

For credit card bookings, you’ll usually see an authorization hold immediately if the hotel bills at reservation. This hold verifies your available credit.

The pending charge disappears after a few days. The actual charge posts whenever the hotel completes the billing per their policy.

Debit Card

With debit cards, authorization holds cause the funds to be temporarily held in your account, reducing available balance.

The pending transaction drops off after a few days, then the true charge posts later.


If you book through PayPal, the full amount is often immediately withdrawn from your linked bank account or processed on your PayPal credit balance.

This is because PayPal pays the hotel upfront when you complete the transaction via their platform.

Hotel Rewards Points

If you redeem rewards points for a free stay, you typically won’t see any credit card charges. Of course, you’ll have already paid for those points through your loyalty program activity.

But no new debit will show on your statement since points cover the room cost versus cash.

How to Avoid Issues

To prevent problems when hotels charge your card, follow these tips:

  • When booking, ask when your card will be debited and how much.
  • Check if upfront charges are refundable in case of cancellations or changes.
  • If driving, call hotels a few days before arrival to check for any pre-charges.
  • Review card statements frequently for unfamiliar charges.
  • Keep withdrawal and credit limits higher before trips.
  • Have backup payment methods if your initial card is declined.
  • Set transaction alerts through your card provider when traveling.
  • Pay with a credit card for more protections versus a debit card.

Understanding when your card will be charged allows you to budget appropriately for hotel stays. With some preparation, you can avoid issues like unexpected declines or temporary holds tying up your funds.

While billing methods vary, hotels ultimately aim to collect what you owe for the room. As long as you monitor your account and pay the final bill, the exact timing of the charge likely won’t cause major problems. Just be sure you know what to expect.

Leave a Comment