Do Hotels Charge You Before or After You Book?

Do Hotels Charge You Before or After You Book?

When making a hotel reservation online or over the phone, you might have noticed that hotels ask for your credit card details to confirm the booking. So, do hotels charge you before or after you book? 

Most hotels charge you after you book and while checking out. You need to give your credit card details when booking as the hotel uses them as a guarantee. Depending on the hotel, the rate type, and how you booked, the hotel might charge the full fee or a deposit when booking.  

I’ll explain below when hotels charge your card and what happens if you cancel your booking. I’ll also give you some tips on checking if it’s safe to give out your credit card details. 

When Do Hotels Charge Your Card? 

Hotel accommodation can be pricey, and it’s good to know when the hotel will take payment. So, when will the charge hit your card? 

When hotels charge your card depends on their policies, the platform you’re booking on, and the rate type. They usually charge your card when you check out, but it can also be when you book or a few days before check-in.   

Before confirming the booking, there should be a clear explanation of when the hotel expects payment. If you’re not sure when your hotel will charge your credit card, look at your hotel reservation confirmation, where you will likely find payment details. Otherwise, call or email the hotel.  

For Airbnb bookings, the host will always illustrate what they expect when you make your reservation. This can be paying a certain amount at booking or the remaining a few days before arrival or payment in full at booking. They seldom (if ever) allow you to pay when you check out.

I have written an article about how to find cheap Airbnb listings and well as one explaining why their prices fluctuate if you will be renting here instead.

I’ll discuss below why hotels charge guests when they do: 

Charging When Booking

When booking a hotel stay at an upscale resort or on a third-party website, you may need to pay for your entire hotel stay or put down a deposit before it’s confirmed. The deposit is usually for the first night’s stay, and if you want to reserve extras, like parking or breakfast, you might need to pay for this upfront.   

Hotel rates on third-party booking platforms are typically very competitive and often considered non-refundable by the hotel. 

Most hotels ask for your credit card details when booking so that they can charge your card if you cancel at the last minute or charge you for things like room service, using the mini bar, damages, etc.  

If your hotel doesn’t ask for a deposit, they might want to authorize your credit card when booking. This involves the hotel checking with your credit card company that your card has sufficient funds to cover your hotel costs. Once the hotel has authorized your card, you’ll have a hold on your card for the authorized amount, and your credit limit will be lower. 

When the hotel charges you for your stay, they will remove the hold on your card.

Charging a Few Days Before Check-In

If you have booked your hotel stay on a third-party website, you might need to pay the full or partial amount 24 to 72 hours before check-in. Since the hotel will already have your credit card details on file, all you need to do to secure your booking is ensure that your credit card limit is high enough. 

If you’re paying with a debit card, make sure you have enough funds in your bank. Otherwise, you risk voiding the booking. 

Charging at Check-Out

Most hotels charge guests at check-out as this is easier, and they only need to process one payment. Any good hotel will allow you to charge your room for things like drinks at the bar, meals in the hotel restaurant, and laundry during your stay. 

The hotel will add up the charge for your stay and any other costs you’ve incurred when you check out. They’ll give you the bill to check and then charge your card. 

If you don’t use the front desk to check out and use the hotel’s app or the self-service kiosk, your card will be charged then. 

What Happens if I Cancel My Hotel Booking?

When planning a trip, most people make their hotel reservations in advance to secure good rates and the best accommodation. But what happens if you cancel your reservation? 

If you cancel your hotel booking, you might lose your deposit. If you had a special rate and paid upfront, you’ll probably forfeit that amount. Some hotels will give you a complete or partial refund if you cancel well in advance. 

When making a hotel reservation, it’s essential to read their terms and conditions regarding payment and cancelations. The lowest-priced rates are usually on third-party websites. Still, these almost always come with non-cancellation policies, making the guest liable for the partial or total amount if they cancel. 

If you want to take advantage of special rates, you should be very confident that you won’t need to cancel. Many hotels charge you if you cancel because they might not have enough time to get another guest for your room. However, if you advise your hotel in advance, they might be willing to let you off the hook. 

Suppose you can’t make it to the hotel due to travel delays or a medical or family emergency. If you have travel insurance covering your trip, you probably won’t be liable for the cancelation fee. 

Some hotels allow guests to cancel up to 24 to 72 hours before checking in, but this varies significantly between hotels. The room rates with such allowance are typically higher, but it might be worth securing the reservation if you’re unsure about your travel itinerary.

Is It Safe To Give Out My Credit Card Details?

Paying for goods and services online can be risky unless you’re confident that it’s a reputable website. How do you know if it’s okay to give your credit card details? 

It is safe to give out your credit card details if you’re booking on the hotel’s website, speaking to a hotel representative, or making a reservation on a well-known third-party booking site. 

Many people are looking to make a dishonest quick buck online, so always make sure that you’re using the hotel’s genuine website and not a fake one. 

Here are some ways to verify if a website is genuine: 

  • Check the trust seal. Secure websites usually have secure site seals and small badges indicating that a trust seal company has vetted the site. If you click on the seal, and it takes you to a reputable company’s website, the chances are that the website is legitimate. 
  • Check the URL carefully. Fake websites often closely resemble the real ones with a couple of spelling variations. For example, they might spell “Hilton” with two l’s instead of one. 
  • The URL begins with “HTTPS.” If a website’s URL begins with “HTTPS” (and not “HTTP”), it means that they use encryption to transmit data, and your credit card details will be secure.  
  • Look at the website content. Major hotel chains and hotel booking websites won’t have unprofessional-looking websites with spelling and other errors. If you notice this, it’s a red flag.  

It can be tempting to pay for a hotel on a website offering incredibly low rates, but you should be careful if you’ve never used them or heard about them before. 


Most hotels charge your credit card when you check out as they only need to charge you once for your hotel stay and any other charges you’ve incurred. However, you might need to pay a deposit or have your credit card authorized when you book. 

If you have a special rate or booked on a third-party website, the hotel might charge your card a few days before your check-in. 


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