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The Beginners’ Guide to Booking a Hotel Online

Let me tell you the story about the time I taught my mom how to book a room for her vacation. We were going abroad for a few days, and this was in a country where the cost of living was so expensive that it was more practical to get an Airbnb. We ended up finding a homeowner who turned their home into something of a small hotel, but when it came time to pay, it became difficult when my mom insisted she wanted to pay in cash rather than give her credit card number.

Not all (or barely any) hotels accept cash, and for reasons we’ll get to later. In a 2018 survey, only 26 percent of 1,222 consumers said they preferred paying through credit cards. And if you’re someone who has heard too many stories about online scams or hackers stealing your credit card information, it’s easy to understand why one would be hesitant on typing their card information online.

If you’re booking a hotel for the first time and are considering the different methods of paying for your reservation, we’re here to help. This article tackles the different ways you can pay a hotel.

Cash Payments

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Most people assume that credit cards are necessary if they want to book a hotel online, but this isn’t always the case. While some hotels will want payment before you can confirm your booking, there are still hotels that you can book online without any payment, and then you can simply pay them when you arrive. Many hotels and other similar types of businesses recognize that some people choose to live without credit cards, and if they want to attract customers who don’t have credit cards, they need to provide other ways to attract their business.

Some hotels won’t accept anything but a credit card because of the risk. For example, let’s say that a five-star hotel accepts only cash payments, and a shady couple checks in for the night. After the couple checks out and leaves, the hotel finds that the towels and anything that isn’t pinned down were taken and the room such a mess that some of the furniture needs to be repaired or completely replaced. However, because they cannot track down the couple (who used a fake name) and only paid in cash, it is unlikely that even with police assistance that they will find the couple and hold them liable for the damage. You might swear that you will be nothing like a hotel guest from hell, but hotels are a business and they aren’t going to risk their business. Unfortunately, you may be unlikely to find a high-end hotel that accepts cash.

Some mid-range, small non-chain, and mom-and-pop hotels may be more likely to accept online reservations through bank transfers, while some may even accept reservations without payment and you can simply pay them with cash when you arrive. However, expect that you will be required to pay a cash deposit, which is a certain amount of money you give them for them to hold until you check out. If there is damage to the property, anything missing that you weren’t supposed to take (e.g. pillow, towel, hair dryer), or outstanding payments for the minibar food and drinks or TV pay-per-view, they will deduct a certain amount from your deposit; otherwise, if there’s nothing wrong, the deposit will be returned in full.

How to Book Hotels with Cash

You might have to do a bit of extra research to find a hotel that accepts cash payment, but once you do, it’s best to call them and confirm if it is still possible to pay with cash. From there, your hotel may have two ways for you to pay: either you pay via bank transfer or bank deposit, or you confirm your reservation and pay when you arrive at the hotel.

Bank transfers or bank deposits may be possible if you’re booking a hotel within your country, but it’s less likely if you’re booking international travel. The hotel will give you its bank details such as the account name, account number, and the name of their bank, and all you have to do is go to one of their bank’s branches and deposit the payment there. You then have to send proof such as the receipt or deposit slip online. They will then confirm your bank reservation. If the hotel allows payment when you arrive, you can simply pay them personally. However, in both cases, you may be required to provide a cash deposit and a government-issued ID.

Pros and Cons

The biggest advantage of paying cash is that you won’t be forced to open a debit or credit card just to book a hotel. If you’re the type who is afraid of getting the bank information stolen and want to play it safe, paying in cash is a good option. It’s not the most convenient, but if you’re someone who isn’t quite sure how technology works and would rather pay it upfront, then paying cash is a good idea.

The cons of paying cash is that you’re limited to hotels that accept this form of payment. High-end hotels may only accept credit or debit cards and don’t allow their staff to accept money as a form of payment.

Debit Card

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I’d say that debit cards are the best of both worlds between paying cash and paying with a credit card. Credit card usage can go as far as the bank allows your line of credit to extend and you pay for whatever it is you used your card for after the fact when your bill arrives.

Debit cards, on the other hand, are directly tied to your savings or checking account, so your usage can go as far as how much money is in your bank. So, if your checking account has a $1000, you can take your debit card on a $1000 shopping spree. But if your account is empty, your debit card is basically just a piece of plastic you can’t use until you add more money to your account.

Some people think that a debit card is not the same as a credit card and won’t be accepted for hotel reservations. While some hotels strictly require a credit card (since credit cards aren’t limited to the amount available in one’s bank account), it’s still possible to get into most hotels of all price ranges with just a debit card as long as you have enough money in the bank. This will make it easier for you to pay for your reservation online. However, because of the risk that there isn’t any money in your debit card upon checking in, some hotels may require a cash deposit as well to cover the additional expenses you might incur during your stay.

How to Book Hotels with a Debit Card

To book a hotel with a debit card, first make sure you have enough money in your account to pay the total amount. Hotels often mention whether or not they accept debit cards, but if your debit card has a Visa or MasterCard logo, it can also serve as a credit card. Most hotel reservation systems see Visa and MasterCard debit cards as credit cards, so as long as there is enough money in your account, the transaction should go smoothly. However, take note that either the hotel or your bank charges additional fees for the transaction. Try calling your bank or the hotel beforehand.

Once the reservation is successful, all you have to do is show up by check-in time. Because of the risks, you may be asked to provide a cash deposit in case your debit card cannot pay for your additional expenses. However, some hotels may not require it since they already have your bank account and can easily contact your bank to track you in case of outstanding payments.

Pros and Cons

Booking hotels with a debit card comes with some of the pros and cons provided by both paying with cash and credit card. First, you get a little peace of mind tracking down the money that’s taken from you as payment. Since you know how much the hotel reservation cost, you can easily see that that is the amount taken from you when you make a payment. Second, it has the convenience of credit cards: simply put your card number and reserve.

However, your debit card can only go as far as how much money your account has. Unlike credit cards where you can defer payment until a later date, you cannot reserve unless your bank account has enough money in it. Also, even if it has the convenience of a credit card, you’ll still be required to put a bank deposit since some hotels do not want to risk losing money if your debit card does not have enough funds to cover the additional costs.

Credit Card

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If you have a credit card, this should be the fastest and most convenient way to book reservations. Most hotels (if not all such as small hotels with no ties to corporate banks) accept credit card for online reservations. Unlike cash or debit card where you need to have available funds ready before you can pay, you can easily book a hotel even if you don’t have the funds at the moment – the bank sort of “pays” for you, and then you can pay the bank when your monthly bill arrives, though with interest.

How to Book a Hotel with a Credit Card

Simply go to the booking page of the hotel you want, and when it’s time to pay, input your credit card information and confirm your reservation. Because the hotel has your credit card on file, you may not be required to provide a deposit. After your stay, any additional costs may be charged to your credit card when you check out.

Pros and Cons

Because most hotels accept credit cards for online payment, you have a wider range of hotels to choose from. It’s also very convenient as you don’t have to have cash on hand or deal with physical money because most of the transactions are done online.

However, the biggest con of using a credit card is with the chance that you do get scammed. While there is a chance for cash and debit card payers to get scammed, they only lose the cash or whatever money is taken. Credit card users, if they’re not careful, may end up getting their bank information stolen which can then be used by hackers and scammers for their own purposes. As much as possible, be careful with the website you’re putting your credit card information in.

As a consumer, you have a lot of options on how to pay a hotel reservation. Each come with their own pros and cons, so it’s up to you to decide which method works best. Consider which method you’re most comfortable with and what is the most convenient for your financial situation and the destination you’re going to.

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