Hotel Confusion

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Here is a scenario that recently happened to me and I’d like to share it to show how confusion can snowball into major issues. Just recently I was invited to be one of four speakers at a local conference. As a speaker, the hotel expenses for the stay were picked up by the conference host. When the host booked the conference hall and rooms, they used their corporate credit card to reserve everything.


Upon my arrival at the hotel, I was asked for my credit card to have on file for the room and any extras that might take place. I found it odd, but was in a hurry to get to the room, so I complied. For the most part, the conference weekend went off without a hitch, and no extras were added to my room bill. Then, the morning of my departure I received the normal easy check out procedure, where they put the bill under your door, and you just sign and leave.


I picked up the invoice and upon further examining it, realized the room charge had been put through on my card, not the host’s card. I passed the bill on to the host, who found out all four of the speakers had received the same charge to their individual cards. He took the invoices to the front desk and inquired as to why this was done since his card was on file for these four rooms. I am not sure what kind of answer he received, but they did reverse the charges from the individual cards and placed them on his card.


Now, one side effect to this, is that the moment they ran our individual cards through, the bank locks the funds from our account and holds them until the actual transaction clears (in my case, it was a debit card, so my checking account funds were frozen). The reversal, unlike the initial charge, does not release the funds immediately, but actually takes a few days to hit the account just like the actual charge does.


Now, you would think that logically, if you run a charge on a day, followed by a reversal the same day that they would just cancel each other out. It seems like it should be easy enough for the system to just reverse the charge and release the hold on the funds, but that is not the way it works it seems. Instead the initial transaction still comes through, and in this case, it came through a full day before the reversal did. So, since this took place on a weekend, my funds were held through the weekend, and until Tuesday when the actual charge hit officially. Then on Wednesday the reversal came through and my money was back.


Unfortunately (for me) the account was a new checking account that had very little funds in it at the time, as we were in transition of switching banks and moving funds from one to the other. So, for me, this holding of funds, was a great inconvenience.


Now, jump forward close to a month later, and I get blindsided by the same charge for the room, hitting my account again with no warning. This time it hit at a time between paychecks, when I had no money to cover it. Now, my account is hit with multiple extra fees and charges because it ended up taking money from other bills that now were not covered.


I spoke with the conference host who told me (after relaying the utter shock that they did this to me), that once all was said and done, the hotel had still somehow placed five rooms on his credit card, instead of the four. He had given the hotel the four specific names to be covered, yet there was a fifth name that was not to be covered. Instead of removing that name’s charge from his card, they appear to have removed mine, and then, since it still needed paid, they hit me with it, without any notice to me.


What were they thinking? I am not sure, nor can we understand how they could make a blunder like this when they were given all names and charges and the information they needed for this. I called them, and they immediately did a reversal – but yes, it took three days for that to make it back to my account, causing further fees and screwing my account up further. Fortunately, they contacted my bank, explained the mess up, and the bank agreed to waive the fees from my account.


I am just telling this story so that those of you who work in the hospitality and travel field, who might be in charge of the financial end of things, realize that not everyone that travels is necessarily financially stable enough to handle these kinds of hits from mistakes. In a case like this, they really should have contacted me before charging me the second time – but this could have been a non-issue had they handled it right the first time.


I have been invited back to speak next year. Note to self – do not give them my credit card at all.


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  • Jeffrey McCormack
    Jeffrey McCormack
    Thanks for all of the comments - lack of education on how systems work, as well as bad banking policies add to all of this. It continues to happen. Just the other day my wife bought something, but the guy forgot to add the coupon, so he had to reverse the transaction and run it through again. Well, now both transactions were holding money on my debit card. Only one cleared ultimately, but the other held the funds for 3 days. Again, why would the reversal clear that one? I guess only the bank knows.
  • Douglas B
    Douglas B
    I understand and sympathize with your situation. In the early years of debit cards, the banks did very little to educate the public or the merchants on the affects caused from the ways they are used. Debit cards should really only be used for POS or point of Sale transactions, meaning the total of the charge equals the amount authorized. It should not be used for hotels or car rentals, even restaurants as all of these type merchants get an approval on the amount of the estimated charges they believe may be incurred. If the amount of the charge is not exactly the same as the apptoved amount, I have seen where the debit for the correct amount hits the bank account, and a authorization hold is kept from the original authorization. So if you had a restaurant bill for 43.58, the merchant may tell the system to add 25% or more to the authorization amount for tip or desert. It may authorize 62.00, and your bill you rounded it to 51.00. Since the authorization is not the same amount as the charge, BOTH amounts may reduce your funds in your bank account until the real charge posts, and usually 3-4 days after the original authorization is released. The 62.00 will come back but not immediately. It's compounded even more for car rentals. I found in working on the Front Desk, if the customer has the issuers number, you can call them and it can be reversed faster once they get the approval number, for me it was within 24hours. Long story short ONLY use debit cards for POS purchases. Education for both sides is needed for sure.
  • Katherine R
    Katherine R
    I have worked at a Hotel, and find that what this gentleman say's is true and correct. I myself can not understand why a charge and a credit can not "wash" each other out. Personally, I have gone above and beyond, when traveling myself (after seeing so much of this behind the desk) to actually obtain a Pre-paid or gift certificate with only so much cash attached to it., or, if the hotel/motel allows, I simply pay cash. This is oft time a pain, but I can not have my money "on hold" in my checking account.
  • cindy s
    cindy s
    Unfortunally, hotels hire team members who need to update every year with guest service classes, so they won't make mistakes that often.
  • Manuel  A
    Manuel  A
    Unfortunately this particular mistake happens all the time in all hotels big and smalls.   Why? lack of communication among team members at the front desk and simply "no paying attention".   Most of the time night auditors and front desk clerks that do not care about their jobs made these mistakes all the time causing customers big problems.
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