Always Check Your Credit Card Statement for Unauthorized Hotel Charges

A year and a half ago I wrote about the Hyatt Regency Crystal City improperly charging me for a bottle of water. It’s a tiny matter the scheme of things, but if everyone ignored small charges, it would create a very strong incentive for hotels to purposely tack on charges like that, small enough that no one bothers, but at $3++ per room night actually meaningful. All guests would be worse off.

And I stay at enough hotels (around 150 room nights last year) that those $3 overcharges start to add up. Hotels never seem to leave off charges from my bill. Mistakes always seem to be in the hotel’s favor.

So always check your folio. But that’s not enough. You have to watch your credit card statement too.

One of my Top Ten 10 Pet Peeves is billing your credit card for additional charges after checkout and not bothering to give you a heads up.

    When a hotel decides to charge you for something that wasn’t on your folio when you checked out, by just billing your credit card, they should have to email to let you know they are doing it and identify the item(s).

By all means, you should pay what you owe, but a huge pet peeve is additional (usually small) charges showing up on my credit card statement. If I didn’t comb through my statements I wouldn’t even know they had done this. And then I have to get in touch with the property to find out what this additional charge is even for.

If a hotel’s systems and processes are too poor to identify charges before checkout, they should at the very least proactively reach out to the customer to explain they’re hitting the card for more charges and send a statement detailing those charges. Don’t leave it to the customer to notice they’ve been hit, and then have to do research to understand why.

So when I stayed again at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City and the front desk confirmed for me that in-room bottled water is still a courtesy they extent to Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond members (which is much appreciated) I was pleased when my folio didn’t have any improper charges on it. They did better this time!

Or so I thought. They charged my card for the amount on the folio — and then charged it again for $3.18 — a $3 bottle of water, plus tax.

Since I happened to remember the story (and amount!) from a year and a half ago it didn’t take much investigation to figure out what happened. Housekeeping serviced the room after I had left, saw a bottle of water used, and reported it. They posted the charge, and didn’t check against their policy for Diamonds post-checkout.

It was easily fixed with the hotel, although it’s annoying because of the time it takes to figure out and because I’d have never even known if I didn’t investigate all unknown charges on my credit cards. Many people wouldn’t bother with $3.18 and I wouldn’t blame them. I do.

Do you bother checking your credit card statements and following up on small charges like this?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I am going through this exact situation right now. On March 23 I booked in to Best Western Plus LAG for 36ooo points. One night ( yes, I know, crazy! ). A few days later a charge appeared on my credit card statement ( because I checked ) for $33.50 USD, about $50AUD. Fortunately I had reason to be back there again on March 29th ( yes, I know, crazy! ). The night manager tried bluffing his way through it and I insisted, no. So he rang BW HQ, not sure why, but they confirmed no charges were applicable. The Night Manager told me he would fix it with a credit. He hasn’t. So I have emailed the GM, twice now, no response. But in terms of this story, imagine if they try that with every Rewards guest. Adds up to a lot of cash over a year. A lot of folks probably wouldn’t bother for a lousy $33.50 but I will and I am. So this article is a good, timely reminder, check your credit card statements. I always do. And if you happen to be staying at BW Plus LAG, beware.

  2. This is where Christopher Elliott’s contacts will help. The Sheraton Center Toronto did the same to me, except that it was for SPG’s taxes when the room was supposed to have been free. The hotel conveniently tried to bluff their way through. After three emails to the night manager on duty with no response, I went to Christopher Elliott’s site, found the email to SPG’s Senior Director of Consumer Affairs and copied all the emails I sent. It was fun to watch them try to sooth things over. Royal Suite upgrade the next time I returned (I stay at the property for a few weeks every year), fruit and cheese plates etc. It’s not the money; it’s the principle. And don’t ignore the problem cause I will take it to higher management.

  3. It’s not just hotels. I’ve had Hertz South Africa try to add charges twice after a rental last September. Disputed it and chase took it away but it’s showed up again. Like you, I would be open to communication and paying for something that was genuinely missed but this sneaky charging is ridiculous.

  4. Yes, I have to check. This happened to me at the Palmer House Hilton last month. $8 charge for a mini bar item posted days after checkout, with no email notification. I never even touched the mini bar. It was fixed with one email, but still annoying.

  5. Gary,
    Several times in the past year I’ve been asked to sign the hotel’s bill to IHG showing the amount the hotel bills IHG. I thought it as strange but never saw it on my credit card.

    Those reimbursement rates seem really low….or maybe they are billing me a few months later…but nothing on the folio at check out

  6. Thanks for saying this Gary! I recently stayed at a Hyatt in Westlake Village, CA for ONE night and had a bottle of water charged to my room on checkout. Housekeeping never entered the room! It makes the whole thing seem rather suspicious.

  7. Happened to me while I stayed at JW Marriott Cancun. Checked out and asked for the folio to be sent to email. Did not receive it until I called the hotel. They added misc charges for the mini-bar which I did had not touched/used (not an electronic sensor). I emailed them thrice over 10 days without getting a response. Copied Marriott on two of those emails and just recently received a response that they are sending it to the accounting and billing department of the hotel.

  8. I worked as front desk at the Sheraton Brooklyn NY. Gary have you been? Not a very good hotel.

    Anyways, procedure there was around 6PM when the housekeeping manager left they would give us a list of all the rooms who got water. Then we’d check it for Platinums and then charge all the non-Plats. I always felt bad doing it because it would be an extra charge not even on their original folio as you said. But we had to do it. So stupid, water should be free.

    At least five times a week we’d get a call from someone saying we improperly charged them for water. Whether or not it was true, we removed the charge and that was it. We were so nitpicky that we absolutely had to charge each water, but if anyone have an inkling they didn’t drink it, we took it off right away. Can’t question the customer!

  9. Also IHG reimbursement rates are always really low, like $30 or so, unless the occupancy is high, the usual.

  10. @Robbo,

    I think Gary´s comment was related to a revenue stay. According to your post, you are there on a reward stay, where charges such as tax, resort fees may be applicable.

    Upon checking out from the Holiday Inn in Singapore late January 2016, I was presented with a bill of SGD 400++ for approx. five nights adding up to close to USD 1800, but then they had the courtesy to say, that this was the internal invoicing with-in the IHG chain.

    By reading any of the main-chain hotels annual reports, I believe the annual number of guest count multiplied by USD$ 3, would far exceed their annual profits before tax.

  11. I find car rental companies even worse. Last August I rented an AVIS car for a week in London. There was a problem with one of the tires. I called AVIS who told me to call their tire specialist who would take care of the problem, at AVIS expense. It was a hassle and wasted three hours but the tire was replaced. Fast forward to November 2015. I see a charge to my CHASE Sapphire card from AVIS. I disputed the charge and asked for details. By the time the item was first charged more than 60 days had passed from the date of the rental and CHASE would not cover the amount under their much vaunted insurance which I was relying on. AVIS said I must have misunderstood and that the item was chargeable. CHASE sided with AVIS. Rental companies should be obliged to raise non billed charges directly with the customer before charging the credit card, within say 30 days from the rental or not charge them. CHASE should have let me make a claim. As it was the customer was the one who got hit. Guess who I will never rent from again. Unfortunately the Sapphire card is so good in other ways it doesn’t make sense to ditch it although I did have a 30 day strike when I used an AMEX card instead.

  12. The Dupont Circle Hotel in DC charged me $38 for parking, when I took the subway to and from the hotel about a year ago. Took a couple emails to get it corrected. It was absolutely ridiculous as I only paid $18 for the room during an OTA promotion.

  13. I definitely watch closely. I had a stay at the Bellagio in Vegas once that was substandard. They offered to discount the room rate, but since it was a corporate paid stay I declined. They surprised me instead with a nice snack basket delivered to my room as an apology.

    Post-checkout I got an updated invoice showing I was charged a gratuity for the delivery of the service recovery gift!

  14. This has happened to many way too many times. I am too lazy to dispute them, or when I write emails, I do not get a reply back or if I do, they try to justify it. Also, chase is terrible at disputes and Amex is much better.
    My most recent issue was at the Le meridian in Malta. I had called them and told them upon placing a soda can, I had tilted some of the things in the mini bar and it might have set off the sensors.
    I hardly check my credit card bills and I saw a hefty charge of 169 Euro for something. We paid for our meals and because of the status our breakfast was included. I still have no idea what they have charged me for. It is just such a hassle to dispute stuff with hotels.
    I even had a no show charge for a holiday inn that I cancelled in Phuket over two years ago. Still have not been resolved. The worse experience I had was at the Le Meridian in Mauritius, where I had used points and they had billed me for something rather. It was a small charge. I had changed hotels and location.
    So, the next morning I get a knock on my door on the northern part of the island at this new hotel that I was staying at… Guess what? The entire police team, ready to take me to the station for questioning. They had even cancelled my business class out of Mauritius on Air France.
    I tried to explain it to the Mauritian police that I had used SPG points and it was very difficult to explain it to them, as my French is very poor.
    I was dragged in a police car back to the south of the island to the SPG. I was met with a very rude hotel front desk manager saying that the first 4 nights were billed as SPG points and the final night was cash and points and I had not signed the bill and I had left. They made sure that I paid for the small fee, since they are a category 3 for the final night with cash and points.
    The trouble was really bad, after I was released from the Police station, I had to find my way back to the north of the island to my current hotel. I had to cancel a non refundable excursion as I was a no show. That was my last day in MRU. When I showed up for my Air France flight I was told that my reservation was cancelled by the local police.
    I went through hell to rebook my flights. Since, I was connecting in Athens on a separate ticket to JMK (Mykonos), I lost that ticket. Also, the Pelican hotel in Mykonos cancelled my hotel room and gave it away and when I showed up a two days later there was not a room for me. The entire experience trickled down from the Le Meridian front desk manager calling the police and alerting them that I had not paid or signed for the cash and points part for the final night.
    I think hotels should be accountable for their actions and mistreating customers.
    I still like to write to the person in charge of consumer affairs of SPG.

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