How Long is Too Long for a Hotel to Wait to Charge You After a Stay?

A year ago the Hilton San Francisco Union Square double charged guests checking out on a single day. A few days later they corrected the problem by double-refunding guest credit cards. So those guests weren’t charged for their stay.

These two countervailing errors, generating four credit card transactions, sat for a year. Then a full year later Hilton charged everyone’s cards again. (Their credit card processor sent letters to guests letting them know they had done so.)

I occasionally find hotels charging me for things I didn’t ‘buy’ during my stay so while I don’t always visit the desk at check-out I do always make sure to get an electronic copy of my folio so I can review it.

A real pet peeve of mine is hotels charging my card for things after closing out my folio usually that happens with no communication at all, and after I’ve turned in my expense report for the trip at work. Plus we’re talking about charges for expenses which occurred in a different tax year.

Credit: Hilton San Francisco Union Square

A year and a half ago I wrote about the Hyatt Place Chicago Downtown The Loop charging my card after six months. I felt that in that case I owed the money so I should pay the money. However good luck if you’re a business traveler getting your employer to reimburse something like that. The hotel screwed up and it’s an inconvenience to the guest I think something like charging a card after a year ought to be accompanied by a goodwill gesture of some sort.

In contrast some of my readers tell me that anything over 30 or 60 days should just be eaten by the vendor, while others believe a hotel ought to be able to avail themselves of whatever the full legally permissible time period is in their state.

What do you think — is charging customers for a stay two weeks beyond a year after that stay occurred reasonable? Does Hilton owe its guests anything if it’s going to do 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, 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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  1. I think there should be a 30 day limit after you check out for the hotel to fix any errors on their end.

    Just out of curiosity, what do you think would happen if you cancel a credit card a few months after checking out, then a year later the hotel tries to put charges on it?

  2. 60 days after checkout seems reasonable. There must be some duty of care to account for customer charges within two months of a stay.

  3. Agree with the above comments in that some limit would be useful to help consumers avoid tax or reimbursement headaches. And also for common sense.

    @Jed AFAIK you’re responsible for charges on cancelled cards as long as the transaction date was before cancellation.

    Also can I say this – jesus F’ing christ – get that Hilton letter writer to a seminar on clear business English!

  4. I think the rules might need to be slightly different depending on how you check out, but it the property gives you a final billing amount on a folio or receipt, and you don’t protest that amount, that amount is what they get. End of story. Certainly, anything beyond 30 days is ridiculous unless the property is going to give you better terms than “payable in full upon checkout”.

    By and large, we’re not talking about small family businesses making small errors that might impact their personal quality of life. We’re talking about large corporations (even with the smallest chain property owners/managers) that need to have their investments in quality back of house financial software justified by an impact to the bottom line if they screw up. If screwing up doesn’t cost, there’s no incentive to getting it right.

  5. There should DEFINITELY be a limit, otherwise, what’s to stop you (especially frequent travelers) from getting hundreds or thousands of dollars randomly charged to you months later when you can barely remember the trip much less if you had dinner in a hotel, ordered $50 worth of room service or if there were 3 towels and not 4 but since housekeeping didn’t mark it down you got charged for one that was never there? I think if I were one being hit a YEAR later, I’d file a complaint with my credit card company! I’m with Jed, curious of how they charged the cards that are no longer valid, have been re-issued by card co’s, etc., were business cards where employee no longer employed, etc.

  6. Note to self: get replacement travel cards 120 days after a major trip.
    Hyatt could have built up some good will by charging a portion of the night for the inconvenience to their customers. If I get this type of notice, I am suspecting fraud and double billing and have to research it, which is time consuming. For the time spent, it would be nice to get a discount. I assume it was only for guests paying with credit cards that checked out on a specific day, so it may only be 100 or so transactions. Compensate the customers with a discount or some Hyatt Points or a voucher for future travel, but don’t make them bear the brunt of an error beyond their control.

  7. @Jason 2, so if a hotel I stayed at in 1996 decided to add some charges to my stay, they could still successfully charge a card now that I canceled in 1997, even though that was more than two decades ago? I find it hard to believe there is no limit at all.

  8. I agree that a year is a very long time. But let’s be honest, when people were double-billed and then double-credited, they knew that they got away without paying. It shouldn’t be a surprise and there shouldn’t be any protest for the hotel asking to paid what it is owed.

    I am a road warrior and submit expenses weekly. If I didn’t get charged for a stay, I’d call the hotel and get it sorted to be sure I could submit it in time to be reimbursed.

    Like mistake fares and billing errors, people don’t say a word hoping to come out on top. These are the same people who would complain immediately if the mistake was not in their favor. At the end of the day people should put on their adult pants and pay for the services that they’ve used.

  9. IANAL but I think the statue of limitations on contracts is 4 years. Although that may be superseded by bank/network/merchant agreements.

  10. I agree 30 – 60 days. I also think it’s reasonable as a customer to assume that the double-billback was the hotel’s way of “making it right” by comping the night for those customers. Si it’s not like these people all thought they “got away with it”.

    Anything beyond 60 days is getting ridiculous.

  11. off the topic a bit, it’s just hard to believe this kind of poor management of their business. Someone got to be fired.

  12. What happens to the biz traveler who paid on his own CC and has now left his employer and should have had documentation for an expense report? (he = she, obvs)

  13. My company simply will not reimburse business charges submitted after 90 days. I have seen the rare appeal approved, but is truly the exception.

  14. I’m thinking it should be less than 2 weeks. If I stayed for just a night or two, having between 7x and 14x the length of my stay to get around to charging me should be sufficient. If you can’t find the time to charge me within an order of magnitude from my stay, then you shouldn’t be in this business.

  15. They should Take a picture of the letter and attach it to a one star trip adviser review. Although the debt was legitimate this was a real stay with a real inconvenience including taxes and expensing that the hotel did not attempt to make up for in anyway. giving a one star review for the hotel causing an inconvenience and then doing nothing to make up for it would be completely legitimate and the hotel would have to view these negative reviews as the logical consequence of collecting money that they are technically owed but that they made a legitimate mistake they should’ve done something to compensate for. hotels that deserve good reviews compensate for legitimate mistakes.

  16. I don’t understand why the guest didn’t call the hotel to let them know they had refunded both charges. How could a person not check up and see what happened and straighten it out right away? Especially if they needed the information for a business reimbursement. Somebody would let this go FOR A YEAR?

  17. Two things are getting confused. For ancillary charges like minibar it should be 24 hours after checkout and the should be forced to email an updated folio. I agree with the blogger here that I too have been charged an extra $5-$50 after I checkout with no notice for minibar items which always aren’t mine because I rarely dig into that stuff and when I do I get it noted when I checkout so I have a clean expense receipt.

    Now for a clear billing mistake like described at the Hilton above I guess I’d give them 90 days with notice like they gave. That said, how did their back office folks not notice this issue when they closed out their reports for the month? They probably have a valid legal claim to the money for 1-3 years but they’re obviously not going to sue you for it so I guess to the other commenters that think they’re should get it free after a few weeks, get your credit card reissued with a new number and buy some bitcoin with the “profit.”

  18. Gary,

    there should only be a 5 day period, that is it. When i check out, the same day the room gets cleaned and they know if i used the bar or destroyed the room.

    I am disputing any charge from any hotel 10 days after my stay. If a hotel can not get their act together, that is not my problem. A binding contract to a specific amount to be charged can not be changed in my opinion.

    I have had Hilton charge me 3 month after a stay once and one of the employees actually stole my credit card data and swiped it at the hotel to check if it was still valid.

    I stay about 75 nights at hotels in a given year and this strategy has worked thus far.

  19. @Mike I doubt the employee “stole” your credit card data. It’s not like he copied the number for personal use. Hotels keep your credit cards on file before, during, and after your stay.

  20. In Asia , most good hotel reception staff call the floor staff and someone goes to your room whilst you are checking out . Floor staff do a quick check of towels,linen, minibar etc and a guest waits a few extra minutes, Then you get a guaranteed folio/check out bill and there are no questions or billing later . Not so common in Europe or USA as staff are more expensive .

  21. I am currently experiencing this situation, specifically with a Chicago hotel, although I am a Colorado resident. I have requested the Terms and Conditions of the company to see what they say, not surprisingly they are not available in full online. As a lawyer, the duty of care owed for negligence is higher because they are “inn keepers.” Based on this premise it should be a reasonable time frame, based on the 60 day time frame given for business folio’s, I believe beyond 60 days to be unreasonable. That is what I plan to argue to Starwood Hotels, I will follow up after I get the final word.

  22. I have a similar situation with Hampton Inn stay from Nov. 11, 2016. I received a 0.00 folio upon check out. My company was on direct bill with them for Room charges. I gave my Credit card for misc. items. I received an $837 charge on March 7, 2018. I contacted bank and was told of charge. I contacted Hampton Inn, General Manager claims my employer did not pay so, he charged me.
    Almost 16 months later without any notice to me. My employer still stays at Hampton Inn and has upcoming reservations for next week. This is a new GM trying to make his bottom line look good. Bill is paid and my employer is still a customer. I have filed a complaint with Hampton Inn and GM called me rudely and said once his bill is paid I will get a credit. The accounting is messed up by Hampton Inn or GM is trying to get a bonus by increasing revenue, anyway he can. Along with my credit card info, GM had my cell and Email. He could have called or emailed, just once in past 16 months. Hampton Inn, Denison TX GM Jerry Brown

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