What Do Hotels Charge for Incidentals? A Missing Manual

Just because the advertised price of a hotel room seems like a great bargain doesn’t necessarily mean that you can rest assured that your pocket is out of harm’s way. There is a possibility for your hotel stay to cost more, and it may catch you by surprise when checking out.

In some instances, you may come across incidental fees in your credit card bill after your hotel stay, and they can make you feel like the hotel has tricked you.

So, what do hotels charge for incidentals? 

Some common examples of incidental charges are making long-distance calls using the in-room phone, ordering a movie or room service, consuming an item in the minibar, and dining at the hotel and charging it to the room. Any serious damage to the room caused by a guest also counts as an incidental.

You can think of an incidental as some form of insurance policy for the hotel.

Just in case you consumed an alcoholic beverage or damaged something in your room, the hotel can have peace of mind that it can charge you for the incidental using your credit card.

This is why you should have a good idea of what incidentals are so that you can avoid paying for things that you think are free of charge as they seem like integrated into the main hotel bill.

Please share this on social media afterward to save your family and friends from the surprise of seeing incidental charges in their credit card bill after staying in hotels where they tried to see what it’s like to be VIP guests.

Hotels Do Not Charge Incidentals Per Se

First things first: although it is common knowledge that hotels charge for incidentals, they do not really do so, especially when a guest is making a hotel room reservation or standing at the front desk to check-in.

Especially when a credit card is involved, hotels only put it on hold. Most hotels prefer to call it an incidental deposit.

With authorization on your credit card, the hotel can hold funds from your credit card limit. However, it will not charge you right away.

If, when you check out, there are no incidentals to charge, the hotel’s hold of your credit card will simply come off. Otherwise, you will be charged by the hotel, and it will appear in your credit card bill later.

So, in a nutshell, when using a credit card, you will not be charged by the hotels for incidentals when booking or checking in. Depending on the hotel, you may or may not be informed that it is making an authorization on your credit card just in case there are incidentals to pay after your hotel stay.

A credit card can make things simpler when it comes to matters related to incidentals. This is why hotels that accept cash payments require their guests to provide their credit cards when booking.

Hotels hold credit cards on file for incidental purposes. When it comes to incidentals, it is recommended to use your credit card.

Before-mentioned is not only for the good of the hotel but also for yours. Keep on reading to know why this is so.

Using a Credit Card is a Better Idea

If you are using your credit card, there is no such thing as refunding incidental fees, especially if there are no incidentals to charge, to begin with.

Just like what’s mentioned earlier, the hotel will just release authorization on your credit card the minute you check out and do not order something that falls under incidentals.

However, it is a different matter if you prefer to pay for your hotel room reservation with cash instead of a credit card. Upon checking in, you will be asked by the hotel to pay for an incidental deposit.

The money that you will shell out for it gives the hotel some sort of guarantee that you will not run away from paying incidental fees. But if there are no incidental charges, the hotel will simply hand you back your money as you are checking out.

Complications may arise if you choose to pay the incidental deposit using a debit card, and it’s for a couple of reasons.

First, you may not have enough money in your bank to cover the amount. Second, after the hotel has refunded your incidental deposit, it may take several days before you see your money in your bank account.

Usually, it takes 1 to 3 business days for the refund process to complete. In some cases, it may take longer than that. It depends on certain factors, such as how your bank processes refunds.

Tips on Dodging Paying for Incidentals

Fortunately, to avoid overshooting your budget, there are some steps that you may take to avoid paying for incidentals or being charged for incidentals exorbitantly.

One of the things that you may do is to stash in your luggage just about everything that you will need to fend off the need for incidentals during your hotel stay.

Another one is fighting off the urge to enjoy some of the goodies in the minibar as they do not come free of charge.

Some frequent travelers swear by joining rewards programs. Many hotels throw in free or discounted incidentals with the membership.

Last but not least, don’t feel too embarrassed to pick up the in-room phone and ask the front desk which of the available items or services count as incidentals and which ones don’t.

If you do not want to appear any incidental charges on your credit card bill, then avoid ordering or enjoying something that counts as incidental.

Keep in mind that any damage that the room incurs as a result of your action also counts as an incidental. To avoid being charged, make sure that you practice caution during your hotel stay.

Just Before You Opt for a Nice Hotel Service

Always keep in mind that your main hotel bill is made up of the rate of the room and tax. It does not include items and services that you will have to pay for, the overall cost of which is regarded as an incidental charge.

You will be charged by the hotel for incidentals if you order them, but you don’t have to worry about being charged if you don’t.

Especially if you are not that familiar with the various charges involved with staying in hotels, the chances are that you may end up surprised that your hotel bill upon check out is higher than the advertised price.

Put simply, items or services that are not covered by your main hotel bill are usually regarded as incidentals. Needless to say, the hotel will charge you for it upon checking out.

If you paid for the incidental deposit with cash or your debit card, your hotel would only refund the amount less than the incidental fee.

But if there are no incidentals to charge, you will get a full refund. You would get your money back after a few days if you paid the deposit with a debit card.

Knowing the things that hotels charge for incidentals allows you to stay within budget, thus keeping your hotel stay from being a traumatic experience money-wise.

Now that you are familiar with incidentals and how hotels charge you for it, you can make smarter decisions when it comes to asking the front desk for certain items or enjoying some services.

This can make your travel, whether for business or pleasure, more agreeable and friendlier to the pocket.

Related Questions

What is the amount that hotels put on hold on my credit card for incidentals? The amount tends to vary from one hotel to the other. However, it is usually anywhere from $50 to $200 per day.

Are items stolen from the hotel room considered as incidentals? Especially if it will require the hotel to shell out a huge sum of cash to replace stolen items, they will appear in the credit card bill of the guest as incidental fees.

Photo credit: ©canva.com/Cathy Yeulet

Reed Harris

Reed is a traveler and blogger. He's planning to visit all states in the USA. He's been in 31 states so far.

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