Understand the Incidental Charge 

March 17, 2017 

Money - Understand the Incidental Charge

Working for a hotel, some of the questions we get asked most often are related to fees, payment options and incidental charges.  Here are the top three questions we often get:


  • Do you “charge” an incidentals deposit?
  • Why do you charge this deposit?
  • Is this refundable?
  • I don’t see my money refunded yet. When can I expect to see it back on my account?


Well, first I’d like to explain that these questions are worded wrong for the majority of time. That is because the “charge” is not usually a charge if you use a credit card, but an authorization instead. I’ll explain this further, but let’s start from the beginning:


Why do hotels “charge” for incidentals?


Hotels usually ask for a credit card to be on file for incidentals for the convenience of the guest and the protection of the hotel. That is because at check-in you only pay for room + tax. Anything else that you spend at a hotel is considered an incidental charge. So, in order for the hotel to allow you to charge things to your room using your room key for example, they must have a credit card on file.


Examples of incidental charges:


Making long distance in-room phone calls  

Ordering movies on TV

Ordering room service

Purchasing snacks at the hotel’s store

Dining at the hotel and charging it to the room


How is the “charge” processed?


That is going to depend on the form of payment you provide. At the Hawthorn Suites Lake Buena Vista for example, we accept credit cards, debit cards and cash as for the incidental guarantee.  The reason why we ask for a credit card is to make the guest’s life easier. Here’s why: When you use a credit card, the hotel only places an authorization on your card instead of processing an actual charge. That authorization will hold funds from your credit card limit, but it will not actually charge the credit card. That way, when you check out, if you have not had any incidental charges, the hold will just come off of the credit card. It’s that’s simple.


Now, if you use a debit card, the hotel has to actually charge you and then refund you at check out. We  also issue the refund at check out, but depending on your bank, and especially if it’s an international bank, it can take up to 10 days to see your money back in your account.


Is it a refundable “charge?”


Yes, because if you don’t use any extra services at the hotel, that money will go back to your card.


I checked out 10 days ago and still don’t see my refund. What Should I do?


First, think of what form of payment you used. If you used a credit card, you will NOT see a refund. The original hold will just disappear from your statement. So you will not see an actual extra line on your statement with the $50 being refunded to you. You just won’t be able to find the original line that looked like a charge anymore. If you don’t see the initial hold anymore, that means you were not charged. Keep in mind this process also depends on how speedy your bank is with updating online statements, so wait a few days after check-out to make sure. But again, it was never a charge in the first place if you used a credit card.


If you paid with a debit card, you should see a refund, so if it has been more than 10 business days and you still haven’t seen it, contact the hotel. 


We hope this post was clarifying and helped you better understand this “charge” that has become the norm at all hotels. In sum, if you have a credit card, it’s always easier to use the credit card instead of any other form of payment to avoid having any hard charges to your account.


If you still have any other questions, feel free to message us and will be glad to assist!