Use of cash and debit cards is a legitimate method of payment for travelers in the United States but may not be the best choice when booking a hotel. Some may wonder why anyone would use cash or debit cards to book a hotel room in the first place (considering the risk over using a credit card). Access to a credit card is often the primary reason.

Book a Hotel Using Cash or Debit CardFor instance, in the last several years more than six million people in the USA have declared personal bankruptcy leaving them without access to credit or credit cards for a period of time. Others have a personal policy not to use credit or don’t qualify for other reasons. Foreign travelers also may use traveler’s checks or cash.

For hotel guests without credit cards, booking a hotel room may prove challenging. Gilroy Best Western Plus Forest Park Inn owners explain what happens when using cash or debit cards to book a hotel room.

Using a debit card to book a hotel room- when using debit cards, a hold is placed on your card for the total amount of the room charges, and often hotels charge an additional 15-20% extra for incidentals. The hold makes these funds unavailable in your account.

Switching from debit card to cash- if a guest decides to pay cash at check out after initially paying with a debit card, the hotel immediately releases your funds. Your bank, however, doesn’t. The bank may place a hold on this amount for up to 15 days (based on your bank’s rules) making access to this amount unavailable.

Gilroy Best Western Plus Forest Park Inn informs customers of this policy in order to avoid any difficult circumstances for their guests. Their policy states:

When you use your debit card at check-in you are authorizing a hold to be placed on your bank account for the dollar amount of the entire stay plus 10% to 15% for incidental charges. These funds are temporarily not available to draw check on.

When the money is on hold, you can only write checks on the balance remaining in your bank account. If you write checks above this balance, you may incur overdraft charges from your bank.

If you pay for your stay at check out using an alternative form of payment, depending on your bank, it may take 3 to 15 days to release the amount on hold in your account.

This hotel will not be responsible for overdraft charges resulting from holds placed on your bank account from use of a debit card.

Paying cash for a hotel room- many hotels don’t allow customers to pay for a room in cash without a card on file. Most will accept a credit or a debit card as a hold, but many will refuse service to an all-cash client without a card. The reason has to do with liability for additional charges or damages caused by the guest.

If you are planning to stay in a hotel using your debit card or cash, call the hotel ahead of time to find out what their policy is. This will help you avoid any unpleasant surprises as you travel.

Written by Laura Wrede, Gilroy freelance writer and photographer