6 Tips to Stay Safe When Using Your Credit Card to Book a Hotel
We’ve all heard the horror stories: stolen identities, excessive charges, lost money. Nothing can sour an amazing family vacation quicker than a financial snafu, and there is no reason you should add stress to what should be one of the most relaxing and fulfilling times for you and your family.
You should be bonding with your kids while on vacation, not worrying about your wallet.
So after you’ve locked the passports in the safe, and put your wallet in that hard to reach inside pocket, how do you protect your credit – that most elusive of financial securities?
Here Are 6 Tips to Keep Your Credit Card Safe While Travelling:
- Verify Any Website You Submit Credit Information To: These days, you may book directly with a hotel or go through a third party cooking site such as Kayak, Orbitz or Priceline. All of these are great and reputable sites. There are also many smaller outfits, some just as good and others not to be trusted. Before typing in your credit card information, make sure the site uses an encrypted server and if you don’t trust the name, get out of there.
- Do Not Send Credit Card Information Over Email: Notoriously easy to hack, and even easier to forward to the wrong person, email is not a terribly secure way to transmit data as valuable as your credit card number. You also want to make sure you get a confirmation number for all transactions, in case your reservation goes missing or you need to dispute a charge.
- Double Check the Amounts: When booking hotels you have to remember that taxes and fees may raise the originally quoted price, but you still need to make sure you are being charged the correct amount. This is especially important when booking with a third party and not the hotel directly. Were you promised a great deal and then charged the regular rate? You’ll never know to dispute it if you simply assume they got it right.
- Keep Track of Your Payment Method: Carry multiple cards? Keep track of which you used. If you booked with one card and plan on paying with another, you want to double check that the hotel charges the right amount to the right card, lest you hit a limit or get charged a fee by your bank for a charge you didn’t actually intend to make.
- Don’t Forget About Incidentals: Besides the charge for the room and any applicable taxes and fees, most hotels place an additional hold on your card for incidentals, such as WiFi, a minibar, or damages. This is especially true if you pay with a debit card (see below). Hotels should then refund this money if it isn’t needed (aka you restrain yourself from raiding the minibar and don’t break anything). Remember to both plan ahead for this extra charge, and to verify you get it back after checking out. It may take a couple days in some cases, but don’t just assume it will sort itself out.
- Credit vs Debit: On that note, make sure you fully understand the difference between booking with credit and debit, and choose accordingly. When it comes to incidentals and actual room fees, hotels treat both differently with different types of cards. With credit cards, an “authorization” is made (essentially the hotel verifies the total amount with your credit card company and checks that you have the line of credit available – typically no actual charge is made until you check out, though some hotels may charge you ahead of time. Confirm through the hotel’s booking policy before check in). With debit, the hotel will often charge the full amount of the stay and incidentals all at once and right off the bat. For a weeklong stay this could mean hundreds or thousands of dollars deducted from your account at once. Even if some of it will eventually get refunded, it may affect your spending ability during the trip. Credit is the better option if you have it available, and if you aren’t carrying a balance on your account that is being charged interest.
Follow these simple tips and your money will be safer and your vacation will be less stressful. Get back to having some fun!
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