Don’t rush past reviewing your hotel bill before checking out!
It’s faster and easier than ever to check out of your hotel. Which means it’s easier for mistakes on your bill to take longer to catch. Here’s how to catch them, and what to do when you find them.
Simple Expedited Check-Out
You may have noticed, as we have, that many hotels allow you to check out from the comfort of your room. Whether using a hotel app on your smartphone, or the smart TV on the desktop, you can bypass the front desk completely and be on your way faster than you can say Ciao.
There’s only one thing we really miss in that scenario: Reviewing the bill. Oh sure, they’ll email it to you, sometimes before you’ve gotten to the airport. But it could be days before you look at it, if at all. Until, that is, your credit card bill comes in and things don’t look quite right.
Check Those Charges
We’re not saying not to take advantage of this technology-enhanced experience. Just be sure, before you do, that you’ve stopped by the front desk to check the charges on your bill. It’s not uncommon for charges to get accidentally added, or missed.
For example, the restaurant staff may not know that your breakfast is included. You sign the check with your room number, and it goes to accounting. They do their job, and now there’s a restaurant charge on your folio for the included breakfast. Easier to catch and fix that before you leave the hotel.
Also check on parking and/or valet charges, room service, tips, laundry… you get the idea. Be especially vigilant with charges for things that should have been included in your room rate. If something doesn’t seem right, or you just don’t know what the charge is for, ask at the front desk.
Even if the charge is legitimate, but you feel you didn’t get exactly what was promised, ask about removing or adjusting that charge. We’ve successfully had resort fees and other charges removed when amenities were not available, or not up to par. More often than not, the front desk has the power to adjust your bill, and would rather do that than risk a bad review.
How to Fix What You Missed at the Hotel
So you didn’t check your bill at the hotel, but now you see the mistake. Usually, that’s no problem. The best and fastest way to fix it is to call the hotel directly, as soon as you find the error. Ask for the Accounting or Audit department; they should be able to adjust the charges right away.
But what if they don’t agree with you, and refuse to refund your money? More and more travelers are turning to what used to be the last resort: calling your credit card company.
We can’t say that express checkouts are completely to blame, but it is probably not a coincidence that billing disputes are – and have been – on the rise. If there is a charge that you honestly don’t believe should be there, and the hotel will not remove it, your card issuer can step in. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you can dispute a charge for goods and services you didn’t accept, or that weren’t delivered as promised. Just be sure to contact your bank within 60 days of the transaction. If they side with you, the money is refunded.
That can be a big IF, though. Your bank may ask for some supporting evidence, like your booking confirmation showing a rate with breakfast included, for example. They will almost always ask you to try resolving the issue with the merchant first, and may ask for proof that you tried, and failed. You may get a temporary or partial refund while the bank contacts the merchant for their side of the story. If the merchant disputes your claim, it will take longer to close, and may not go your way. The odds are in your favor, though: A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City showed more than half of the chargebacks in the travel industry go to the customer.
Disputes Are Not Without Risk
It might not surprise you that the travel industry’s chargeback rate is more than twice the average of other industries. So it should also not be surprising that the industry is on the watch for what it calls “friendly fraud.” That’s when you file a chargeback that’s really not justified, and it can catch up with you. Credit card companies will cancel cards and close accounts when they suspect fraudulent claims.
It is not just the banks who can take action. Companies can cancel pending transactions, and refuse to do business with you. Car rental companies, in particular, have a reputation for keeping track of Friendly Fraudsters with a “Do Not Rent” list.
It’s always a good idea to review your bill before leaving your hotel. If you find charges you don’t think belong there, ask the front desk to adjust your bill. On the other hand, if you don’t find the error until later, call the hotel directly. No satisfaction? Use your credit card company as a last resort to get a refund, but do it within 60 days of your stay.
Hopefully, this isn’t an issue you’ve run into. If it is, we hope you’ll use the comments below to share your tips for dealing with errant charges, or for avoiding them in the first place. You can also click for more #Travel140!