With post-covid travel activity picking up, hotel bookings are also going up. This means guests are also experiencing issues associated with hotel stays.

Reader Gwendolyn, for one, says her brother paid for her to stay two nights at a hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “As I was parking the car, I hit the little plastic fence that they have,” she writes. The bump caused minor damage she thought could be easily glued. “The man told me that I had to pay for it (I did offer to fix it) and I told him I didn’t have the money. He charged my brother’s credit card which I feel is not right. He never contacted my brother about the situation. What options do we have?”

Check the hotel damage policy

Hotels have an interest in keeping their properties in good condition. A variety of people will stay in a hotel for different periods of time and engage in all sorts of activities. It’s quite possible for guests to cause damage to hotel property, whether intentional or not.

That’s why hotels have policies on damages that a guest is responsible for — and one reason they take your card information when you check in, even if you’ve already paid in full.

Before you try to dispute a hotel’s demand that you cover damage, check their stated policy. Large hotel chains usually have such policies posted on their websites, sometimes under “terms and conditions,” which is how Marriott’s policy is presented.

But individual properties will likely have a policy like this posted. For example, the policy for Lakeway Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas, states: “The guest is liable for any damage to the room, hotel premises or property caused by the guest or any person in the guest’s party. Lakeway Resort and Spa reserves the right to retain your credit card and/or debit card details and charge the card at its sole discretion in the amount deemed necessary to compensate or make good the cost or expenses incurred or suffered by Lakeway Resort and Spa as a result of the damages including and without limitation for all property damage, missing items, smoking fee, guest compensation, etc.”

Inspect your room at check-in

One way to safeguard yourself from paying for damage you didn’t cause is to inspect your room right after check-in and inform hotel management if you become aware of any issues. You can check for insects, broken furniture or equipment, stains, holes in the carpet or torn linen, for instance. You might also come across signs of smoking in the room, which many hotels prohibit. Also, watch out for any water leakage or damage.

Damages will be charged to card on file

When hotel personnel become aware of any damage to their property, their typical reaction is to charge the card on file. That’s one of the reasons they ask for your card information. Irrespective of whether the cardholder themself or their guest causes the damage, it is the card on file that’s on the hook.

Gwendolyn, the hotel staff did have recourse to your brother’s card on file since you don’t dispute that the damage occurred. You will have to sort out the situation with your brother and reimburse him for the damages.

However, hotel managements have been known to take a lenient view of such situations, particularly if the damage is not major, since they want to encourage guests to come back. You could try talking to hotel management and see if they will forgo the fine at their discretion. Hope you can patch up the issue with them!

The bottom line

Hotel managers are watchful for any sort of damage to their properties. They will typically get your card information to have handy in case you or your guests cause any damage to their property or premises. The card on file will be charged for any damage, irrespective of whether it’s caused by the cardholder or their guests.

That’s why it’s a good idea to inspect your hotel room right after check-in to see if there is any damage already present that you might be on the hook for. You can then inform the management, so they won’t hold you responsible for damage you didn’t cause. If any damage does occur during your stay that you are charged for, you could try and see if the management will forgo fining you as a goodwill gesture.

Contact me at pthangavelu@redventures.com with your credit card-related questions.