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BLOG: Using Someone Else’s Credit Card for Your Hotel?

What do you do if you don’t have your own personal or corporate card and you’re booking a hotel?

If you’re traveling with a co-worker or manager and they are going to provide their credit card to the hotel at time of check-in, no problem.  However, if your hotel reservation is being guaranteed with another employee’s card or the main company ghost card, and that card will not be presented during check-in, then you need to do a little pre-work before traveling.  Now in some instances you might find a front desk staff representative that is nice enough (or willing to go against company policy) to allow the form of payment on file to remain as the final payment, but there are no guarantees so it’s best to be prepared.

A continuing trend in business travel that is gaining traction is Virtual Payments.  Due to the increase in credit card fraud and companies being reluctant to assign every single employee an individual corporate card, organizations are looking to new and innovative ways to cover the costs of travel-related services.  Virtual Payment processing allows the travel management company to send a one-time/temporary dynamic credit card number and information to the hotel to cover the cost of room and tax (or a set amount beyond the expected total).  This is done through technological automation.  Once the traveler has completed his/her stay, the card is no longer valid and therefore, the opportunity for fraud is almost non-existent.  However, not all hotels can accept this form of payment processing or are not familiar enough with it to ensure 100% success.

Other businesses utilized direct bill payment options tied to a negotiated rate but this is always an option with every hotel.

So what is a traveler to do?

In the event your company allows you to guarantee a hotel room to the primary company ghost card, understand there is a high level of risk as it leaves front desk personnel as the deciding factor on whether they will allow you to charge your room to the card “on file”.  Most hotel brands require the guest to provide the card at time of check-in, which you won’t likely have if it’s a company card.

If you wait to make the authorization arrangements until you are onsite, then it could be extremely difficult to resolve the issue in a timely fashion without begging for the hotel’s mercy or contacting a resource within your company.

Hotel Credit Card Authorization forms have been around for years and are the industry’s most common practice for allowing travelers to use another person’s card to pay for their hotel rooms.  In an effort to protect themselves, hoteliers will require some form of documentation provided by the cardholder to ensure there is permission to pay for the room and what types of charges should be applied.

Here’s how it works and what you should know.

Prior to departure, the traveler or travel coordinator would need to reach out to the hotel directly to request that hotel’s credit card authorization form.  That form needs to be completed by the cardholder with all pertinent card information along with the signature of the cardholder.  It should also include guest information to ensure the card is being applied to the right room.  The hotel will ask you to fax back the completed form to their designated number.  We’ve seen some forms require a copy of the front/back of the card however, that process is becoming less common and you should double-check with the hotel to see if they actually require it in order to complete the reservation.

Here are some tips regarding the credit card authorization form process:

  • When you submit the form via fax, be very careful in typing in the fax number.  Most machines allow you to type in the number prior to hitting the transmit button – review the number carefully to prevent typos and inadvertently sending your credit card information to an unknown recipient.
  • NEVER send the form via e-mail.  While fax lines technically can be hacked, it is a very rare occurrence.
  • Make sure to submit the form well in advance of departure to prevent unforeseen complications.
  • Once the fax is successfully transmitted, call the hotel to ensure receipt.  It can happen that the fax is received but the hotel staff does nothing with it.  To prevent an issue upon check-in, calling to make sure they have what they need prevent unnecessary stress when checking in.
  • When confirming with the hotel that they’ve received the form, inquire about how/when they will destroy the form.  It’s incumbent upon the hotels to secure credit card information and destroy it just as safely.  PCI compliant hotels are not allowed to store the credit card authorization code from the back of the card after authorization has taken place.

Travel Leaders / Destinations Unlimited encourages companies and travelers to take extra steps to protect their identities and data, so ensure you are cautious about how to provide data and to whom you provide it.  Unless further advances are made in the industry, faxed credit card authorization forms are here to stay.