Pillow on a hotel bed

It’s a myth that you need a credit card to book a hotel room — in many cases, you can get around it. Perhaps you don’t have a credit card, or you are closing out a credit card and don’t want to put any additional payments on it, or you prefer to pay for things in cash. Whatever the reason, depending on the hotel’s policy, you may be able to book a hotel room without a credit card.

That said, you should know that many hotels will not let you book without a credit card. That’s because a credit card gives the hotel a chance to validate your booking, charge you for cancellation fees or charge you in case of damage or theft.

ALSO READ: CardCruncher’s Guide to the Best Hotel Credit Cards

How to Book a Hotel Room Without a Credit Card

If you can not or do not want to use a credit card, there are ways to book a hotel room without a credit card. Your options for where you stay will be limited by the fact that most hotels do prefer credit cards, but in some cases, it is not required. That typically happens one of four ways:

  • Book with a debit card: This will work in some cases, but may require a security deposit held against your account for up to 15 days.
  • Pay with cash: This usually works for motels and smaller hotels
  • Have someone else book it for you: They can book it under your name, or under theirs and add you as a guest.
  • Book with a checking account: More common overseas, this typically requires a wire transfer.

Will I be able to use my debit card?

In some cases, yes, you can use your debit card to reserve and pay for a hotel room instead of using a credit card. Almost all major hotel chains give you the option to book a hotel room online with a debit card — typically ones with a Visa or Mastercard logo will do.

Many independent hotels or smaller motel chains will also accept debit cards, but call the individual location you plan on making your booking to double check. It’s also a good idea to see if there are any fees to use your debit card and make sure you have enough money from your bank account to cover any fees.

When you make a reservation with your debit card, the hotel might put a temporary hold on your account balance to make sure there’s enough money to cover the security deposit, much like it would for a credit card.

Once you arrive, check with the hotel how it intends to withdraw the funds for the duration of your stay. For example, some hotels will withdraw the full amount for the reservation at check-in while others will withdraw that plus a fully refundable amount for incidentals such as minibar items.

Remember to use the same card to make your final payment as the one you used to book your room. That’s because a hold can stay on your card for up to 15 days. If you pay with the same card, the hold is typically released anywhere from 24 to 72 hours.

Can you get a hotel room with cash?

Here’s where it gets tricky. Most major hotel chains do not accept cash payments at all, whereas some will, depending on the location. If you insist on paying with cash, your best bet is to go with smaller motels or independently run hotels, like mom and pop operations, if you want to use cash to book a hotel room without a credit card.

Just like booking with a debit card, call ahead to see if you can reserve a hotel room with cash. You may be able to book a hotel room without any type of payment card (more on this below) but this can be very rare. Instead, you can reserve a room with your credit or debit card and pay for cash when you get there.

Again, call ahead to ask about hotel policies so you’re not caught off guard when you arrive.

If you can pay for a hotel room with cash, you may be required to put down a security deposit in cash. Depending on hotel policies, you may need to cover your entire stay plus extra for incidentals — bring plenty of cash.

ALSO READ: CardCruncher’s Guide to the Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Can I book a hotel room for someone else using my credit card?

The short answer is yes, most hotels will allow you to book a hotel for someone else using your credit card and vice versa. All you need to do is to use your credit card to make the reservation and even pay for the room — the person you’re helping can pay you back. There are two primary ways to do this.

  • Reserve the room under the other person’s name: You may be required to fill out a credit card authorization form in advance though it depends on individual hotel policies. That way you can book a reservation and pay for the room with your credit card, even if you’re not there.
  • Book the room under your name, and add the other person to the reservation as a guest: This route makes the other person an additional guest under your booking, which means they can check-in without you needing to be there. To do so, your guest needs to have a valid piece of ID such as a driver’s license that matches the reservation. With this option, you can book a room directly with the hotel or through a third party company like Expedia.


Can you book a hotel with a checking account?

Booking a hotel room with a checking account is possible though not typically a common practice in many locations. However, some locations such as countries in Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe accept bank transfers to make reservations.

In this case, these are usually smaller hotels that are independently run. Sometimes in an effort to save money on credit card transactions, it’ll ask you to pay by wiring a deposit. This could mean you’ll need to pay bank fees to send money.

Generally, bank transfers are safe if you’re sending the funds to a legitimate hotel — you should receive a receipt confirming your booking. If you feel queasy at the thought, consider asking the hotel if they’re willing to accept credit cards if you pay the transaction fee.

When booking a hotel room with a checking account, you may need to make your reservations well in advance. Bank transfers can take a couple of business days to process and the hotel wants proof of payment so you’ll need to allow plenty of time.

Otherwise, you can pay with Paypal — link your checking or saving accounts and pay the hotel that way. Although Paypal’s terms and conditions can change at any time, you’re typically protected from fraudulent transactions if you make a payment through the website.

As mentioned above, you can use your checking account to book a hotel room by using your debit card. As long as it’s linked to a payment processor such as Visa or Mastercard you should be good to go.

What hotels accept prepaid credit cards?

If you want to book a hotel room without a credit card by using a prepaid credit card instead, you have very limited options. Most retailers, including third-party booking sites, will not accept prepaid credit cards to make hotel reservations. In these instances, you can make a booking with a credit or debit card and pay for your hotel room with your prepaid card when you arrive — check with the hotel when making your booking.

If you’re able to use a prepaid credit card for your reservation, the hotel will put a hold on the estimated charges for your stay much like what it does with a debit card — you won’t be able to use this money until the hold is over.

In some cases, the hotel will authorize what’s called an open-ended transaction. It’ll be for an amount that’s more than the cost of your hotel stay to cover incidentals. Hotel policies will differ but typically charges are held anywhere from two weeks up to 30 days to ensure any additional charges are covered.

For international travelers, you may be out of luck. The fine print of your specific prepaid card will give you some clues, but many cards are only for use within the U.S. only. So if you want to book a hotel at an international location, make sure you purchase a prepaid card that’s good to use overseas.

Can you book a hotel with a Visa gift card?

Unfortunately, you can not book a hotel with a Visa gift card. A gift card, even if it’s issued by a major credit card company like Visa or Mastercard will not be accepted by hotels. That’s because these cards can be purchased by anyone, don’t need to be registered, and as a result, hotels may not be able to put a hold on the funds.

If you’re looking for a way to pay with a gift card, consider purchasing a gift card for a specific hotel chain or through a third-party booking site like Hotels.com. Check to see what you can use the gift cards for — in some cases, you can use it to make a booking and pay upon arrival or prepay for your room.

Can you reserve a hotel room without paying for it upfront?

In some cases, hotels will let you reserve a hotel room without some form of payment. You can call ahead and ask to request what’s called a ‘courtesy hold,’ meaning the hotel will waive the requirement that you need to pay a deposit when you book so that a room will be available when you arrive.

Some hotels already do this — you don’t pay anything you arrive. However, you may need to divulge certain details like your credit or debit card information. Some hotels offer discounts if you prepay for your hotel in full which means that you may not be able to take advantage of them.

Bottom line

It may take a bit of extra legwork to find a hotel that lets you book a hotel room without a credit card, but it is possible. But if you’re traveling to someplace with limited hotel options, you may not be able to find a hotel that will let you book without a credit card. But if you’re flexible and you plan ahead, you may be able to book your hotel without a credit card.