You’ve booked your Costa Rica tour and paid the travel agent for everything: flight, hotel, ground transportation and so on, where literally you don’t have to bring any money with you.
On your arrival to Costa Rica, at the hotel booked by your travel agent, you are asked to give a credit card. Normal. You don’t question it and you don’t expect any charges on it either since you’ve prepaid for everything.
But, days or a week later you find your credit card had been debited by the hotel and without your knowledge.
The hotel tells you the travel agent, to whom you had paid to your vacation, had not paid for the room. The agent keeps promising it will pay “soon”; the hotel assures they will reverse the charges once the travel agent pays.
So far so good. All under control. But to be safe, you call your credit card company and find, to your surprise, they refuse to investigate the charges since you did not pay the tour with your credit card.
But to be safe, you call your credit card company. However, to your surprise, you find that they refuse to investigate the charges since you did not pay the tour with your credit card.
To the point of this article, should hotels (or any other service provider) be able to charge credit/debit cards in this way? Shouldn’t they be chasing the travel agent who made the booking?
The simple answer is yes, yes and no. Yes, hotels can charge you for the use of the room to the credit card you provided. And yes, it would be nice if the hotel took the initiative to chase down the booking agent, the same agent you paid to for the hotel room, but in turn did not pay the hotel.
Yes, hotels can charge you for the use of the room to the credit/debit card you provided. And yes, it would be nice if the hotel took the initiative to chase down the booking agent, the agent you paid to for the hotel room, who in turn did not pay the hotel. And no, it’s not likely to happen that the hotel will forego charging to chase the travel agent for payment. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
The hotel will most likely be unwilling to forego charging you to chase the travel agent for payment. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Your only hope, I am afraid, may be that your travel agent owns up and pays the hotel, to which the hotel will then credit you as promised. There is no reason why the hotel wouldn’t, the hotel is not the bad guy in your story.
You can chargeback the hotel charges, but most likely won’t go anywhere with it since you did stay at the hotel and you did provide the card to pay for your stay. And unless the hotel overcharged you or there are other irregularities with the charges, you will not likely win a chargeback, even if your bank is willing to accept a filing.
There is the social media. Posting negative information about the travel agent can maybe stir a conscience to make good on the payment to the hotel. Even your bank, fearing a negative backlash, may agree to issue a chargeback as long as you can prove to them you paid the travel agent for the room and – important here – the hotel has not challenged the chargeback.
If your trip was with a group and everyone in the group experienced the same situation, you could encourage everyone in the group to do the same, to follow your lead, that can maybe result in the possibility the travel agent paying the hotel.
Such was the case of a choir group from Britain, a group of 54 traveling to Costa Rica, that required the intervention of The Guardian to get a response from the travel agent. The Guardian reports, “since you contacted us, the travel agent has paid at least some of the outstanding hotel bill.”
Booking a tour package does not necessarily mean this is going to happen to you. But it can. So do your homework, check out the reputation of the travel agent, read the online comments and get something in writing, a voucher, letter, etc. from the travel agent that the hotel room is paid for, though the hotel may still require a credit card at the time of check-in.
Be a smart traveler.