Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why You're Going to Want to Keep Your Hotel Bill

Well, I was going to blog today about Virgin America's $33 sale (which ends at 5pm PDT tonight). But since I've spent the last hour not being able to get onto Virgin's site, I'm guessing that eager travelers have so overwhelmed the system that nobody's going to get those cheap flights. I'll keep watching, though, and update this blog if the Virgin website is restored.

In the meantime, Scott Mayerowitz of ABC News Travel has posted a terrific, if sobering, article on the rise in credit card theft at hotels. No, thieves aren't going to sneak into your room and rifle through your wallet. Instead, they're hacking hotel systems, and getting travelers' info from there. Since so many large hotel chains share the same booking system from property to property, one break-in can yield literally thousands of credit card numbers.

The thieves will either then go on a buying spress with your card. Or, more invidiously, they may add fraudulent charges to your hotel bill, redirecting the payments. These obviously will be harder to spot, so it's probably a good idea to keep a paper copy of the bill you get upon check-out so you can prove fraud down the line, should it happen. According to Mayerowitz, some thieves wait months to strike, meaning that hotel bill could be long gone from your mind when the new charges come in.

You can read the complete piece by clicking here.


  1. I wouldn't be too concerned by the large break-ins. One may get thousands of credit card numbers, but they may not have time to charge them all (or even a majority or them) before either they get caught or decide to stop (I would imagine that they are fly-by-night kind of operations).

    Keeping a copy of the hotel bill is a good idea - although some legitimate charges may only post after the bill is printed (some bills are slipped under the door on the night before check out ; whereas some transactions would post after check out (such as some mini-bar purchases or smoking fee for smoking in a non-smoking room)).
    Also, while the credit card number may be stolen at the hotel, the fraudulent charges likely would come from another merchant - so one may not know that it was related to the hotel stay - but he/she would know that he/she didn't authorize that charge and therefore would still dispute it.

    I think that more importantly, one should use a credit card at hotels - as opposed to a debit card. Credit cards offer more protection in case of fraudulent activity and Credit Card companies are usually more cooperative when disputing a charge (they feel that they have a skin in the game, since you're not paying that disputed charge and they can not charge interest on it) - whereas a bank may not have the same incentive to help a checking acct customer who disputes a debit card transaction.

  2. I never leave my credit card in my hotel room when I travel. Much too risky!