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Should I book a hotel with my debit card?

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Should I book a hotel with my debit card? David Freund/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Why not use a debit card to book a hotel room?

Using a debit card to book a hotel can cost you dearly.

It's typically better to use a credit card rather than a debit card when checking into a hotel or a resort. That's because the property likely will put a hold on money in your checking account to cover the potential balance of your stay. The room rate, taxes and estimated incidentals such as meals, telephone calls, Internet charges and mini-bar fees will all be used to calculate the hold. And that hold likely will be much more than you expect to spend.

Such holds can remain for several days to more than a week after you check out. They can get you in trouble when you try to make a purchase with your debit card and it's refused. Or, if you have overdraft protection, you're charged hefty overdraft fees for purchases you thought you had money in your account to cover.

Hotels also put holds on credit cards, but unless you're up against your credit limit that usually isn't a problem.

What if I don't have a credit card?

Don't have a credit card to use? You'll need to keep a high balance in your checking account to cover debit card holds when traveling. Better yet, to safeguard the checking account where your bill payments and other transactions are withdrawn, open a second checking account used only use for debits.

What if I book the hotel with a debit card, but pay with something else?

It is important to note that the hold is placed on your debit card, regardless of how you intend to pay the bill. The hold on your debit card is not necessarily released right away, even if you pay with a credit card or even cash when you check out of the hotel.

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