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Monday 23 January 2017

Paying a bond that a hotel holds onto is a disgrace

Remember the good old days. You'd check into a hotel, they'd take your credit card details and would deduct the sum you owed when you checked out. 

Nowadays, hotels are blocking fairly hefty sums of money from your credit card when you check in, just in case you smash the TV, run off with a couple of towels or maybe nick a Coke from the mini bar. 

I checked into the Crown Metropol in Melbourne yesterday with my room and breakfast pre-paid. 

The receptionist still insisted on "blocking out" $400 from my credit card for my one-night stay. Effectively a $400 good behaviour bond. 

So when I checked out this morning, I asked for the $400 to be unblocked. Not possible, of course. 

While a sum can be blocked from a credit card in just a second, it takes "three to five working days" for it to be unblocked. The Crown website says "up to 10 days".
I insisted, was given the impression I was being unreasonable, and was told that would mean "having to send a fax" to the bank. 

Yes, Jamie Packer, multi-millionaire, operates his hotel empire by sending faxes.

A couple of questions about this dubious practice. 

1. What happens to the $400 while it is blocked? There are several hundred Crown rooms, which could mean they have up to half a million dollars "blocked" at any one time. Who has use of that money?

2. What if someone only has a $2000 credit card limit but stays in several different hotels over a week. Their entire limit could end up being blocked, rendering their card useless. 

3. If it only takes a second to block money from a credit card, why does it take five days to unblock it? Surely the technology exists to do better. 

I will be refusing to hand over my credit card for "blocking" in future. I'll either leave a cash deposit, or the hotel can make a copy of my card, like in the old days. 

Of course, if I had used my credit card to pay for any extras I would then have been charged a "service fee" for using it. So much for Australian hospitality.          

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