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What are Incidentals at a Hotel?

When you stay at a hotel, you may have noticed charges on your bill for incidentals. But what exactly are incidentals and why do you have to pay for them?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Incidentals are additional charges that a hotel may add to your bill to cover things like room service, phone calls, and mini-bar items.

In this article, we’ll delve into the topic of hotel incidentals, what they are, how they work, and most importantly, how you can avoid them.

What Are Hotel Incidentals?

What Are Hotel Incidentals?

Hotel incidentals are additional charges that guests may incur during their stay at a hotel. These charges are not included in the room rate and can vary from hotel to hotel. Incidentals can include a wide range of services and amenities such as room service, mini-bar items, phone calls, parking fees, and internet access.

Examples of Hotel Incidentals

It is worth mentioning that the most common hotel incidentals are mini-bar items and room service charges. Mini-bar items, such as snacks, beverages, and alcohol, are often overpriced and can quickly add up. Room service charges can also be expensive, and guests should keep in mind that there may be additional fees for delivery or gratuity.

Other hotel incidentals can include:

  • Internet access fees
  • Parking fees
  • Phone calls
  • Business center services
  • Spa services
  • Extra person charges

Why Do Hotels Charge for Incidentals?

Hotels charge for incidentals to cover the cost of additional services and amenities provided to guests during their stay. These charges are not included in the room rate because not all guests will use them. Hotels also charge for incidentals as a way to protect themselves against damages or losses caused by guests. For example, hotels may charge a security deposit to cover any damages that may occur during a guest’s stay.

It is important to note that hotels may place a hold on a guest’s credit card for incidentals at check-in. This hold can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the hotel and the length of stay. Unfortunately, this hold can tie up a guest’s funds and may take several days to release after check-out.

Remember, guests can avoid or minimize incidental charges by carefully reviewing the hotel’s policies and amenities before booking their stay. Guests should also keep track of their charges during their stay and report any discrepancies to the front desk immediately.

How Do Hotel Incidentals Work?

Hotel incidentals are additional charges that can be incurred during a guest’s stay. These charges can include anything from room service and mini-bar purchases to parking and spa fees. When a guest checks into a hotel, they are typically required to provide a credit card for incidentals. This is to ensure that the hotel has a means of covering any additional charges that may be incurred during the stay.

It is worth mentioning that there are two types of charges that can be placed on a guest’s credit card: authorization and actual charges. Authorization charges are simply a hold on the card to ensure that funds are available for incidentals. Actual charges are the charges that are incurred during the stay and are charged to the card when the guest checks out.

On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that the amount of the authorization charge can vary depending on the hotel’s policies. Some hotels may authorize a larger amount than others, so it is important to check with the hotel to see what their policy is.

When a guest checks out of a hotel, any actual charges that were incurred during the stay will be charged to the credit card on file. However, it may take some time for the charges to appear on the guest’s credit card statement. This timeframe can vary depending on the hotel and the credit card company.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for there to be a delay of several days before the charges appear on the guest’s statement. This can be frustrating for guests who are trying to keep track of their expenses. However, it is important to remember that this delay is often due to the credit card company’s processing time.

It is also worth mentioning that authorization charges can take a few days to be released once the guest has checked out. This means that the funds that were authorized for incidentals may not be available for a few days after the guest has checked out.

When checking out of a hotel, it is important to review the final bill to ensure that all charges are accurate. This includes checking for any incidental charges that may have been added to the bill.

One way to avoid any surprises is to ask for a detailed bill when checking out. This will provide a breakdown of all charges, including any incidental charges. If there are any charges that are not familiar, guests should ask the hotel staff for an explanation.

It is also a good idea to keep track of any incidental charges throughout the stay. Most hotels provide a way for guests to view their bill throughout the stay, either through a mobile app or by requesting a printout from the front desk.

By reviewing the final bill and keeping track of incidental charges throughout the stay, guests can avoid any unexpected charges and ensure that they are only charged for the services they actually used.

Tips to Avoid Hotel Incidentals

  • Read the Fine Print: It is worth mentioning that hotel incidentals can be avoided if guests read the fine print of their hotel booking. This can help them understand what is included in the room rate and what is not. Keep in mind that some hotels charge for amenities like parking, gym access, and even towels.
  • Use your Own Toiletries: To avoid being charged for using hotel toiletries, guests can bring their own. This not only helps avoid incidental charges but also ensures that guests are using products that they are familiar with and trust.
  • Bring your Own Snacks and Drinks: Unfortunately, hotels often charge a premium for snacks and drinks in the room. Guests can save money by bringing their own snacks and drinks or buying them from a nearby convenience store. This is especially important if guests are traveling with children who may want to snack throughout the day.
  • Avoid Using the Mini-Bar: On the other hand, if guests do not want to bring their own snacks and drinks, they should avoid using the mini-bar. Mini-bar items are notoriously expensive and can quickly add up to a large incidental charge.
  • Decline Housekeeping Services: Hotels often charge a fee for housekeeping services, even if guests do not request them. Guests can avoid this charge by declining housekeeping services during their stay. This not only saves money but also helps the environment by reducing the amount of water and energy used to clean the room.
  • Use Free Wi-Fi or Bring your Own Hotspot: Many hotels charge for Wi-Fi access in the room. Guests can save money by using free Wi-Fi in the lobby or bringing their own hotspot. This is especially important for guests who need to work or access the internet frequently during their stay.
  • Avoid Room Service Charges: Room service charges can quickly add up, especially if guests order multiple meals or drinks. Guests can save money by eating at a nearby restaurant or bringing their own food to the room. If guests do want to order room service, they should be aware of the additional charges and adjust their order accordingly.

By following these tips, guests can avoid hotel incidentals and save money during their stay. It is important to remember that incidental charges can vary greatly depending on the hotel and the amenities offered, so guests should always read the fine print and ask questions if they are unsure about any charges. Additionally, guests should check their final bill before checking out to ensure that there are no unexpected charges.

What to do if You’re Charged for Unauthorized Incidentals

It is worth mentioning that incidental charges are common in hotels. These are additional charges that a guest can incur during their stay, such as room service, mini-bar purchases, or damages to the room or hotel property. Unfortunately, these charges can sometimes be added to a guest’s bill without their knowledge or consent. If you find yourself in this situation, there are steps you can take to resolve the issue and avoid these charges in the future.

Review Your Hotel Bill

One of the first things you should do is review your hotel bill carefully. Keep in mind that some hotels may add incidental charges as a separate line item on your bill, while others may include them in the overall cost of your stay. If you notice any unauthorized charges, make a note of them and bring them to the attention of the hotel front desk.

Contact the Hotel Front Desk Immediately

If you notice any unauthorized incidentals on your hotel bill, it is essential to contact the hotel front desk immediately. Explain the situation and ask them to remove the charges from your bill. It is also a good idea to ask for a copy of the revised bill once the charges have been removed to ensure that the issue has been resolved.

Dispute the Charges with your Credit Card Company

If the hotel is unwilling to remove the unauthorized incidentals from your bill, you may need to dispute the charges with your credit card company. Before doing so, make sure you have documentation to support your claim, such as a copy of the original bill and any correspondence with the hotel. Remember that it is vital to act quickly when disputing charges with your credit card company to maximize your chances of a successful outcome.

Keep in mind that the best way to avoid incidental charges is to be aware of the hotel’s policies and to communicate clearly with the front desk staff. On the other hand, some hotels offer loyalty programs that can help guests avoid incidental charges or provide discounts on such charges. Finally, it is essential to choose a reputable hotel chain that has a clear policy on incidental charges and a commitment to resolving any issues that arise.


Hotel incidentals can add up quickly and put a dent in your travel budget. However, with a little planning and awareness, you can avoid unnecessary charges and enjoy your stay without any surprises.

By understanding what hotel incidentals are, how they work, and taking steps to avoid them, you’ll be able to save money and have a more enjoyable experience during your next hotel stay.