What To Do If You’re Charged After a Free Night at a Hotel

by joeheg

Steve is one of our longest travel friends. Sharon and I have been all around the world with him and although our group travels have slowed, we still keep up on each other’s endeavors.

That’s because Steve has the unfortunate luck of ending up at the end of some of the most confusing travel stories. For example, he’s the one who rented a car in Philadelphia and was charged for a toll on the George Washington Bridge 40 minutes later.

With his permission, I’m sharing his story of an award stay at a Holiday Inn Express that he’s stayed at several times before. After checking out, he received a charge of $30 per night plus tax at an HI Express that doesn’t charge any destination or parking fee.

Stayed at a Holiday Inn Express for about the 5th time. Same hotel. In checking out, I received my statement, expecting to see a zero balance. But instead this time they charged me $30/day plus taxes for a 100% reward points stay. I questioned it at the time, and was told it’s not a resort fee but a charge based on incidentals that could have been used (i.e. free internet, free continental breakfast, free look at the closed pool, etc.). The charge should drop off in a couple of days from my credit card. $66.60 total isn’t life breaking, but shouldn’t be on my credit card. Anyway a week goes by, and the charge is no longer pending on the card. It is now permanent. I left a message with the general manager’s contact number. I called Holiday Inn to confirm that I didn’t make a mistake that I didn’t somehow get forgetful and book the room as money + points. They showed it as 100% points, and didn’t understand the charge. It should drop in about 5 days etc. I reminded them its been 5 days since the stay, and my credit card was my Holiday Inn branded Chase card. My IHG (Holiday Inn Group) shows I earned 0 points for my non-qualified stay being on points only, so I shouldn’t have a charge. I’ve got a case/ticket opened for the problem. Hopefully they handle it swiftly. I like the location of the hotel, although the mattresses are a bit too firm for me anymore. I was sore for a couple days after my trip. So this will be incentive for me to look for somewhere with plush mattresses instead.

OK, it’s not uncommon for a hotel to put a hold on your credit card to pay for incidentals, but that’s usually at a hotel where you’re usually going to spend money on the minibar, hotel lounge/restaurant, on-site amenities, or if they’re worried about you damaging the room during your stay. None of those apply to a non-resort town HI Express. Steve tried to get an explanation for the charge but he had to wait until a weekday to call.

My hotel perks being at platinum level are supposed to allow free upgrades to better rooms, late checkout, free newspapers, free early check in etc. I’ve been very loyal with the brand and stock up on points at the regular sales 100% bonus when buying more etc. The breakfast bar hostess has said she remembers me from prior visits. I’m probably one of few adults not to get coffee, who wears a mask, and tips for the service of her bagging my meal from the daily options. It’s a $1 I give daily instead of the housekeeper who no longer visits daily due to COVID changes. I still tip at the end of my stay, just not for the missed days. On Mon or Tue I’ll try again to put the charge in dispute with the credit card. Currently the website tells me to call a number which isn’t open on weekends.

Since the hotel was unwilling to help, he contacted Chase since he “paid” for the stay with his IHG co-brand credit card.

Will see how this progresses. I’ve contacted the phone contact who tells me they at Chase can’t directly view my past bookings at Holiday Inn. Which isn’t entirely unexpected. The agent asked me to send a secure email from Chase’s site with any proof that I booked the reservation using points. I’ve sent a confirmation showing a $0.00 price with 41,000 points for the two night stay. Also a confirmation that the stay was unqualified for earning any additional points (besides the usual 500 mile perk for being platinum member with a check in). These should prove I booked with points only so no further charges.

One month after the stay and the $66 charge still on his card, Chase agreed to put the charge in dispute. I’d think there’s some internal drama putting an IHG charge in dispute on an IHG co-brand card.

I received a letter from Chase Credit Card. They have finally agreed to put the charge into dispute (almost a month later). They are trying to contact the hotel for their side of the charges. They say this can take up to 45 days, after which a decision will be made.

It took another month to get another response from Chase.

I received an email from Chase Credit card today. It told me to sign on to my account for an important letter. My dispute with Holiday Inn Express has been resolved in my favor. The $66.60 charge has been permanently taken off my charge statement. I’ll still never stay at the hotel again. It was too much of a hassle for me to get this bogus charge reversed. I’ll look for another member of the IHG (Holiday Inn chain) to stay in the area when visiting family etc. Most of my frequent traveler points are with IHG hotel chain for free stays in the future.

It took almost 2 months to get a resolution to this saga and still, there’s no explanation how a Holiday Inn Express charged $30 a night for an award stay. Instead of researching the problem, the hotel did nothing to help. Fortunately, Chase was able to step in and remove the charge after the hotel could not come up with an explanation.

Just another reminder to check your receipts and credit card bills after every stay. Whether it’s a mystery mini-bar charge or a random fee, it’s up to you to go back to the hotel or credit card and make things right.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Eliza January 11, 2022 - 11:57 am

If I had to hazard a guess they accidentally charged him for the amount they should have been billing to IHG for the stay. I had a mystery charge for a free night at an SPG hotel eons ago and that’s what it turned out to be. Luckily, in my case, the hotel was very responsive and figured out what happened quickly and reversed the charge.

tda1986 January 11, 2022 - 2:28 pm

Moral of the story: Don’t leave the hotel until they’ve fixed the error (unless you’re in a hurry and the charge isn’t worth it). It’s always a million times harder to fix after you leave.

Nick January 12, 2022 - 11:24 am

You can’t get back the time……these mini hassles take so much time to resolve…..and all he got back was what he should not have been charged. Holiday Inn should be paying a fine/fee for the participant’s time wasting……

James January 11, 2022 - 5:28 pm

Last October I stayed 1 award night (Chase IHG credit card award) at a Holiday Inn Express in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Zero ($0) cost, right ?? Nope. 3 days after my checkout (which was a $0 balance) I was charged $34.50 on my Chase IHG Select card with no explanation. I only learned this when I received my next statement from Chase. I tried contacting this hotel, but was always transferred to another extension which was never answered. I disputed this charge and Chase has removed it, for now. I don’t know if it will show up again or not. I will never stay there again. I believe this hotel tried to scam me and I will not forget this. I have stayed numerous times in past years on Chase award nights at other IHG hotels and never had this problem.

Clayton January 12, 2022 - 7:33 am

It’s been five days, you call the hotel and tell them to apply the credit to your account while you’re on the phone. If they can’t or won’t you dispute the charge immediately after.

This only took so long as he allowed himself to be strung along repeatedly.

Give everyone a chance to correct their mistake. Of they don’t then contact them and remind them of their commitment and ask for immediate resolution. If not then take it out their hands

Deb January 13, 2022 - 9:04 am

We had the same situation. We are guilty of leaving without a receipt for points stays. Got charged $30 too. Must be the “new” revenue stream!!! Called spoke to the hotel manager, got the impression it was a “got ya” response. The card was credited immediately. Made me wonder how many of us don’t get reciepts and don’t check statements?????

Penelope33 October 14, 2022 - 2:55 pm

Same thing just happened to me on a stay from last month. I just saw a $66 charge on my credit card for the two nights when it was paid completely with points. No one would answer the phone at the hotel so I contacted IHG directly and am waiting for a response. One of the Carlson brand hotels did this a few years ago but waited AN ENTIRE YEAR to charge my card and kept giving me the run around via phone and email. I stayed in January and they charged my credit card in December. I eventually had to do a chargeback. I had used Groupon certificates and they wanted me to send the certificate numbers again before they’d remove the charge. It really pissed me off because after I did, they ghosted me.


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