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Can You Pay Cash for Hotels? Here’s All You Need To Know

Can You Pay Cash for Hotels? Here’s All You Need To Know

I love a “buy now and pay later” hotel deal, which is how I book most of my hotel stays. Let’s face it, after all the crazy things that have happened over the past couple of years, you can never really be sure what’s around the corner regarding travel. Unexpected events could easily mess up your plans and leave you without a refund or hotel if you’ve already paid. This may lead you to wonder, “Can you pay cash for hotels?”

I like to book my trips in advance, and if I need to cancel or change things, I don’t end up chasing people around or needing travel insurance to get my money back. However, sometimes I have had to pay for hotels with cash. Let me tell you, it’s not as easy as you might think! If you’re wondering if you can pay cash for hotels, the good news is that you can, the bad news is that it can certainly complicate things a little!

Bottom Line Up Front

Yes, you can pay cash for certain hotels. However, many hotels won’t accept cash as payment, which can complicate booking a room. If you do want to pay for a hotel room in cash, make sure you call the hotel in advance to ensure that it is allowed, and always bring a backup form of payment in case extra costs are incurred.

Paying for a Hotel in Cash vs Booking a Hotel with Cash

hotel reception

First things first, let’s talk about the difference between booking a hotel with cash and paying for a hotel with cash. The short of it is that you can do one without the other. If a hotel has space, you can pay for a room for a night without booking in advance. Likewise, you can book a hotel for a night without actually handing over any money (my favorite way to book travel).

But there is a HUGE difference when it comes to paying with cash. This is primarily because hotels use credit cards to secure your booking for a later date, so they do not lose revenue if you do not show up. Hotels also like using credit cards for payment over cash because on the off chance you destroy something in the room, they can charge your card for the damages.

Can You Pay Cash for Hotels?

When you’re on the go, there’s nothing more convenient than being able to pay for your hotel with cash. Although can you actually pay for a hotel this way? Ultimately, yes you can, but not very often.

There are some hotels around the world that will be happy to accept cash, but there are also plenty that will not. The key thing to remember is you’ll need to make sure that you have enough cash to cover the cost of your stay upfront. This means having enough cash to cover the cost of your room, as well as any additional charges that may be incurred during your stay (such as minibar charges or room service).

As a general rule, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand when you’re traveling. This way, if there are any difficulties with your card payment, you have a backup method to pay for your hotel or any other amenity you may have to pay for during your stay. Below are a few types of hotels that may accept cash:

Roadside Hotels

You usually see roadside hotels right off the main highway or near a truck stop. These hotels are very cheap, and people are booking them at the last minute, usually because they’re too tired to keep driving. This gives the hotel incentive to let you pay cash since you probably aren’t staying long, there isn’t much cash to be paid, and there are most likely plenty of rooms available.


Hostels are known for taking in young adults who walk in off the street to stay for only a few nights. These types of accommodations are the cheapest, have minimal amenities, and are more of a dormitory style. That means the hostel does not need to worry much about people overstaying their payment or destroying things that need to be billed to fix. You also won’t find many young adults with credit cards, so it’s not beneficial for hostels to not accept cash.

Family Owned Hotels

Hotels that are not owned by large chains or corporations are usually a lot less strict, meaning they may accept cash as payment. These are usually boutique-style hotels or bed and breakfasts. Family-owned hotels are typically much smaller than other hotels, so you will want to call ahead and make sure there is availability and the possibility of paying cash.

Why are a Lot of Hotels Only Taking Card?

card payment

If some hotels allow you to pay with cash, how come many are also not allowing this at all and telling guests that they can only pay with a card? There are several reasons:

They Want to Ensure Revenue

Thinking about it logically, if you book a room at a hotel and then fall ill last minute, change your plans, or even simply decide you don’t want to go anymore, then the hotel will lose out if they didn’t have your card on hand to pay for the room. If you made a booking over the phone and promised cash, you could cancel last minute, and it wouldn’t affect you in any way, but the hotel would lose money they could have made on that room.

They Want a Way to Charge for Extras

The contents of hotel mini-fridges are expensive! In fact, it’s actually one of the largest markups of any consumer product in a hotel room. If you’ve paid for the room in cash, what will prevent you from taking something out of the mini-fridge and leaving the hotel upon checkout without paying for those items? At least if you pay via credit card, they can send you a bill afterward. If you pay with cash, they have no way of collecting the extra money from you.

Your Credit Card is Insurance for the Hotel

Sometimes accidents happen, and things break while you stay in a hotel room. The hotel does not take the fall for these accidents and expects the guest to pay for any damages they may have caused to the room. If they have your card on file, they have a sure way to pay for anything broken in your room, whereas if you paid for the room with cash, the hotel has no way to collect money for those accidents.

Some Hotels Won’t Take Cash or Debit Cards

booking hotel

Despite not taking cash, which seems perfectly logical now that you think about it, some hotels actually won’t accept debit cards either. You’ll need to pay for your room and any amenities that come with it, with a credit card or nothing.

This is actually for a similar reason that they might refuse cash. If you don’t have enough money on your debit card and wrack up a large bill while staying at the hotel, they can’t charge you. Well, not instantly, anyway, and they don’t like this.

Think about a supermarket. If you tried to pay for a bottle of wine with a debit card that didn’t have enough money on it, you wouldn’t be able to pay for it, right? Well, this is exactly how some hotels feel about it too. This is also why some hotels require a security deposit to be placed onto a credit card instead of a debit card, so they can be sure that they will be able to charge you.

Top Tips for Booking a Hotel with Cash

hotel reception

If you’ve gotten this far through the article and are still sure that you want to pay for your hotel with cash, here are some tips to ensure that the entire transaction goes through smoothly.

Check with the Hotel in Advance

Before making any solid plans, always check with the hotel you are staying at that they accept cash payments. There’s nothing worse than traveling all that way and being turned away at the desk because your chosen payment method isn’t accepted. You can do this with a simple phone call to the hotel in advance.

Check What Other Methods of Payment are Accepted

As I’ve mentioned, some hotels will accept other payment methods such as debit cards or even old-school traveler’s checks in addition to cash. If you’re insistent on paying with cash, it’s always worth checking what other methods are accepted, just in case.

Have the Right Currency

This may sound obvious, but be sure to check the currency beforehand. This happened to me in Hungary, where I tried to make a payment in Euros. I figured it would be fine because they are in Europe, right? Wrong! And boy, did I look silly. I had to find a place to exchange my Euros for the correct currency, and it took a lot of time out of my day that I could have been relaxing in my hotel room.

Bring a Card as a Backup

Some hotels will say that they accept cash over the phone and then change their minds once you arrive at the desk. Trust me, it happens. Bring a debit card or credit card anyway, just as a backup.

Pay a Cash Deposit When you Check-In

This will help avoid speculation about the mini-fridge or accident conundrum. If you pay a cash deposit when you check in, the hotel has something to fall back on if you decide to eat $80 worth of roasted peanuts or knock an expensive lamp over.


Question: Can Hotels Refuse to Accept Cash?

Answer: Yes, unfortunately, hotels can actually refuse to accept cash for payment if you simply turn up and offer cash as payment. There’s no official law stating that they can’t refuse your payment, so they are at complete liberty to turn you away. Even more of a reason to double-check beforehand.

Question: Is Cash the Best Way to Pay for a Hotel?

Answer: A debit or credit card is the easiest way to pay for a hotel. This is because it’s quick and convenient, and you have a lot more consumer protection if anything goes wrong. That being said, there are still some advantages to paying with cash, such as not losing money if you decide to cancel your stay.

Question: Are Most Hotels Cashless?

Answer: I don’t know if I’d say that most hotels are cashless these days, but I would say that most would expect you to pay with a card and not with cash. That’s not to say that you can’t pay with cash, of course, but many would probably be surprised if you pulled out a wad of notes when they handed you the bill.

Question: Do you need a credit card to stay in a hotel?

Answer: Most hotels will want a credit card on file when booking a hotel room because it ensures that they have payment if you cancel the room last minute or destroy anything in the room. There are still a few hotels that allow cash payments, such as roadside hotels and small hostels, but it is always best to have at least a debit card on hand as a backup.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, while there are some advantages to paying for your hotel with cash, it’s definitely not the most convenient method. You’re much better off using a debit or credit card if you have one.

However, if you do insist on paying with cash, just be sure to contact the hotel in advance to let them know you want to pay with cash. Follow the rest of the tips above, and you should be able to avoid any stress, such as being turned away or incurring a credit card bill that you didn’t really want. At the end of the day, it’s always better to be safe than sorry by bringing a backup card with you.

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