Traveling without a credit card can come with its own set of challenges, especially when it comes to booking a hotel room. If you hit the road without one, try using your debit card, asking for a courtesy hold, or even paying in cash.

Credit cards can be a great means of building credit, but in some situations, they’re more than beneficial: they’re necessary.

For instance, did you know that a credit card is required to book a reservation at most hotels? Yeah, I didn’t know how strict that requirement was either. 

Most hotels don’t need you to actually pay with a credit card, they just need a way to hold you responsible in the event of damage to, or theft of, their property.

There are some alternatives, like debit cards and even PayPal, for those who can’t use (or don’t have) a credit card; however, these can be complicated and may even include additional fees and charges.

Start with a debit card

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Some prominent hotel chains allow guests to book their stay with a debit card.

Read more: Does Your Debit Card Have a Daily Spending Limit?

The benefit of using a debit card to book your hotel room is that you won’t spend more money than you have, since the funds are pulled directly from your checking account when you officially pay for the room.

The downside is that the security deposit a hotel charges for incidentals will likely operate as a temporary hold on your debit card, or perhaps even a withdrawal. That said, you won’t have access to those funds until the hotel releases (or reimburses) the hold.

However, booking and payment policies do vary by hotel chain and location, so be sure to ask the hotel what it will charge you for upon check-in.

Request a courtesy hold

While this option is becoming less common, some hotels do offer guests a courtesy hold for their reservation. This essentially waives the requirement for a deposit when booking, so you won’t need any form of payment to secure the room. You will still pay for the room with your debit card, but a credit card is not required to hold the room. 

If you’d like to request a courtesy hold, contact the hotel directly to ask if their policies allow for one.

Try PayPal

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This may surprise some readers, but PayPal is another valid payment method guests can use to book their room in advance.

PayPal is typically available through specific online travel agencies (OTAs), including Expedia

When using PayPal, note that this method can only be used to pay not book the room. Here’s a full guide on how to book a hotel through Expedia’s portal.

Consider a prepaid card

If the hotel you’re visiting allows prepaid cards, be aware that the transaction operates much like it would with a debit card.

The hotel will hold estimated funds on your card for the duration of your stay, during which time you will be unable to access the money.

Some hotel chains, like Choice Hotels’ Quality Inn, may allow the use of a prepaid card. Others may even let you cover the bill with cash, like this Hampton Inn & Suites.

Read more: Best Prepaid Credit Cards

Ask someone else to book your room

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If you have a friend or family member that is willing, you may be able to use their credit card to book your hotel room.

In many cases, they can book the room under their own name and card and add you as a guest. This allows you to check in on your own, so long as you have a valid ID matching the reservation.

Sometimes you can make a reservation under your own name with someone else’s credit card, but the hotel may require your friend or family member to fill out a credit card authorization form first.

This Holiday Inn, for example, currently requires a credit card authorization form for third-party booking.

Contact smaller, independent hotels

Unlike large hotel chains like Wyndham and IHG, small, independent hotels have only themselves to report to. As a result, some local motels, inns, and bed & breakfasts may allow you to use an alternative payment method, such as a check or perhaps even cash.

As is the case with established hotel chains, call in advance to ask for the location’s current policies. You might be able to speak to a hotel manager or perhaps even the owner directly, so don’t be afraid to ask if they’ll consider any alternatives!

Ask if you can pay with cash

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Disclaimer: more often than not, this is a hard “no.” It’s not impossible, but it’s generally unlikely, especially at large chain hotels.

If you want to pay with cash, best try your luck with a smaller, independent hotel. Keep in mind you may be required to pay a security deposit in addition to the cost of the room. If you’re visiting a prominent hotel chain, see if you can change your payment method to cash at checkout. Also, keep in mind that you won’t ever be able to book a room with cash. A hotel isn’t going to hold a room for you with no form of payment they can access. 

Once again, be sure to contact the specific location in advance to confirm. 

Summary

If you’re planning a classy vacation to the beach or a quiet retreat in the mountains, you may have already begun browsing hotel accommodations in the area. But before you make any arrangements, make sure you know how you’ll book your room.

Remember, in many instances, booking a hotel with a credit card is your best bet. However, if you want to avoid this option, contact the hotel in advance to find out what other booking methods they allow.

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About the author

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Katelyn Van Pelt is a writer and editor based in the Pacific Northwest. She has a bachelor’s degree in business management and English and extensive experience in marketing, fundraising, social media management, research writing, and more. Since 2015, Katelyn has worked full-time creating financial content about investments, retirement accounts, and estate planning. She spends her free time outside — hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, etc. — with her husband, Steve, and dog, Vira.