How do hotel reservations work in Italy... once I make the reservation online and give them my credit card info, is the credit card charged immediately or do they charge the card at check out time?
The payment policy is always spelled out before you click the "book" button, it's not a mystery. It can vary by property and room type.
With time I have found more and more European hotels, especiallly those that book online, take a one night deposit which is charged and will quickly appear on your statement, just like in the states. Before you hit that’s button, a couple of things: 1) Make sure your credit card company knows of your upcoming charge or it might be rejected. Some companies, like Capital One, don’t require travel notifications but some do. Best to call customer service and avoid having the charge rejected. 2) Know the hotels cancellation policy. Make sure you can get all your money back and what time limits are involved. Don’t book non refundable rates by accident, or, unless your travel insurance will cover your loss. 3) Track your reservations carefully. I got sloppy once, booked two hotels in Venice. By the time I woke up I was outside of the cancellation time for both hotels. Lot’s of begging to no avail, and I was 125 Euros the poorer for it.
"It can vary by property and room type."
Yes, and it also can vary by how you're booking (direct with the hotel or via a third party like Hotels dot com). Furthermore, many hotels give you the option of two rates; a lower one that you prepay in full and that is non-refundable, and a higher one that you can wait to pay on arrival.
Also, it's more common in Europe for hotels that don't require prepayment before arrival, they do require full payment on check in rather than check out. Again, I've seen all kind of variations - there simply is no one way.
So, the most important thing is to understand the terms, including the cancellation policy, of any property and any rate they're offering, before you give them your credit card info. Make no assumptions, except to assume that they will not change their rules after the fact (non-refundable means that, not "non-refundable unless I have a really really really good reason to need a refund").
My experience mirrors Harold's.
Many offer a cheaper non-refundable rate that is billed immediately. Sometimes some hotels will offer a bit off for a 3-night stay, or will include breakfast if you book thru the hotel website. Definitely check both if you normally book thru one of the 3rd party bookers. Don't jump on something until you have read everything.
I have also had hotels run a one euro charge just to make sure the credit card is valid. As everyone has said, it varies. No set pattern. I often hold the reservation with one card and pay cash later especially if they give a discount for cash.
And sometimes the hotel puts through the charge shortly before the arrival date (when you have passed the cancel-by date.) But that is all spelled out on the booking page.
If you book a non-refundable rate (directly with the hotel) throughout your trip, it's advisable to get trip insurance. I Always book directly through the hotel, either their website or by phone. I had trouble with both one time and just sent an email and got a prompt and helpful reply.
If they don't offer a discount for cash payment, ask if they offer a RS discount. Tell them that you read about their hotel on the forum or in the book. One time a desk clerk asked to see my book so I pulled it out.
Have a Great Trip!
It varies, if you book non-refundable room type then they will charge your credit card right after you confirm booking. If you choose to pay on site then the credit card is just for a guarantee.
I don't limit myself to direct bookings, hotels in guidebooks, or (even more narrowly) hotels in RS guidebooks. I've been very happy with booking.com and have no issue taking advantage of rooms that hotels place (and discount) on third party sites. A lot of folks on this forum eschew third party sites, but the major ones are legitimate and offer much better rates most of the time (I always compare across several platforms and have a hard time booking directly on hotel sites because not even their best rates compare to booking.com).
With every platform, the key is to read the fine print and know the terms of your purchase and what you're trading off when booking a non-refundable room. If you've booked hotel rooms in the US for business or personal trips, the principles, process, and pitfalls of booking a room are exactly the same....always know what you're paying for, the cancellation procedures, and terms of payment so there are no surprises.
However Agnes, as you said in a prior post:
But be aware that when you introduce a third party to a transaction to save money, clear and direct communication (and accountability) is sacrificed between buyer (you) and seller (the hotel, car rental place, airline, etc). Many folks have a very frustrating experience when there is a big problem, and sometimes it may not be worth the cost savings.
I have found most hotels will match prices found on consolidators websites. And, I’d just as soon see the hotel, especially the small ones, keep the money they'd otherwise pay to Priceline or some other company. Last summer we booked a delightful hotel near Gatwick. It was a splurge. I saw a cheaper price on a website a few months later. I emailed the link to the hotel and they said even though I had booked a better room they would match the rate. Also, I do believe booking directly gives you a better chance of coming out ahead if things go wrong. The rule of thumb is the more layers between you and your reservation the more likelihood you’ll not be treated as well should there be a problem.