Troubled by No-Showers and Fake card details? Here’s how to combat it

Troubled By No-Showers And Fake Card Details? Here’s How To Combat It

What boils your blood when you work with What gets me is fake credit card details!

You get the booking in, you add it to your system, you do all the admin. The date of the arrival happens, and…the guest doesn’t appear. The first thought for me is, “Nice!” We have the guest’s card details, and they haven’t come; I don’t have to do breakfast for that person, I don’t even have to clean their room. We have free money there.



However, you then go to your computer and log into to get their card details. You put the info through your card machine, and it returns invalid! How does this happen?

Simply, you can book a room or holiday on on any card.

Debit card or credit card, they don’t care. Just input “valid” card info and the OTA will accept the booking. Here’s where people get sneaky. I know this because I have tested it: They will reserve a booking on a preload credit card with no money yet loaded. There’s no way that can test that card to ensure it is loaded. All they can do is store the card's details.

The booker knows this full well. It’s how they get around the booking terms and conditions without committing to the stay properly. At this point, you may find that you want to rip the computer from the wall and fling it across the room, especially if what you just lost was a large booking.

It’s important to stress that this is NOT’s fault. I know for a fact that they are working on ways and means to improve this process for the hospitality owner, but it will take time. As frustrating as it is, we must deal with this ourselves.

Here are a few strategies I have tried and tested to combat this over the years.

1. Take a pre-payment straight away

If this is something that happens a lot with your property, you need to act! Go to your policies on the extranet and change them such that a payment will be taken from the booker’s account after the reservation has been confirmed. YES, this might put off a few people from booking. However, in my opinion, the problem of bookers using unloaded credit cards has got to the stage where you need to improve the “quality of the booking”, not the quantity.

This way, when someone comes to reserve a room, the property will take an amount of the total booking fee for their card. If the card's not loaded, this process won't work. You must change this policy in because if you leave it as it is, and you take money after the booking is made, you will get in trouble and have an annoyed guest!

It doesn’t matter what amount you take at this stage. The main thing you’re achieving here is to gather whether there is money on their card or not. Even if you just charge £10, you've still proven that there's money on their card, and more often than not, if someone booking a room has available credit on their card, it means that when you go to charge the full amount, there will be enough.

It is important to state here that many things could still go wrong from here on in. My biggest question is, “What if the guest cancels? Do I have to refund this deposit/pre-payment?” The simple answer is YES, but it all depends on what policies you set out on these OTA channels.

Something that some owners forget about is the psychological aspect. If you spend money on something, you commit 100 times more than if you just “reserve” a room. When money has left their account, the person is more inclined to stick with their reservation and not want “the hassle” of fighting to get the money back.

Following up on the reservation with an active email or text communication campaign will also help reduce the likelihood of the guest wanting to cancel.

A common hotelier argument against this method is, “I don’t have the time to do this”. Again, if this is happening to you a lot, if you are getting bookings coming through, but the card details are invalid, you are losing revenue. MAKE TIME.

Pass the task onto a member of staff. If you haven’t got that luxury, then set aside one hour a week to process all the bookings.

Still can’t find the time? Then outsource it. Hire someone to do this for you for an hour or two hours a week. Make sure if you do take this option that it is someone you trust, as they are going to be handling card information. For PCI compliances alone, you don’t want to be getting into trouble.

2. If all else fails, threaten small claims court

I have personally never had to go down this route because we never had a situation where it was “worth our while” to pursue. However, this has happened to a former client of Boostly.

A guest booked some rooms on, failed to show, and used the wrong card information. It was an awful situation to be in. However, the property quickly threatened to take the customer to a small claims court. To this day, I’m not sure if the property would have gone ahead with the threat, but just getting that letter was enough to make the guest pay what they owed.

If the guest's booking falls through and they stand to lose a few hundred pounds, then they have just discovered what travel insurance is there for.

Like I've said right from the start, as hospitality business owners, we have to take the advantage back. We need to control the booking process and make OTAs work for us, not the other way around.

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