Everything You Need to Know About Hotel Credit Card Authorization Forms

August 31, 2022
Stephen Alemar

Credit card authorization forms have been something hotels all over the world have had to deal with for decades — and still are today! However, the authorization forms of yesteryear don’t work as well as they used to. Paper and PDF credit card authorization forms are no longer PCI compliant and open hoteliers up to costly chargebacks and potentially even huge financial penalties. How huge? Fines for PCI incompliance can range from $5,000 to $100,000 per month until the merchant achieves compliance. However, there are alternatives out there that hotels should know about.

In this post, we’ll walk through what hoteliers need to know about hotel credit card authorization forms and the best ways to use them with guests. 

Let’s dive in. 

What Is a Hotel Credit Card Authorization Form?

A hotel credit card authorization form is a document that enables a guest to stay at a property when a third-party (i.e., another person or organization) is paying for it. They are typically used when the guest does not have the card on them, but they are authorized to use it by the cardholder to pay for a room, banquet hall, conference room, etc. 

Credit card authorizations forms are regularly used by corporate clients, parents paying for children, event planners and others to pay for services and space at a hotel property. 

Traditionally, hotels have used paper and PDF forms that need to be emailed and/or faxed back and forth between the cardholder and property staff. Though many hotels still use these paper and PDF forms, there are digital alternatives today that can be used to transfer sensitive credit card information much more securely via the web. For example, Canary Technologies Digital Authorizations solution enables hoteliers to quickly create secure authorization forms that can be accessed by guests through unique web links.

What Is Included in an Authorization Form for Hotels?

There are a number of important pieces of information that need to be included on an authorization form. Though there may be some variation from hotel to hotel, most properties’ forms will follow the same basic format. 

Let’s now go through what that looks like section by section. 

Basic Guest Information

Somewhat obviously, an authorization form needs to provide the name of the guest who the card is paying for, along with some basic information, such as some contact information (e.g., phone number, email, etc.), the dates they are staying at the property, and any important notes for their stay. 

Stay-Related Information 

In addition to the personal information of a guest, you’ll also need to know some info that will be related specifically to their stay. Hotel authorization forms generally come with a section where the cardholder can limit the type of charges that can be placed on the card. If a guest orders room and beverage at the hotel, but it hasn’t been indicated as a type of charge to be placed on the card, it will need to be paid for by the guest directly. 

Other types of information that may be included in this section include the authorization type (one-time or ongoing) and the confirmation number. 

Credit Card Information

The next section that is included in a credit card authorization form is the actual card information itself. This includes credit card number, expiration date, and CVV code. Generally, the types of credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, etc.) accepted will be shown in this section and there may be a checkbox to indicate which one the cardholder is providing. 

Billing Information of Cardholder

The section following credit card information is usually reserved for the billing information and address of the cardholder. Name, company (if applicable), and full address are generally required. 

Signature & Acknowledgement

Like nearly every other type of legally binding document, a hotel’s credit card authorization form ends with a place for the signature of the cardholder. There also may be a checkbox acknowledging that they understand that their card information is accurate and will be used to pay for services at the hotel. 

 

The Problems With Paper & PDF Authorization Forms

Though still more common in the hotel industry than one might think, paper and PDF credit card authorization forms present a number of problems for hoteliers that use them. 

 

Issues with paper and PDF forms include:

  • Paper and PDF credit card authorization forms are highly insecure and no longer considered PCI compliant. These forms are known security risks frequently targeted by bad actors and often lead to fraud and chargeback cases that are impossible to win due to PCI incompliance. And that’s particularly bad news because chargebacks have a direct negative on a hotel’s bottom line and can eat away at 2-4% of a property’s total revenue. 
  • Paper and PDF forms take time to fill out and store, which often eats into valuable hours of the work day and can drag front desk staff away from helping guests at the property. And if a chargeback occurs, retrieving the information to try to deal with it can be an absolute time-suck.
  • Faxing and emailing these documents back and forth is a pain and creates a poor experience for the person paying for the guest, which can have a negative effect on future business from the cardholder.

The Advantages of Digital Authorizations by Canary 

Canary’s Digital Authorizations solution provides hotels with a secure alternative to paper and PDF forms and is ranked as the hotel industry’s #1 Cyber Security & Fraud Prevention by independent customer reviews on HoteTechReport.  

Advantages of Canary’s Digital Authorization solution include: 

  • A fully PCI compliant infrastructure 
  • Built-in fraud detection tools that help prevent fraud and chargebacks before they happen
  • One-click creation of a mobile-friendly secure authorization form that can be accessed via a unique web link 
  • A secure, easy-to-use dashboard for tracking authorizations and retrieving important information if a chargebacks does occur
  • Faster form completions and less time wasted on administrative work by staff
  • Better user experience for cardholders 

Learn how The MADE Hotel in NYC reduced their chargebacks from ~$30,000 per year to virtually $0 after implementing Canary Check-In!

Conclusion

Credit card authorization forms are an important tool that nearly every type of hotel needs to work with. However, how a hotel does so can have big effects on guest data security, PCI compliance, staff efficiency, the guest experience and more. 

Paper and PDF authorization forms create huge security risks and can be the cause of nothing but headaches for hoteliers. But there is good news! Canary’s Digital Authorization solution is easy-to-use, fully PCI compliant, reduces fraud and chargebacks by up to 90% and saves hours in administrative work. 

For a Demo of Canary’s PCI Digital Authorization Solution, CLICK HERE.

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