What Is a Credit Card Block?

A credit card block is the reservation of a portion of a credit or debit card balance for the cost of services not yet rendered. Credit card blocking is most common in the hospitality industry. However, it is also used by rental car companies. In general, credit card blocking is more likely to be used for payments involving services (as opposed to products).

Key Takeaways

  • A credit card block is the reservation of a portion of a credit or debit card balance for the cost of services not yet rendered.
  • Credit card blocking is most common in the hospitality and car rental industries.
  • Hotels use credit card blocking to ensure that the individual reserving the room is unable to spend the money that will be used in the future to pay for the room fee.
  • Credit card blocking can have a significant impact on a cardholder with a low credit limit or who only has a small amount of credit remaining.

How a Credit Card Block Works

Hotels use credit card blocking to ensure that the individual reserving the room is unable to spend the money that will be used in the future to pay for the room fee. The hotel may block all or a portion of the room cost before a stay begins or is completed.

When credit card blocking is used, the transaction is posted as pending rather than completed. The total amount blocked may be lower than the actual total, as additional room charges–such as room service–may increase the total amount owed.

Rental car companies may place a hold on a credit card that exceeds the cost of renting the vehicle to cover incidental expenses or damages, particularly if the renter does not purchase the car insurance offered by the rental car company.

Disadvantages of Credit Card Blocking

Credit card blocking can have a significant impact on a cardholder with a low credit limit or who only has a small amount of credit remaining. A cardholder may make a reservation for a hotel room weeks in advance, and the hotel may block out the cost of the entire stay as soon as the reservation is made. If the cardholder does not pay attention to reservation language indicating that a credit card block may be employed, they may continue using the card despite not having a sufficient balance. This can result in overdraft charges.

For example, a three-night reservation that will cost $750 in total may appear as a temporary charge after a reservation is made, even if the hotel stay is not to occur for a while.

Credit card blocks might be held for 10 to 15 days even after the cardholder checks out of a hotel or returns a rental vehicle. This may be the case if a different card is used to pay for the rental rather than the one used to make the reservation. In order to see to it that this amount is not held up, cardholders can ask the hotel or car rental company to release the block once they have paid in full for the use of their services. This way they will not be caught unaware of blocks on their available balance.