Mystery Solved: Do You Really Need to Check Out of a Hotel — Or Can You Just Walk Away?

You're all paid up anyway — but here's why it matters.

Our era of hospitality is one of online booking, pre-authorizations, and a dose of understandable distrust built in to the system, so the days of formally settling up the hotel bill at the end of a stay are long gone. Given that the receptionist has already swiped your credit card at check in and you've signed a form authorizing them to charge it, they don't actually require your presence in order to charge you for your stay — and any damage or theft that may have occurred in its duration. So, then, do you even need to formally check out anymore? It should only take two minutes, but what if you are stuck at the end of a line of people checking in/out or complaining?

While you are not actually required to go through the routine of checking out, there are a few reasons why you really should do so, several of which were raised on Quora's message board.

First, it gives you the opportunity to check the charges. If someone dines in a hotel restaurant and charges the meal to their room, it's all too easy to write down the wrong room number. This is not always cross-checked by staff so you end up with a meal you didn't eat posted to your room. Much easier to dispute the charge there and then, face-to-face, than weeks later when you get your credit card statement. Moreover, if there was a misunderstanding over your checkout date — say you leave Saturday but the hotel has you down as leaving Sunday — you are going to get charged for that additional night. Then, there's also the thorny issue of the minibar, some of which trigger a charge by way of a censor if you so much as lift an item, even if you never intended to consume it.

Another simple reason is courtesy. If you inform the hotel that you are out of your room, then they can let housekeeping know to clean it — rooms that need to be prepared for new guests get priority on the housekeeping schedule. If extending courtesy to hard-working housekeeping staff is not your thing, well, consider karma.

But also try imagining how the effect would impact you if you were waiting to check in. If housekeeping had been able to make up that room more quickly, you (as a guest showing up early) would have been able to have checked in early. (And this is all about you, right?)

Still, none of this solves the problem of the potential early-morning check out line, but one Quora user suggests the potentially time-saving moves of "calling the front desk from your room, TV checkout from your room, and checking out using the hotel's app." Any way you decide to do, it seems that formally checking out is worth those extra moments.

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