Why Don’t More Hotels Charge Early Check-In Fees?

Filed Under: Hotels

Let me start by saying that this post isn’t intended to give hotels any ideas. Rather it’s meant to talk about a situation I recently faced, and how I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.

We all know that there’s a lot of nickel-and-diming in the hotel industry. Just look at the resort, destination, and facility “fees” that we’ve seen added at so many hotels.

Along those lines, I’m surprised most hotels don’t try to better monetize early check-in.

Most Hotels Will Let You Check-In Early

All hotels have published check-in and check-out times. I find that a vast majority of hotels will let you check-in early at no extra cost, as long as a room is available.

How early can you check-in? It varies, but generally once the night audit is done (in the early hours of the morning) front desk agents are capable of checking you in, pending availability.

While hotels will typically let you check-in early, it’s incredibly rare that they’ll let you check-out significantly later than the published times. Your elite status might get you 2PM or 4PM late check-out, but it rarely happens that a hotel will let you check-out at no extra cost at 8PM, for example, even if the room would otherwise be empty.

I Was Recently Charged For Early Check-In

A couple of days ago we stayed at the InterContinental Johannesburg Airport (review coming shortly), and we arrived at around 10AM. The friendly front desk associate informed us “we have rooms ready, but there is a 500ZAR fee if you check-in before 2PM.” That’s about 33USD, by the way.

At first I was caught off guard, since I didn’t remember the last time I was asked to pay to check-in early. But then I also thought to myself that it wasn’t a completely unreasonable amount to spend for early check-in, and I can’t blame the hotel for charging it.

Why Isn’t This More Common?

As I said at the beginning of the post, I’m not writing this to encourage hotels to add these fees. Rather the post is intended to share my surprise at this being the first time I recall being charged such a fee.

It’s potentially an additional source of revenue for a hotel. Sure it costs the hotel nothing extra to provide early check-in for free, but shouldn’t the same be said for an 11PM check-out if the room would otherwise be empty?

Logically it could even potentially (sort of) benefit guests:

  • Those who value early check-in most could pay the premium for it, rather than it being purely on a first come first served basis
  • While some hotel loyalty programs offer early check-in subject to availability as an elite benefit, in reality it’s not much of a benefit since they generally offer that to everyone

Earlier this year Hyatt introduced confirmed early check-in and late check-out for a fee at many of their properties. That’s sort of along these lines, but not completely, since that’s confirmed in advance, rather than based on availability during your stay.

Anyone else surprised more hotels are so strict about check-out time, but aren’t at all strict about check-in time?

Comments
  1. I could understand a busy airport hotel charging a fee like this (though I wonder why did you stay in that particular hotel) but one of the joys of being gold or platinum with a big chain is checking in early and checking out late. When I think of all the times I checked in at noon and stayed until 4pm the next day I am reminded that I’ve experienced much kindness from front desk clerks in years past.

    Hopefully the chains won’t get an idea based on your post here 🙂

  2. I took advantage of the Hyatt early check-in following a red-eye to MIA earlier this year and got a a nice nap in before I had to be anywhere that afternoon. I was more than happy to pay for it since I could confirm it in advanced. I’d be less inclined to pay the fee if I was just going to try my luck at an early check-in, especially if ‘early’ is only 1 or 2pm.

  3. Is early check-in really readily available for free? One of the reasons I thought arrival lounges in Europe were so popular was because it often took a while to get checked into hotel rooms. If early check-in were more available, more people would head straight to the hotel from their 7 or 8 AM arrivals when flying redeyes to Europe.

  4. The hotel can’t sell that empty room in the morning for the previous night. But there’s still some chance that they get some last minute booking in the afternoon for that night, and they want to clean/prepare the rooms for those cases.

  5. You recently paid for another night at the Hyatt in Paris so you could check in upon arrival. I agree that it would probably have been cheaper to pay an early check in fee.

    The Conrad Hong Kong had the opportunity to pay approximately $75 to check in early. I was fine with that fee when I arrived at 7AM from an overnight flight

    Surprisingly, the clerk waived the fee and upgraded me. It sure beats paying for the night before.

    I was turned away at 2 pm from a Japanese chain hotel in Yokohama. They had a firm 3 pm check in time and seemed surprised that I would even try to check in early.

  6. One of the main reasons is that they’re in the hospitality business. It’s not very hospitable (or conducive to gaining repeat business) to bombard your guests with ridiculous fees when the room would otherwise just be sitting there until the posted check-in time. Look at Vegas now: Resort fees, valet and self parking fees, early check-in fees, late check-out fees, fees for cancelling within 72 hours – I’m waiting for the turnstile that you need to put your credit card in to gain entry to the casino…

  7. I don’t think they charge this fee for InterContinental Ambassadors, though it’s not a specific benefit of the program. I stayed at the InterContinental JNB Airport in June, I arrived at check-in similarly at 10am and was given my room key with no mention of a charge (I was actually staying on points as well). I am a Platinum Ambassador so maybe that’s why they didn’t say it (I will say they had three separate people including the GM thank me for my Ambassador membership when checking in, so maybe they just ham it up).

  8. @Steven M.-He probably stayed there in order to catch a flight to a safari camp the next day. It’s a very nice hotel and much more convenient than staying in the city and then heading back to the airport early the next morning. I’ve stayed there several times and appreciated the convenience and enjoyed the facilities.

  9. Stay in an MGM hotel in Las Vegas they charge guests for breathing
    Want an early check in? 75 dollars
    At Aria as a Gold life member they asked for 200 dollars for an extra 2 hours at check out time
    Great hotel company only 100 dollars an hour to extend your checkout
    Very generous to their elites

  10. The IC JNB Airport loves to nickel and dime for everything, so this doesn’t surprise me.

    I’ve moved my short stays at JNB to the CityLodge which is also attached to the terminal. They permit early check-in from 0700hrs onwards with a 24-hour stay permitted. Not as fancy as the IC but perfectly adequate.

  11. The only time an hotel mentioned an early check-in fee was a few years ago at a DoubleTree in Boston where I arrived shortly before noon, and the check-in agent told me he couldn’t check-in me for free because the system didn’t allow it, but since it was so close to noon (15 min or something like that) I could just wait, and at noon he was able to give me a key. But the early check-in fee was quite low in any case ($25 if I recall correctly), so if I’d arrived way earlier it wouldn’t break the bank.

  12. In 2011, Holiday Inn Heathrow tried to charge us a fee to check-in early when they had an available room. I was not amused. Accordingly, we declined their offer, and turned the kids loose (released the hounds) on the lobby.

  13. If getting a guaranteed early check-in/expecting it at a low fixed cost was too easy, people wouldn’t book the night before anymore 😉

    Now hotels can get a full night rate extra from people who really need the early check in, while they can show some goodwill to other guests who just show up early.

    Could be slightly better monitized though with airline style revenue management, but let’s not give them ideas.

  14. The housekeeping staff typically arrive early in the morning and work one shift, not two and allowing a late check out could cost the hotel more in overtime or to actually hire swing shift personnel so that charge is understandable. Often large hotels don’t sell out the night before and have empty rooms available so it’s not a big deal for them to be accommodating in the morning. I would not stay twice at a hotel which attempts to charge me for an early check in. That said, in France some places have ridiculously late check in times, as late as 5 pm and I avoid those places as well.

  15. We recently stayed at Fairfield Inn across from Disneyland (Anaheim Maingate) The only Fairfiled Inn I know of that doesnt have free breakfast for anyone regardless of elite status. They sent me a dear Elite member emai lto manage expectations including that guarenteed early check in at 10am would be $65 and 5pm check out would cost $150, but later checkout would also be available for free depending upon elite level and availability.

    We got to the hotel to drop our luggage off early before a day in the parks. Said we didnt need early check in but did pre-registered. Got a text our room was ready at 2pm (4pm was the guarenteed time). We left to fly home on a morning flight so I didnt have a chance to test and see if they would give us free 2pm late check out with my Gold (through Amex) status.

  16. Look at it this way. The hotel has the room. It’s clean and ready to go. It’s not going to be rented for the night except to you the customer, who has already paid for it (or agreed to pay). The hotel can either give it away to you as a gesture of goodwill, or milk its customers for every penny it can, never mind how annoying the customer will think this greedy grab is.

    I’ve been charged early check-in fees before, and it’s one more reason why I’ve been moving more and more of my business to AirBnB.

  17. I work in vacation rentals and it operates a bit differently, but if a guest is early and the property is ready we almost always allow for a free early check in.
    It is an easy way for the guest’s trip to start off smoothly and it also helps spread out the check in times throughout the day, otherwise all of the early check in people would check in right at 4:00 and it would create a bottleneck and strain staff.
    For hotels I am sure there is a bit of this at play where you can spread your check ins throughout the day and create a less busy front desk.

  18. I arrived at the Park Hyatt Vendome at 9am with no Hyatt status. They gave me a free breakfast buffet and had my room ready at 10am for no extra fee. She even apologized for the time it took.
    I was also staying on points. Great beginning.

  19. I think if they offered it more openly (at a cost or free) it would add another layer to what could end up being a logistical nightmare in terms of room allocations especially if the hotels have a large number of different room types!

  20. I was told they don’t charge because if they did it would cause a rush to check in at 3pm. If guests drift in from 10am to 10pm then you can get by with 2 front desk agents. If 50% of the guests are lined up at 3pm then you’re going to need many more agents or else you’ll have enraged guests waiting in long lines.

  21. Been charged by Park Hyatt New York for upgrading cause I arrived in the morning and was told no basic room, if I want to get in, upgrading was the only option.
    Actually it’s summer, most rooms were vacant, housekeeper told me. Not pleasant with that trick.

  22. If one is to check out late, there are very real costs to the hotel of making this happen without disrupting the next guest, so a fee is fair. I can see an early check-in fee if this can be requested and confirmed ahead of time. However, if the room is ready and cleaned, charging a fee to let you in earlier just seems greedy and would probably harm their “net promoter” survey scores.

  23. Note to Everyone: in JAPAN, they never let you do early check in even if there are dozens or rooms available and ready. Check-in will never start even 5 min before the written check-in time.

    Hotels suggesting a checkin fee automatically get minus 2 stars or minus 3 on the post booking request for review

  24. I tried checking in to an Embassy Suites in Portland before noon and was told there would be a fee. I think it was around 11am, so we just came back. I don’t recall the fee being that much, which would have been reasonable, but as a Diamond, I felt they should have waived it.

  25. Greed, greed, greed…(except in Japan where it is a cultural practice to do everything on time).
    The greed is from the executives who are thinking of new ways to use trickery or schemes to milk more money from unsuspecting customers. What do they care, since the executives expect to be moving on every 2-3 years.

  26. City unnamed Hilton. Wasn’t specifically early check-in, as they were full the night before, but $20 ensured the first room ready was mine.

  27. The check in time isn’t always guaranteed at 3pm depending on if there are elite guests staying till 4 etc. There is no reduction in fee even though you don’t get the room for the full stay. So likewise, to balance it out, they don’t charge for wary check in. It benefits those without status more than those with

  28. Hilton has “monetized” early check-in at some of their properties that have significant numbers of guests arriving very early due to flight scheduling and have to wait for hours in the lobby or exec lounge before they can check in. If check-in is at 3pm, then such guests can wait for hours, unless they booked a whole extra night before arrival, which can be costly.

    I am usually in this situation when traveling to Singapore on United’s daily NRT-SIN flight that gets there at 11:25pm. By the time I get to Hilton Singapore, it is always after midnight, i.e., the next morning and official check-in is 3pm that afternoon — a very long wait.

    To accommodate guests in that situation, Hilton has “Early Arrival Opportunity” offer, which, like room/suite upgrade, is one of their “eStandby Add-on Offers” that one can simply request for a fee after completing a booking:

    “We have received your Hilton Singapore eStandby Add-on Offer request.
    What’s next?
    • Please inquire regarding the status of your upgrade request if not confirmed during check-in.
    • If your Add-on Offer request is granted you will be charged the amount shown below to cover the entire stay.
    • If your request is not granted you will pay nothing extra. (See confirmed room details below).”

    This will cost me $80 SGD (~$60 USD), which is much cheaper than booking a whole extra night for $241.60 SGD ($180 USD)

  29. If hotels choose to monetize early check in, considered by many hotels to be 6am to 3pm or published check in time for the property, they risk having guests demanding a reduction in rate if the room is not ready by 3pm which happens often. Keeping a soft check in time when a room is available anyway is the right way to do business and least problematic for the property. I would not consider trying to check into a hotel at 3am even if it is after the previous day’s accounting close to be honest or smart on the part of a guest gambling on saving a first night’s charge.

  30. MGM seems to let you do this, at least at the Delano Las Vegas. IIRC, I made the request during online check-in, though they reconfirmed and charged me when I arrived. It was nice to be able to get into my room early in the morning after a rough red-eye flight out of HNL on Hawaiian.

  31. SPG/Marriott has Your24, which supposedly allows check in at any hour and checkout at the corresponding time on the day of departure. In practice, hotels never allow a check in in the wee hours of the morning. Your24 is Your15.5 or something. When SPG first introduced Your24, its systems couldn’t even handle it. The system allegedly viewed very early check ins as occurring on the previous day. Now Marriott limits Your24 to those who spend $20,000 per year so I won’t have to worry about it after this year.

    Hotels can charge for whatever they want. Early check in fees are great for hotels. If hotels get money for it, watch the normal check in time get later and later, normal checkout times get earlier, and check in fees get higher and higher. If hotels get money for letting guests check in early, guests who leave early enabling the hotel to earn more should be charged less.

  32. When booking through booking.com one of the boxes to fill is your expected arrival time. Should you put in say, 8am, and you hear nothing from the hotel about this anticipated arrival time can you assume a 8am check-in is implicitly agreed?
    I would really like it if a hotel would react to this information one way or another so the previous night could be booked if it’s a no-deal, or that it’s OK, or even look at the option of staying elsewhere.
    I enjoy independent hotels I have researched rather than the (American) chains where the McDonalds-like predictability prevails.

  33. As a hotel manager, agree with others about preventing the rush at 3pm. The other reason is that if guests know that he room is ready they will balk at paying. Saying “just let me in/can’t believe that you would charge me”. Front desk nightmare

  34. This article confuses me, because I have not experienced early check-in offered for free at most hotels, although I do experience it as a courtesy where I have high status in a chain and they happen to have a room available.

    I am not sure how you can standardise this with reliability given it relies totally on the occupancy rate of the hotel. Even Hyatt I believe qualifies status-based early check is as “when available”.

    I have been asked to pay for this before and I have never once done it, it annoys me and worsens my view of the hotel. I would far rather them say it’s unavailable. Where it has been provided for free I appreciate it and conversely it massively improves my view of the hotel.

    If charging became standard at any chain, would they simply refund your money when they can’t deliver? That would infuriate even more people. It’s handled fine now – a simple matter of goodwill. Why complicate this?

  35. If the room is empty or even if they don’t have a room available and you will be using the executive lounge or the gym or some common facilities I don’t see why it matters if you check in early. Plus if you have status, I do think it helps.

  36. I expressed my displeasure at checkout as a spire ambassador who booked a deluxe room (hence no upgrades) and the manager waived it. As by April I already had given IC more than 12k revenue and 60 nights

  37. It seems to me that this discussion is **Exhibit A** for why Hilton Honors’ policy of not “guaranteeing” either early check-in or late check-out to their elites, but to instead to work with them based on availability, makes good **business** sense.

    Case in point: On August 16, a little over 2 weeks ago, I arrived at Hilton Buenos Aires just before noon and was told that a room of the type of I had booked was available, and I could check in and move in right away. At the same time, I had requested a suite upgrade and was told that a junior suite was available, but it was still occupied and it would not be ready until around 2pm. I was thus offered the choice to either move right away into the standard room that I’d booked (upgraded to the Exec floor) or to wait a couple of hours for the junior suite upgrade to be ready. Having stayed at the property before, I knew that it had a very nice Exec lounge, and having slept well on the plane and feeling rested, it was a no-brain. I opted to wait for the upgrade in the Exec lounge. About an hour later, around 1pm, the guy who’d checked me in showed up in the Exec lounge to let me know that the junior suite was ready. That is what elite treatment gets you at a property where status is recognized! I was not only upgraded to a “preferred room”, but I did not have to wait until the official 3pm check-in time.

    On check-out, it was basically the same thing but in reverse. Because my flight back to the US would leave EZE around 9pm, I’d put in a request for a 6pm check-out when I checked in, something I’d done 3 times before at the same property and got approved each time. On this 4th occasion, when I went to check out, I was told that there was a hitch. The junior suite I was in had to be prepared for someone else to move in, so a 6pm check-out in the suite was not something they could do for me. However, if I was willing, I could stay in the suite until the official check-out time of 1pm, and then they would send someone to help me move into a standard room where I could wait until it was time to go to the airport (I could have stayed in the standard room past 6pm if I wanted to). I told them I had an even better suggestion: if the standard room would be available in the morning around 8am when I would go to have breakfast, I would just get my things ready the night before and then I would move out of the suite and into the standard room right after breakfast. Being much less ‘disruptive’, the suggestion was enthusiastically accepted and implemented exactly.

    The moral of the story: everyone won. I got what I wanted at check-in and at check-out. The guest who was to move into the junior suite I was in did not have to wait, ***as he or she would have had to (and I had to at Hyatt Regency Tokyo)***, if I had been ‘guaranteed’ a late check-out (4pm). And the property ended up with two very satisfied customers. 🙂

    Who needs a “guaranteed” 4pm late check-out, which would have made it quite easy for my 6pm check-out request to be denied (“Sorry. The guarantee is only to 4pm”), when properties would usually try to accommodate top elite members if they make a timely request for a late check-out? In nearly 10 years as a HH Diamond, I have never been denied a late check-out request, but have gotten check-out requests as late 6pm approved many times (5pm at ‘The Drake’ in Chicago comes to mind). The give and take works!

    Please do not tell me that the preceding exciting perspective on early check-in/late check-out was “off topic”!!! 😉

    G’day.

  38. In retrospect, maybe I should have posted the preceding on my blog since it fits the theme of “Travel Reality Check.” 😉

  39. P.S. Above I wrote “…when I went to check out..” It should have been “when I went to *check on my late check-out request* the evening before…”

  40. Ben
    This is BS idea.

    1. you have to have status to get early checkin

    2. Why will a season traveller bring up this point? When membership can give you this.

    3. Sounds like you are doing some market research for hotel to bring this up.

    4. last week was Bulk Toiletries this is certainly biased reporting that hotel can certainly bring in biodegradable packaging which is secure for guests safety.

  41. ” I also thought to myself that it wasn’t a completely unreasonable amount to spend for early check-in, and I can’t blame the hotel for charging it.”
    It s not unreasonable ,it s petty and a bad way for clients to start their stay at a hotel if charged for early check in.Guests will give a bad report and it will damage the hotel’s reputation.
    In France they never charge you for an earlier booking in my experience.,if the room is not ready you just leave your luggage in their luggage closet and you go have breakfast or brunch,a walk etc or you just wait/relax in the lobby in an armchair & drinks with newspapers.
    If you travel between cities by train and arrive very early you can also just leave your luggage for a small fee at the Train station lockers.

  42. Or you could also book a hotel for a few hours during the day, so that you hack the super early check-in instead of purchasing the night before.

  43. @Lucky

    I’ve never encountered a problem with either.

    In the past when I’ve inquired if a late check out is possible, have always been given a rather ‘generous’ time to depart the hotel.

    Thanks for sharing, interesting to read.

  44. Dumbest effing idea you’ve written about, Lucky. Don’t legitimize such a bad idea, and travelers, don’t start paying this or it will be EVERYWHERE.

    Just show up at a reasonable time and expect your room. If you’re really early, ask nicely and maybe get one For free. I have seldom been denied a room early, but I sure don’t want to start paying a fee simply because I am there a few hours before some capricious check in time.

  45. I’d much rather pay for early check-in (or late check-out) than paying for the rip-off ‘resort fee’ for resort services that I don’t need nor ask for, especially when the location is no resort at all…

  46. We arrived in Doha at 0500. We took advantage of the Qatar Arrivals lounge to shower and have breakfast. We went to the Marriott City Center at 0700 to drop our luggage. At the counter the associate tells me that as a Titanium Elite they have upgraded us to a junior suite and we have your room available but there will be an early check in fee of 450 Riyals (USD 123). Really felt like a shake down to me that the upgrade was dangled but there is a fee. As I was traveling with my wife I didn’t roll the dice to see if we declined the early check in fee if we’d still get the upgrade. I was shocked that I’m eligible for late check out but not early check in. I fully expected the room to not be available at 0700 but to tell me the room is vacant and ready to go but I had to pay USD123 seems wrong. What do you think?

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