Most hotels are now using the Express Checkout service that allows customers to check out of their rooms and return the keys, without actually having to wait for their final bill to be produced. It is a great convenience for hotel guests at all times, but especially so when they are pressed for time, which is often the case with many of us.
If you aren’t using the service at your hotel, you should start doing it — it benefits your guests, even as it makes it easier for your staff to do their job. In this post I will review exactly how the Express Checkout program benefits your guests, which card networks participate in it and what procedures you need to follow to make sure you are doing it right. Let’s get started.
Why Should You Be Participating in Express Checkout?
Offering an Express Checkout service to your guests means that they can return their keys and go without having to wait for their bill to be made up. The benefits are obvious and here are some of them:
- Express Checkout saves your guests time when there are long queues at the front desk, because there is no need to wait to checkout.
- If a guest is in a hurry to catch a train or plain, you are helping her to avoid a stressful delay.
- If there is no one available at the front desk, your guests can simply drop in their keys and leave.
But the benefits go both ways. Using Express Checkout at your hotel also means that your staff can make up your guests’ bills at the most convenient time of the day, not when they have a bunch of people in front of them, all waiting to check in or out.
Which Cards Can Be Used with Express Checkout?
Your staff has to be trained to know which card networks support Express Checkout and which do not. At present, the Express Checkout hotel program is only available with the following card schemes:
- American Express.
- Diners Club.
Express Checkout is not available with the following card networks:
- Maestro Domestic.
- Maestro International.
- Visa Electron.
So, as you see, all four major U.S. card brands support the Express Checkout program. Be advised that each network may have a different name for the program. For example, Visa refers to it as the “Priority Check-Out Service”, but it’s the same thing.
How to Use Express Checkout
Express Checkout works by allowing participating hotels to finalize the bill after the guest checks out. The following procedures should be followed:
- At check-in, ask your guest if they would like to use the Express Checkout service or include the Express Checkout Authorization Form in your guest’s “welcome package.” Not everyone will agree to using the Express Checkout, as they will want to examine the bill first.
- Have each customer who agrees to use the service to fill out and sign the Express Checkout Authorization Form, which should include your hotel’s name, address, and phone number and provide space for the customer’s name, address, room number, signature, and account number that may optionally be imprinted.
- Explain to your customer, and spell it out in the authorization form, that the final bill will be charged on his or her card account, without the need for a cardholder signature at checkout.
- Request a pre-authorization approval for the expected amount of the bill. If your authorization request is declined, ask your customer for an alternative form of payment.
- Once you have obtained an authorization approval, print out a sales ticket with your customer’s card account number, and follow regular authorization procedures. Write down the words “Express Checkout” on the ticket (or “Priority Check-Out” for Visa — check with your processor for the correct wording) and once again explain that the bill amount will be charged on the card after the customer checks out.
- When your customer leaves, you need to calculate the final bill amount and complete a sales ticket, printing the words “signature on file — express checkout” (or “Priority Check-Out” for Visa, check with your processor) in the customer signature field.
- If the final bill exceeds the pre-authorized amount by more than 15 percent, request an authorization approval for the additional amount.
- Deposit the sales ticket in the usual manner.
- Mail or email a copy of the bill, sales ticket and the Express Checkout Authorization Form to your customer no more than three business days after he or she has checked out.
- Keep copies of the bill, sales ticket and authorization form for at least 18 months to be used in the event of a dispute.
That’s it — just follow this procedure for all of your Express Checkout transactions and you’ll be fine.
Express Checkout is an incredibly consumer-friendly program and you should take advantage of it to help make your guests’ stay at your hotel as pleasant as it can be. In fact, the service offers convenience to hotel employees as well, as it allows them to choose the best time to finalize a bill. Just follow the above step-by-step procedures and you will be sure to do it the right way every time.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.