When Pre-Authorisation is not Pre-Authorisation

This weekend I spent two nights at an expensive hotel near London. On checking in an immediate charge of £415 was made for accommodation and a £50/night contingency.

On checking out I was told my actual bill was £318, and thus I expected a refund of £97. But this did not happen. Instead, 30 hours later I was warned by Monzo that the hotel had made a further charge of £318…the actual bill together with a warning that I was overdrawn and not to use the card again until I had sufficient funds.

This is the first time I have been overdrawn on any account for over 25 years and had I have been relying on the card for additional purchases I could have faced embarrassment.

It seems to me that this was not a pre-authorisation. This was pre-charging.

It also made me feel that the 4 star hotel was really saying “Welcome to our hotel, but we don’t trust you an inch”. Particularly when this is not the first time I have stayed there.

I love Monzo, and I particularly loved the speed with which the issue was sorted via the Monzo app, but I am now very wary that this could happen again.

Should I not use Monzo for hotels, or for that matter car hire?

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It’s always better to use credit cards for pre auth holds in hotels etc

If you message Monzo via in app chat with proof that the bill has been settled they will release any holds early


Unfortunately this isn’t just a monzo issue. It could happen with any current account.


Yeah, use a credit card. Let the hotel faff about with Barclaycard’s money, not yours.


Most likely it was a pre-authorisation, but Monzo just shows them the same as purchases.

With any bank it would come from your available balance. For calculating overdraft fees, it doesn’t come from your balance so don’t worry there.

Generally, credit cards are better for hotels, car hire, petrol, etc.


Sorry this happened with you but it seems Monzo is not at fault here. Some Hotels and Car Rental companies do a pre-authorisation and then they also charge the actual amount when you checkout/return. Pre-authorisation amount should be back in your account in few days.

It would be same if you were to use any other Bank card. In fact most banks will not update your total balance just the available balance which can be confusing. Monzo in fact gives you clear picture of whats going on.


What I fail to understand is that If I knew £415 had left my Monzo account then surely the hotel should have been aware that they had received £415. So why charge a second time?

Presuming that the £415 was a pre-authorisation (as is usually the case with hotels) then the merchant never actually received it. Yes, when you checked out the hotel should/could have cancelled the pre-auth, but many just wait for it to drop off. As other posters have stated, this would have occurred with any debit card/current account - the advantage in Monzo’s case is that they will often reverse the pre-auth for you sooner if you ask them, with the caveat that you’re still liable should the merchant try to collect the funds. I’d always recommend using a credit/charge card for hotels.

Does the preauthorisation count in terms of your balance? I know it’s taken off it but as pending transactions don’t count until they clear then does it prevent you using your card if that’s the only transaction that takes you beyond your overdraft limit/zero if you have no overdraft?

Yes - I guess since there’s no way of knowing whether a pre-auth will eventually get collected or not.

Now I understand.

However I feel that if there is a risk of a customer being forced into a overdraft position through no fault of the customer, the hotel should trust the customer and simply charge on checkout, particularly if the customer has used them before.

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You won’t be charged overdraft fees on pending transactions, only when it clears. Since it will never clear then you won’t be charged


Ah. It was not shown as a pending transaction. It was shown as a withdrawal, and was followed by Mr Monzo telling me not to try to use the card until funds had been injected.

That’s a naughty way for the hotel to operate if that’s the case,

Pending transactions are often shown in app as “Pending Transaction” at the bottom of the transaction details window.

Didn’t know this, thanks.

Hey @barneylodge - So this is purely guesswork, but it sounds like the hotel did do a pre-authorisation, it’s just that the Monzo app shows it straight away in your feed, whereas an older bank or credit card would show it as “pending”.

So if you have £500 on your card, and the pre-authorisation is for £450 - You’ll only have £50 left to use on the card (because Monzo can’t be sure if that £450 will be collected or not).

As for the hotel trusting customers - It would be nice (especially for places you’ve used before), but I guess there are significantly more untrustworthy people, than the other way around sadly.

For example, if you damaged the room in some way, but refused to pay for it, my understanding is they could take it from the pre-authorisation (can someone correct me if I’m wrong).

As others have said, for anything that requires a sizeable “pre-auth”, using a credit card is much better, and leaves you less to worry about.

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I could accept all of this if only I were warned.

Just a polite sign on the check-in desk that says “Because we don’t trust you, we may charge you twice.”

I agree with others that a credit card is better in these situations, but the authorisation/pending transaction could still leave you unable to use your credit card. I think the assumption is that a credit card would have a higher credit limit than the amount you would normally keep in a current account. This may well be true, but the process is the same with credit and debit cards and authorisations/pending transactions will reduce your available funds even on a credit card.


Very valid point - It’s exactly the same process.

I don’t suppose you remember what they said do you?

Every time I’ve done this, the merchant has always said “We need to take a pre authorisation of X amount - This will be refunded to you upon completion” - Or words to that effect.

Perhaps they could explain exactly what that means in some situations.

This is yet another reason why I’ve been trying to get Monzo to surface the “finalised available balance (excluding pots)” that they calculate overdrafts with. Unfortunately, Monzo (rightly or wrongly) pretend pending transactions are finalised with Mastercard and show an incorrect balance accordingly. I’ve wrote a lot about it here: Pre-ordering authorising the full amount months in advance

For what it’s worth, the problem @barneylodge is having would be much less of an issue with most other bank accounts where pre-authorised amounts are not taken off your balance in the same way, and certainly don’t appear the same as a genuine overdraft.

In the email conversation I’ve had with Monzo, they’re aware that this figure needs to be made visible in the app somehow both for those who are genuinely using overdrafts and need to know when they’re going to be charged, and also in situations like this where a pre-authorisation is made but never finalised (or finalised with a different amount).