Why You Shouldn’t Use Your Hotel’s Online Check In Option

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Earlier this week I wondered whether I was missing something by preferring to check in at hotels in person rather than use the online check in option. I only had a few data points with Hyatt but readers commented on their experiences with Hilton and Marriott, and overall it seemed like online check in was more likely to hurt than help you.

Why Online Hotel Check In Is Subpar

When you check in online you’re automatically assigned a room.

  • Chains like Hyatt don’t allow you to choose the type of room you want online, so you’re left hoping you get what you asked for and you’re out of luck if you wanted to change.
  • Many properties can’t change your room once it’s been assigned online, even if you go to the front desk
  • Hotel employees report you’re more likely to get upgraded to a better room in-person.
  • You still have to wait in line at the front desk to get your keys.

When Does It Make Sense To Check In To Your Hotel Online

Reader Brad, who has front desk experience, offered helpful insights on when you DO want to use online check in if it’s available:

I WOULD use online checkin if you…

  1. Are an Elite member that might be receiving a meet and greet or amenity in the room. We would get our most frequent guests keys waiting at the door so they would pick them up as they walk in because of this.
  2. Have requested a rare or highly desirable room type that is not guaranteed, like when you book through OTAs like Expedia. Sometimes they run out of double bedded rooms, and I hope the two couples showing up late aren’t shy when they have to share a king!
  3. Special Needs, allergies, handicaps, etc.

I agree completely with the commentors that once they launch “unlock your door with your phone” technology it will be a game changer.

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  1. Elijah

    April 12, 2015 at 1:10 am

    Hilton swears that they will upgrade you if a better option is available, even if you check in. Also, as a Diamond, some Hilton properties let you choose upgrades with the app check-in. With that said, you can usually see Hilton’s assignment to you the day of even if you don’t actually check in. The other day, I had been “pre-assigned” a room on the HHonors floor, but I never completed the check-in. When I got to the hotel, I had been “downgraded” to the second floor (I NEVER get low floor or a non-Hhonors floor), so I was quite disappointed! I wished I had done the app check-in. Anyway…just adding another experience to the convo. 🙂

  2. MFK

    April 12, 2015 at 2:40 am

    I too have had great success with Hilton”s online check-in. They do allow you to select rooms, so if you know the property, it is even more useful. In fact, I’m writing from a very large room on the HHonors floor at the DoubleTree Seychelles that I was assigned and confirmed online. And I was upgraded at the desk once as well at the Hilton Auckland.

  3. JGM

    April 12, 2015 at 3:54 am

    I used the Hilton app to check into the Hampton Inn in Vancouver BC and it let me choose a room. That was something I found extremely useful – got the top floor corner room, which is exactly what I wanted. Not sure I would’ve been able to get that room when I got there in the evening. I’m no elite member – just Silver, and I wasn’t going for upgrades, but I guess some would want to milk it a bit more.

  4. ScottBarkla

    April 12, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Hilton Glasgow (notoriously bad for elite upgrades anyway) front desk have told me never to use online checkin if want an upgrade. But of course it works well at the Doubletree Lincoln.

  5. Explore

    April 12, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    As an HHonors Diamond, OLCI did allow me to choose any standard room at the Hilton SFO Bayfront, but NOT a room on the Executive Floors, which I believe I’m entitled to. On the Room 77 website, I was able to check view orientation (critical for me) and did check-in online at the highest available floor. When I arrived at the hotel they assigned me an Executive Floor room directly above. But I’m guessing that if I’d arrived in late evening, I might have been out of luck vs. the old pre-blocking by hotel staff.

  6. Juan Carlos

    February 15, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Actually all the negatives you have mentioned does not apply to the Hilton Digital Key feature. Our hilton honors app. allows you to open your room, fitness center, pool, executive lounge with your phone. Everyone gets to choose their room. If you are a silver, gold or diamond member, you don’t have to stop at the front desk. Your requests are better executed as they are being monitored more attentively through the app, not to mention reviewing old receipts, a map of the area equipped with a GPS system, and managing your hilton honor points. Everyone loses a room key, not many people lose their phone which is also a great benefit! – I would encourage everyone to try it !

  7. Wynter Love

    March 7, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    I pre-paid for my Hilton Honors Room (Silver Member). If I check-in online, is my credit card (or debit card) charged again for room and tax? Or is there a “hold” placed just for incidentals?

  8. Chris

    August 30, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    You are able to check-in a day before arrival. If you check-in online early and you havent been assigned a room yet, you can choose your room. But once on the same day, and its past noon-ish, and you still havent checked-in online, they usually assign you to a room. Sometimes its executive, sometimes not. With my experience, its always better to go to the front and kindly request and upgrade if available when you arrive. Never hurts to ask with a tip.
    I am diamond btw.

  9. Clay S Carlos

    June 3, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    I belong to all the major hotel loyalty programs. However, in the past 6 months or so, I only stay at Hilton due to their digital check-in and digital key. For the life of me, I cannot imagine who would *want* to have to go to the front desk, possibly wait in line, beg for the floor, room location, and view you want. Furthermore, the Hilton app *does* allow you to upgrade to better rooms according to availability and I *have* changed a room that I picked without a problem. Personally, *I* would rather look at a floor plan myself and choose the exact room I want, as opposed to having a desk clerk assign me a room based on a needless and lengthy conversation/explanation that I have to have, while I wait ten minutes for him/her to click through screens trying to accommodate my needs. The worst part of travel for me has always been the front desk experience. PROBLEM SOLVED. There are no negatives to digital check in with Hilton. None.

  10. John Doe ll

    September 8, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    The particular hotel I attend doesn’t even give me the option to use my digital key unless I check into the hotel. At “first” two different front desk clerks informed me I needed to be silver. When I became silver they told me I need to be gold. I’ll be gold soon and I’ll keep you updated. The reasoning is I called the Hilton honor customer service and they informed me that depending on the property and whom owns it; you can be Diamond and they “still” make you check in the front desk. I’ll “definitely” keep you updated.

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