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Always do this 1 thing after you check out of a hotel

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Everything started out as normal. I went to Miami for a conference and stayed in a perfectly adequate hotel. It did not offer coffee makers in the room, so the staff lent me a kettle to make my evening cup of tea. I attended the Wednesday morning sunrise yoga class on the hotel’s rooftop terrace (“free” with my daily $35 — plus tax! — resort fee). I scanned the printed bill at checkout and everything looked fine.

Then, I checked my credit card bill a week later.

There, in my list of transactions, I found not one but two charges from the hotel. One was the amount from my folio — three nights of room charges, plus taxes and the annoying amenity fee. The other was for an additional $32.

Excuse me, what?

I racked my brain. I’m not a minibar girl. After years of being a mom and occasionally vegetarian, you can bet I travel with my own snacks and am not going to pay $5 for a Snickers bar (mass-market chocolate isn’t going to satisfy me for that price). I didn’t break anything. I used the in-room yoga mat, but I’d just paid $100 in amenity fees for that privilege.

What was the extra charge for?

So, I called the hotel to ask and was told it was for taking the umbrella … as in, the golf umbrella in the corner of the closet that I never touched because it was not raining. Even if I had fallen in love with its stylish logo design and thought it would make an amazing souvenir, the gigantic umbrella would not have fit in my carry-on suitcase.

No, I did not steal the umbrella from my hotel room.

I explained this to the phone representative, who didn’t even protest before she agreed to reverse the charge on my credit card bill. (I’m still waiting to see that reflected in my account.)

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But the entire episode got me thinking: Are these accidental charges a common occurrence? And is there a travel takeaway from my experience?

To the latter question, the answer is yes.

My experience is not uncommon

Grand Hyatt San Francisco. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

Whenever I have a travel conundrum, the first thing I do is reach out to my colleagues at TPG, who collectively have logged millions of flight miles and hundreds (thousands?) of hotel nights.

Had they experienced these surprise charges?

Yes. Yes, they had.

Senior editor Christine Gallipeau had a Washington, D.C., hotel charge her twice for taxes and fees. Katie Genter, senior points and miles writer, nearly paid 18 euros ($19) extra when a hotel did not apply her food and beverage credit. Senior cruise writer Ashley Kosciolek twice found fraudulent minibar charges, and Caroline English, director of social media and brand, had to confront a Charlotte hotel about a bill for $100 worth of food that she allegedly charged at 3 a.m. (when that tired working mom was most definitely asleep).

But my favorite anecdote came from TPG’s copy editor, Treena Simington, who had to get over $140 in parking fees removed from her last bill. “I was particularly offended as someone who doesn’t even drive,” she said.

I’m sure if I reached out to TPG readers, they would have similar tales. With the number of people checking in and out of hotels daily, it’s no surprise that the occasional accounting mistake occurs.

That goes for points, too. Make sure you check that you received any loyalty points you are entitled to for the stay.

Always do this 1 thing after you check out of a hotel

Park Hyatt Tokyo. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

Why am I telling you all this tale? It’s because I want you to adopt one essential practice going forward.

I’m optimistic that you always ask for a printed copy of your hotel folio at checkout and review the charges to make sure everything is correct — especially if you have elite status or other credits and discounts that need to be factored into the total cost of your stay. If you don’t, please start.

But even if you’re already diligent about bill checking on-site, I encourage you to make a point of checking your credit card charges a few days to a week after your stay — once the hotel staff has entered your room and has time to bill you for any items they think are missing or eaten.

That way, you can catch any accidental charges levied after you checked out. It’s easier to contest charges immediately after a hotel stay than much later. Plus, if you forget to look right away, you’re likely to get busy with your daily life and not remember to check — or not remember if the charges are legit or not.

As for me, I will definitely be checking my credit card a few days after checking out of a hotel … because I definitely don’t need any more $32 ghost umbrellas in my life.

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