Does Royal Caribbean charge Your Credit Card twice and then release one transaction?

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I’ve seen this question come up a few times, so thought I would answer it. First, let’s elaborate on what is actually being asked by using an example: If I buy a shore excursion onboard, does Royal Caribbean place a hold on the funds, then at the end of the cruise bill that shore excursion to me along with anything else I have purchased. Thus meaning I have to not only wait for the hold to be released but also ensure I have double the funds in the account in the first place?

The short answer is no.

piggy-bankRoyal Caribbean places a hold on your credit card for the funds every time you make a purchase. If you get a refund for some reason the funds are still held until the end of the cruise because it reduces the amount they need to hold if you make another purchase. So using another example, let’s say you spent $100 on a shore excursion. Think of it like a piggy bank that just stores the money for you until the end of the cruise. So say you decide to cancel it but then book another excursion for $60. There is no new hold placed because you are already $100 in credit. If you then bought a $70 pair of pants from the ships store you would have a new hold placed on your credit card for $30. It’s only $30 because you were still $40 in credit from your $100 refund.

The math here is simple:

  1. Buy a $100 shore excursion. My held balance now = $100 and my unused credit = $0.
  2. Cancel $100 shore excursion. My held balance = $100 and my unused credit = $100.
  3. Book $60 shore excursion. My held balance = $100 and my unused credit = $40.
  4. Bought $70 pants. My held balance now = $130 and my unused credit = $0.

Now let’s say I cancel that $60 shore excursion and don’t make any more on board purchases. I will get to the end of my cruise and have $130 held from my credit card. However, I only spent $70. So my unused credit is $60. What happens now?

The unused amount will be released from the held amount and will go back to my credit card. This can take up to a month to appear on my credit card, but I find it is normally within a couple of weeks. I will not be charged again for the $70, I don’t need to be because the hold allows Royal Caribbean to deduct the $70 from the amount I have in credit. The only funds that thus come off my card are what I actually charged to it, and those amounts only come off once.

What this means is that the hold simply reserves the funds for Royal Caribbean. They can then deduct up to the amount held and anything they don’t use will appear back in your available funds.

So this will not appear as a charge and a refund, it will only appear as a charge for the final amount you spent. The rest is just released back to your available balance. Technically it never left your account, it was just reserved.

Please note that this is only the case for credit cards. If you use a debit card, they work VERY differently as far as holds are concerned. I highly recommend against using a debit card for credit card purposes.

I hope that helps make sense of it to anyone worried about it. If you have any questions about it I’m happy to help answer them from my own experiences on board Royal Caribbean, or if you have a different experience I’d love to hear it in the comments.

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6 thoughts on “Does Royal Caribbean charge Your Credit Card twice and then release one transaction?”

  1. When does the actual charge to the credit card account come through? I thought it was to be billed the last day of the cruise, however i’m not seeing the final charge of the seapass statement on my account (used a debit card). I had seen mulitiple holds throughout the cruise (for room steward tips, drinks purchased, etc). But now that we’ve returned home, i do not see a final charge for the amount on the seapass statement. I do see a couple of remaining holds, but they do not total the amount of the final charge. Its odd, just wondering how long i’m going to have to wait to see that final charge put through.

    • Hi JR, it’s actually perfectly normal. I know it seems odd but it is important to remember that when using a Visa or MasterCard debit card it still behaves the same way as a regular credit card, it doesn’t behave like an EFTPOS card. So the final charge is posted on the last day, but it can take a few days to appear on the account. I’ve found it usually doesn’t appear until the pending holds disappear, which makes sense since the holds form a part of the transaction. At the end of the day though as long as those holds are there, you aren’t going to have any surprise charges because the charges are already on your account. They just haven’t had the finals amounts released to either the merchant or back to you yet. I find it’s usually within 7-14 days, however once that does clear it will show on your statement with the posting date which is usually the last day of your cruise. If the amounts held are more than what your total was, then you can expect a refund. If it’s less, that shouldn’t actually be possible as far as I’m aware. One other thing that can be confusing is that if your booking included onboard credit, that counts towards everything you purchased including shore excursions, so your total will be less the onboard credit amount. It’s not advertised, but this applies even if you pre-purchased shore excursions. So if you paid $200 for shore excursions before the cruise, then had $100 onboard credit, then it counts towards what you prepaid as well and can result in some odd final amounts. It confused me when I got a few dollars refunded once that I hadn’t spent because I was in credit from prepaying my shore excursions. I hope that helps.

  2. Well Matt from my own recent personal experience I can tell you all it’s very close to be being changed twice. Let me explain. I used my debit card for my cruise as my bank advised me the fees will be less. I’m in Australia and as you are aware everything in in USD on board. Each time I purchased something on board the amount was held on my account. This was marked as pending. On the last day of the cruise my card was changed the $1200 I spent on board. Half of the pending charges were released but over half of them haven’t been released a week after my cruise has returned!!
    The same has happened to my daughters credit card.
    So my advice is ensure you have at least double on what you intend to spend available.!!!!!
    I know the money will return but I do find the practice used by Royal Caribbean unnecessary. When I’ve booked motels, hire cars etc which place holds on my account, the holds are always released as soon as the final payment has been taken.

    • Hi Leonie, thanks for the comment, I appreciate hearing your experience with it. It’s actually against RCI policy to allow a debit card for account settlement unless you are paying cash at the end. The reason is twofold. The first is that debit cards provide 0 guarantee of fund availability like credit cards do. The second is that debit cards work differently to credit cards. Debit cards cannot be held and then processed later the same way as credit cards. The example I gave in my blog post cannot be done on a debit card. So if customers use a debit card they get a poorer experience, hence why it’s one reason that it is against policy. The check-in people are not supposed to accept any card for payment that says debit on it. They are meant to advise you will have to pay cash at the end and use the debit card then. It does seem hit and miss as to how well they actually follow this policy though. Hertz is another good example of the difference. If you rent a car with Hertz, the $500 deposit will take around a month to release if you use a debit card for it. Via credit card, it’s released within two weeks normally. Every hotel in North America does the same thing. If you use an Australian debit card to pay for it it will take around a month to release. I actually had one hotel that took four months for the funds to be released when I paid via debit card in Canada. Credit card though, usually a matter of days to 2 weeks. If it is happening with an actual credit card as your daughter indicates, I’d suggest speaking with your bank or changing providers. I’ve got a few Westpac cards and never experienced anything beyond what has been held being processed with RCI and have never had to wait for funds to be released except for when I’ve had things refunded or cancelled that resulted in an account credit. The only time I’ve seen it happen on one of my cards is the one time they let me sneak through with a QANTAS Cash prepaid card for payment, which is a debit card. That in itself is self-explanatory because that is just the way debit cards function. At the end of the day, it’s not actually RCI’s practice it’s the requirement of the merchant processors in the USA and how those requirements interact with the requirements and banking systems in Australia.

  3. They put a hold on my money for what I owed. By the end of the cruise it totaled $950ish. Those holds continued ‘processing’…then 3 days after the cruise….they stopped processing….and the funds were withdrawn. THEN…..the next day…the funds were held AGAIN….and were processing AGAIN. This was on a debit card. So now the bank (That had ALREADY PAID MY BILL) was holding funds for what I ALREADY PAID. And was charging me overdraft fees for each itemized charge. AND MY ACCOUNT BALANCE WAS ZERO. They were trying to take out another $850ish. When I called RCI…I was told “yes…that’s how it’s suppose to be”. I even asked the guy….”if you went to the store to buy milk…and your debit charge was charged the $4 for the milk….should the grocery store put a hold on ANOTHER $4 the next day (money that you can’t get to or spend…..after you ALREADY paid). He said “Yes. That would be fine. If that’s how the bank does it”. He kept trying to blame this on my BANK!!!

    • Yep, that is the way debit cards work, that’s why Royal Caribbean recommends using an actual credit card. Debit cards function very differently from credit cards. Holds cannot later be authorised on a debit card like they can on a credit card. Instead, additional charges must be places and the holds then later released. Since banks can’t guarantee the funds on debit cards like they can on credit cards, the holds are usually held for much longer. It’s up to your bank not to release them, RCI already has.


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Who Am I?

Matt in Noumea

Matt works sort-of full time running his digital marketing business, TerraMedia. In his spare time though, he loves to travel with his wife, so they usually end up doing a lot of it.
Home is Australia, and while they don’t spend all their time travelling the world, Matt and his wife like to take the time to really explore and get to know a place, even if that means spending a lot longer there than normal tourists might.

You can read more about Matt and his story HERE.

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