What Are You Really Supposed to Do With Hotel Room Keys When You Check Out?

What Are You Really Supposed to Do With Hotel Room Keys When You Check Out?

Swipe or surrender?

By Karen Gardiner
Digital Original
Why (and How!) I Live Full Time in Airports and Luxury Hotels

Long ago, in the early days of the Internet and its and forwarding hysteria-inducing mass emails (so, 2003), a troubling legend took root. Hotel card keys store your information, including credit card numbers, we were led to believe. Misguided collective wisdom soon had it that guests should keep their card keys with them when they checked out, lest some crafty hotel employee might take it home with them, scan it, and go on a spending spree with the guest's stored credit card number. Despite doing the rounds every now again, you can rest easy that this legend has been thoroughly debunked, by no less an authority, even, than debunkers-in-chief Snopes and, more recently, USA Today.

All well and good, but what if (like, er, some of us) you just like to hold onto those little plastic cards with their nice hotel brand logo and, sometimes, pretty pictures? Does an electronic key card count as one of those things you can legitimately swipe from a hotel and keep as a souvenir?

Consider that the very point of moving from metal keys to plastic cards was that they are drastically cheaper to replace when lost/mislaid/accidentally taken home. 

According to the USA Today article, "plastic key cards can go for as little as 10 cents if they’re magnetic stripe and around $1 per card if they contain a smart chip." No decent hotel is going to shake you down for something worth a mere 10 cents.  But, if you can't shake the nagging feeling of guilt at potentially acting like a thief, how about simply asking if you can keep the card when you check out? I've done this several times when asked for my card at check out and never been told no. So, go ahead and consider your key card a souvenir from your trip, a collector's item, or, maybe, an investment. Judging by what's available to buy on eBay, you won't be the only one.

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