I just started with Booking.com a few months ago and I use the Square App as well. I’ve had lots of reservations where the credit card is not valid, so the key to Booking.com is to verify the credit card as soon as possible, and to write down all the credit card details as soon as a reservation is booked so you always have the information.
Here is what I do. I apologize if this is a bit long, and I’ll use my own situation as an example.
Booking.com gives guests a certain period of time (a “cooling off period”) after making their booking to cancel without penalty or fees. You can change this, mine is set a 1 hour.
My cancellation policy states that guests can cancel without penalty if they cancel more that 30 days before check in. If they cancel less than 30 days before check in, they are charged 50% of the total cost of the stay.
My cancellation policy also states that “No Shows” are charged the full cost of the reservation. You can also modify the cancellation policy to suit your needs.
So, if a guest books more than 30 days in advance, after the initial “cooling off” hour has passed, I charge their credit card $1 to see if it’s valid. You can do this using the Square app, as it allows you to key in the information rather than swipe the card. The fee Square charges is a bit higher if you key it in rather than swipe, but you can do it. If the transaction is approved, then I deduct the $1 from the guest’s balance, and consider the reservation to be confirmed. If the card is declined, I mark the card as invalid. This gives the guest the opportunity to update the card information. After a certain period of time, if they have not done so, you can cancel the reservation without penalty. Once the 30 day cancellation window has passed, I charge 50% off the total cost. Again, if the card is declined, I mark it as invalid and move to cancel the reservation.
If a guest books less than 30 days in advance, after the initial hour has passed, I charge their credit card 50% of the total reservation cost, again, by keying their credit card information into Square. This is the non-refundable cancellation fee. Again, if the transaction is declined, I mark the card as invalid, and cancel the reservation if the card is not updated.
When the guest checks in, they pay the balance owing for the full cost of their reservation. They can either pay in cash, or by credit card which I then swipe through Square. If the guest is a no show, I attempt to charge the remaining balance. Even if it doesn’t go through, by this point I’ve collected 50% of the total cost of the reservation.
Another tip: Given the number of invalid cards and no shows that I get through Booking.com, do not block off your calendar in your other platforms until you have verified a valid credit card. I went through about 12 reservations before I had someone with a valid card actually turn up. Changing my cancellation policy to the 50% and the 30 days has helped a lot in filtering out the crap.
It’s also important to message the guest and remind them that this is your policy, that you have charged their card XX amount, or that the card has been declined.