May We See ID, Please

Many hotels now ask to make a copy of a driver's license at check-in. Here's how to ensure your identification is safe.

During a recent stay at a Best Western hotel in Florida, I paid with a credit card and was also asked for my driver’s license so that the hotel could copy it. I was told it was “policy.” Is this something new for hotels, and should I be concerned about identity theft?

A Best Western spokesman says that more of its hotels are asking for proof of ID when taking a credit card, but any copies made should be destroyed after checkout. This practice isn't limited to Best Western -- many hotels throughout the country now ask to make a copy of a driver's license at check-in, says Joe McInerney, of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. "They want to make sure the person on that reservation is the person who is staying there," he says.

In fact, some municipalities now require hotels to collect that information, which can help in case of a criminal investigation, says Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "I don't see it as being particularly risky," he says, especially if your Social Security number isn't on your license.

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Even so, you should ask for the copy of your ID back or watch the clerk shred it when you leave (which may be an option depending on local laws), says Jay Foley, executive director of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

One thing hotels can’t do is require ID to verify ownership of a credit card. Both Visa and MasterCard have policies prohibiting merchants from refusing to complete a credit-card transaction solely because a cardholder does not provide additional identification.

For more information about protecting yourself from ID theft, see Your ID Theft Prevention Kit and the Federal Trade Commission's ID Theft page.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.