The Unexpected Reason You'll Want An Extra Key Card For Your Hotel Room

Browse through your trusty travel wallet, and you'll likely find one or two forgotten hotel keycards in there from past trips. While certain chains have transitioned into offering contactless entry options to their guests, many hotels still provide keycards to grant people access to their rooms. Establishments don't expect all of their guests to return these cards, of course, but plenty of people still do, while some opt to keep them as souvenirs. Either way, you won't get in trouble if you decide to keep them for yourself.

People once believed that hotel keycards stored sensitive information like your name, credit card number, and home address. However, according to Steve Grobman, chief technology officer of security company McAfee, the only bits of info they hold are the specific room they're associated with and the dates of validity. "For a hotel key card, it should only have the data on it that it needs to do its job. For example, a time stamp, so if you're in the room from Monday to Thursday and you try to use that key on Friday, it doesn't work," he told USA Today

Upon checking out, hotel key cards are basically useless pieces of plastic, so there's really nothing to be worried about. But apart from letting you into your room, many key cards have an additional function: Activating the power once you're inside. It's for this reason that you should ask for a spare copy from your hotel, regardless of whether you have a companion or not.

Use the spare card to keep the power on

You know how you usually have to insert your key card into the room's electrical reader to activate the power? And, annoyingly, the lights go out and the power outlets automatically stop working upon removal? When you have a spare key card, you can leave the power on even if you plan to be out all day, so you can return to a chilly hotel room once you're done exploring. You can also leave some of your electronics charging if you wish since it will keep the electricity going.

In case your hotel charges for an extra copy, some travelers claim that just about any type of card will work, whether it's an ID, a discount card, or even an expired credit card. This is because many of these wall slots only need the card to activate the switch located at the bottom, so virtually anything that can push (and hold) it down will do the trick. 

Then again, there are also some travelers who warned that this hack doesn't always work, especially in hotels that use key cards with swankier technology. "Some keys are RFID or have a specific msg stripe location. The room I was recently in had a special piece of paper with a mag strip across one edge that worked like the room key," one argued on Reddit. With this in mind, spare key cards are still your best bet. Just ask the hotel concierge for one.