Tips and Tricks for Hotel Room Key Card Wall Slots

In hotels outside the U.S., it is common to find energy-saving technology for turning off the lights and power in a guest room. Insert your room key in the wall slot upon entering the room and the lights can be turned on. Remove the room key upon departing and the lights automatically go off (some hotels offer a delay of 30 or 60 seconds so you can easily see the door handle to exit the room, which I appreciate).


This energy-saving technology is smart for saving electricity though does have certain challenges. Since the topic of these room key wall slots has come up often with travelers I talk with, I thought I’d put a few tips and tricks together:

I have never had a hotel front desk clerk tell me that I needed to insert my room key into this wall slot in order to get my lights on. I’m sure it’s because they assume that everyone knows. Not so if you’re traveling from the U.S., where these wall slots are not common at all (yet!). So let me be the one to tell you now – when you ether a hotel room and the lights won’t come on, check to see if there is a wall slot near the entrance to the room. Slide your room key into the slot and voila! Lights!

When you leave the hotel room and remove your room key, the lights and power go off. This is usually fine for the lights but not so fine for the power if you’ve got your tech gadgets plugged in. You go to dinner and want your laptop to charge while you’re away, only to come back to find to a dead battery. This downside irks many travelers especially because they don’t realize that most of the power in the room has gone off. Same thing with the heating or air conditioning; this may go off once your room key is removed so expecting to come back to a cozy room may not quite happen.

There’s a simple way to keep the power, lights or heat/air on while you’re out of your room – simply insert another card into the wall slot. A second hotel room key is obviously the first choice, though I’ve found that other cards work just as well. I use my business card or a hotel room key from a previous hotel stay (any hotel’s keycard seems to work). This defeats the purpose of energy-savings when you’re not in the room, but for the one or two times you need this to keep things powered up while you’re away, it’s a great solution.


If there is a refrigerator in your room, the power stays on for this appliance regardless of whether there is a key in the wall slot or not. So don’t worry about food being cold, then warm, then cold again.

Even with the power challenge now and then, and being a wall-slot newbie the first time you have such a room, this really is a great idea for energy-savings. Hope to see this in more U.S. hotels soon.

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  1. I just had that happen to me in Australia. Received my room key an we went up to our room. Opened door in complete darkness and didn’t know how to turn the lights on even though we were flipping the switches. We had to go out and find housekeeping to show us. The next hotel we went to, they gave us three keys – one to always remain in the key slot – that was really nice. Lesson learned and hopefully retained in this aging brain of mine 🙂

  2. Another useful function these keys often solve is they auto trigger ‘room is occupied’ so housekeeping don’t waste time disturbing guests whose rooms are not available for servicing.

  3. I stayed at a Hotel in Singapore last month where they actually explained it to me ahead of time. Not that i didn’t figure it out on my own on my first international trip in 2011. What I thought was nice is my hotel had “24 hour” plugs set up and marked so I didn’t need to trick the system

  4. At some places, the actual hotel key is required- this happened to me with a hotel that used RFID cards instead of magnetic stripe. As such, my business card didn’t work!

  5. In hotels in continental The Netherlands and Germany I’ve found that the 220v plugs went off when I pulled the card, but the 110v plugs (in the bathroom) stayed live.

    Charging worked. Bring a 3-prong to 2 prong adapter if you need it for your laptop cord.

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