Keith: One of my biggest pet peeves when traveling is paying resort fees, especially at hotels that are NOT resorts. It seems like lots of hotels have started charging extra resort-style fees, sometimes called an amenity fee or destination fee.
For example, I stayed at The Westin New York Grand Central not too long ago, which charges a $25 per night destination fee. And unlike Hyatt hotels, which do NOT charge these fees on award nights, many other chains add the nightly fee when you use points. Even if you have elite status!
You might not be able to avoid paying the fees. But the trick is to ask for extra points when you check-in or check-out. In my experience, it’s possible to get thousands of free points just by expressing dissatisfaction with the resort fee add-on.
Depending on the chain, the free points you get can potentially have a lot more value than the nightly destination or resort fee charge. For example, on a 4-night stay at The Westin New York Grand Central, I received 8,000 Starwood points. That’s more than enough for a free night at a Category 3 Starwood hotel!
Why Do Hotel Resort Fees Exist?
According to Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University, US hotels were forecasted to collect $2.7 billion in fees in 2017.
From my research, resort fees began as an optional charge guests would pay to use certain amenities at a hotel. For example, if a guest wanted access to the fitness center, there might be a $5 or $10 per day charge. Over time, resort fees evolved into mandatory charges that are often hidden at the time of booking.
Personally, I find these added fees to be deceiving and a terrible way to attract brand loyalty. There’s even a website dedicated to Killing Resort Fees.
There are a handful of exceptions where you feel like you’re getting something in return for paying a resort fee. For example, on paid stays at the Andaz Maui, you’ll pay a ~$47 per night resort fee and get access to:
- Daily Outrigger Canoe Excursions
- Snorkel equipment unlimited use
- Yoga and Pilates Classes
- Guided Kayak Tours
- Ukulele lessons
- Hula lessons
- 45 minute beach portrait session including a $50 photo credit
- Lei making lessons
- Stand up paddle board lessons
Most often, I found these extra fees to be at hotels that don’t offer much in return. For example, the Sheraton Grand Nashville Downtown charges a $15 per night facility fee. Room rates at this hotel can regularly be ~$400+ per night, so adding an extra $15 seems insulting.
Don’t Pay a Hotel Resort Fee and Leave Empty-Handed
I’ve found that most hotels are reluctant to waive amenity, destination, or resort fees. Although, I have occasionally had success in asking the front desk agent to waive the fee at check-out.
Instead, I ALWAYS ask for points in exchange for paying any extra fees. I typically do this at check-out when the front desk agent asks about my stay. I’ll respond that my stay was good, but I was disappointed that I was forced to pay a fee for amenities that I did not use.
Most hotels don’t want to receive negative guest satisfaction feedback. It can actually hurt their standing within the chain. And it seems like goodwill points are an easy gesture hotels offer to ease the pain of paying the resort fees.
It’s important to be realistic if you follow this strategy. There’s a possibility that the hotel won’t offer you anything. But if you’re persistent and friendly, just simply asking for points can be the trick to making you feel less bitter about paying the extra hotel resort fees!
Tips for Getting Free Points If You’re Unable to Avoid Hotel Resort Fees
- When staying at a hotel that charges mandatory resort fees, politely ask for free points in exchange
- Front desk agents typically have the ability to add points to your account without manager approval
- Be realistic with the number of points you’d like to receive
Resort fees are a huge money maker for hotels in the US! For miles & points enthusiasts, at least chains like Hyatt do NOT charge extra fees on award night.
It’s difficult to get around paying amenity, destination, facility, or resort fees if you’re on a paid stay or using points at most major hotel chains. But I’ve found the trick is to asking for free points in exchange for paying the silly fees.
I’ve received up to 8,000 bonus points (worth a free hotel night) just by asking nicely at check-out.
Do you have any tips on navigating around mandatory hotel fees? I’d love to hear your tricks in the comments!