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Secrets for Avoiding Hidden Hotel Fees

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Secrets for Avoiding Hidden Hotel Fees

Million Mile SecretsSecrets for Avoiding Hidden Hotel FeesMillion Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: Hidden hotel fees are becoming the new normal, but you can often avoid them if you have elite status, dispute the charge or simply ask to have it removed.

It can be frustrating to get a good deal on a paid hotel stay, only to end up paying much more than you anticipated because of hotel fees that weren’t clearly disclosed during the booking process. Although some fees are expected and valid (like valet parking or items from the minibar), new resort or destination fees are often bogus attempts to nickel-and-dime consumers for traditionally complimentary services.

Snorkeling is awesome — but not at $50 per day. (Photo by Bicho_raro/iStock)

These new resort or destination fees are added to the regular room rate to cover “extras” like coffee, newspapers, fitness club admission or local calls.

Here’s how to identify and understand misleading fees, as well as secrets to avoid hidden hotel fees.

Where You’ll Be Charged Extra

Hotels add extra fees for the same reason airlines add fuel surcharges to tickets. Even though hotels are supposed to disclose additional charges before you confirm your reservation, fees are often hidden in the fine print.

Perks and extras that used to be included in the room rate will now often show up as a fee on your bill. And you’ll typically be charged (especially in the case of resort and destination fees) whether you use these amenities or not.

Want to use “free” Wi-Fi? It’s part of your destination fee.

Some examples of unexpected fees include:

  • Local telephone calls
  • Restocking the minibar (or even using the minibar to store personal items)
  • In-room safe
  • Gratuities
  • Use of pool, sauna, hot tub, fitness center
  • Use of lounge chairs, umbrellas, pool towels
  • In-room coffee, tea, bottled water
  • Luggage storage
  • Newspaper
  • Internet
  • Shuttle service (to or from the airport or other nearby locations)
Best Hotel Discounts In Cabo San Lucas
Some hotels charge sneaky destination or resort fees to cover amenities you expect to be included.

It’s easy to avoid some charges by bringing your own snacks and drinks, instead of raiding the minibar. What about fees for services you don’t use? Do hotels have the right to charge mandatory destination fees that were not disclosed when you made your reservation?

How to Avoid Hotel Fees

Know Whats Included with Your Elite Status or Award Program Membership

Resort fees usually include “bundled” amenities, like in-room Wi-Fi, coffee and tea, or bottled water. If you have elite status (or are a member of the hotel award program), some of these perks should be free.

Z Ocean - Barstool
Amenities such as coffee and tea are included at most chain hotels — but the minibar will cost you.

If you are charged by mistake for an amenity or benefit that should be included as a loyalty benefit, most hotels will happily remove the charge assuming it was wrongly applied.

For certain travelers, it makes sense to consider the price of internet when booking a paid hotel stay. Remember that many hotel chains now include free Wi-Fi when you join their free loyalty programs.

Some hotels with free Wi-Fi include:

Independent hotels are catching up and offering free Wi-Fi more frequently. And I find that non-chain hotels are more likely to offer free breakfast, coffee, or other small perks (like a morning newspaper of your choice) without nickel-and-diming customers as part of a destination fee.

At the Andaz Wall Street, you pay a new destination fee — an additional ~$34 per night. Ouch!

Unfortunately, many hotels do not remove fees from your bill unless you ask. So it’s important that you know in advance which elite status level you have and the benefits or extras you are entitled to. For example, Hilton elite status is really easy to earn and can be incredibly valuable on longer stays.

Book Award Stays

At some hotel chains, certain fees are waived when you redeem points for your stay. I have had more success requesting fees waivers for award stays than for paid stays.

My hypothesis is that hotels are more likely to waive fees when customers are traveling for leisure as opposed to traveling for business. That’s because business travelers will typically be reimbursed for their expenses, so they don’t closely scrutinize their hotel bills for outrageous destination or resort fees. When I travel for leisure, however, I have more incentive to save money and avoid unnecessary fees.

The Hyatt hotel chain is well known for its generous policy for waiving resort fees and parking fees when stays are booked with points by top-tier Globalist guests. Even if you don’t have Hyatt Globalist status, you might be able to save money by asking a friend or a colleague to book you as a Hyatt Globalist Guest of Honor.

My wife and I loved the generous treatment we received as Globablist guests recently — and our savings in waived parking and resort fees. We stayed at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in March, and the parking fee and resort fee are $50 each per night.

We loved staying at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, and we loved avoiding $100 per night in fees.

By booking an award stay (instead of the incredibly expensive cash rates) as a friend’s guest of honor, we were able to save hundreds of dollars on resort fees that didn’t include any benefits that we actually used. This is one example of how strategic planning and booking of award nights can save you a bundle. For more information on hotel night awards (and some of our favorites), check out our comprehensive guide to airline and hotel rewards programs.

Dont Use Amenities; Ask to Reduce or Remove Fees

If you know you won’t be using any of the services bundled with the resort fee, ask the manager to remove the fee altogether. You might have more success if you have elite status or stay frequently at that hotel.

I have been successful with this strategy (more times than not), especially with newly introduced destination fees that hotel managers know are poorly advertised. I find that hotel management is more concerned with ensuring a great guest experience than they are in capturing a few additional bucks. Score.

Willard InterContinental - Front Desk
Don’t be afraid to ask hotel managers to discount or remove fees.

Resort fees are often trickier than destination fees, but either way, it can’t hurt to ask to have them removed.

Read the Fine Print

Read the fine print and ask questions before you book to avoid unpleasant surprises when it’s time to pay the hotel bill. Unfortunately, this means that I sometimes have to call the hotel before booking to clarify what additional charges I’ll be on the hook for.

Don’t pay before carefully reviewing your hotel bill.

I always read the bill carefully before checking out. Sometimes, hotels are sneaky and add charges for services you didn’t use (or that should have been free). Don’t be afraid to ask the hotel to remove a charge, even in an email after you’ve checked out.

I typically ask that all hotel receipts be emailed to me at checkout. This way, I can ignore the billing discrepancies until after my vacation is over and deal with any incorrect charges once I get back home.

Bottom Line

Extra fees charged by hotels can really add up and increase the cost of your travel or vacations. Sometimes, hotels will add mandatory charges for amenities that you can’t or won’t even use.

I encourage you to always read the fine print on your booking reservations and don’t be afraid to ask the hotel to remove unwarranted charges from your bill. If you have elite status, you might have more leverage when requesting that resort or destination fees get refunded or waived altogether.

Have you been hit by pesky destination fees yet? Or, do the resort fees charged by hotels typically offer value or perks that you use?

For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortuneplease subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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James R Lambert

My wife and I stayed at the Kimpton in South Beach Miami a few months ago. Upon checkout I discovered two $46 resort fees for the two days we were there. They claim they told us about it at check-in which they did not nor was it in the fine print when I reserved the room. The only extra charge that we knew about was the $45 per night parking fee. The desk guy refused to take off the resort fee so I decided to handle it through the manager and email. In the email I threatened a very bad rating on the questionnaire normally sent out to me the next day. That worked, as he took the charges off. Possibly helping with the fact that I sent screenshots showing there was no warning of the resort fee. Oh by the way, they tried to hit us up for a candy bar from the Minibar which we never used. They took that off also but I had to ask him to do it.

I had administrative and service issues at that same hotel last year. It is very poorly managed for sure.

After I stayed a week at Whistler Hilton, I also noticed charges for 2 candy bars. It was only $8 but I followed up with them several times until they removed the charge based on principal. I think I’ll need to take a pic when checking out in case this is a new practice on their part…

One thing I noticed when booking with Hilton (specifically the Hilton Anatole in Dallas) that there is a $25 “Mandatory Fee” that includes self parking, but they also mention that self parking is an optional charge of $20. Asking questions beforehand really helped me avoid using Hilton in this instance.

The MGM Grand has a pretty high “resort fee”…but they do tell you about it when you reserve a room, either direct or through a 3rd party re-seller. And, when you check it they tell you again about it. No surprises I guess for this unpleasant added fee.

I plan events for a professional association and we actively negotiated down resort fees as part of the bidding process. At a minimum, if resort fees cannot be waived, we can freebies thrown in for our members – internet, late checkout, etc.

@Mark P. unfortunately no the only way to get the resort fees waived is to be a high roller.

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