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How to avoid hotel resort fees

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How to avoid hotel resort fees

Joseph HostetlerHow to avoid hotel resort feesMillion Mile Secrets Team

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It can be frustrating to get a good deal on a 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 charge consumers for what are traditionally complimentary services.

Booking a “free” stay with rewards you’ve earned from any of the best hotel credit cards? You might not be exempt either. These new resort or destination fees are added to the regular room rate (both rewards and cash, in some cases) 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.

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

What is a resort fee (and how much does it cost?)

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. The fees vary by property, but you’ll generally find they’re over $30 per night (and sometimes closer to $50!).

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)

It’s easy to avoid some charges — like bringing your own snacks and drinks instead of raiding the minibar — but 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 do I avoid resort fees?

Use ResortFeeChecker

ResortFeeChecker is a super handy website that hates resort fees even more than you. It’s free, too. Just type your destination city in the search box at the top of the screen, and it’ll display all the hotels that charge resort fees.

Dont use amenities; ask for fees to be removed or reduced

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.

MMS editor Jasmin has been successful with this strategy (more times than not), especially with newly introduced destination fees that hotel managers know are poorly advertised. Hotel management tend to be more concerned with ensuring a great guest experience than they are in capturing a few additional dollars.

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

Know what’s included with your elite status or award program’s 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.

Amenities such as coffee and tea are included at most chain hotels — but the minibar will cost you. (Photo by John And Penny/Shutterstock)

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.

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.

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 fee 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, Hyatt consistently waives resort fees when redeeming award nights paid entirely with points (although not when redeeming points + cash awards). You also 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 Globalist 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.

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.

Per Hilton Honors program rules, Hilton should waive resort fees on all award stays booked entirely with Hilton points (again, it’s important that you pay entirely with points and don’t book a points and cash award).

Read are our guides on how to earn Hyatt and Hilton points so you can get free nights and waived resort fees. For more information on hotel night awards (and some of our favorites), check out our comprehensive guide to airline and hotel rewards programs.

Ask for bonus points

Alright, this isn’t exactly a point on “how to avoid” resort fees, but it’s certainly a method for offsetting them.

Many of us 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.

Front desk agents typically have the ability to add points to your loyalty account without manager approval. 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. In the past, I’ve received bonus points worth a free hotel night just by asking nicely at check-out.

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!

This is normally how my conversation goes at check-out:

Agent: How was your stay?
You, politely but firm: The stay was great, but I’m not sure I’d recommend this hotel to friends or family because of the resort fees. I didn’t use any of the extra amenities, so I don’t think the mandatory charges are worth it. I also plan on mentioning this in my guest satisfaction survey.
Agent: I’m sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, we’re unable to waive the resort fees.
You:  Could you consider adding points to my loyalty account instead?
Agent: Sure, we can go ahead and add 5,000 points to your account.
You: I greatly appreciate it!  I’ll be sure to mention your hospitality in my guest review.

Use credit card rewards to negate the fees

When all else fails and you’re forced to pay a resort fee, it’s good to have a stash of points or cash from the best rewards credit cards that you can use to offset the charge.

Capital One miles can really come in handy for these types of travel charges. Just pay the charge with a Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. Then, you have 90 days to log-in to your online account, find the travel purchase, and “erase” it with your miles. Read our guide for how to use the Capital One Purchase Eraser for more details.

You can earn lots of Venture miles by signing-up for Capital One credit cards!

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card comes with 50,000 Capital One miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. You’ll also earn 2 Capital One miles per dollar on all purchases. You can read our full Capital One Venture review for everything you need to know.

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card comes with 20,000 Capital One miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. The card only earns 1.25 Venture miles per dollar, but there’s no annual fee. Here’s our full Capital One VentureOne credit card review.

The information for the Capital One Venture and Capital One VentureOne has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Can you dispute resort fees?

If you truly feel like you received no benefit in exchange for paying the resort fee, I’d definitely consider asking to speak with a manager during your stay.

One MMS writer asked the front desk associate at a hotel in Las Vegas to waive the resort fee. The associate said he was unable, but fetched the hotel manager. He kindly told the manager that he was in Las Vegas for a business trip, didn’t utilize any of the hotel’s amenities (pool, gym, etc.), and didn’t think it made sense to pay a $51 nightly resort fee. The manager said they normally do not waive the fee, but he would make an exception and took the charge off the bill.

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.

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.

Bottom line

Extra fees charged by hotels can really add up and increase the cost of your travel or vacation. 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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