Hotel Fees: What Could You Be Paying For?
During the summer of 2019, two different attorneys general—from Washington, D.C. and Nebraska—filed lawsuits against two large hotel chains, Hilton (Hilton Dopco Inc.) and Marriott International, Inc., accusing them of charging hidden hotel resort fees. Although the lawsuits are not identical, they’re similar in their language, with each calling these hotel fees “deceptive and misleading.”
These types of fees vary by location and by the amenities and services they cover. For example, some hotels charge guests for Wi-Fi access, gym access, newspapers, in-room safes, even bottled water—whether these amenities are used or not.
At the heart of the lawsuits against Hilton and Marriott is the allegation that these hotel resort fees are not included in room rates published online, which makes it challenging for people to compare rates.
Hotel guests typically aren’t aware of these fees until after they have started booking—a practice called drip pricing—and, according to the lawsuits, these practices violate laws put into place to protect consumers.
So, what fees should a hotel guest expect to see on their bill? What do they actually cover? Which of these hotel fees should be questioned?
Additional Charges: How Common?
Well, it depends upon whom you ask. A statement on the website of the American Hotel & Lodging Association , for example, reads: “Indeed, these fees are not common practice in the hotel industry.
“Declining over the past decade, approximately only seven percent of hotels currently charge resort fees – and these are the properties that have far more available amenities than other lodging facilities.”
According to a statement sent out by Hilton to media, they charge hotel resort fees at fewer than 2% of their locations around the world. The statement also says that these fees are always fully disclosed when booking and provide additional value to guests.
Meanwhile, a 2018 survey by Consumer Reports indicates that 34% of adults in the United States have paid a hidden hotel fee over the past two years. Out of those adults, 54% of them went over their budget because of these unexpected fees.
Consumer Reports also quotes a hotel consultant as saying that, in 2018, the industry collected a record $2.9 billion in fees and charges, including these hotel resort fees. The figure is expected, according to the expert, to be even higher in 2019.
While this all may get sorted out in the two new lawsuits, what’s a traveler to do? To help, here are some tips on how to understand hotel taxes and fees.
Hotel Taxes and Fees
First, the taxes. How much you can legally be charged depends upon the state where you’re lodging—with the total amount equaling a combination of applicable state sales tax, state lodging tax, and any local lodging and/or sales tax. The National Conference of State Legislatures provides figures for the state-related charges.
Some states, for example, charge no sales tax, while others are currently charging an amount up to 7%. Some states don’t charge a lodging tax, while others tack on a flat fee or, more common than a flat rate, a percentage-based charge.
Alaska, California, and Nevada don’t charge, either, while Hawaii’s combined lodging tax total of 14.25% and Washington D.C.’s combo of 14.95% are the highest of the 50 states at the time of this post.
According to TripSavvy.com , mandatory hotel resort fees can cost as much as $45 per night per room in 2019. And, these fees seem to cover what the hotel says they cover, whether that means a parking space in the hotel’s lot to pool towels to the coffee maker in your room.
How to Avoid Paying Resort Fees
It’s not always easy to find out what fees are being charged before booking your room, but fees should typically be found on the hotel’s website, sometimes in the frequently asked questions section, or by calling the hotel before booking online.
Travelers might also consider using a website like ResortFeeChecker.com , which provides information about resort fees and other additional hotel charges for about 2,000 hotels.
Note that some hotels are now using the terms “destination fee” or “urban fee,” but these are really the same as resort fees.
If none of those ideas work, negotiating these fees when you check in might be worth a try. By asking what’s covered, explaining what you don’t intend to use, and asking to not pay these fees, some of the fees might be waived.
While this may or may not work when speaking with the front desk staff, the hotel’s manager may have more authority to waive these fees.
Deciding ahead of time to stay at fee-free locations and informing hotels of that decision when they disclose fees, may be good input for the management to hear, although this may not solve the immediate issue about fees already charged.
When checking out of a hotel, it may be more convenient to ask for an emailed receipt, but reviewing a printed copy before leaving the location may make it can be easier to dispute charges and ask for fees to be removed while directly talking to a manager.
ThePointsGuy.com offers additional strategies, sharing that hotel resort fees can sometimes be avoided by booking a room solely by using loyalty program points or if having elite status with that company.
Saving for Your Dream Vacation
After building a solid emergency savings account, for example, it might make sense to create a separate account for your travels. Consistently putting money into this account may create excitement about researching destinations along with browsing through places of interest in the area, mouthwatering-looking restaurants, and more. If any bonuses or raises come in, putting the extra funds into a vacation account might make the dream vacation happen even sooner.
Maybe this trip is more of a necessity than a luxury, though—think family emergency scenario. If that vacation fund doesn’t quite cover the expenses and more cash is needed for the trip, it might make sense to consider a low-interest personal loan that offers a fixed rate option rather than using higher interest rate variable credit cards.
SoFi Personal Loan
When you need to travel, whether for personal or professional reasons, there’s a decent chance that you’ll sometimes need to stay at a hotel. Tips in this post provide guidance on how to understand and hopefully reduce the hotels fees you’d pay—and, if you find that you’ll need extra funds to pay for your hotel stays, or overall travel, a personal loan could be one solution.
At SoFi, personal loans come with no fees, including no origination fee. There are no late fees and no pre-payment fees either.
The online process to check eligibility for an unsecured personal loan is fast and easy. Live customer support is available to members seven days a week. SoFi also offers benefits such as career strategy resources to assist members who may have trouble making payments due to job loss. And it takes as little as two minutes to find your rate and term options.
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