Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. Citi is an advertising partner.
Imagine you see a great deal for a hotel room for one night and are excited to book the room. You begin the booking process, only to realize the final price is much higher than you expected. When you get to the final screen, you discover a surprising line item: a resort fee.
Hotel resort fees are a sneaky way for hotels to offer a promising deal upfront, only to increase the price on the back end. Hotel chains have increasingly adopted this arguably deceptive practice. Here we'll detail hotel resort fees, what you need to know and how to avoid them on your next hotel booking.
What is a resort fee?
A resort fee is an additional fee for consumers to use specific amenities at a resort. Each resort defines their resort fee differently as far as what it pays for.
The frustration for many consumers is that these fees are not included in the base price of the room. This marketing practice, known as partitioned pricing, has become common, especially in tourist destinations such as Las Vegas and Miami.
While a resort fee isn't likely to sway consumers away from their travels, it is a practice that significantly affects consumers and hotel properties alike.
What do resort fees cover?
Resort fees began as optional extra payments for customers wanting to use amenities such as a pool or gym. Now, regardless of whether you use any of the amenities, resort fees are nearly nonnegotiable.
Every hotel has its own definition of what their specific resort fees cover, and it could be anything from connecting to the Wi-Fi to using the safe in your hotel room. Basically, these fees can range from reasonably legitimate to completely ridiculous, but unfortunately, if you want to stay at a particular property, you'll likely end up having to pay up.
The impact of resort fees on consumers and hotels
In 2018, the New York Times reported that projected revenue from resort fees would reach a record $2.93 billion. That is a sizable amount for hotels that continue to battle with the likes of short-term lodging services such as Airbnb and VRBO, and don't want to raise the rates of their rooms.
To add insult to injury, many non-resort hotel properties now include resort fees. When you think of a resort, you may picture lounging by a pool or on an oceanfront property. However, properties in cities such as New York and San Francisco are also tacking on resort fees.
Are you paying a resort fee?
As a consumer, it is important to understand what you’re paying for. While booking your next trip is exciting, paying for amenities you won't use isn't practical. Be wary of fees marked as a "facilities fee'', "destination fee", "amenity fee" or an "urban fee."
For example, here is a resort fee for a one night stay at the Circus Circus in Las Vegas:
In this case, the resort fee is nearly the same price as the room itself, before tax. Resorts are required to disclose these fees prior to purchase. However, many consumers overlook these fees, and hotels do a good job of sneaking them in so consumers can easily miss them.
Jim Wang, personal finance writer and founder of the blog Wallethacks, experienced this scenario during a hotel stay. He checked out of his hotel, only to find that the hotel charged him nearly $20 more per night for two nights. Wang wasn't aware of the fees prior to booking. "I only found out when I got the folio via email," he says. Afterward, he emailed the manager of the hotel to inquire about the fees, and the manager said they include it in all communications. However, Wang never saw it. Fortunately, the manager refunded the resort fees.
Wang lucked out in this instance, as many resorts will hold on tight to your resort fees.
How to avoid resort fees
According to Consumer Reports, 34% of people have experienced a hidden or surprise fee at a hotel. Unfortunately, avoiding resort fees can be difficult. If you are intent on staying at a property that includes resort fees, you will likely be stuck paying the fee. But if you are flexible with where you stay, there are several things you can do to avoid resort fees in the future.
1. Book award stays
With some hotel loyalty programs, when you use hotel points to book a room, you can avoid resort fees. Both Hilton Honors and Hyatt offer waive resort fees on award nights, while Marriott Bonvoy and IHG do not. (However, you shouldn't discredit the latter options if you don't plan on staying at properties with resort fees.)
If you visit hotels often, consider a hotel credit card to earn points toward an award night:
Points earnings categories
|Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
Not available on ValuePenguin
|Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.||Earn 14X per $1 of eligible purchases on your card directly with a participating Hilton hotel or resort, 7X for eligible purchases: on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com; on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies; & at U.S. restaurants, and 3X for other purchases on your card||$450|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card||Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy® bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months.||Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy® points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. 3 points at Worldwide Restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.||$650|
|World of Hyatt Credit Card||Earn up to 60,000 Bonus Points - Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.||Earn up to 9 points total per $1 spent at Hyatt - 4 Bonus Points per $1 when you use your card at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 from Hyatt as a World of Hyatt member||$95|
|IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
Not available on ValuePenguin
|Earn 140,000 bonus points + 1 Free Night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening||Earn up to 26 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel. Earn 5 points per $1 spent on purchases on travel, gas stations, and restaurants. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases.||$99|
2. Use your hotel elite status
Hotel elite status can earn you room upgrades, free meals, late checkout and possibly waived resort fees.
If you earn Hyatt Globalist status, all resort fees are waived at Hyatt properties. If you frequently visit Las Vegas or Atlantic City, Caesars Rewards offers waived resort fees for Diamond status or higher.
3. Find a hotel without resort fees
While hotels without resort fees may be hard to come by in some destinations, you may prefer to take your business elsewhere. For instance, in Las Vegas, where resort fees run rampant, you can find some properties that don't charge them. Unfortunately, it's likely you will not be staying on the Las Vegas strip if you select a hotel without resort fees.
4. Ask for the resort fee to be waived
As a last-ditch effort, when you check in, you can ask for the resort fee to be waived. The representative is likely to say no. From there, you can ask for details on which amenities are covered by the fee. If you do not plan on using said amenities, you can explain this to the representative.
If your request is still declined, you can dispute the charge with your credit card issuer.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, you can. However, the likelihood of the property waiving these fees is unlikely, so you will probably need to either pay or switch hotels.
A daily resort fee is an additional fee charged by the property for guests to enjoy their amenities.
Yes, they are, so long as the hotel discloses them fully during the booking process.
The vast majority of Las Vegas hotels charge a resort fee.
No, you do not get resort fees back after your stay.
For rates and fees of Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, please click here
The information related to Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.