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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 sly way for hotels to offer a promising deal up front, only to increase the price on the back-end. Hotel chains have increasingly adopted this arguably deceptive practice. We 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 to 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 a common practice, especially in tourist destinations like 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.
The impact of resort fees on consumers and hotels
Resort fees began as optional fees for customers wanting to use amenities such as a pool or gym. Now, regardless if you use any of the amenities, resort fees are nearly nonnegotiable.
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 sites such as Airbnb and VRBO, and don't want to raise the rates of their rooms.
To add insult to injury, many nonresort hotel properties now include resort fees. When you think of a resort, you may picture lying by a pool or an oceanfront property. However, properties in metropolitan cities like New York City 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 are 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 "facilities fee", "destination fee", "amenity fee" or "urban fee".
For example, here is a resort fee for a one night stay at the Circus Circus in Las Vegas, NV:
In this case, the resort fee is actually more than 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 in fees where consumers can overlook them.
Jim Wang, personal finance writer and founder of the blog Wallethacks, experienced this scenario on a recent hotel stay. He checked out of his hotel, only to find that the hotel charged him nearly $20 more per night for two nights. Jim wasn't aware of the fees prior to booking. "I only found out when I got the folio via email", he said. Afterward, he emailed the manager of the hotel to inquire about the fees, and the manager said they include it in all communications, but Jim never saw it. Fortunately, the manager returned the resort fees.
Jim 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 fixated 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.
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 waived 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||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||Limited Time Offer: 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus Free Night Award after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021.||Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.||$450|
|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 Club Premier Credit Card||Earn 150,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.||Earn up to 25 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.||$0 Intro for the First Year, then $89|
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, 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.
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 properties here and there without resort fees. Unfortunately, it's likely you will not be on the Las Vegas strip.
Ask for the resort fee to be waived
As a last-ditch effort, when you check in, ask for the resort fee to be waived. The representative is likely to say no. From there, you can ask for details on what 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.
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. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.
Resort fee FAQs
Can you refuse to pay resort fees in Vegas?
Yes, you can. However, the likelihood of the property waiving these fees is unlikely.
What is a daily resort fee?
A daily resort fee is an additional fee charged by the property for guests to enjoy their amenities.
Are resort fees legal?
Yes, they are. However, there is pending litigation challenging the legality of these fees.
Do all Las Vegas hotels charge a resort fee?
The vast majority of Las Vegas hotels charge a resort fee.
Do you get resort fees back?
No, you do not get resort fees back after your stay.