How to beat those annoying hotel 'resort fees' in the USA

How to beat those annoying hotel 'resort fees' in the USA

Unlike Australia, many hotels in the United States charge guests compulsory daily ‘resort fees’ over and above their nightly room rate, which can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of each stay – even at inner-city hotels which aren’t in fact ‘resorts’.

But there are several ways to reduce or even eliminate these fees on your next business trip or US getaway, without necessarily changing hotels: here’s what you can do to avoid these pesky surcharges.

1. Look for room rates that include a resort fee waiver

During quieter travel periods, hotels will sometimes offer special room rates that aren’t subject to the normal resort fees. You still enjoy the same amenities as all other guests – you’re just not paying extra like everybody else.

For example, I recently stayed at the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, which bills its guests a nightly resort fee of US$33.81 (A$42.50) including tax.

That would have cost me A$85 in fees on a mere two-night stay, but by booking the property’s “winter escape” rate, those fees were waived, and the actual room charge ended up being no more expensive than the hotel’s lead-in rate which would have attracted the resort fee on top.

However, this great rate didn’t appear on the booking screen by default. I had to manually select the “packages and promotions” option on the Hilton website first when completing my search…

… and also had click on the name of each rate to see what its inclusions were – before finally seeing those magic words, “waived resort charge”:

2. Ask for a fee waiver

Hotels justify resort fees by rattling off the benefits you get in return for paying them, but if several of those perks weren’t adequately provided during your stay – or a major benefit was unavailable to you – don’t be afraid to ask the hotel to waive its fees.

I did just that following a stay at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, where a US$30.07 (A$37.95) daily resort fee promised amenities like free local calls, a $50 activity voucher to spend with the hotel concierge booking desk and “pool access” in return, at what was most certainly a city hotel, not a resort.

However, the phone in my room couldn’t dial an outside line to use those free local calls, the concierge staff refused to accept the activity voucher for anything I wanted to do, and what the hotel termed a pool was more accurately a water feature, illustrated best when working on my freestyle one afternoon:

Sure enough, an email to the hotel’s reservations team after my stay outlining these issues and asking for a refund of the resort fees I'd been charged resulted in just that – but if you have the time, stopping by reception and politely requesting a resort fee waiver based on your own difficulties during a stay can often yield the same result.

3. Flash your hotel loyalty card

This varies from chain to chain, but sometimes that shiny hotel loyalty card in your pocket could be your ticket to a resort fee waiver.

For instance, top-tier Hyatt Globalist cardholders are exempted from all resort fees at Hyatt properties, whether staying on a paid room rate or one booked using points.

Lower-tier members including Hyatt Explorist, Discoverist and entry-level ‘Member’ accountholders also enjoy resort fee waivers on stays booked using points, but these are still levied on paid reservations.

Even if your own hotel status doesn’t officially include this as a perk, it never hurts to ask at reception whether your tier entitles you to a resort fee reduction or waiver, particularly if many of the amenities covered by the resort fee are already guaranteed to you as an elite member, such as high-speed WiFi or bottled water.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin (ChrisCh)

[email protected] / @ChamberlinChris

Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

21 Comments

  • GoYouBlues

    GoYouBlues

    19 Jan, 2018 08:43 am

    You have to watch these hotels like a hawk!
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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    19 Jan, 2018 09:09 am

    I booked a hotel last week and the fine print was $124.00 a night resort fees even if you prepay some still try to touch you.
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  • WeeWillyWonka

    WeeWillyWonka

    19 Jan, 2018 10:06 am

    which hotel charges that!?
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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    19 Jan, 2018 10:13 am

    Las Vegas and you go on a water ride

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  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    19 Jan, 2018 11:31 am

    This has been happening in resort/holiday areas (like Hawaii, Las Vegas and Florida) for some time. Over the last month I've been in San Francisco and New York, and the hotels there are now charging a "Facility Fee" which is basically the same as the resort fee. The best one I came across was the Westin Times Square in NYC - as well as the usual free water, phone calls, etc, it also included a $15 per day credit for F&B (incl mini-bar) and $15 per day credit for laundry - both of which were cumulative, so if you're there for 10 days, say, that's $150 for F&B and $150 for laundry.
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    David

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    19 Jan, 2018 11:49 am

    Hotels love these fees because they're not commissionable to travel agents, so while they may have to pay commissions of up to 15% on the room rate itself if you book your stay through sites like Expedia, the 'resort fee' is paid directly to the hotel by the guest with no commission, so even if the benefits they offer in return do cost them something, they still wind up ahead. :)
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  • mattwalker

    mattwalker

    19 Jan, 2018 11:59 am

    Another way to avoid resort fees in Las Vegas is to use a Total Rewards Diamond card at Caesars properties. This can be enabled through FoundersCard membership. Caesars just devalued the Diamond program though for FoundersCard members but the resort fee waiver still remains.

    I don't really like Casears properties but as a regular LV traveller this has saved a lot of money.
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  • Greg84

    Greg84

    19 Jan, 2018 03:14 pm

    It's very frustrating in the US with pricing not being the actual price incl taxes & fees - I'm not one for too much government interference but having rules about 'all in' pricing makes things so much more simple...the $9.99 Vegas Buffet should be $9.99 like the giant sign says!
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  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    19 Jan, 2018 03:34 pm

    When the Howard government introduced the GST here in 2000, that was one of the requirements specified in the legislation - that the price displayed/advertised MUST include GST, so people would know the exact cost of each item. I think the issue in America is that the amount of tax varies from state to state, so that makes it impossible for Macy's (for example) to produce a national sale catalogue, because the state taxes mean the prices vary from state to state. But it's still a crappy situation for the consumer.
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  • MarkJohnSon

    MarkJohnSon
    Banned

    19 Jan, 2018 03:16 pm

    "Packing plastic" is definitely the way to go. Flashing my membership card is my preferred route to avoid these charges, though you can't avoid ending up with a George Costanza-inspired, back-breaking wallet.
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  • sara gul

    sara gul

    19 Jan, 2018 03:35 pm

    Chris - your swimming training shot wins “photo of the year” so far!! I hope the pool towels were complimentary!
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    19 Jan, 2018 03:38 pm

    Pool towels were another amenity listed under the resort fee benefits, but I mentioned in my email that towels are one of the most basic amenities that you'd expect of any chain hotel globally, so didn't justify a separate US$30/day charge.

    (I otherwise had a great stay: the only issue was with the billing/resort fee, which was resolved to my satisfaction, so can't complain! The pool was nice to sit near with a cocktail, at least.)

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  • sgb

    sgb

    6 Feb, 2018 03:48 pm

    Glad you didn't get into trouble at the (deep end) of the pool, 'Life Guard' rescue fees might have been applicable. ..
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  • Jason Hamilton

    JKH

    19 Jan, 2018 04:34 pm

    All I can say is, “What darn crooks!” It’s more thank pesky, it’s sheer greed. What a great American scam.
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  • NEquine

    NEquine

    19 Jan, 2018 05:01 pm

    I'm being charged $25 a night plus tax for a forthcoming stay in the Marriott Marquis NYC and for that I get free wifi (get that already being gold), $15 small bites credit (aka room service) and a tour bus ticket!
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  • Simon Coveney

    Covvers

    19 Jan, 2018 05:19 pm

    Sounds mighty like y'all being ripped off.
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  • moa999

    moa999

    19 Jan, 2018 06:39 pm

    I'd hope the NY Attorney General goes after these fees under antitrust laws
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  • Simon Coveney

    Covvers

    19 Jan, 2018 08:47 pm

    Well there are 50 states and the NY AG only has authority in one of them, so I’m not sure how much good that would do. In any case, it’s not within the jurisdiction of the AG to deal with such matters I’m afraid. Different countries have different systems from Australia.
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  • Steve Adams

    Lurch

    20 Jan, 2018 12:54 am

    We are using Air BNB in Vegas in April. 2 Bed apartment, on strip, free parking, no resort fees etc etc etc. Wont stay at another hotel there after getting caned 125 dollars for 4 small bags of laundry at Circus Circus in 2016
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  • Paul Whelan

    AussieintheUSA

    20 Jan, 2018 04:54 am

    I once asked a Hotel CFO why they do this. Apart from additional revenue, the overwhelming reason was so that they don't have to pay 15-25% commissions to online travel companies (OTAs) - Expedia, Orbits etc on this charge.
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  • h15t0r1an

    h15t0r1an

    20 Jan, 2018 05:11 am

    I've had resort fees removed from my bill when I pointed out that I wasn't notified of them.
    If I had been notified, on principle I wouldn;t have stayed there.
    They're even more of a ripoff than so-called "fuel charges" by airlines that persist at the same high level, for years even after the oil price has gone down to 35% of what it was.
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Guest

22 May, 2018 02:41 am

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