There’s no bigger scam in the hotel industry than resort fees. These ridiculous charges are imposed on unsuspecting guests, and are claimed to recoup the hotel’s costs for everything from the pool, to a free newspaper or discounts at local businesses. And at some low-end properties in Las Vegas, these scam fees can approach or even exceed the cost of the room itself!
I stubbornly refuse to pay these charges, which should either be optional or included in the price of the room. Here’s how I do it.
Focus on Hyatt, Hilton and Wyndham.
Hyatt, Hilton and Wyndham are the only major hotel loyalty programs that waive resort fees (sometimes called “destination surcharges”) on nearly all award stays, regardless of your status. So if you redeem your World of Hyatt, Hilton Honors or Wyndham Rewards points to pay for your stay, you’ll almost never be on the hook for some made-up fee designed to artificially reduce the apparent price of the room.
The exceptions are for MGM properties that accept World of Hyatt points, also called M life Rewards destinations, as well as various casino properties such as Caesars and Harrah’s that impose resort fees on Wyndham Rewards stays.
Exercise caution with Wyndham, as there are numerous reports of individual properties being reluctant to comply with their policy of waiving resort fees on award stays.
If you run into problems, remind the property manager that section III C-1 of the Wyndham Rewards Terms and Conditions states: “ … A Go Free Award is valid only for the room rate for one (1) single or double standard hotel room for up to the maximum occupancy of the room, including local taxes and resort/facility fees … ” If you get nowhere, appeal to the Wyndham Rewards corporate office after your stay.
World of Hyatt
When paying with dollars, Hyatt will also waive resort fees for their top-tier Globalist members. Thankfully, it’s not too hard to become a Globalist member, with the World of Hyatt credit card from Chase. It offers five night-stay credits every year just for being a cardmember, plus another two night-stay credits for every $5,000 spent each year. In 2021, you can become a Globalist with just 30 night-stay credits, but normally it requires 60.
World of Hyatt Credit Card
Secure application on issuer’s website.
Annual Fee: $95
Bonus: Up to 60,000 Points
Rewards Rate: 9X-1X Points
Details: Full Review
Terms and restrictions apply
Annual Fee: $95
APR: Variable APR based on credit worthiness.
Rewards Rate: Earn up to 9x points total for Hyatt stays – 4x points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels and 5x base points per dollar from Hyatt as a World of Hyatt member. Plus, earn 2x points per dollar spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships.
Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2x points total per dollar spent in the first six months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1x point, on up to $15,000 spent.
Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who travel frequently and want access to status benefits from a hotel loyalty program.
Why We Like the World of Hyatt Credit Card
Among all of the top hotel rewards programs, World of Hyatt offers the most valuable rewards, and the World of Hyatt puts you on the fast track to enjoying some of the program’s preferred benefits.
The rewards program also offers a range of properties, including all-inclusive resorts. That said, Hyatt has the smallest footprint of any hotel chain on our list, with roughly 1,000 properties in 68 countries.
In addition to a generous sign-up bonus, the World of Hyatt Credit Card also offers a free night every year, as well as automatic Discoverist status, which is the program’s lowest status level. However, there is a path to earn up to Globalist status, depending on how much you spend on the card.
Part of the mendacity of resort fees is that properties go to great lengths to hide them. Some will show these fees only on the final page of the booking process. But the worst hotels will just bury the fee in a line labeled “taxes and fees,” outrageously conflating its pure profit with the taxes that it’s legally required to remit to the government.
Thankfully, there are some websites that work to expose resort fees in order to help travelers minimize or avoid them. For example, the site Las Vegas Direct lists resort fees at numerous Las Vegas hotels, including about 15 that don’t charge any.
However, my go-to hotel in Las Vegas, the Hyatt Place, doesn’t appear on this list. It’s not very glamorous, but it has no resort fees, and it even offers free shuttles to both the airport and the strip, about a mile away. For someone who doesn’t gamble and hates having to walk through smoke-filled casinos to reach my room, it’s the best deal in-town at just 8,000 World of Hyatt points a night.
Since you know that the resort fee is just pure profit, there are times when a hotel will forgo it to attract guests. To find out, contact the hotel, (not the corporate office of its loyalty program), and ask to speak to the manager. Inform the manager that you’re considering making a reservation, but only if the resort fee can be waived.
For added leverage, you can look up the list of amenities that the resort fee supposedly applies to, and state that you have no intention of using any of them. Or, you can point out that some of these amenities are already included as a benefit of your membership level in their rewards program.
As a last resort, you can complain about resort fees when you are presented with the bill. For example, if you have a resort fee imposed without your prior knowledge, explain that it wasn’t properly disclosed and ask to have it removed.
If the resort fee supposedly covers things that you didn’t use, such as the in-room safe or the use of the gym, inform the hotel management that you shouldn’t be charged for these unused amenities. Likewise, you may be able to point to anything that’s listed both as a standard hotel amenity, like free wifi, and as part of the additional resort fee, and point out that it’s deceptive double billing.
And if you experienced some sort of service failure during your stay, ask to be compensated by having the resort fee waived.
Despite widespread consumer outrage against resort fees, it’s unlikely that the government will be taking any action against this practice anytime soon. Until then, it’s up to travelers to be extra vigilant to avoid these fees, and to patronize the properties that don’t impose these pointless charges.