An Explanation of All Your Mysterious Hotel Fees

“What is the resort tax?” my friend asked as he left our quaint motel in Palm Springs. We received an invoice with a long and convoluted list of taxes and fees. Too lazy to decipher every thing, we paid without really knowing what we paid for. You’ve probably been there too, so let’s take a look at what goes into your typical hotel bill.

Hotels are making so much money in fees (a record $ 2.7 billion last year ). And they may be paying attention to the aviation industry , but many of them now charge guests for even the most basic amenities like number selection, local phone calls, and late check-out.

At least the fees are simple. You see wifi charges on your bill, probably because you were using wifi. But there are trickier fees that can lead to severe scalp scabies.

Resort fees

Resort tax is payable, but what does that even mean? What if you are not staying at a resort? And even if you’re staying at a resort – isn’t that what your room pays for?

Actually, no. This is the whole point of the fee: advertise a lower room rate and offset the discount with a separate additional fee.

Resort tax is a tax that customers pay for amenities and additional services provided by the hotel. This could be a business center, daily newspaper delivery, or a gym. The details vary from hotel to hotel, but from the customer’s point of view, this is essentially just a way to advertise a lower room rate by splitting these “additional” fees.

The amount also varies quite a bit, with some hotels charging a flat rate and others a percentage of the room rate, but the average resort tax is around $ 21 per day . Likewise, you can also pay a “site maintenance fee” for lawn maintenance and landscaping.

According to the LA Times , “These resort fees, readers, are not required by law. They were not levied by a legitimate tax organization. These are financial gimmicks. “

In other words, they are entirely at the discretion of the hotel and are therefore negotiable.

You may be able to skip the resort tax if you are participating in the hotel’s loyalty program. Some chains will waive resort fees if you book your stay using Reward Points. The Points Guy reports that these chains include Hilton and Hyatt, with Marriott and Starwood hotels to do so at select properties. You can also list your benefits as a member, because they may already be included in your membership. In the words of Nick Ewen of The Points Guy :

You will often find that the resort tax covers amenities and services that you should receive anyway because of your elite status, such as free internet or free bottled water. You don’t have to pay for things that are already included as published benefits. A colleague of mine avoided the resort tax at Hilton Clearwater Beach by pointing out that Diamond members do not need to pay for Internet.

If you are not a member of the loyalty program or the hotel simply does not offer one, you still have options. You can ask the front desk staff to cancel or reduce the resort fee if it covers facilities you do not plan to use, such as a gym or swimming pool. Of course, you will have to do this when registering, and there is a good chance that they will refuse. Frommer notes that it is also important to ask about this when registering, because it is easier to reduce these costs than to refund the money after the invoice is printed.

A hospitality insider interviewed by Frommer said that often the hotel’s computer system automatically adds resort tax to the room rate, making it difficult for front desk staff to refund. If this happens, ask to speak with a manager or other supervisor to develop a different reimbursement plan, even if it covers your other costs.

If certain amenities didn’t work – say the wifi was slow or the pool froze, I don’t know – you can also ask for a refund because it’s unfair to charge guests something they can’t use. , anyway.

Accommodation tax

Premises tax is more difficult to waive as it is a state (and sometimes local) government tax. And that’s on top of government sales tax and local sales tax. Obviously, what you pay will depend on where the hotel is located.

If that’s not enough for you, some cities will have an additional tax called a bed tax or an additional tax called a hotel room tax. For example, according to the New York State Tax Department, hotels in New York City must charge an additional $ 1.50 per hotel unit per day . The LA Times reports :

If you were staying at a hotel in, say, certain parts of Houston, you would pay a whopping 17%. In San Francisco, you would shell out 14% plus 1% to 1.5% (depending on location) as an estimate for tourism improvement areas. In Palm Springs, you can pay up to 13.5%, depending on the hotel.

All of these taxes and fees add up, but there is little you can do about them. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a list of state-to-state housing tax rates here.

Donation fee

Yes, some hotels now charge you an automatic “donation fee” to donate to a charity of their choice.

“I think hotels see this as an easy win – they take my money and then donate it and get a tax write-off,” says Suzanne Volko of . “Is it worth arguing over a few dollars for charity? Charging a donation fee is easy, but then what happens to your $ 1 karma? “

Despite being hit by karma, Suzanne says she was lucky to bargain for the donation herself. Just ask to remove it. And if you want to save that karma, donate to charity yourself !

Restocking fee

Some hotels also charge a “restocking fee” for the minibar if you decide to pamper yourself. So the already overpriced $ 4 Skittles package could cost you even more, depending on the board. If, for example, the restocking fee is $ 4.95, you just paid almost ten dollars for candy.

If you would like to use the minibar but still want to avoid this fee, please contact the front desk first. Ask if there is a restocking fee, and if there is, ask if they will give it up. Again, it’s easier to bargain for these fees before you actually sign out and receive your invoice. And if they don’t budge on the royalties? I guess it’s up to you how much you want to taste the rainbow.

Service fee

Probably one of the most annoying fees, the service charge should be the tip of the staff. However, hotels may be stubbornly unaware of where this fee comes from and where your money is going. When one hotel guest asked why its service charges are a whopping 22%, the hotel responded on TripAdvisor as follows:

“Our service charge is 22%, including a 6% service charge, a taxable 2% service charge and a 14% tip. 22% includes everything except government tax, there is no additional 15% tip over the 22% service charge. “

But what is “everything”? And what is the 6% “service charge” that is included in the service charge ? It’s pretty damn confusing and of course you can discuss it with the front desk clerk if you need a more detailed explanation.

While this particular service charge seems unreasonably high (The New York Times reports that 10% is usually a large number), depending on the length of your stay, it can lead to a lot of money. If you don’t know about it and tip the staff anyway , you pay even more.

Fee for other amenities

Aside from these tricky, confusing fees, I think it’s worth mentioning some of the simpler fees that hotels have started to charge you. Keep track of fees for certain amenities, such as:

  • Local phone calls
  • Parking
  • Extra towels
  • Wi-Fi
  • Late check-out
  • Sending or receiving parcels
  • Choosing your room
  • Gym fees
  • Safe in the room

And, of course, there are cancellation fees. This has always been the case, but while the standard policy was 24 hours, some hotels will now charge you a cancellation fee if you do so in less than 48 or 72 hours.

Again, you can try to waive these fees by asking about them when booking your room. Even if the hotel refuses, at least you will know what to expect. And if you ask for any additional services during your stay, such as extra towels or late check-out, be sure to also ask if you will be charged for your special request.


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