A couple of dollars for the in-room safe? An added fee for your morning coffee? An 18% “administrative charge” for just moving an item in the minibar? These are some of the hotel fees that have popped up recently, charges that, according to a new study from New York University, will amount to a whopping $2.25 billion this year. A quick look at what these fees are for (e.g., towels, a mandatory tip for the bellman whose services you didn’t even use) shows that they are pretty much pure profit for hotels—a sneaky way of charging higher room prices without looking like it.
A low rate is great, but a final bill that is 20% higher than you expected is a nasty surprise. Here are some ways you can avoid extra hotel fees.
Ask what is included in the rate
Hotels differ greatly in what is included and what incurs an extra charge. For example, in-room wi-fi ranges from free to up to $25 per night. Valet parking nearly always costs extra, but self-parking may or may not. When you book your room, ask what is included and what is subject to additional fees. If hotels fail to disclose extra surcharges, you have a much better chance of recourse later.
Pay for the room in advance
When you pay for a room in advance, you know exactly what the total price is and what it includes. On Hotel Engine, all applicable taxes and fees are included in the room prices.
Ask about incidentals at check-in
Almost every hotel requires a credit card to use for incidentals. Ask specifically what those incidentals are. It is easier to argue over ridiculous-sounding fees while you are still just a potential customer than it is after you’ve already stayed the night.
Don’t assume anything is free
That bottle of water on your nightstand: $5. The beach towels by the pool: $2. Unless there is a sign specifically stating that an item or amenity is free, assume there is a charge for using it. You can always ask at the front desk.
Read the bill and dispute any unreasonable or undisclosed charges
This is a big one. Hotels often get away with outlandish surcharges because people don’t read their bill. CBS travel editor Peter Greenberg suggests avoiding the whole no-time-to-read-the-bill-because-I’m-late scenario by going to the front desk the night before you check out and asking to see the bill. If there are any charges that were not fully disclosed at check-in or that are for services you didn’t use, you can dispute them at this time.
Dispute with the credit card company
As a last resort, if you fail to get a reasonable response from the hotel, you can always dispute the charges with your credit card company.
Leave a review
If you find a hotel that you believe is overcharging its customers and not adequately disclosing its fees, leave a review on TripAdvisor. Often, hotel managers will respond to truthful negative reviews with some type of compensation. If not, at the very least you may save the hotel’s future customers from excessive surcharges.
Stay somewhere else
The hotel industry is competitive, and travelers have many choices. One of the best ways to let hotels know their fees are excessive is simply to stay somewhere else.
Book your next room on Hotel Engine for low, transparent rates on your favorite hotels across the country.
Featured image by James Fraleigh [Creative Commons], via Flickr