Frugal Friday: Avoiding hotel fees

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - First the airlines made headlines by charging for things that used to be free. Then it was the banks. Now hotels are checking in on this fee frenzy.

Frequent traveler Karon Gibson says she is fed up.

"I don't think it's fair sometimes because you're already paying pretty high fees for hotel rooms," she said.

Gibson has been hit with fees to use the safe in her hotel room, resort fees even if she didn't use the gym or pool, fees to receive a fax, and most outrageously, she says, a daily parking fee when she didn't have a car.

It's happening to more and more travelers. A recent New York University Study estimates hotels are expected to collect a record high $1.8 billion from extra fees and surcharges this year. That's up $100 million in a year.

Travel expert Ian Ford says he's seen fees at 2-star hotels to luxury hotels, and there's quite a range of costly charges:

  • Restocking fees ranging from $5 to $15 for just opening the mini bar, not even taking anything out
  • A bellman charge of $8 even if you carry your own luggage
  • A $3.50 energy charge for using the air conditioning
  • A $3.50 fee per ‘coffee capsule' you drink in your room
  • Several hotels are charging $25 - $125 dollars for luxury linens

The American Hotel and Lodging Association says fees are increasing because the industry now has more properties and rooms available than ever before. The association says hotels sometimes have to pay a third party to run the gym, operate the pool, provide internet access or other services.

"They're passing on a cost, whatever it is, sometimes it's a little more expensive than the actual cost, but they have to cover some of their other overhead," said AHLA CEO Joe McInerney. "Unfortunately we'd like to give away as much as we can, but the economics are that somebody has to pay for it when it's all said and done."

Here's what the experts say to do to avoid fees:

  • Call the hotel when you make your reservation and ask what they charge extra for
  • Check hotel website for a list of fees
  • Check loyalty programs. Some give members breaks on fees
  • If you don't like a fee, try negotiating. Tell the hotel you're going to stay elsewhere if it won't budge
  • Check your bill carefully when you check out. It's easier to dispute a fee while you're still at the hotel

Travel expert Ian Ford with Undercover Tourist says the guest still has the upper hand in some cases.

"Hotels are charging fees for things that used to be free simply because they can. It's a new revenue stream and the consumer hasn't complained yet," he said.

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