The only thing worse than hidden hotel fees themselves is trying to figure out how they work. What are resort fees? How much do they cost? And which hotel brands have the highest resort fees?
Here we explain the basics of how these fees work and how you can (sometimes avoid them). We also rank major hotel brands based on how egregious their fees are.
What are hotel resort fees?
Yet what makes resort fees different, and intolerable for many frequent travelers, is that they aren't an optional add-on fee: They are required. So unlike a baggage fee on an airline, which a flyer can avoid by not bringing a bag, there is no (easy) way to avoid paying a resort fee.
Instead, these fees are simply tacked on at the final step of checkout. Sometimes they have other names such as "amenity fee" or "additional fee" but they all amount to the same thing: a required fee.
Back in the day, resort fees were charged to justify luxury amenities associated with the room. But hotels now will tack them onto rooms that are far from resort-like in any way.
How to avoid resort fees
Because resort fees are required on rooms which carry them, avoiding them requires a bit more work than normal travel fees.
Book with Hilton or Hyatt points
Generally, even rooms booked with points carry the same fees. But two hotel programs — Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt — waive resort fees on award bookings. This is a win-win, since you won’t be paying cash for the room, or the annoying fee.
Don’t have points with either program? Both Hilton and Hyatt offer branded credit cards that let you earn points quickly. And Hyatt is a particularly valuable transfer partner of Chase Ultimate RewardsⓇ points.
Earn Hyatt Globalist status
If you’re a very frequent traveler who can achieve Hyatt’s highest elite status level, called Globalist, you can avoid resort fees even on rooms booked with cash. Since Hyatt charges some of the highest fees in the industry (see below), this is an especially valuable perk, but not one that many travelers can reasonably consider.
Avoid hotels with these fees
Obviously, the most straightforward way to avoid resort fees is to stay at hotels that don’t charge them. This is easier said than done in some tourist destinations, such as Las Vegas and Hawaii. Yet in most locales a little comparison shopping will go a long way.
The trick is to get through the entire checkout flow on a few different rooms and compare the final price. This way you can see the true cost of two or more rooms, and book the one that best fits in your budget.
Targeting hotel brands that charge fewer and less frequent resort fees is a good start.
Which hotel brands have the best and worst resort fees?
Winner: Marriott Bonvoy
We performed a comprehensive analysis of dozens of individual hotels within seven major brands to determine which charged the highest resort fees. We looked at hotels in destinations where resort fees are common, such as Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida, as well as major cities.
Since these fees track somewhat to the cost of the rooms themselves, we ranked the winners according to the resort fees as a percentage of the overall room rate. Marriott offered the lowest overall percentage, and Hyatt the highest.
Of course, these are averages, and there is no guarantee that a specific Hyatt hotel will charge any resort fee at all, or that it will be higher than a competitor nearby. That said, this is a good place to start when looking for hotels that offer fewer or more moderate resort fees.
If you want to avoid hotel fees
It’s questionable whether hotels should even be allowed to charge resort and amenity fees, and efforts have been made to ban or regulate them at the federal level. Until that happens, they will remain an obnoxious reality for hotel travelers.
Thankfully, some hotel brands such as Marriott, Hilton and Best Western are doing a better job at keeping these fees reasonable. So you can target these brands during your hotel search. And you can take advantage of a couple quirks — such as booking with Hilton or Hyatt points — to avoid them otherwise.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card