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When you make an award booking with Hilton or Hyatt you don’t have to worry about resort/destination/amenity fees because those chains waive their junk fees on award bookings. You don’t even have to hold elite status with Hilton or Hyatt to avoid these fees because everyone gets junk fees waived when booking awards with these guys.
Sadly, the same is not true of award bookings with IHG or Marriott.
Marriott’s website is far from perfect when it comes to prominently displaying the junk fees that some properties charge on award bookings but, on the whole, it’s not terrible. IHG’s website, however, has always been deceptive and following a recent minor refresh, it’s now even worse, so yet more people may be getting hit with junk fees that they were not expecting.
IHG’s deceptive website
If you search for a hotel on IHG.com and want to pay with money, this is the kind of results page that you can expect to see (I’ve deliberately filtered for properties that I know charge junk fees but other than that, this is a pretty standard page):
By placing a check mark in the appropriate box, I’ve instructed the IHG website to include all taxes and fees in the prices that it’s displaying, and when I select the Kimpton Hotel Palomar South Beach and proceed to the next page, the total price that I’m shown matches that shown on the search results page and includes the property’s ridiculous “amenity fee”.
So far, so good. There’s nothing to see here.
If I now perform the same search but instruct IHG.com to show the cost of a night in points rather than in cash, this is the results page that I’m presented with.
Once again, I’ve been careful to make sure to instruct the website to show me the cost of an award night including all taxes and fees and if you look closely, all three results in the screenshot above say that the cost shown “includes taxes and fees”.
There’s no mention anywhere that an amenity fee will be levied.
If I now select the Kimpton Hotel Palomar South Beach once again, this is the page that I’m presented with:
The website still shows that I’ve asked for my results to include all taxes and fees and it also confirms that the prices that I’m being shown include all taxes and fees, but, once again, there’s no mention anywhere that an amenity fee will be charged.
If I now go ahead and confirm that I want to make the booking with 25,000 points, this is the completion page that appears:
The very last line of the pricing quite clearly states that the total charges will be 25,000 points.
For most people, the word “total” means “final and complete” so someone who’s making a quick booking and who is not looking for any hidden fees, could easily be forgiven for thinking that the total cost of this stay will be 25,000 points only.
As we know, however, that’s not going to be the case.
Before the latest website refresh, IHG.com was almost as deceptive as it is right now with the difference being that when you reached the final payment page, the junk fee was buried in a paragraph under the “estimated total price”.
Now, however, that paragraph has been hidden and despite the fact that the IHG website will happily tell a visitor that it is displaying the “total charges” payable, you have to expand the section above the “total charges” to reveal the rip-off fee that will be added.
I have no idea how this is legal.
How can it possibly be right for a major hotel chain’s website to use phrases that suggest all the charges are being included and displayed when they are not?
I’m not sure what part of “show taxes and fees” IHG doesn’t understand, and I’m not sure who at IHG thinks that it’s ok to use the word “total” to describe a price when the price being shown is very clearly not the final price that will have to be paid, but something needs to be done about this. This is the sort of move I’d expect from a con-artist and not from one of the world’s biggest hotel operators.
The way IHG.com displays the total cost of award bookings at properties that charge junk fees is very deceptive.
While seasoned miles & points fans will probably know to watch out for the junk fees that some IHG properties love to add, it’s important to remember that the overwhelming majority of people are not seasoned miles & points fans and are therefore not looking out for sneaky, underhand fees.
Most people won’t know to check for IHG’s hidden junk fees so I suspect that an unacceptable percentage of travelers (mostly those who are new to the miles & points world) are probably being caught out by nonsense like this, and that’s very disappointing.
Hopefully, however, now that you’ve read this article, you won’t be one of them.
Have you ever saved screenshots of the “total” price and then file a dispute with your credit card company?
I’ve never had to because I’ve never been caught out by IHG. That being said, it would be interesting to see how a credit card company would react to such a claim.
Thanks for the warning! Appreciate your posting this and alerting unsuspecting traveller like myself. 🙂
You’re very welcome, thanks for reading.
Great article, thanks for publicly shaming them. I write a lot of TripAdvisor reviews and call out junk fees in the headline; I also downgrade the property’s overall rating and say why. You should send this article with screen shots to the FTC given Biden’s current campaign against fees with greater transparency.
Thank you! Great idea to shame properties on TA. If nothing else, anyone reading the reviews will know to keep alert.
IHG have lost a lot of my money over this. I have a choice and I will vote with my wallet.
There’s an upcoming trip to DC, and I was going to stay at one of their new properties until I saw the $40/night amenity fee which includes such wonderful items as a discount a local doggy bakery and use of a peleton.
I voted with my wallet and IHG lose $1000 of business.
A doggy bakery??!!! Please say that was a joke….
No it really wasn’t. The full list of items included for their resort fee is:
Complimentary coffee in guest room * 11.43% discount on all Mercy Me orders by showing a guest room key in the outlets, including online orders – http://www.mercymedc.com * Welcome treat upon arrival * A curated Vinyl Record Library with players, upon request * Complimentary access to the Ping Pong Room for the first 30 minutes * 2 Mountain Valley water bottles * Complimentary high-speed WiFi access throughout the facility * Interactive Peloton Fitness Center including WOD by our in-house trainer * Local partnership discount at Artechouse, Doggy Style Baker, She Loves Me flower shop and more
Basically, water, coffee, wifi (which should be complimentary at any hotel with status) and a load of garbage that nobody wants
30 mins of ping pong – Honestly, you couldn’t make this up if you tried
I’m lost for words…..
Thanks for the amazing article. I aovid IHG in general as they are second tier loyalty program with very limited benefits. But this is really unacceptable and I will avoid them even more in future:)
Thank you for the kind words. I’m not a fan of IHG Rewards either, but I’ll continue to stay at IHG properties when it suits me and when I’m in control of the cost (i.e. no junk fees).
I’m of the opinion that the best way to play the game is to make sure that you’re the one “winning” on every booking and if that means staying with a chain that I don’t like to get a great deal, I’m ok with that 🙂
Aloha Ziggy – How do you “control the cost (i.e. no junk fees)”? Do you make the individual hotel delete them for you? It doesn’t look like there is a choice online.
Hi, there’s no way of getting around them online (with IHG or Marriott) but some people have reported having success with getting junk fees removed at check-out. For most, however, these junk fees are just an extra charge that they have to pay as hotels are not likely to waive the fees for everyone who complains.
I should add, however, that in the case of IHG award bookings, showing the front desk screenshots of the deceptive way the IHG website hides these fees may give you more leverage.
And don’t use points + cash for IHG reservations unless you are absolutely sure you are going to use the reservation. If you must cancel, you just bought a lot of points any cash part of the reservation will be refunded in points and you will get a big bill (cash portion) to pay.
Wow! Thanks for the heads up! As the not so proud owner of over 1,000,000 IHG rewards points and climbing, I think I just switched loyalty to Hilton or Hyatt. I have only use points for IHG rooms a couple times while taking car trips and usually at one of the lower end Holiday Inn versions for a quick shower and bed then on the road again type accommodation. Was going to plan a nice vacation one day with the points. Well, Hyatt and Hilton here I come. I spend 8-12 nights a month in high end hotels traveling for business, thanks for the great article!
Hi Ziggy, nice and informative article, thank you. Question: if you are trying to book an award and find out there are extra fees, do you abandon the reservation and stay somewhere else or do you somehow try to get the fee voided? Thanks.
Hi Xavier, I have yet to pay a junk fee on an award booking because to date, I have always chosen to ignore properties that charge these fees. Hypothetically, however, if my other options were considerably more expensive I would book the property with the junk fee and then challenge it at check-out.
Another adder is parking. We had a free points night two weeks ago but got hit for $10 to park.