HomeHotel LoyaltyIt may not always be obvious when IHG & Marriott are charging...

It may not always be obvious when IHG & Marriott are charging rip-off fees

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Resort fee, destination fee, amenity fee. These are all names given to the same kind of rip-off fees that more and more hotels are now charging and unfortunately, thanks to the fact that federal laws are often written with lobbyists and major party donors in mind, the fact that these fees are being charged isn’t always made obvious by those charging them.

In the United States, there is no federal requirement for a property or hotel chain to disclose all the taxes and fees that it charges in its headline room rate (taxes and fees are often only disclosed right at the end of the booking process) and, in part, this is how a lot of properties get away with hiding their horrendous rip-off fees.

Fortunately, some hotel sites now offer customers the option to choose to view the cost of the rooms with all of the taxes and fees included…

Marriott.com is one of the sites that allows users to choose to see room rates with all taxes & fees included

… so for users of these sites, there’s no reason why there should be any nasty surprises when it comes to the end of the booking process. Or is there?

Marriott and IHG both allow customers to choose to view room rates with all the taxes and fees included, but although it is far from obvious, that option only extends to cash rates. It does not cover award bookings.

The small issue with Marriott

When you search for an award night on Marriott.com and have the “show rates with taxes and all fees” selected, this is the kind of search result that you can expect to see.

Tap or click to enlarge

The website appears to show that the customer can either pay 39,000 points/stay or $326/night. There’s no mention of a “destination fee” here.

As the cash rate of $326 includes all taxes and fees, It’s not unreasonable to expect the 39,000 points/night price to include the same… but it doesn’t.

This is a property that I’ve stayed at so I know that it charges a nightly destination fee, and if you click through to the page where you select the room that you like to book, the fee is displayed at the top of the page but is still not displayed next to the main cost of the stay.

Tap or click to enlarge

To give Marriott a bit of credit, the fee appears in two prominent places on the next page in the booking process (the “review reservations” page) so although you have to expand the “summary of charges section” before you get to see that what you’re being charged isn’t a tax but a rip-off fee, there’s quite a bit of opportunity to notice that there will be a fee associated with this award booking.

Tap or click to enlarge
Tap or click to enlarge

Things would be a lot better it if Marriott displayed the destination fee on the very first results page and then made it very obvious what the fee was on all subsequent pages, but you would probably have to be making a very hurried booking not to notice that a rip-off fee was being added.

When it comes to IHG bookings, however, things are considerably more opaque… and odd.

The big issue with IHG

Just like Marriott, IHG allows users of its website to choose to view the cost of a room with all taxes and fees included, and for cash rates, this seems to work fine.

For award bookings it doesn’t work at all.

Here, for example, is what you’ll see when you search for an award night at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown if you’ve chosen to view the cost with all taxes and fees included.

Tap or click to enlarge

The results page very clearly states that the cost of the room is 50,000 points and that this “includes taxes and fees”.

When you move on to the next page in the booking process, there’s still no mention of any other taxes and fees that may be payable and, in fact, there’s another mention that the prices being shown include taxes and fees.

Tap or click to enlarge

It’s only on the final booking page (the “let’s reserve it” page) that the “hotel facility fee” gets mentioned and even then, it’s not noted next to the line that reads (in big letters) “Total Price for Stay” and it’s not on the same line as the cost in points further down the page. It’s only noted in its own paragraph which could easily be missed.

The irony here is that if you don’t have the “show taxes and fees” option checked (I have it checked by default), the search results warn you straight away that a rip-off fee will be applied.

Tap or click to enlarge

In case you think that this is an isolated example (it’s not), here are screenshots showing the same thing happening with the InterContinental Chicago and the Kimpton properties in Los Angeles and Miami (tap or click to enlarge the thumbnails).

Just to be clear (for all you lawyers out there), I’m not suggesting that this is something that IHG has done deliberately (I suspect that this is down to some truly abysmal coding on the IHG website), but that’s not really an excuse and it doesn’t make things ok.

If IHG is going to give customers the option to request that all taxes and fees are included in whatever prices they are shown and a customer then selects that option, it should go without saying that whatever is then presented to them in the search results should include all the taxes and fees.

Customers selecting this option shouldn’t have to hunt around to see if there are any other fees that a property feels like adding in.

Moreover, IHG shouldn’t be placing asterisks next to the cost of a room and then using that asterisk to suggest that all taxes and fees have been included when they clearly have not, and it certainly shouldn’t be using phrases like “total price for stay” next to the cost of a stay when, again, there are taxes and fees that have yet to be added. Maybe someone needs to explain to IHG what the word “total” means.

To be polite (and to avoid having to deal with any over zealous lawyers) I’ll describe this as “potentially misleading”, but there are a few other more direct and considerably less polite ways that others may choose to describe this.

Bottom line

Hotels and resorts that charge resort/amenity/destination fees are beyond contempt, but there’s a special circle of hell reserved for properties and chains that fail to disclose their rip-off fees clearly.

There’s absolutely no excuse for this and while I’m happy to concede that Marriott’s transgression here is a small one, the way IHG displays the cost of award nights is completely unacceptable and could easily lead to people making bookings that end up costing more than expected.

Yes, you could argue that a certain amount of personal responsibility should be expected (everyone should always check the cost of their bookings very carefully), but when a customer sees a line that claims to tell them what the total price for their stay is, they have a right to assume that the price shown is exactly that – the total price – and in IHG’s case, that’s definitely not always the case. Be warned.

[Thanks to reader Scott, who first pointed this out to me]

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  1. I think this is an isolated issue, as other locations do show (or at least did show) the fees right on the search results page e.g., I recently booked in San Francisco and DC, and the Kimptons showed the additional destination charges. And doing so right on the search results page is absolutely where it should be. And assuming that this is isolated on the part of IHG and that they’ll fix it, that’s why I find Marriott’s approach to be so misleading and frustrating. As a LTT, Marriott has given me the finger by taking a deliberate approach to not show the total cost upfront (even when the taxes and fees box is checked). It’s a waste of my time to find a place, only to then discover that what I thought was the cost (in points) actually isn’t. And it’s just another in the long list of reasons why so many of my stays now go to Hyatt and IHG.

    • Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated error. I just searched IHG properties in San Francisco and Washington D.C. and both searches returned results that failed to display the fees in exactly the same way as the examples given in this article.

  2. All of these “extra fees” are ridiculous and outrageous ! Back in the day, they weren’t many, now each hotel chain can pretty much charge “any” fees they can add. Hyatt charges more fees than any other hotel chain. More and a lot more than average, depending on the property. On the same city, they can charge $25.00 for a destination fee and $39.00 on the next hotel of the same city.

    • Yes, Hyatt properties can be especially bad at adding these ridiculous fees… but at least Hyatt properties don’t charge these fees on award nights or on cash rates when booked by a Globalist member. IHG and Marriott make no such allowances.


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