How to Avoid Hidden Hotel Fees

by Stephen Mattson,

No matter how carefully you budget or limit spending, an ordinary hotel stay can quickly become extremely expensive due to hidden costs, fees, and charges. Avoid these pricey pitfalls by familiarizing yourself with how hotel fees work.

hotel* Reservations

Whether you make a reservation online or over the telephone, or through the hotel’s office or a third-party website such as Priceline, Orbitz, or, hidden charges are everywhere. Agents and websites offer an array of amenities and upgrades that, unless you’re careful, will automatically increase the price of your reservation.

Most will do so in the form of simple and enticing questions such as: “Would you like a room with cable TV? Would you like a king or queen-sized bed? Do you prefer a bathtub or a shower?” The choices you make can increase or decrease your price, so always clarify prices and simply ask about any additional fees that are being assessed to your reservation.

When making online reservations, don’t be surprised by an array of petty “service fees”. Although annoying, booking over the internet should still be cheaper than going through the hotel directly, but always double-check these costs just to make sure.

* Check-in/Check-out

lobby-346426_640You will probably have to pay a fee if you are arriving before the regular check-in time, or decide to stay later than the check-out time. Some hotels use a prorated payment system while others simply have a base fee they apply to the final bill. Arriving and departing on time will save you from dealing with these annoying costs.

*The Room

Once you actually check in, hidden fees are looming nearly everywhere. If your room has a mini-bar or refrigerator, don’t assume that the drinks and snacks are free. In most hotels they aren’t included as part of the room rate, and the items have tiny magnetized sensors that induce charges to the room if they are removed from their position for more than five seconds – so even if you pick up an unopened bottle from the fridge but then replace it, you may have already been charged for that drink.

roomItems already in the room such as bathroom towels, robes, and slippers are also hotel property, and with the exception of complimentary soaps and shampoos, most hotels do an extensive inventory of items missing from the room after checkout- with all missing items charged to your account. Even the smallest things such as hangers, a bathroom rag, or drinking glass will be charged – so just leave everything in the hotel room that was previously there upon arriving.

The room’s television is also hooked up with many pricy viewing options. Many shows and movies can be specially ordered, but most are expensive and will be charged directly to the room. Even if you don’t finish an entire program you’ll be charged for it.

It’s never a good idea to use the room’s phone to make outgoing calls. Most hotels charge high rates for even local calls, and long-distance rates are even more excessive. Use your cell phone instead, or simply buy a prepaid calling card.

Many hotels still charge for internet use. Even if you bring your own laptop you’ll still have to pay for a network connection. If possible, ask the bellman for the nearest café that has free Wi-Fi access.

Any damages to the room will result in hefty fines. If there is a problem with the room, or if there was pre-existing damage before you checked in, immediately report it to a manager in order to avoid facing the consequences of somebody else’s actions.


cocktail-857393_640Many hotels automatically add a 20% gratuity to any drink, food, or room service charge, so always make sure to review your bill before paying.

* Additional Fees

Unreturned room keys will result in a fee, and many hotels have separate charges for parking, overnight parking, and valet. Shuttle services may also have fees (and if they don’t you should at least tip). Bellman services at five-star hotels have fees based on the amount of baggage brought in, and other hotels will even charge a service fee per bag even if a bellman/porter wasn’t used. There are usually additional fees for pets (but not always). Clarify the costs of services such as laundry, housekeeping, and room service. Also, be careful regarding fines for smoking (many hotels currently ban all indoor smoking).

No matter what hotel you stay at, don’t be afraid to ask about potential fees or charges, and always carefully review any bills and receipts before making a final payment.

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