Don't Touch the Minibar! How to Avoid 10 Annoying Hotel Fees

HIDDEN COSTS

It's easier than ever to find good deals on hotel rooms online, but the actual price at the check-out counter is often higher due to fees and charges that are tacked onto the bill. In 2014, hotels made $2.25 billion in revenue from extra fees and add-ons, according to a study by a researcher at New York University. Travelers can be nickel-and-dimed for just about anything, and the most frustrating part is that many of the fees aren't clearly disclosed ahead of time. Cheapism.com found 10 such fees and offers tips on how to avoid them.

MINIBAR

It's not a secret that items in the hotel minibar have huge markups. Avoiding minibar charges should be easy: just don't eat or drink anything. But it's not always that simple. Some hotel minibars have sensors that automatically charge guests for items that are simply picked up or moved, even if they are put back. The front desk should remove these charges, but you have to notice them on your bill and ask. Some hotels may charge guests to store their own items in the minibar, up to $50 a night. Read the fine print on the refrigerator to avoid this aggravating fee.

PARKING

Often buried in the booking agreement, parking can cost an extra $20 to $30 a day, even for self-parking. Avoid this fee by parking in a nearby lot or on the street. Even if you don't have a car at the hotel, give the final bill a quick check. Some hotels automatically charge the parking fee, and you'll have to ask to remove it if you didn't use the parking facilities.

WI-FI

With free Wi-Fi available at just about every McDonald's and Starbucks, you'd think hotels would offer the same. But an extra charge for using in-room Wi-Fi is common at business and luxury hotels, and the fee can be $20 a day or more. The easiest way to avoid this fee is to stay at a hotel that offers free Wi-Fi, or to limit Wi-Fi use to the lobby or business center that offers a free connection.

RESORT FEES

Hotels in popular tourist destinations such as Las Vegas often tack a resort fee onto the bill. The fee covers the use of the pool, lounge chairs, beach umbrellas, and fitness and business centers, and it's mandatory even if you don't use those amenities. The advertised price rarely includes the resort fee and the extra charge can catch guests off guard. Some travel sites and hotel chains list the fee before you book, but that's not always the case. Annoyingly, the fee can be charged even if you book a free room using points in the hotel's loyalty program. There's no way to avoid this charge aside from reading the fine print ahead of time and opting for a hotel that doesn't charge a resort fee.

EARLY CHECK-IN AND LATE CHECK-OUT

Some hotels charge guests for arriving early or leaving late. Asking politely at the hotel desk to skip those fees can pay off. Alternatively, ask to store your bags at the hotel desk before checking in or after checking out.

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THIRD-PARTY RESERVATION FEE

This is the easiest fee to avoid if you catch it in time. Some online travel sites, such as Priceline and Orbitz, charge a fee for booking select hotels. Avoid this fee by booking directly with the hotel.

IN-ROOM SAFE

The extra charge for an in-room safe is usually small, just a few dollars a day, but some hotels don't disclose the fee up front. If you didn't use the safe, ask the front desk to remove the charge. Alternatively, call ahead when booking and ask the hotel to remove the fee if you don't plan to use the safe or ask for a room that doesn't have one.

FITNESS CENTER

A charge for use of the hotel fitness center may be added to your bill automatically even if you didn't use the facilities. Ask the hotel to remove the fee when you check out.

AUTOMATIC GRATUITY

You may have planned to tip housekeeping anyway, but check to see if a gratuity has been added to your bill so you don't tip twice. The same goes for services you received during your stay, such as a massage at the spa.

TELEPHONE SURCHARGE

Using the phone, even for local calls, can result in extra fees at many hotels. This is easy enough to avoid by using your own phone, but what if you're traveling overseas? Sign up for a Skype subscription and for $2.99 per month you can make unlimited calls to U.S. and Canadian landlines and mobile phones. Or check with your cellphone provider about local service plans to avoid big fees on international calls.

GET STATUS

One way to avoid extra fees is to have elite status in a hotel chain's loyalty program. Depending on the chain, the higher status can include extras like free Wi-Fi, breakfast, bottled water in your room, early check-in or late check-out, health club access, and upgraded rooms. Some credit cards automatically give you elite status just for being a cardholder. The cards may have an annual fee, but the perks can more than offset the cost in just a single trip.
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