Adding Insult To Injury, Marriott Cheats You On Points For Resort Fees

Resort fees are deceptive. They hide part of a hotel room’s cost until you’re at checkout, making it difficult to compare costs. But by moving part of the room rate into a resort or destination fee, hotels are able to:

  • Make themselves look cheaper than they really are
  • Save money on taxes in some jurisdictions
  • Save money on commissions (where only the room rate is commissionable)

There are numerous built-in reasons why a hotel wants to engage in deceptive practices like this. Marriott creates another such incentive for its hotels.

  1. Hotels get to charge these fees to award guests
  2. Hotels don’t have to pay for points for the resort fee portion of a room rate

Hotels earn more money from redemption stays by charging Bonvoy members a fee that neither Hilton nor Hyatt imposes on its members redeeming points. It’s a straight money grab, because of course you can’t choose to spend your points outside of the Marriott ecosystem, so they can impose a tax on member redemptions.

But it’s also a hotel cost-saving tool. According to the program’s terms item 2.1.b qualifying charges include “Rates for Stays.” And while I certainly believe the stronger argument is that a resort or destination fee is part of the room rate since it is not optional, it is part of the cost for staying in the room (!) Marriott doesn’t interpret it this way. Instead they do not award members with points for resort fees, and hotels therefore do not have to pay Marriott Bonvoy for these points.

Just like they inflate hotel payments on redemptions by imposing a cash co-pay on members (who aren’t redeeming a cash and points award) by reducing member points-earning for hotel stays, they’ve saved hotels money. Bonvoy was promised to be lower-cost to hotel owners and resort fees – charged to members, while cheating them on points-earning – part of how they do this. And as a result Marriott doesn’t just tolerate resort fees at hotels, they actively encourage them.

And this is why I’m thrilled by a small victory. After an award stay where I wasn’t credited any points (including for food and beverage charged to the room) I contacted Marriott on twitter. They posed the food charges, but not the resort fee. I argued that resort fees are part of the rate and therefore qualifying charges and since Marriott customer service generally gets their policies wrong, they credited me with the points.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Reason #87 why Marriott is a terrible company.

    They likely credited you due to your industry visibility. Regular schlub Bonvoy elites won’t be getting anything.

  2. @Gary
    You intentionally defrauded Marriott Bonvoy by claiming something that is explicitly disallowed by the T&C of which I’m sure you’re intimately familiar.

    2.1.c. Non-Qualifying Charges. Charges which do not qualify for Points include any complimentary services, Points redemption Awards, promotional Awards or any other fees or charges including, without limitation: (A) charges for banquets, meetings or other functions, with the exception of Points earned in connection with a Qualifying Event Agreement as described in Section 5; (B) other fees paid including, without limitation, parking, business center, retail stores, and other third-party services; (C) room rate related taxes, service charges, gratuities, fees (e.g. late cancellation fee or no-show fees for not checking in for guaranteed reservations even if the reservations were paid in full), mandatory or automatic charges (e.g., resort charges) and other applicable charges,

  3. I ended active participation in that program several years ago. This is a corrupt, immoral practice which should be illegal.

  4. Hilton had a nice surprise also. Upon arrival at Hilton Park Soleil in Orlando they conveniently told us there is a $25 per day charge. They then hand over a voucher for Starbucks for each day which was 42 days. All Hilton resorts do this now. Thank you!

  5. Gary – please list which Marriott properties have resort fees. It can’t be many outside of full service hotels in cities like Orlando, NYC, LV, LA and maybe Hawaii. Also it is disclosed when you book the reservation (if you take the effort to look) so not a surprise and you could pick another hotel.

    You are fighting a losing battle and arguing against something you can’t change. We get it – you don’t like and neither do we but it is a fact so PLEASE move along!!!

  6. How thoughtful of Marriott to unBonvoy Gary on the points on resort fees… like a principled thief who steals your nice car but who will, if asked, drop off an envelope with some cash to cover your insurance deductible.

  7. Any property trying to charge a resort fee, destination fee, or whatever extra fee they want to add, will find me cancelling that reservation and moving to another brand that doesn’t charge those fees. Simple. They’re all just a place to put my head for the night. Or, in a version of today’s language; my money, my choice.

  8. Well done Gary. @MarriottBonvoy is a joke, staffed with representatives that only don’t know their own rules, but when they do, are rarely helpful. Congrats on your win.

  9. To AC, it might seem to some that Gary is beating a dead horse. But, there are new players entering the game that don’t have our experience and this is all news to them. Without republication, how would they learn of it? The same could be said about a different topic.

    Controller1, fine that it’s in the Terms and Conditions. The point that Gary is making is that it shouldn’t even be in the Terms and Conditions. Given the standards of practice among other hotel programs, he’s asserting Marriott’s T&Cs is wrong-headed.

    To all the new readers, whether it is Marriott or Hilton or Hyatt or whatever, it seems that many / most tier status benefits are subject to the discretion of the property owners. Those benefits tend to be elusive or denied. So, don’t get your hopes up.

    Marriott used to prominently display its “no black-out dates” benefit. It has been removed from the publicly displayed list of benefits. But, it is still in the Terms and Conditions . . . as if to suggest that it still might be a benefit . . . but the language has changed. Reading the provisions, it essentially says that a property owner can “manage” award availability . . . and the property at which you want to stay might not be available.

    Oh . . . and suite upgrades are at the discretion of the property owners . . . and they are usually not so motivated. “A suite is available. We’re just not going to upgrade you to a suite.”

    Oh . . . in the US, breakfast — if one does not get the 1,000-point breakfast substitution benefit — is a cup of coffee and a doughnut.

    As for “resort fees,” a couple of years ago, I was destined for a Ritz Carlton. The dollar amount of the “resort fees” plus the mandatory “service fees” equaled 65 to 70 percent of the room rate plus taxes. For example, if the room and taxes were $3,000 for the stay, the resort and service fees added another $2,000 for a total of $5,000. Yes, it is all disclosed. But, why not just say the room is $5,000? Because, given Marriott’s T&Cs, an award stay must still pay the $2,000. And, that’s what is member-unfriendly.

    After seeing so much, I chose not to play that game any more and chose a different path.

  10. I usually don’t pay any mind to what @Reno Joe says, because what intelligent person lives in Reno? However, the resort and service fee point that he brings up makes me f’ing mad. Middle class people save up for months or years to afford a thousand dollars per night Ritz. And then they go and book it and they’re told oh there’s another couple thousand in mandatory nonsense fees. F- Bonvoy!

  11. Once again just click bait . bragging how he got points for something others don’t and won’t….

  12. Who cares about middle-class aspirational travel. I travel for work. Literally 150-175 nights per calendar year. Fine. Gip me when my work pays for it. I can expense breakfast anyways. But don’t screw me on the one week per year I use points for my wife and I to
    go somewhere and then the other week that my mistress and I to go somewhere.

  13. @FNT Delta Diamond, justice would be your wife chopping off your manhood. I’d pay 10 million Bonvoy points if I could see that happen, live.

  14. @Gary – I think the real story here is that you continue to stay at Marriott properties!

    Why? Surely your time was worth more than the effort to collect those points. Did you get a kick out of trolling their CS into giving you points you knew were technically not earned, because you know it’s usually the other way around?

    Honestly, Gary, for as awful as Marriott treats its customers, I’d think you’d be better off just giving your Marriott points to charity, or at least transferring them to an airline.

  15. I think Marriott treats its loyal customers very badly. Example: I’m currently staying at the Nuremberg Sheraton Carlton as a Bonvoy Gold. The hotel has very low occupancy. I booked the next to the top single (non suite) room category – the only higher single room category being Executive room. At check-in, I was told they would give me an upgrade if they had one, but they didn’t have any. I pulled out my iPhone and showed them on the Bonvoy App that there were plenty of Executive rooms. He then changed his story and said he didn’t care, at this hotel “upgrade” meant same room type, but on a higher floor (this is only an 8 story hotel). He then moved me up one floor. So my “Enhanced Upgrade” (Bonvoy’s term for Golds) was moving me up one floor, same room type, same courtyard view. Turns out, the fine print in terms and conditions says that each hotel gets to define for itself what “Enhanced Upgrade” means at that hotel. Marriott and Bonvoy take their good customers for granted.

  16. @Don in ATL. This has been going on at Sheratons long before Marriott took over. As SPG Gold I was given an enhanced room that was probably the same room on the same floor at….. get this…..

    SHERATON IOWA CITY HOTEL

    Cherry on top, the room smelled like an incompletely wiped hiney.

    This comment is brought to you by Apple. Give the gift of great music this holiday season with 3rd Generation AirPods. In stock now, $179.

  17. @AC. “Gary – please list which Marriott properties have resort fees. It can’t be many outside of full service hotels in cities like Orlando, NYC, LV, LA and maybe Hawaii”

    To answer your question, the places you mention are just a tip of the iceberg. Most all of Florida where you can smell the ocean. Even Austin, TX, Gary’s hometown, one Bonvoy property is charging them. It’s become so common that I have to check with every booking in places that you can’t even imagine. Add to that Courtyards and similar in places like Oklahoma charging $12 a day for parking in public lots connected to malls.

    Yes, Gary picks on Marriott even though they are all doing it to an extent. However, no doubt, Marriott is the most shady about it (the average booker will not know to look at these additional charges hidden low in the summary) and they have the highest percentage of hotels charging them. As well, they fail to recognize their top spenders, like Hyatt does, in waiving them (and why I never worry and will always lean Hyatt).

  18. @ Gary — I stopped doing business with Marriott years ago, and it is definitely my best travel decision EVER. Second best decison is to be loyal to Hyatt, the only hotel company left that you can trust.

  19. @Gene — lolwut.

    HYATT
    HILTON
    MARRIOTT

    all FOR PROFIT companies last time I checked.

    Loyalty and profit don’t belong in the same sentence.

    My bawls.

  20. GLN2LW, as classy a dame and as intellectual as you must be, I must disagree.

    Loyalty and profit DO belong in the same sentence. It costs about one-fourth the amount of money to maintain an existing customer as it does to obtain a new customer. Business owners understand this.

    If you go to a restaurant and you receive good service, you want to go back. If you go to a restaurant and you receive poor service, you don’t. Great service at certain hotels led my wife and I to become regulars. And, after becoming regulars, these hotels (without loyalty programs) heap perks on us — more so than benefits one could imagine at the “usual suspects.”

    The problem is that most properties are institutionally owned and the portfolio managers are compensated based on THIS quarter’s net income. Rather than focus on the long game, they focus on the short game.

    ==========

    Don at ATL, they lie. And, when they’re caught, they make up a reason (another lie). As an Ambassador, I had been told point blank “We’re simply not going to upgrade you to a suite” but they were happy to do a PAID upgrade. It is what it is . . . and the people at Marriott corporate know exactly what’s going on.

    As I’ve said before, Bill Marriott has left a shameful legacy.

  21. GLN2LW,

    Perhaps FNT Delta Diamond has Donald Trump envy. From there, you can guess what FNT DD’s idol thinks of his choice of women who settle for him.

  22. Some people must live pretty sad lives if they need to come on a travel blog and post insulting comments rather than engage in useful discussion. What parents must you both have had?

  23. If I could give up on Marriott, I would…

    I am Platinum Elite and re-qualified for that for 2022, as well as being Lifetime Gold (mostly through my SPG stays over the years), but at 68 it will be difficult to qualify for Lifetime Platinum (I’ll need three more years of Platinum and 250+ more nights). Plus, it’s going to be equally difficult to qualify for (e.g.) Globalist status with Hyatt…I just don’t travel as much as I used to now that I’m retired, and that’s just the way it is.

  24. In 2019, I picked up the Amex Bonvoy card thinking I would move all of my travel spend to Marriot. All it took was 1 trip to Hawaii to realize the Bonvoy program, and really all of Marriott was a joke and a shell of what I had heard. Inconsistent service, half met promises of room upgrades, resort charges even though many of the property services weren’t available…. Lots of excuses from the property and from Marriott but no one stepped in to resolve. I cancelled the Amex earlier this year and have returned to Hilton and Hyatt.

  25. This is real simple kids: If everybody just goes on TripAdvisor And gives a one star rating to any hotel the charge is a resort fee and mentions that that’s the reason, then this sleazy practice will end real fast.

  26. Another perfect example of excessive industry concentration – just as the airline industry was in the pre-Covid19 pandemic “before times.”

    I just love oligopolies – said by **no one** except the sleazy & shady oligopolists & their useful idiots/fawning shills/corrupt politicians as they laugh all the way to the bank.

  27. I LOVE FEES!!!
    Everyone: Thanksgiving is at Gary’s. Just show up . He’s catering for 1000’s

  28. @Jeff, @You Went from my non-existent upgrade (they lied to me and made up new rules @Reno Joe) at the Marriott Sheraton Carlton in Nuremberg, to the Munich City Hilton where I’m Diamond and was treated like royalty. Upgraded to an Executive 1 Bedroom King Suite with a smile – just like the Hilton guidelines say it should be. I’ve noticed however, that Hilton internationally treats us (Diamonds) like royalty, whereas Hilton within the United States pulls the same stunts Marriott does (lies and makes up rules to deny upgrades).

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