Marriott’s Deceptive Resort Fee Game: How Points Stays Hide the Truth

Marriott doesn’t appear to be complying with its legal settlement on resort fees. Depending on the property, they still show up as part of taxes which is deceptive. And while Marriott now supposedly lets you include resort fees as part of the total price shown on its website at first display, they are doing this only for paid rates and not for award nights (where they are even more deceptive).

  • Resort fees are meant to be deceptive. Hotels display one price, but charge guests another higher price each night of their stay.

  • They’re generally disclosed prior to booking, but make comparison shopping difficult. You see prices that do not include resort fees when searching for hotels at places like Expedia and You need to click through each one to find their resort fee, do the math, go back out and compare in your own spreadsheet.

Marriott led the industry, consistent with its Pennsylvania resort fee settlement, in showing full pricing on its website when guests book stays. That actually makes Marriott hotels which charge resort fees or destination fees appear cheaper on third party sites, since those sites usually only show guests part of their rate.

But this improvement in transparency is true for paid stays only. While Marriott has agreed to show full pricing up front, it does not do so for award stays.

You have to click through three pages before seeing that there’s a resort fee that applies in addition to points. In fact, because the website is set up to describe the resort fee as being included in the rate, will:

  • Show you a points price
  • Say that the price shown includes all fees
  • Even though it doesn’t – click through later and find they were misleading you, that there is a resort fee.

Here’s the Sheraton in San Juan, with a points price of 35,000 points per night and no resort fee shown.

When you click through they disclose that there’s $50 in “taxes and fees.”

In contrast, on a paid night, they show a $45 resort fee right up front.

And on a paid night, they’ll even show what the resort fee includes.

This hotel also plays games on paid nights showing the resort fee in with taxes, claiming a $318 room rate includes the resort fee when it doesn’t.

I’ve written in the past about the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort showing up with a points price only, saying that that’s the full price, even when there’s a $99 plus tax resort fee charged each night at this hotel.

And I’ve written about the Sheraton San Juan in the past, five months ago, and nothing has been done to correct this issue even though Marriott is aware of it.

Notably, Marriott bills guests for ‘free’ redemption stays, since Bonvoy points do not cover resort or destination fees. They are unique, compared to Hilton and Hyatt, in sticking Bonvoy members with a cash co-pay on many stays for redeeming their points.

Marriott agreed that,

  • All rate displays have to include total price and it has to be the most prominently displayed price.
  • Rate displays sorted by price have to be sorted by total price inclusive of all costs
  • Resort and destination fees cannot be lumped in with taxes in any display
  • Prior to completing a booking Marriott has to display what’s provided by the property in exchange for the mandatory fee.

When I search paid stays on the Marriott website, I now see details of what is included in a hotel’s resort fee. However what’s included for resort fees is still not disclosed for award nights.

Marriott does not appear to be compliant with its legal settlements, and since they are falsely telling guests who book redemption stays that the resort fee is included in the points price at first instance, prior to disclosing a fee, that price should be honored – guests who are paying resort fees where this disclosure is made should seek a refund… and, frankly, a initiate a class action.

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, 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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  1. All of the chain hotels in Puerto Rico are shady.

    They are notorious for charging a resort fee as a percentage of the room rate, meaning someone staying at the same hotel in the same category of rooms using the same amenities and services will pay a different amount for the resort fee based on whatever rate they booked.

    Some of the hotels in Puerto Rico also appear to charge different amounts of tax, which makes no sense whatsoever.

    On the whole, I find the quality of the offerings across all hotels in Puerto Rico to be very poor for the price charged. You can get better hotels with better service for less money in the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

  2. What a rant. I’m willing to bet the agreement with Marriott didn’t include free nights booked with points. If that is the case they are compliant. All about the exact terms of the settlement agreement which I seriously doubt you have seen but that doesn’t stop you from ranting.

    How about finding something interesting regarding travel instead of continuing to bring up your pet peeves. It really gets old and frankly most of us don’t care!

  3. Here is another misleading program, being Lifetime Titanium and Amex Marriott Bonvoy card holder, I get the 5 free upgrades, i just used two of them for next trip to Marriott Minnaloplis this week, they ding my credit card for 1.10 twice when I called it was the fee the Hotel charges for using your free upgrade!!!!
    they continue to take the fun out of traveling for sure.

  4. Good point, @FNT Delta Diamond!

    Recently booked a redemption stay at the Marriott Stelaris in San Juan. Once I saw the resort fees as a percentage of the retail rate for the room, I cancelled. Did more research on Marriott redemption and prices at other chains and eventually changed our vacation to the Dominican Republic.

    Resort fees are deceptive and despicable, yet they seem to be spreading like weeds.

  5. Had to decide this year whether to get rid of Bonvoy Brilliant or Hilton Aspire AMEX in an effort to simplify my finances. Kept the Hilton for the better free night cert, more consistently applied benefits, and no resort fees on redemptions.

  6. I recently had a few San Juan Marriott stays. One of the stay Folios included a small “charitable donation’ . Not sure what charity as I was never asked.

  7. I booked the Tryst in San Juan last year using the Citi Prestige’s free 4th night. The Citi advisor said there would be no additional fees. The hotel initially confirmed the same and then wrote back eight hours later to say I would owe an additional $126.44 in destination fees and tax on arrival.

    I canceled the booking and found one of the few honest places in the city. I will never pay a resort or destination fee except for otherwise free rooms (such as comp rooms at casinos). There are enough places to go in the world.

  8. @AC I must have missed the election where we chose you as spokesman.

    You speak for yourself, not for “most of us”. Don’t be an arrogant jerk.

  9. @AC – “I’m willing to bet the agreement with Marriott didn’t include free nights booked with points”

    The agreement did not draw any such distinction.

  10. @AC

    The agreement is online. It was published in full here and elsewhere.

    Marriott agreed to display final pricing information and fully display resort fees for all bookings through Marriott channels.

  11. Gary,

    Did you send this post to the Attorney Generals of Texas and Pennsylvania, who lead the Marriott deceptive drip pricing settlements and, as public servants, are held to enforcing them?

    Google “Pax­ton Secures Agree­ment with Mar­riott to End Hid­den Hotel Fees and Ensure Transparency” and “AG MICHELLE HENRY HOLDS MARRIOTT HOTELS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE FAILURE TO ADHERE TO SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT TO INFORM CONSUMERS OF “HIDDEN” RESORT FEES” (this website doesn’t like links in comments)

  12. @AC — most of us are fed up with these despicable drip pricing practices that drive inflation and waste our time. Surveys backs this up – Americans hate junk fees and want them gone (96% according to Consumer Reports).

    We really glad that Gary publicizes errant behavior, and hope he reports it to the Attorney Generals for enforcement.

    @Gary — thanks!

  13. This just happened to me THIS WEEK At Courtyard Marriott in Aruba! Infuriating to say the least. I’m Titanium too. Doesn’t matter. Marriott!!! Do better!

  14. So start a new class action law suit..easy enough..many lawyers will take 30 percent fee for that.

  15. @AC Did you even read what the author wrote? The agreement is not being followed on paid bookings for some locations and clearly not on points bookings.

    Funny that of all the posts, this is the one you’re hanging your hat on. If there is anything we can all agree on is that hotel resort fees suck. This was a very informative article. It’s infuriating that unlike Hilton, Hyatt, or heck, even Wyndham at most properties, Mariott charges such fees with point redemptions. They must realize that this is devaluing their program. I consciously choose to earn points with other chains due to this reason.

  16. @AC – most of us completely appreciate Gary staying on top of these fee scams. Thank you Gary and keep up the great advocacy work on this topic that needs more scrutiny!!

  17. Señor Leff,

    Thanks for keeping your eye on the ball. These shady hotel practices need to be monitored and challenged in the interest of all consumers.

  18. Explain to be again why ANYBODY actually stays at a Marriott property? I have stayed at way better Hilton properties that don’t try to ding you for every fee possible. Of course, I am a discerning shopper and I read all of the fine print before I book and pay and I have a copy of the terms on my phone so if mystery charges show up, I can confront them about the charges. Not that I have ever had to since any such charges would be a violation of the terms. People just need to stop staying at these places. Marriott and Airbnb are two brands I refuse to do business with.

  19. @unionthat Let me explain.

    I stay at Marriott property whenever:
    1) it’s the one that clients pay for (mandated property with negotiated rate);
    2) it’s the only property near where I want to go;
    3) it’s the only one that is not sold out;
    4) I want to use my points from stays 1, 2, and 3 above or from the SPG conversion after Marriott bought out the far superior Starwood.

    And with Marriott being so much bigger than anyone else, it’s practically impossible to avoid (except if you are a retiree who can choose where to stay and don’t mind paying twice at a non-Marriott property nearby if that’s what the market offers).

  20. Just had a Marriott stay where the resort fee was:
    – not in the booking
    – not disclosed at check in.
    – not in the final bill at check out
    – charged separately to my credit card a week AFTER check out

    I had to call the hotel after seeing the charge to my credit card to ask them what it was… and had to get them to send me a bill so I could update my expense report. Even the agent I was talking to thought it was all a bit sleazy. This is after I had to have a parking charge removed at checkout… as I didn’t have a car and obviously never parked, but still had the parking charge added.

  21. IHG also charges ridiculous resort/destination/misc fees on award stays. That’s why I go out of my way to stay at Hyatt properties.

  22. @AC “It really gets old and frankly most of us don’t care!” Actually, it’s more than likely that most of us do care. By the way, do you live in Bethesda by any chance? Maybe someone from Marriott HQ with Anthony Capuano [AC] connections?!

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