More Hotels Charging Hidden Fees, And The Big Chains Aren’t Stopping Them

Last week I learned that the Hilton Garden Inn Corpus Christi charges an undisclosed, mandatory “Parking Recapture Fee.” A call to the hotel explained that this is a mandatory charge for maintenance of their parking lot, though it wasn’t disclosed during the booking process.

Hilton now tells me they’re addressing the parking lot maintenance fee with the specific hotel property,

Hilton properties must adhere to brand standards pertaining to fees charged to the customer and clearly disclose any charges to a customer before being incurred. In all cases, when charging such fees, Hilton hotels must comply with state and local laws. We are reviewing this specific instance with the independently owned and operated hotel.

Since I wrote about “parking recapture fees” readers have been sharing other hotels that do this. One sent me a folio from the Hilton Garden Inn Orlando at SeaWorld with a $2.13 charge. Another sent me a folio from Hampton Inn Philadelphia/King Of Prussia (Valley Forge) showing a $3.87 parking recapture fee.

All 3 examples are part of the same chain. They appear to have been charging this for some time. The problem here is multi-faceted.

  • Drip pricing. Fees added on, on top of the room rate.
  • Often not disclosed to the guest prior to booking.
  • It is both deceptive and makes it difficult to compare actual pricing between hotels up front.
  • Degrades the brand, and trust in the brand, but hotel chains do not seem to proactively address it.

When I raise an embarrassing charge to a chain, they’ll generally address it with the hotel. When it’s a charge for paying by credit card, even the chain’s own co-brand card, that’s a big issue for their bank partner. When it’s an undisclosed fee, that’s legal exposure.

In a world where hotel chains no longer own the hotels, and often don’t even operate them, all they’re doing to add value is rent out use of their name and deliver customers who trust the brand to these hotels (“leads” as one hotel owner calls them).

Yet they aren’t proactively policing use of the brand. Hotels take advantage of the customers they’re being sent. And eventually, slowly and then all at once, trust in the brand disappears. These mega-chains who don’t want to do anything to risk their short-term revenue by angering hotel owners will lose their long-term revenue by undermining their brand.

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. I just stayed at a Courtyard in Larkspur, CA who added parking a $10 parking fee without disclosing it.

    “Do you have a car with us today? Ok here’s your permit for your dashboard.”

    Never said anything about a fee. This hotel has never charged for parking before and it’s a suburban setting that has plenty of space. It’s very unusual and I felt it was sneaky and unnecessary.

  2. I had the same “parking recapture fee” charged to me by the Residence Inn in the middle of nowhere, Abiline, Texas. They never even asked me if I was parking a car.

  3. Total rip-off for sure. For example, a recent trip to Puerto Rico to get on a cruise, we arrived a day early and booked a hotel. We arrived on a Saturday evening, after 11 PM. The hotel charged us a $12 per day fee for a manager’s reception (wine, beer, snacks-from 5-7 pm Monday-Friday) and for use of their pool (pool closes at 10 pm). I argued that we could not make use of any of those items and refused to pay. I argued for 20 minutes that I should NOT be charged for something I never received, arriving AFTER the items were available for me to use. It was still added to the bill.

  4. @Don
    File a dispute with the credit card company, or if you want to go even further: file a case with small claims court.

  5. The Renaissance Carambola in St. Croix was charging an $8 per night resort fee. Not disclosed or even calculated during the booking process, confirmation process, or even on their website. When I complained they refused to remove it. The GM refused to come out to talk to me. I threatened to dispute it with my credit card and signed the credit card slip as “under protest”. After several communications with them and reaching out to Marriott they finally relented and refunded my credit card. They are probably still doing it since most people don’t even flinch about it.

  6. @Don Smith – the hotel needs a name and location.

    General comment – new parking fees proliferated before and during the panedemic, even for fairly suburban hotels. Not always hidden ‘recapture’ fees, but basic parking fees that are typically disclosed SOMEWHERE on the site, but not in the booking process.. I’ve since learned where to find parking fees – if any – on the Marriott app.

    I’ve also seen parking fees go up dramatically during the pandemic – such as an Indy Hilton brand that nearly doubled to the last mid-$30’s around 2021, and even new parking charges at some of the rundown shitbox ‘brand’ hotels in vicinity of IND airport.

  7. “parking recapture fee” Gotta love that one! Is that to repaint the parking space striping / lines? !
    Maybe next they can try a ‘hotel air recapture fee’ for breathing the air in the hotel !

  8. Hampton Berlin East Side Gallery charges taxes when you are checked in. Not disclosed when booking and paying in advance. I disputed a couple times and the hotel refused to remove it. Hilton brand finally offered me some points. A couple other service problems at that hotel, so I won’t stay there again.

  9. I guess I’m the exception but frankly don’t care about minor nickel and dime charges. Doesn’t materially impact the overall cost and I wouldn’t be staying there if I couldn’t afford it. $5-$10 a night is nothing to get all worked up over. Surely you people have more important issues to deal with (you too Gary).

    BTW @Ed you can’t file a dispute with a credit card company for something you agreed to pay (and apparently the person did pay the bill with the charges). The time to dispute with hotel is before they are added to the bill. People seem to think credit card companies are their agent to deal with these issues and that simply isn’t the case. Disputes are (a) for the entire billed amount and (b) have to be something like fraud, double billing or for a service that was totally not provided. In this case the hotel will dispute the chargeback as a fee the customer apparently agreed to pay and nothing else will happen. Also there have been cases of people filing disputes that are then put on the airline or hotel companies (don’t fly/stay list) and in extreme cases have had their frequent traveler accounts revoked (and lost all miles/points in them). Not something to be done except as a very last resort in extreme cases.

  10. @Danny

    I don’t care if there is a large banner at the entrance of the hotel that says parking is $10. If you’re a low-density suburban area hotel where the lot is ungated and there are ample spots, you should not be charging for parking, except in special cases like park-and-fly.

    “Do you have a car with us today?” How else do you think I got here?

    PRO TIP: JUST SAY NO. Short staffed hotels are not going around checking cars for permits. Hotels that actually check will merely slap a warning letter on your car instead of actually towing it.

  11. 1) re: the “Parking Lot Recapture Fee” itself, I had no idea the parking lot had escaped in the first place!

    2) @AC, is a “Parking Lot Recapture Fee” going to break the bank? No. Of course not. And to the occasional hotel guest, it will probably go unnoticed (which is exactly what they are hoping for). Will the occasional guest even notice the extra $10? Probably not. Will the extra fee per stay help the hotel’s bottom line? Absolutely. However, all this MISSES THE POINT. The post is “hidden.” It is a hidden, unexpected, and unexplained fee — hidden until (typically) *after* the credit card has been charged. We can complain all we want about the $45/day resort fee the hotel in Las Vegas charges, but we all know it’s coming. And therein lies the difference.

  12. @Ed: Credit card issuing banks place their big client accounts as their top priority so we have no case against big companies. Small Claims courts require to jump thru many hoops. Serving a big company is a more complicated process than serving an individual. Then you visit the courthouse multiple times to file the case correctly, show up and wait for a day or two depends on its calendar, then collect the judgment. Big companies are willing to send their lawyers to defend their case against you than pay out the amount that you are seeking for. It is definitely not worth your time and effort. Just brings more unnecessary aggravation and stress to your life.
    @AC: Imagine the amount of extra fees big hotels collect in a year from tens/ hundreds of thousands of guests. It is not worth your time to fight back but if 95% of us and people we know refuse to stay there, it will make a dent on their bottom line. It is also worth bringing it to the attention of readers so we all make an informed choice.

  13. It’s only natural for drip pricing to take place in markets that are unregulated, i.e. not free. That’s why we have regulations and enforcers. Trump gutted them, so here we are (you never saw anything like this before 2016).

  14. Sounds like the mandatory employee fees of 4-6% being added to restaurant bills in many large cities and Blue states(Colorado and Calif) which is taxed and then they want a 22 % tip!! Over the top and nuts…

  15. @dee —> 22% is YOUR choice.

    Some people tip based upon the pre-tax total (i.e.: food + drink ONLY); some tip based upon the net-net total (including any and all taxes and surcharges). The choice is yours…

    There is an obvious difference, of course, between a surcharge that (in many cases) guarantees health insurance for restaurant workers, and a hidden fee that goes directly to the hotel’s bottom line, but…

  16. @Jake – you can blame Trump for a lot but not this. Hotel fees have NEVER been regulated and I assure you, as someone that has traveled extensively for business since the 80s, that add on fees have always been an issue.

  17. @AC Just to correct something: you can most definitely dispute a partial charge. For example, I have had no problems disputing the dcc fee when I have a receipt proving that I requested local currency. Another time, a server fat-fingered a tip amount and the restaurant refused to correct it. Finally, a hotel charged parking on the folio when I had no car, promised to remove the fees, but later refused.

  18. I used points to book at the Hampton Mesa Airport, when I checked in there was no mention of a parking fee. However, in the hotel reviews many guests did complain so I was suspicious, but using points I thought I would not be charged. Wrong, next day I had a $15 parking charge, not a controlled lot, numerous parking spaces, only reason was a blatantly rip off its guests, just greed nothing more . I complained to Marriott and they were aware but said nothing they could do.
    Finally gave up and will use the competitor hotel a block away, also a Marriott.

  19. This happened to me at a Home2 Suites by Hilton in Summerville SC. Their website as of 8/31 for that location still said Self-Parking $10.00 so I was able to call the hotel and have them remove the $4.26 Parking Recapture Fee. The lady I spoke with acknowledged the website was incorrect but said that this was a one-time deal and to just be aware that in the future they will charge the fee.

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