This $99 Per Night Resort Fee Is Marriott Bonvoy’s “Loyalty Tax”

Resort fees are fraud. You’re charged money to stay at a hotel. It isn’t optional. In other words, it is part of the room rate. But the hotel splits out part of the rate to make the hotel look less expensive.

Even where it’s disclosed to the consumer before confirming the reservation – the resort fee might not be a surprise – it still makes it tougher to compare rates. And in many jurisdictions drip pricing is illegal.

Washington D.C. is suing Marriott for the practice, and Marriott is going to the mattresses. They’re willing to go to trial, and D.C. is looking for consumers as witnesses – deadline today.

It was bad enough when resort fees were, say, $29 a night. But @bostonjimmy_ points out that the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort charges a $99 per night resort fee. This has recently increased from $75 per night.

That’s not as bad as it gets. The Ritz-Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach charges a $125 per night resort fee.

  • The resort fee pricing is actually higher than advertised, since you add tax onto it too. (For these properties, add 9%.)

  • Marriott charges resort fees on supposedly free nights. When you use your points you still have a cash co-pay or ‘loyalty tax.’ Neither Hilton nor Hyatt does this.

  • But Ritz-Carlton ‘Reserve’ properties are a carveout where you aren’t allowed to spend points at all.

At the Dorado Beach Ritz you’re going to pay over $136 per night for the resort fee (with taxes) in addition to the room rate, or in addition to your points cost. But since you aren’t allowed to spend points there, Marriott saves you from paying $136 per night on top of your points for a free room.

Spending $107 ($99+tax) for the privilege of using your points at St. Regis Bahia Mar, though, is the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty tax.

The hotel chain’s former CEO says resort fees are good for you, they add so much value of course that consumers can’t be given the option to purchase the add-ons, the charges have to be made mandatory yet hidden outside the room rate.

And most Bonvoy members don’t learn there’s a fee to redeem their points until they’ve stayed with the chain, spent time in the program, and accumulated enough points to be ready to redeem.

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 somewhat understand a hotel in Las Vegas charging a low nightly rate to stay competitive and then tossing on a fee for amenities. I don’t agree with it but I understand it. What gets me are high-end resorts that nickle and dime guests. I mean, really? The St. Regis? Just add $100 to the rates. Seriously. It’s not like their guests are price sensitive and considering the Courtyard in San Juan as an alternative.

  2. And this is why that after 20 years of loyalty and over 1500 nights with Lifetime Titanium membership, I am focusing my loyalty on Hyatt going forward. Marriott will still be there when I want it or need it… but I used to have Marriott primary, Hyatt secondary… and am now flipping that. I am using Chase UR points to fund my Hyatt award nights until I have some earned from regular travel.

  3. Consumers have been the reason properties started and continued resort/hotel fees. Almost 50% of consumers book their stay through 3rd party consolidators and that 3rd party takes up to 30% of the hotel stay charge. To make up for that the property adds on the fee which the consolidator DOESN’T get. Unfortunately, everyone pays the fee. I wish the properties would give the people who book through them a break but that would probably be called discriminatory.

  4. Beyond the government stipulating that any mandatory fees must be displayed in the room rate, I think an interim fix (at least in leisure areas) would be to get travel writers to start saying things are not included in the room rate if it is in the resort fee. From what I see on their Expedia listing (the hotel doesn’t publish a list of resort fee benefits anywhere online as far as I can tell), the list is:

    “Pool access, Beach access, Beach loungers, Beach towels, Health club access, Fitness center access, Sporting facilities or equipment, Children’s club/arcade access, Internet access, In-room safe, Housekeeping”

    Travel writers should start including notes that “It did feel a bit nickel-and-dimed. Despite being a 5 star resort, the $xxx room rate does not include pool or beach access, loungers, beach towels, gym access, wifi, a safe, or even housekeeping!”

  5. It’s a bogus money grab. They don’t have up front pricing, and they do it with the intention to deceive potential customers, as well as keep more money to themselves vs a 3d party booking agent.

    Also, charging resort fees on a redemption is also just pure greed.

    However, the bottom line is that customers are the losers. Don’t stay with Marriott brands that charge a resort fee, or better yet, don’t stay at any Marriott property.

  6. @Gregory hotels can give low cost, high value amenities for direct booking such as late checkout or discount on spa treatments but they’re not discriminatory. Hotels just decide they don’t want to piss off their travel partners.

  7. I have a 7 night travel certificate, 10 free nights and 400,000+ points with Marriott to burn and then I’m finished with them. I worked hard to achieve platinum status and never get an upgrade. I fight for every benefit of the status I achieved and I’m exhausted. There are other loyalty programs that actually appreciate your loyalty (Hyatt).

  8. I’m new to Marriott’s rewards program, and after reading this, it will be a short stay. I’ll be sure to burn through my points at properties that don’t charge resort fees and then return my business to Hilton and Hyatt.

    This resort fee nonsense has become similar to how hotels charge for parking… Hiding the fee in small font at the bottom of the page. I’m looking at you, Bally’s.

  9. If this fee relates to loyalty, then eliminate the fees for elite members. My wife and I travel six months a year and have found it not to be difficult locating suitable properties without these fees. The parking fee irks me as well as a lifetime titanium. The good thing is that when there is no resort/loyalty fee, there is seldom a parking fee at the lower scale properties. I will stay at a no-fee Residence Inn instead of a JW to avoid these ridiculous fees. If we would all do this, fees might go away.

  10. Government regulation is the fix. Granted that doesn’t help foreign destinations, but such is life

  11. Great work Gary on continuing to report on outrageous resort fees! Hopefully, the court will rule in the Marriott case that such fees are a deceptive practice to defraud consumers. Then, other hotels will receive the message and eliminate this deceitful practice. I avoid hotels with resort fees!

  12. Gary’s intro is spot on – Resort Fees are fraud!
    Hotel rates should include all charges with prices transparent to the consumer. Resort fees are not optional and are just a way to hide true pricing, no matter what reason may be given. They are deceptive to consumers, are often only described in the fine print, and should not be used by any ethical hotelier.

  13. Your outrage might have some credibility if you didn’t HARD pimp Bonvoy’s shiny bits of plastic EVERY time they raise your compensation.

    I know. It’s ALL about the conversions. ALWAYS has been, ALWAYS will be…

  14. “Marriott charges resort fees on supposedly free nights. When you use your points you still have a cash co-pay or ‘loyalty tax.’ Neither Hilton nor Hyatt does this.”

    Not so. There are some Hilton properties that will ding you for an “Urban Destination Charge”, even on award stays. Doubletree Millenium Times Square and the Hilton Midtown for example.

  15. Gregory Johnson says: “Almost 50% of consumers book their stay through 3rd party consolidators and that 3rd party takes up to 30% of the hotel stay charge. To make up for that the property adds on the fee which the consolidator DOESN’T get.”

    I didn’t know that, and it should definitely figure into the conversation about these fees.

    Thinking out loud:

    1. Could Marriott omit the fees if you book directly? I wonder, but probably not, because their contract with the 3rd part agencies probably limits their ability to discount booking direct too much.

    2. Could Marriott leave the fees off award bookings? If Greg is right and it’s all about dealing with 3rd party sites, then maybe this is a feature of their contract as well? Maybe something in the contract limits their ability to charge resort fees unless they charge it to everyone?

  16. Resort fees are really a foolish thing to be upset about or focus on. At the end of the day, everyone will pay the same for the room if there were no resort fees as what they pay now. Only an ignoramus ignores the room rate details when making a booking. Everything is online now. There is no excuse. This lawsuit represents another example of how the legal industry and justice system (both civil and criminal) is corrupted.

    Some restaurants have cover charges which are shown at the bottom of the menu. Some restaurants automatically include gratuity on the bill and have a separate tip line like usual. I made the mistake at red lobster on 42nd and paid a lot more than I would have (gave 25% tip when I would have only given 10% extra since the gratuity was already included). I didn’t complain at home. I should have read the bill. That’s what adults do.

    Resort fees exist for a number of reasons. One is because some room rates are heavily discounted for whatever reason (special convention/government rate/special promotion) but these guests still have access to expensive amenities. Another is because some hotels charge resort fees for award stays. If rooms are vacant, it is not that much more costly to put guests in them. However, certain amenities offered are still costly.

    Resort fees are typical in beach destinations where extra staff and beach amenities have to be provided. The ritz Carlton in St. Thomas offers sailing lessons and kayak lessons included in the resort fee. The Stellaris in Aruba offers pallapas (if you arrive early and get the first come first serve tickets. You can also pay for a few days of guaranteed spots) included in the resort fee. Do some charge resort fees outside of beach areas, sure. D.C. is one. Read the room rate details.

    It hurts us in no way for all room rates to include all fees and no separate fees be allowed. That’s not the issue. The issue is a ridiculous lawsuit and government interfering in industries and businesses that will of course lead to bad things. Government does this now with a California locality or county banning stores from having gender specific toy sections (boy toys or girl toys). Government has made something that is a non issue into a major issue.

  17. Jackson’s comment is utter garbage and should be deleted.

    Obviously average total room rates would go down if resort fees were banned, that’s why Marriott is defending them so hard. The current scheme relies on deception to get people to pay more than they normally would, and no it’s not just ignoramuses getting stung. For example I booked a 7 night certificate at the Marriott Marquis in San Diego which required calling in… Phone rep never mentioned a resort fee. I assumed (incorrectly) it was waived on certs. Had to fight, but got it removed in the end.

    The point is that people do NOT currently pay the same resort fees/total rates and hotels have full discretion with waiving them or reducing them for those who complain, redeem points, or for elite members. If they were eliminated entirely, THEN you might say everyone is paying the same rate, and there wouldn’t be any nasty surprises leading to angry customers who will never stay at that property again. Hotels might even make up the difference simply by attracting customers back who previously were boycotting them because of their resort fee.

  18. The Obama administration mandated that airlines publish prices with all taxes and fees included. That was great.

    The Biden administration should mandate hotels publish prices with all taxes and fees included and so the same with rental cars.

    Marriott makes itself look worse and worse as time goes on. I am staying at Hilton, Accor, IHG and other chains more because of Marriott’s lies and deceit.

  19. The trend of unbundling continues to be defended on hotel fees, now with the argument “certain amenities are still costly”. That’s called a “cost of doing business”. If a property offer amenities that are “costly” to maintain, then you don’t get to look good by lowering your room rate for a convention and then adding a “resort fee” to make up the difference. Offer sailing and kayaking lessons, great value add. Don’t use that as an excuse to justify an $80-100/night fee that a small percentage of guests may use. Perhaps all prices should be reflected in this fashion. Next time you go to the grocery store, you’ll be charged for parking. Then you’ll be charged $2.00 for a shopping cart (regardless if you use one or not) then you’ll be charged a “deli sandwich fee” because the store offers a deli section. After, when you go to fill up your car the gas station will post $0.759 as the price per gallon, but then you’ll be charged a “pay at the pump fee”, then a “paper receipt fee” and an amenity fee because there’s a food mart and air pump. This type of unbundling is only to have an illusory low base price. We have laws and regulations to prevent illusory pricing. While I’m no fan of these class action lawsuits since it mostly is about attorney fees, something needs to be done about price unbundling which is all a resort fee is.

  20. Dave says: “Obviously average total room rates would go down if resort fees were banned, that’s why Marriott is defending them so hard.”

    I’m not so sure. If the reason for the fees is drip pricing, then yes, prices would probably go down.

    For example, I found a book on AbeBooks today $10 and then after I went to checkout it turned out the shipping was $12, so $22 in total. Re-searching I found another seller of the same book at a similar price with $3.99 shipping. Clearly the first person was just dripping in the total price of the book. (Avoid Abe Books for this and other reasons by the way). He would likely have shown a lower total price if Abe Books made him include shipping, or made him include any shipping above $3.99.

    On the other hand if Gregory Johnson is correct, and the sleight of hand is really just a way of routing say 1/3rd of the hotel bill around, and if really does charge 30% per booking, then rates might actually go up if the hotel were required to route 100% of the price through because right now they are collecting 77% of what you pay, and in that case they would only be collecting 70%.

  21. @bhcompy Most developed first world countries don’t allow this practice. Their governments already have intervened. This is largely an American phenomenon, also spotted in LATAM and Caribbean destinations with lots of American visitors.

    The practice isn’t allowed in Canada/EU/UK/Aus etc.

  22. I to, have always been a loyal Marriott member, but after my next couple already booked trips, I no longer wish to support their business. The resort fee’s are unfair, and even when you book with a third party, when you check in, they tell you they have to add it on, so it’s very misleading, and I think it’s fraud. I hope they lose in court badly. Greed

  23. Definition of Fraud: deception intended to result in financial gain
    By Definition, this is deception. You do not know of these charges until many cases it’s too late.

    Hotels can blame Consolidators, Credit Cards, and anyone else they choose. It does not change the definition.

    two words: Book elsewhere.

  24. I call ahead: “any resort fees or any other fees”? If yes, then I don’t book.
    Dave: proud member of the cancel culture. Burn those books, buddy!

  25. Lifetime Titanium here. These fees are clear fraud. It’s a clear and present attempt to deceive. How about a running water fee? A dog walking fee? Don’t use the service? Too bad! These fees are ridiculous and out of touch. We avoid these properties, but there are so many now… Just have the price be what it actually costs to stay. This is a clear area where legislation is apparently necessary to make companies do the right thing.

  26. I get OTC bookers being conned by Marriott. But I laugh at the Marriott loyals continuing to fall off the cliff like lemmings. No loyalty program despises their customers more.

  27. @FNT DELTA Diamond:

    How about the Ellis Island Super 8 Motel in Vegas, owned by Caesars, charging a resort fee?
    BTW I’m pretty sure their associated casino used to cheat at blackjack…prior to the Caesars purchase/ They NEVER changed the cards and I NEVER won counting ….and they would deal down to the last half deck of a six deck shoe.

  28. Marriott is the perfect example illustrating why being biggest does not equal being the best.

  29. Mandatory resort fees are deceptive and should probably be illegal. That said, I don’t like to get too sanctimonious about this. Because, let’s face it, when it comes to hotel loyalty programs, I’m trying to “game them” to get more value out of the programs than I deserve. I suspect many of you are doing the same. Marriott is a company that tries to game ME, so I simply avoid them except when I have no better choice. To me, it’s all business. I’m no holier than they are. End of today’s reality check.

  30. The other day I wrote a scenario of such charges at Starbucks.

    Imagine getting gasoline for your car, you pull in and are going to have new oil, fill your tires, put on new windshield wipers and charge $50 for this mandatory service.

    Perhaps you changed the oil last week, your tires don’t need to be filled and your wipers are fine. But the $50 is a mandatory fee.

    When I go to Marriott NYC, do I need laundry every day, do I need tickets to some event. We try to pay for what we need. Sometimes we splurge on something we might not need but for happiness.

    I don’t agree to this forced spending on something I don’t need, and or may not have the time during my trip to use.

    Factually speaking I believe this is undemocratic for a democracy. In some countries I visit, I would certainly say hands up and pay it (some travellers will know what I mean).

    But in a democratic country I believe this is an illegal practice. But is may depend on how much Marriott pays the lobbyist.

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