This Hilton Hotel Is Scamming Guests With Extra Fees, And It’s Fraud

The Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain is charging guests a surcharge to pay by credit card, and appears to be calling it a tax. Hilton has a brand standard against this. Imposing this fee on the standard method of payment is drip pricing. And mislabeling it a tax is fraud. Surely American Express won’t be pleased, either, to learn a Hilton is charging their cardmembers extra to pay with a Hilton co-brand.

Yet The Points Guy defends the practice saying “It’s perfectly understandable that struggling businesses feel the need to pass on additional costs that they are also faced with” and suggests merely that it might be counterproductive, and “hurt sales and leave a bad impression on consumers” .. gobsmacked.

It’s perfectly understandable that struggling businesses feel the need to pass on additional costs that they are also faced with. But at the same time, these questionable surcharges can also hurt sales and leave a bad impression on consumers like Wallace and Burgin.

Six weeks ago Hilton told me, “we have brand standards that do not permit hotels to charge credit card surcharges to customers.” There are exceptions granted, for instance where such fees are common in the market like in parts of Asia Pacific. There’s no doubt this is a rogue property, implementing this scam poorly. It’s both a class action lawsuit and government investigation waiting to happen.

I’m vexxed though by TPG imploring readers to feel badly for this ‘struggling business’ which needs to recoup its costs. That’s called the room rate.

  • Who is this business we’re supposed to feel badly for? The property is owned by DiamondRock Hospitality which acquired it from Blackstone in 2012. DiamondRock is a REIT with 30 properties and over 9600 rooms. They’ve engaged in over $3 billion worth of transactions since 2010.

  • The surcharge comes as a surprise to customers and is even worse than a resort fee since they don’t even pretend to offer customers anything in exchange.

  • Credit cards aren’t even more expensive for many businesses to accept than cash. When a guest pays by credit card the hotel doesn’t risk making incorrect change, doesn’t have to store cash at the front desk, doesn’t risk employee theft, and doesn’t have to deal with depositing large sums of cash at the bank. Plus by taking the credit card up front the hotel is assured of payment while cash guests might not pay at all.

This is a scam on the part of the hotel, and a poorly executed one at that. This isn’t a case of ‘on the one hand, on the other hand’ as TPG which first reported the practice at this hotel appears to suggest.

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. You might want to look at the FT thread about it – apparently there are reports (post 13) that you aren’t even allowed to pay with cash. They force you to use a CC and charge you 2% to do so.

  2. a) Who ever pays cash at a property? The minority of guests.
    b) Look at Sweden a country where cash is almost gone from day to day life and hotels clearly state they will not accept it. And somehow they survive too.
    c) Surprise extra charges at check-out are at the very least shady.
    d) Selling a made up surchage as tax is fraud
    If the hotel feels it needs to raise more money > raise the rate! Or if you want to be shady but legal invent a resort fee 🙁

  3. If it is clear that they are charging for the credit card costs, it is a breach of Florida law.

  4. I find it pathetic both that the hotel is trying to scam guests with this fee and that TPG tries to justify it…that seems to be a new low even for them.

  5. @ZippyPam, that would be really useful, once Burlington relocates from Vermont to Florida.

  6. You just raise your voice a bit at check out and they will take it off
    If they don’t just call the CC company and dispute it
    You fight this BS on principle

  7. TPG plays this game for the money. You think he’ll speak out against Hilton? Muted diplomacy is the best he’ll offer.

  8. Vermont law allows businesses to offer a discount to customers who pay cash but it doesn’t permit charging a fee to use a credit card, especially in a situation where cash is not accepted. Customers should file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Unit of the Vermont Attorney General’s Office: https://ago.vermont.gov/cap/consumer-complaint/

  9. Gary (and others) – I don’t like this either but, as the TPG article stated, there are only 4 states where this is illegal. Bad business practice IMHO but they can do it.

    Also from the stories posted on TPG disputing at checkout did not always get it reversed. Neither did a dispute w a credit card company since it was a legal charge associated w a stay. My only question is if it shows under the link to display room rates w all taxes and fees.

    Also very small charges $1.99 was highest so frankly much ado about nothing. TPG article also questioned if this was a coming trend that will spread.

  10. TPG hasn’t been a credible source of travel news and advice for several years. I unsubscribed, as should others. Shame of it is, they do have some really good writers, too bad their management is such a bunch of palookas.

  11. Anyone who is not upset about a hotel ripping off guest (no matter how small the fee) with this garbage is either an employee or receiving some form of compensation from said corporation.

  12. Guess who owns the Westin Ft. Lauderdale as well. Different operating company but the same ownership. Looks like the HEI guy might just be an idiot, not the scammer we originally thought.

  13. Even restaurants are SURCHARGING for credit cards–crazy and for other things like employees health insurance etc!!!

  14. TPG has no creditability and is a tool at best. I come to your site because I refuse to give him even one click. Please don’t ever mention him again!

  15. Wow! These extra fees sure are getting out of control. Has Hilton issued any type of statement on this? I know Hyatt was quick to respond to the electricity surcharge at the IL hotel that came under scrutiny recently.

  16. For years now many Airlines have been describing their airport pax landing fees as “Taxes” within their taxes & charges add-on section. In multiple airports there is no such thing as a Federal or State tax charge for passengers to land or depart the facility. These so-called airport taxes are nothing more than operating costs yet for some reason often described as Taxes or similar. It’s a simple ruse to mis-categorise such charges so Consumers think they are obligatory.

  17. TPG has zero soul and won’t dare say anything negative to any travel firm that pays them. I stopped reading that tainted site long ago and do not consider them to be a credible source for anything travel-related.

  18. I like how you spent more time trying to start a petty travel blogger war than on details about the surcharge. This is a travel blog, not blog about travel bloggers, right?

    You say “The Points Guy defends”, referencing the site, yet you don’t name the author. Someone who you seem to be pals with. So you want to trash a competing site without burning a bridge with someone who you’re friendly with?

    The more you read TPG to use as fodder for your posts, which you then link back to them, you’re just making it worse. Readers click through to them. Google sees you link to them. TPG gets more traffic and more ad revenue.

  19. @HADLEY V. BAXENDALE – that hotel has ceased charging these fees and Marriott has clarified that the fees are not permitted in the US and Canada

  20. My family and I stayed at the Hilton Burlington Vermont last month for 5 nights. Sure enough we were hit with a “Credit card surcharge tax” every day; on the room and on the $16 daily parking. I wasn’t even aware of this until my wife came across the article.

    I took a look at my statement and there they were. I understand if smaller mom & pop stores charging this but at least they make you know about it up front. I am totally cool with this. But this is Hilton and the 5 night stay was over $1,000!

    The total surcharges amounted to slightly over $20. Can I afford that? Sure, but it’s not about the $20+ but the principle. They don’t even warn you know up front. SNEAKY!!!

    So I called up Hilton Honors and filed a complaint. They said it was corporate policy to not charge for using a credit card so no surcharge should be on the statement. I even told them I used a Hilton Amex to pay for the stay and that’s how you treat your customers?

    They said they were going to contact the hotel. I was preparing for a battle especially since an early poster said he had a long unpleasant phone call with the hotel.

    They said to call them again in 3 days if I don’t hear anything. On the 3rd day I was about to call them to find out the status but at the last minute I decided to check my credit card. Low and behold $20+ credit on my statement! No additional phone calls, no resistance, no argument.

    I wonder how many they scammed for those that didn’t notice? I almost didn’t.

  21. This situation just happened to me for the first time in Henderson, NV. While it may only be illegal in four states, it’s a scumbag move! Drip pricing is a form of theft. Theft by deception. I was told by the gracious reception assistant, I would receive my $100 “deposit” in full. An absolute lie. I went with this property because I thought they had class, and I was wrong.

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