Ways Hotels Try To Bilk You For Extra Money

A hotel’s room rate is only the base price of your stay. The industry pulses with ways to stick you with a bevy of fees you may not see coming.

Writing at Wisebread, Kentin explains how to avoid letting hotels take you to the cleaners.

His advice:

*Ask if there is a fee to use the safe, and if there is and you don’t plan on using it, try to opt out of having to pay.

*Avoid the mini-bar, which is stocked with food and drinks that are marked up to laughable prices. Bring your own snacks and drinks to avoid the temptation.

*Remember that everything is negotiable. Unless you’ve prepaid for your entire visit, it’s worth asking the desk guy if there’s a better room rate available.

What are your secrets for cutting hotel costs?

How to avoid getting fleeced at hotels [WiseBread]


Edit Your Comment

  1. c!tizen says:

    “What are your secrets for cutting hotel costs?”

    -Sleep in the car
    -Hook up with a stranger in the bar
    -look for a MOTEL – that M saves cash if you’re not too squeamish.

    • Villnius says:

      The ‘H’ that you’re paying through the nose for also boosts your chances of getting bed bugs, since they get more international guests. A reviewer for the Toronto Star found that there was a higher incidence of bed bugs in the city’s snootier hotels than in the tourist hostels and “higher end” Motels like Motel 6.

      If you’re squeamish, your best bet is to stay home.

      • caj111 says:

        Wouldn’t there be a lot of foreign guests at the tourist hostels too? But I agree on the Motel 6 argument.

    • nealbscott says:

      Exactly how many female strangers are willing to hook up with me AND pay for for the room too?

  2. lonestarbl says:

    If you bring your own food or snacks… make sure the fridge doesn’t use a weight-balance system. If it does, avoid the fridge at all costs – simply picking up or moving around the items in the fridge could cause the hotel to charge you for items that have been “tampered with”

    • NightSteel says:

      I’ve heard that some hotels use an RFID system similarly.

    • Fjord says:

      Was charged €75 last month in Amsterdam Renaissance. Put my booze in the fridge without realizing every damn square inch is a sensor. Took a little bit of arguing but ended up not paying it. Didn’t consume any of their severely overpriced stuff.

    • Rena says:

      Sheesh you pay for a room and can’t even use the fridge, what a world…

  3. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    The house safe is for brandy and grandmother’s pearls. I’m afraid I need something more secure…

  4. pop top says:

    These tips are either common sense (Don’t use the mini-bar! Check out on time! Understand any fees you’ll be charged!) or have been repeated so many times for so many different situations that if you don’t know them by now you deserve to pay full price (Negotiate better rates!).

    • PKRipper11 says:

      There are new people coming into this world every second. Therefore there are new people becoming adults every second. New people becoming professionally employed every second. New people coming to this site, etc, etc. No harm in rehashing stuff most of us already know.

  5. Scurvythepirate says:

    *If you choose to take usage of the complimentary bedbugs you will be charged $25 a night. Each bite you receive is an extra $5.

  6. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    As soon as I check into a hotel with a mini-bar, I request that all items be cleared out of the refrigerator. If they ask me why, I simply say, “I don’t want it there.” I’ve never had a hotel give me any further attitude about it.

    • Sparty999 says:

      you probably have an inordinate number of pubes on your pillow…

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        All it takes is for them to send up the maintenance person with a box on a cart the first night. It doesn’t affect the maids at all.

      • mxjohnson says:

        It’s not asking too much to have them remove alcohol from your room. Really.

    • dorrdon says:

      I always say I need the fridge for my wife’s meds. Never a problem.
      (I carry her meds in a cooler with my beer.)

    • microcars says:

      now THAT’S a good tip

    • mxjohnson says:

      I’ve had hotels refuse to empty the minibar, because their minibars are operated not by the hotel, but by a third party. But I do try to ask, so there’s no chance of a dispute over the minibar.

      • BBBB says:

        A friend requested that the minibar be emptied (they had two small children staying with them and wanted the fridge for milk and because the children were too young understand the concept of the minibar). The hotel charged a fee to empty the minibar.

        • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

          I think you can politely request that the undisclosed fee (did they make it up on the spot?) be removed.

          If it was me, I’d inform the front desk that they had the choice of removing the items without a fee, or receiving a couple of shopping bags full of the contents of the minibar at the front desk in an hour, upon which we could go over the entire inventory together to make sure I didn’t use something I had to pay for.

          • BBBB says:

            Actually, they were informed of the fee when they made the request. [and they were reminded that Hotel policy was that if you take anything out of the fridge, you bought it (they had sensors in the fridge and the policy was in the check in paperwork.)]

    • lacabaleza says:

      I stayed at a hotel with an empty minibar recently. Great, I stopped at a store and bought some refrigerated items, popped them in. When I checked out, they tried to charge me for the minibar. Apparently, the minibars were equipped with weight sensors and every time I put something down / picked something up, it registered as me taking something.

      I won’t even begin to explain how ridiculous this system is (maybe i just want to look at something and decide not to eat it, you know, provided there was *actually food in there*). But given the thing was empty, I was flabbergasted they were even trying this on me. Then they told me that it was not cold enough to even use as a fridge. Then they said they were in the process of removing them from the rooms.

      Eventually, I got them to remove the charge, but it took a good 30 minutes at checkout. Others beware.

  7. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    If you prebook a hotel with certain concessions (corporate rate, free breakfast, free Internet, etc.). you MUST MUST MUST MUST verify, during check-in, that the concessions are marked on your account in the computer system. On my most recent business trip, I had to fight every morning with a waiter at breakfast who checked a list and told me I had to pay for breakfast. Off I would stomp to the front desk, who verified I had a special corporate deal. This happened for three days, then I complained to a higher-level manager, who was able to straighten things out.

  8. The cake is a lie! says:

    I always shop online for my hotel. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $80 bucks a night in any hotel I’ve stayed in outside of an all inclusive resort. I do my bargain hunting before I even get to the hotel so I don’t look so cheap when I’m haggling with the desk clerk.

  9. sufreak says:

    offer random people in the lobby to split the room cost to use their spare bed.

  10. SoFlaSnowMan says:

    Stay away from hotels which have mandatory “resort fees”.

    • Murph1908 says:

      This is the one I was looking for. I was charge a resort fee in Vegas during my last trip. I knew it was coming, and the overall rate was still good, but it still irritated me.

      The resort fee gave me free incomming faxes, free local calls, and access to the gym. All of which I did not need or plan to use. $11

  11. daemonaquila says:

    All that is a no-brainer. I’ve NEVER had a hotel try to charge me to use a safe – except when I have specially requested a safe or a safe deposit box when handling funds for an event, in which case it’s all good. I always book online for a set fee, and I keep a copy of the reservation or pre-pay receipt in case of questions. But seriously, I travel all over the country throughout the year and I have NEVER had a surprise addition to a hotel bill. I’m sure there are some crazy places, like “all inclusive” resorts that really aren’t so all-inclusive, but most hotels are not a problem.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      If you travel regularly and you have never had to make a correction to a hotel bill at check-out, that’s because you have not been looking.

      • hawguy says:

        I’ve found that leisure hotels are better with providing accurate bills than business hotels — the business hotels know that the hotel is being expensed so the traveler is less likely to notice a few extra fees.

        I can’t remember the last time I had an extra fee on my hotel bill when traveling for pleasure, but it seems like once every 5 or 6 business trips I notice either an incorrect rate or extra fee for something I didn’t use.

  12. knackeredmom says:

    My recent stay at a Marriott was happily free of “gotchas”. They offer separate keys to the minibar, so when you check in they ask if you would like the key. I was relieved of any worry that I’d be charged for the very expensive crap. (I double-checked the invoice too.)

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      And if you need to use the refrigerator? Bad solution.

      • hawguy says:

        Many hotels don’t advertise (or guarantee) an in-room refrigerator so they are well within their rights to lock the mini-bar fridge if you say you don’t want access to it.

        If I need to keep something cool in a room without a fridge, I just fill up the ice bucket with ice and stick the item in there and wrap the ice bucket with a towel for extra insulation — the ice stays frozen overnight and stays at refrigerator temperatures for 24 hours.

  13. Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:

    Don’t order the skin flicks. They’re expensive!

    Download them using free internet provided (where applicable) by the hotel.

  14. bluline says:

    Just wait until hotels go the route of the airlines and start charging extra to use the towels, the shower, the TV, the iron in the closet, etc.

  15. IThinkThereforeIAm says:

    I’d say the fees should be regulated (as in “truth in advertising” regulated).
    If it is optional (minibar, safe, etc.), it is a fee.
    If customer can NOT opt out of it, it is part of the price of the stay. And then be honest, and say that your $69 room is actually $99.

    • Rena says:

      I’d also want to see some dealing with fees that one can’t reasonably be opted out of. Yeah the room’s $69/night, but there’s a $20 fee for having a bed inside, $15 to have the toilet unlocked…

  16. IThinkThereforeIAm says:

    I’d say, we are (or more precisely the interwebz are) to blame.
    With so many demented search engines simply listing (and sorting by) the advertised “price”, businesses want to (need to?) provide a way to place themselves near the top of the list, so their marketing and legal departments came up with the idea of lowering prices without lowering income.

    Now, if search engines would smarten up (like many shopping-specific ones now use price + shipping as a search criteria), this could all go away.

  17. backinpgh says:

    If you are booking on Expedia, etc. make sure you are actually getting a deal on the hotel rate. I work in a hotel and many people are paying through Expedia or Travelocity and paying the exact same rate that we would have charged them. The downside? If you paid with Expedia or Travelocity and something goes wrong with your stay, you’re SOL when you come down to the front desk, whereas if you had booked directly you would have gotten free loyalty points, a rate reduction, free parking, etc. etc.

    In addition, if you are in town on business or visiting a particular business or attraction, there are often discounts available that only the specific hotel location will know about. We had a man in town who was visiting the local hospital and paid through Expedia. His rate was about $50 less than our rack rate. When he extended his stay, he found out the hard way that we have a rate arranged with the local hospital that is $100 less than our regular rate!

    Always make sure you are booking with the hotel’s in house reservations if possible; they know the most about their own hotel. Central reservations of my hotel chain are all idiots and screw things up all the time, telling people they are “near the airport” when their hotel is really half an hour away from the airport, etc.

    • bendee says:

      To add onto that, Expedia et al generally only show the BAR (Best Available Rate) and often the advance purchase rate. Most won’t show standard discounts such as AAA/AARP. Also, the loyalty points thing is huge, especially if one follows the promotions. Example: Priority Club (Holiday Inn/Crowne Plaza/Intercontinental/etc.) currently has one where you get a free night every two stays (up to five nights), even if the two stays are at the $60/night Holiday Inn Express in W. Bumblef*ck and the free night is in a downtown Intercontinental.

    • baquwards says:

      I find that orbitz, expedia, and travelocity don’t offer better rates than the hotel chain’s own website. I usually just book through the chain’s website, why put a middleman in there, makes no sense.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I like to look on Travelocity for an aggregate listing of hotels in the area, then I go DIRECTLY to the hotel website (or the main one if it’s a chain) and book that way. So far I’ve never had a problem and no weird charges either.

  18. backinpgh says:

    Another secret: if you book through Expedia, Travelocity, etc. and your hotel ends up being overbooked, YOU will be the first one to be bumped out to another hotel. However, our loyalty program members are NEVER sent to another location if at all possible.

  19. framitz says:

    The article is nothing more than common sense and a waste of space, but some of the comments have good ideas..

  20. faea says:

    From the hotel side the two things people often had disputes over the most. If it is not mentioned by the front desk agent you should ask about is breakfast and parking.

  21. denros says:

    Anyone ever try re-filling the little bottles in the mini-bar with water? I always wondered if that worked.

    • NatalieErin says:

      I’ve never stayed in a hotel with a mini-bar, but I always assumed the bottles were sealed in some manner.

  22. Buckus says:

    I make my own hotels at home…

  23. psm321 says:

    I’ve never actually seen a mini-bar in a hotel. I guess I don’t stay at classy enough hotels?

    • Kate says:

      I never have either, and I’ve stayed in some of the classier reno hotels.

      • KeithIrwin says:

        Hotels in casino towns are less likely to have a minibar. People usually use the minibar when the bars are closed to hard to get to. Hotels in casino towns usually have all night bars with slot machines and they’d rather you go to those.

        • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

          I think you’re right. When i think about hotels I’ve stayed in where they have minibars, it’s usually in places where public drinking is frowned upon, in dry counties, or in ultra-religious places. The Kempinsky hotel at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai had a full mini-bar, and so did the hotel I stayed in in Abu Dhabi, where there were at least ten other hotel bars or restaurants in immediate walking distance. Those would have been stocked during Ramadan, I feel sure. :) They were both five-star hotels, by the way. I stayed overnight in the equally high-rated Sofitel at Heathrow a couple weeks ago and was upgraded to a luxury room (“you’re the lucky guest whose name we drew”, hooray) and the room refrigerator was quite empty and ready for my bottled water. I’ve had to throw the minibar out of a mid-level Hilton in I-Forget-Where once, though. I think it just depends on the local culture and the hotel management.

  24. larrycl says:

    Um, this is newsworthy?

    So all this article tells us is 1) the cost of the hotel safe may be overpriced 2) The minibar is overpriced 3) room rates are negotiable

    The byline on this article could have been 20 years ago and it would have been the same. Please wake me when you have something interesting to report.

    • Dr.Wang says:

      there are newer readers and younger people that never stayed at a hotel or motel before and might not know these little money saving bits. I am older and have very very limited hotel/travel experience. So I am glad they are printing these stories.

  25. stevied says:

    Neogotiate for a better rate with the front desk.

    What a BS recommendation. You knew the rate when you booked the room. Knowing the rate, you still arrived at the destination. And you expect/think the hotel front desk is suddenly going to change the rate?

    Duh, you lost your bargaining chip.

    If you must negotiate then do so from a position of power… before you book the room.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      No, this is legit. I frequently travel on a negotiated corporate rate, and sometimes (usually due to the time of year) the “best available” rate for the room is cheaper. We are required by corporate policy to ask, actually. The desk clerks don’t mind, especially for a corporate client.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      “Do you have a lower rate?” “Sorry, no.”

      Takes 5 seconds. Might work someday. Worth your time.

  26. EverCynicalTHX says:

    While that article provided a lot of hidden tips most of us would never even think of,

    Here’s are a few more..

    – Don’t buy crap from the minibar, it’s overpriced.
    – Negotiate the best deal you can
    – If you want a king sized bed and order a double, ask if a king bed is available, it just might be,

    I have other tips but those are the bestus ones that most people would never think of.


  27. mxjohnson says:

    The most important thing you can do is get your itemized bill and go over it with a fine-toothed comb! Last week the Hyatt Regency at Mission Bay San Diego attempted to overcharge us more than $100 on checkout. Although our package included free parking, there was a $20 fee for one (and only) one of the days. Our package included complimentary breakfast, and that itself included drinks and the gratuity, but some days we were charged for the automatic gratuity, some days for the drinks. The restaurant receipts we had bore no resemblance to what showed up on the hotel bill, which made it all very puzzling.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      Sounds like a mixup in the system, but you’re right, the busy clerk won’t catch it, so you must, just as you should go over every single receipt for everything you buy anywhere else to catch overcharges. It’s the seller’s responsibility to get it correct, but if that fails, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to check.

  28. ellemdee says:

    A fee for using the safe? I’ve never heard of that one. That’s like charging a fee for using the hangers or the bathroom (which is more work to clean than the safe anyway).

  29. 72Riv says:

    I’ve found that the more expensive places nickel and dime you more than the really cheap ones. I usually stay at a motel 6 for about $30 a night and get free wifi, continental breakfast, and no pesky mini-bar to tempt me.

  30. ecvogel says:

    The minibars are high tech. I have been warned not to open them unless I want something as there is a restock fee, plus what is taken. By Staff. I was even warned the shelves are weight and alert the hotel if something is removed. Even adding your own food will cause a re-stock.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      I’m sure that’s what they told you, but if I had been there, I would call bullshit on them.

  31. mrfantomhawk says:

    a big thing to watch for is parking fee’s which are NEVER posted on the hotels site. My wife and I checked into the Westin on Fort Lauderdale Beach, they only had valet which was 25 dollars a day! They also held another entire nights fee (250$) we checked out sunday, and it wasnt released till thursday

  32. gman863 says:

    I bring my online reservation confirmation sheet and “compare notes” with the desk staff at check IN. More than once, my room rate listed on the hotel’s check-in paperwork was higher than the confirmation due to a discount (such as the Sam’s Club discount code) that somehow disappeared in the reservation system.

    If you want a decent room (even if just for a night or two), look at lower priced “weekly” motels such as Studio 6 or Extended Stay America. Daily rates are often $50 or less per day with a full-size ‘frig, cooktop and microwave. If staying more than one night, the only thing you may miss is daily maid service — for what I save I don’t mind turning in my dirty towels at the desk for clean ones each evening.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That’s a good idea. The last time I stayed somewhere, I printed out the reservation confirmation sheet and the one with the hotel amenities, but I never thought to do that when I checked in.

  33. jenjenjen says:

    I find that in general the higher-priced hotels charge for more things that cheaper places throw in free. When I’m going to an unfamiliar city, I use Google Maps to locate the big expensive chain hotels, then look for cheaper brands or independent lower-price places within a couple blocks. The neighborhood is likely to be still good, but you’re more likely to get that free breakfast, free wifi and so on. I always try to get a place with a kitchenette or at least a fridge and then find a grocery store somewhere in the area. Knowing I have fresh healthy stuff on hand in the room will make me less likely to buy that $7 tube of Pringles from the hotel gift shop.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      That’s absolutely true, particularly on Internet charges. (And what’s up with Internet charges, anyway? on my last trip, for example–5 GBP for one hour of Internet usage, or 10 GBP for 24 hours! They all do this, even in the US.)

  34. fuceefacee says:

    Hotels used to really scam people on telephone charges. I remember staying at a Holiday Inn many years ago that charged $1.50 to connect a local call (this is when pay phones cost $0.25) and a obscene rate for long distance. Since everyone now owns a cell phone they can’t rip you off that way. I guess that’s why they developed the mini-bar scam.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      That’s a good point. People from other countries frequently don’t want to have to incur international roaming charges, though, or in some cases their phones might not even work. I turn my cell off when I’m out of the country, and use a calling card, but some hotels actually charge you a local phone charge to access the calling card (!).

      Fortunately my boss found out you don’t have to be above a certain management level anymore to get a corporate Blackberry. Since I travel and work remote a lot, he got me one. It’s set up to use internationally already per negotiated corporate rate. It probably costs the company more cash than the calling-card-plus-local-call setup, but then again they get the benefit of shackling me with the high-tech ball and chain, so i suppose they make it up on volume.

  35. PSUSkier says:

    Check if your corporation has negotiated rates with any hotel chains. My company has ridiculous rates with the Hilton chain and some decent rates with Marriott.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      The company I work for allows us to use the corporate-negotiated rate on personal travel. You might want to check to see if yours also does.

      • lstorm2003 says:

        lmao you guys are funny.. who cares if they allow it, just ask for it anyway.. how will they ever know, and why on earth would they care?

  36. DragonThermo says:

    A hotel bilked me because one of the snacks I bought myself was the same brand, but completely different packaging, as that in the minibar. They *still* charged me for it. It was a major operation to have it removed from the bill.

  37. hawguy says:

    If I’m staying in a city, I scout out local parking garages for cheaper parking than the often outrageous hotel parking fees. I’ve saved up to $45/day by parking in a local lot versus the hotel’s $60 parking fee. (and it was more convenient since the self-park lot was just outside the side-door of the hotel rather than having to wait for the hotel’s overworked valet staff to retrieve my car)

  38. lstorm2003 says:

    always ask for a corporate rate.. you can actually just make up the company, ive never had a hotel ask me to prove i work for one company or another… IBM always works great everywhere… or if you know of a big corporation nearby the hotel or in the same city, mention that companys name, they always have a negotiated rate. even if the rate isnt much lower it will often times include parking and breakfast free… or you can ask for the AAA rate, or a better rate for the weekend…

  39. Ducatisti says:

    “*Remember that everything is negotiable. Unless you’ve prepaid for your entire visit, it’s worth asking the desk guy if there’s a better room rate available.”

    There’s this newfangled thing, called the internet, I hear it’s a good place to find room rates.

    I’m cheap, and I stay in hotels probably 50 nights a year. Here’s how I save:

    1. Check Travelocity/Expedia/Hotels.com first and get an idea of regular room rates in the area.

    2. Check Hotwire.

    3. Try Priceline name your own price for at least 20% less than the price shown at Hotwire.

    4. If Priceline doesn’t work and the Hotwire options aren’t what you’re looking for, start checking individual hotel websites for deals.

    5. If none of these gets you a room at the price you want to pay, start checking online phone book listings under Motel. Many small mom-and-pop establishments don’t advertise online. These can sometimes be nice rooms at a cheap price, and are typically the last places to fill up.

    6. Once your hotel room is secured, CALL and confirm your room and ask if there will be any additional charges (parking, etc). If there are, this is the time to negotiate, not when you’re standing at the front desk. Get the name of the person you talked to in case there’s a problem when you arrive.

    7. If they still have that stupid minibar, just ignore it. If you have young kids, bring some masking tape and tape the door shut (one or two pieces from the front of the door to the side of the fridge will keep little hands out). Definitely bring your own snacks and drinks – especially alcohol (Nalgene bottles are perfect for a never-leak suitcase drink caddy).

    8. Finally, be sure to check your bill at checkout, talk to the manager if you have a problem, if it is not solved simply get the manager’s name, then write a letter to corporate when you return home.

  40. Crazytree says:

    I made a two-minute call for Christmas from my hotel room in Amsterdam near Schipol Airport… the bill came out to $75.

    Had them waive it, but it was still laughable… they said the call was 50 minutes long… and how could I possibly prove otherwise?

  41. Peggee is deeply offended by impetulant, pernicious little snots disrespecting her and violating her personal space at Best Buy. says:

    OT, but does anyone else have trouble getting h/motels to respect “Do Not Disturb”? When I travel I usually stay up, then wake up, late. I always ask upfront to be marked “Do not disturb until checkout” PLUS use the tag on the door. They never listen, and they won’t. Stop. Trying. To get in. I once had a maid barge in on me while I was on the toilet because she didn’t even wait for a response to her knock.

  42. sailorstarfairy says:

    I can verify this information as I had worked in the hotel industry for seven years: