UPDATED MARCH 4, 2020
Resort fees can be the ultimate buzzkill during your hard-earned vacation. Having to pay an extra $20 to $45 per night, plus tax, is a good way to cancel out whatever good vibes you picked up while relaxing at the pool—especially if the charge covers amenities and services that were once included in the room rate, such as newspapers, in-room coffee, and use of the fitness center. It’s even more irksome to pay for amenities you’ll likely never need, like a fax machine or notary service.
While many hotels claim their resort fees are mandatory, that’s not necessarily true. Guests can take a stand against paying these surcharges.
Here are a few arguments to make, either at check-in or checkout:
• If a hotel’s resort fee covers stuff that you didn’t need during your stay, such as the aforementioned faxes, point out that you didn’t need these services and therefore should not pay for them. (In fact, if a hotel is going to charge you for access to a fax machine, the front desk should also give you keys to a time machine so that you can travel to an era when faxes were still a thing.)
• Similarly, if a hotel’s resort fee includes amenities or services that didn’t work well or were not available during your stay—if, say, the internet was slow or the fitness center was closed—demand a refund of the fee because the hotel did not deliver on its promise.
• If the resort fee was not made clear to you at the time of booking, ask that the fee be removed because it’s a dishonest and deceptive business practice.
• If you are a loyalty program member or frequent guest, make it clear that your continued patronage depends on being treated fairly. In response, the front desk may have the fee wiped or give you a comparable discount with the same savings effect.
Of course, negotiating with the front desk may not always work for technical reasons. A hotel industry insider told us that a property’s computer system often adds the resort fee onto the room rate automatically, making it difficult for the staff at the front desk to issue a refund. If this happens, ask to speak with a manager to work out another refund plan, even if it comes off your other expenditures.
If these tactics don’t work, there are more extreme measures. Lauren Wolfe, a lawyer who founded Kill Resort Fees after getting duped by two hotels in Florida, suggests other “Don’t Pay” alternatives.
One of them is to dispute the charge with your credit card company. "No credit card company believes their customers should be subject to such travel scams," says Wolfe.
Another option: File a consumer complaint with the attorney general of the state where the hotel is located or your home state if you booked your stay online. "Many people have successfully gotten back their resort fees" this way, according to the Kill Resort Fees website, which lists links to the forms for filing consumer complaints in several states.
If none of the above works, you can always go nuclear and take the hotel to small claims court. You may have to pay a fee to file the claim, but if your stay was long, you could still come out ahead.
That’s because, Wolfe says, most hotels aren’t willing to deal with appearing before judges. “The hotel will most likely just mail you a check and you will never see small claims court,” writes Wolfe on her website.
But if you do proceed to a date before the bench, just tell the judge that you bought your hotel stay at a set advertised price but were charged an additional amount once you arrived at the property. Most judges will rule in your favor.
Finally, the easiest way to get out of paying resort fees speaks the loudest to the industry: Don't stay at hotels that charge them.