Friday, May 28, 2010

Travel Advice: Five Hidden Hotel Fees to Avoid

If you can toss down $55,000 for one night in a hotel room (which is what you'd have to pay for the Royal Penthouse Suite at the President Wilson Hotel in Geneva--the world's most expensive hotel room), then you're probably not too worried about hidden hotel fees.

But for the rest of us, here are the ways that hotels might try to gouge you:

1.  Electricity Surcharge
Usually found in carribean hotels, they can be up to 10% of your bill.

2.  Charitable Donations
A number of hotels, particularly higher-end ones, will toss on a small charge to go to a charity of their choice.  You can opt out, but, of course, you have to ask to.

3. Credit Card Fees
Many hotels outside of America and Europe will charge you as much as 2% of your bill for paying with a credit card.  I've personally seen this in Egypt and Thailand and know that it's also common practice in Australia.  The problem is that you might approve your bill and then then the credit card charge goes on AS they run the credit card.

4.  Paying for Coffee, Tea or Bottled Water
Although those bottles of water or packets of instant coffee or tea in your room used to be free, some hotels are trying to make up for recession-based losses by charging for them as if they were part of the mini-bar.  This even includes higher-end hotels like Barclay's in New York, which charges $3 for its coffee.

5.  Conversion Fees
When travelling abroad, you should always pay in local currency (drawn out of an ATM for the best rate; read this post about getting your ATM fees reimbursed ).  Why?  Because if a hotel rings up your bills in dollars or euros, they can also charge you a "conversion fee" for doing a currency exchange.  This conversion fee can be as high as 4%.

Avoiding the Fees
How can you avoid these fees?  A little knowledge goes a long way.  Firstly, ask, ask, ask.  Unsure if you're going to be charged for that coffee?  Don't be lazy and use it anyway.  Ask!  When checking in, ask what fees might be charged on top of the rate you booked it at or were quoted.  If they want to charge you for housekeeping (some hotels do) or electricity, ask to have those fees waived.  If it's low season, they'll likely do it. 

Just knowing what the costs could be will let you skip a lot of fees ahead of time.  When it's all said and done though, carefully check your bill.  You can get a lot removed right at the front desk if you are persistant enough (persistant does not mean being rude or yelling). 

Good luck.

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