Make sure you're getting the most out of your Marriott resort fees
One of the most frustrating elements of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program is that, unlike competitors Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt, Marriott does not waive "resort fees" on award stays. While these ancillary charges, which often range from $20 to $50 a night, originally started at resorts with many amenities, they've slowly expanded all across the country, especially in big cities like New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
In fact, the resort fee epidemic has gotten so bad, with these charges often hidden from travelers until they reach the checkout page, that Congress is weighing making resort fees illegal and Expedia has dropped the search rankings of properties that charge them.
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It's up to each individual property to decide what amenities they offer you in exchange for this extra fee. When I stayed at the Maxwell Hotel in New York last year, the $25 a night "destination fee" entitled me to a $30 daily credit at the hotel bar, which can be a great value if you plan on drinking there anyways.
When looking at resort fees, you'll want to pay extra close attention to any that include high-speed or premium internet as one of your benefits.
Marriott Bonvoy members with Gold elite status or higher already receive complimentary enhanced internet as an elite benefit, and a property can't turn around and charge you for something you're supposed to receive for free. Marriott addresses this issue in the terms and conditions of the Bonvoy loyalty program with the following note:
This is an area where it certainly helps to know the rules, as not all hotels will be proactive in offering a replacement benefit. You should inquire about this at check-in, and if the hotel puts up a fight be prepared to direct them to section 1.3.c.iv of the Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions.
Related: How to avoid resort fees
We reached out to a number of properties to inquire about their replacement benefits. The W South Beach is currently offering a "cocktail for two" coupon as its replacement benefit, while its resort fee currently sits at $40 a night plus tax. This is on top of the normal benefits that come with the resort fee, which include two beach chairs and fitness classes.
Meanwhile The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection resort in Honolulu charges a daily resort fee of $38 plus tax, which includes bottled water, GoPro rental and more. As a replacement for the enhanced internet portion of the benefit, guests receive an upgrade to the complimentary bag of baked goods that is normally included as part of the fee. Instead of just receiving banana bread and scones, guests can choose from any of the pastries in the hotel's Royal Hawaiian Bakery.
Related: Which Marriott Bonvoy credit card is right for you?
We've certainly reached a sad state when a hotel in Miami is charging guests to access $40 a night for use of beach chairs. Marriott stands out from Hilton and Hyatt in quite a bad way here, as the chain still does not waive resort fees on award stays.
Still, if you're going to pay the fee you ought to make sure to get all the benefits you're entitled to. Many hotels will try to include premium internet access as part of their resort fee benefits, but if you're a Marriott Gold elite or higher, make sure to ask about a replacement benefit as you already get free enhanced internet from your elite status.