Skip to content

The Critical Points: First to go were airline cancellation fees, next should be hotel resort fees

Sept. 01, 2020
5 min read
The Critical Points: First to go were airline cancellation fees, next should be hotel resort fees
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

In the airline world, fees have become big business. There are checked bag fees, carry-on bag fees, seat assignment fees, fees to print boarding passes, fees to talk to a person and even fees that provide no tangible benefit or service to customers. Think of close-in booking fees, for example, when you may be required to pay $75 or extra miles if you're within 21 days of departure.

There are also change fees, cancellation fees and the complete forfeiture of certain basic economy tickets that don't allow changes or refunds.

But this week, we saw the airline industry take a big step in the right direction when United announced it was getting rid of change fees.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

These fees have always been a way for airlines to increase ancillary revenue. In addition to paying any difference in between your existing and new ticket, a change fee seemed particularly punitive.

But COVID-19 has turned the world upside down and diminished business for airlines and hotels to the point that customers need confidence they'll be able to change plans without being punished, or they simply won't book a trip at all.

United is the first major airline to make this pro-consumer move of permanently removing change fees — though who knows what the carrier's policies will look like in five years. Also, Southwest has never had change fees, and would only charge travelers the fare difference.

So, if an airline can get rid of change fees, which serve no practical purpose and doesn't provide any good or service, a hotel can get rid fo resort fees. Right?

Related: How to avoid resort fees

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Imagine you go to the grocery store to buy a single $2.99 box of cereal. At the register, however, you notice $1 was added to your total. It's listed as a "shopping cart fee" — so you politely tell the manager you didn't use the shopping cart. The manager says the fee helps offset the cost of providing shopping carts for all customers and, sorry, that's the policy whether you use a cart or not.

That's essentially the same as a hotel resort fee: A mandatory charge, often poorly disclosed or not advertised, regardless of whether or not you use the amenities. In reality, it's a way for hotels to increase cash flow while keeping published rates low. It's taxed identically to the advertised room rate.

Resort fees, urban fees, season fees, membership fees, urban retreat fees and whatever else the industry will think to call them next need to go. Now. Continuing to charge resort fees at properties with diminished offerings because of COVID-19 is a new low in the resort fee saga.

Many beachfront and Las Vegas properties, for example, are still charging full resort fees, even though amenities such as the pool, kids club and fitness center have reduced hours or have closed altogether.

Because occupancy remains historically low, now is the perfect time for hotels to give travelers transparent rates, without any hidden fees.

Imagine the publicity boost a national hotel chain would receive if it eliminated resort fees in the name of fair and straightforward pricing. They can — and arguably should — raise average daily room rates to compensate for the lost resort fee, especially as demand increases. Ultimately, travelers should be able to clearly see the all-in rate for a hotel stay and determine if the product (and its amenities) are worth the price.

Related: The 10 most outrageous resort fees

Surely, if Las Vegas stopped advertising $30 room rates with a hidden $44 per night resort fee, and instead advertised a $60 per night all-in rate, there would be wins in terms of both booking and publicity.

Hotels will need to be creative to lure back travelers, and eliminating resort fees is a logical, pro-consumer move to show customers you want and value their business. One look at the positive press United received when it did away with change fees should tell you exactly how hungry the public is for the travel industry to adopt more consumer-friendly policies.

Hotels can build trust with guests and sell rooms for a fair rate without tacking on frustrating mandatory fees. In light of the pandemic, things that seemed improbable -- or even impossible -- six months ago are happening. If an airline like United can shed long-held fees in favor of flexibility and transparency, who's to say a major hotel chain can't do the same?

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of Hoshino Resorts)

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more