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What to do if you suspect hotel price gouging

Feb. 16, 2021
5 min read
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A winter storm in Texas has brought record-low temperatures, along with power outages, canceled flights and -- in at least one hotel's case -- what appeared to be price-gouging. Luckily, that didn't turn out to be the case.

Amid the low temperatures, social media users were appalled to see some hotels apparently jacking up their rates. One hotel, the two-star Ramada by Wyndham Austin South, offered rooms for a whopping $750 a night on Monday night -- before dropping back down to $99 a night for Wednesday. This was an anomaly among several hotels in the area, including other Wyndham properties.

TPG reached out to Wyndham Hotels and Resorts about the Ramada Inn pricing and received clarification. The hotel was in the process of zeroing out inventory and for a short duration, out-of-the-norm pricing was shown on a few online booking engines. However, those were not the prices the hotel was charging and no one booked or paid for a room at the inflated price. The glitch was solved quickly.

According to Wyndham:

“We do not tolerate price gouging and require that hotels comply with all local, state and federal laws. In speaking with the owner of this hotel, which is independently owned and operated as a franchise, it’s our understanding that the temporary rate increases seen online were the result of the property working to close out its inventory as it managed the loss of power and other utilities.
We have since been assured that no guests were charged, nor was there any intent to charge, the rates shown. While the hotel is not accepting new reservations, guests currently staying at the property are being allowed to extend their stay at no additional cost while they wait for conditions to improve.”

That's good news in this case. However, if you ever find yourself in a potential hotel price-gouging situation, here's what you can do.

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Look at the maximum rate

(Photo by Edvard Nalbantjan/Shutterstock)

To find the maximum rate a hotel can charge you during a natural disaster, all you have to do is look at your hotel room door.

Texas requires hotels to post a maximum room rate notice in all of their rooms, according to the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association, the trade association representing the lodging and tourism industry.

According to Texas Hotel & Lodging Association, "There is no specific 'maximum' amount that a hotel is limited to, but it should post a rate that is high enough to cover what the hotel would expect to rent the room for in your highest demand period, but not so unrealistically high that the property would never receive such a rate."

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And if a disaster is declared, the association provides additional guidance on room rate pricing.

Call your state's attorney general -- then your credit card company

More than 4 million Texans woke up without power this morning, according to poweroutage.us, a site that tracks outages.

But price-gouging is illegal, according to Texas law. And businesses that engage in the practice can be prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General after a disaster has been declared by the governor or president. The state of Texas urges residents to file a consumer complaint to report a suspected price-gouging incident.

However, the Office of the Attorney General noted that "high prices alone do not mean that price gouging has taken place," because businesses are generally allowed to determine the prices for their products.

In this case, it would be illegal because Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on Friday, and the White House granted his request for a federal emergency declaration.

If you're not in Texas but have experienced price gouging, find the contact information for state attorneys general throughout the U.S.

Find out if your credit card's travel insurance will help

(Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

And if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that everything we may have taken for granted before (our health, mobility and safety) is no longer a given.

But if you find yourself in a bind, your credit card might come in handy.

For instance, many travel rewards cards offer travel insurance when you use your card to purchase travel. Some cards, however, require you to pay for your entire trip with the card, while others will provide coverage even if you only pay taxes and fees on an award ticket.

See the links below for more information on these insurance types and the best cards for every kind of insurance.

Bottom line

Texas residents throughout the state have banded together to find shelter — not easy when so many customers are experiencing power outages. If you find yourself needing essentials, like shelter during a natural disaster, know that there are options. Contact your county and state's emergency management departments for assistance.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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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.
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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®.
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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

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Recommended Credit

740-850
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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