Ruth to the Rescue: Hidden hotel fees

If you're planning to enjoy a summer vacation, hidden airline fees may not be the only surprise you might want to avoid.

Consumer Reports tell us that the minibar isn't the only fee you need to check for at checkout.

"We were in Bali and we stayed at a hotel there and got a lot of extra charges," Peter Mourad of Chesterfield told Ruth to the Rescue.

The magazine says extra fees have been on the rise since 1997. Last year travelers shelled out an estimated $2.1 billion in extra fees and surcharges. That is almost double the amount in 2000.

According to Consumer Reports, the new charges to look for include resorts fees, early-departure fees, reservation cancelation fees, internet fees, telephone-call surcharges, business-center fees, room-service delivery fees, minibar restocking fees, in-room safe charges as well as added tips on bills.

Like a lot of people Menachen Davis of Oak Park knows the minibar can pack a heavy toll on your wallet. "Minibar is not a hidden fee. Minibar is plain and simple going to break your wallet," he said.

Even worse, if you dip into the minibar you may be socked with a restocking fee. It can range from $2.50 to $6 dollars. Also beware the bottles of water many hotels put in your room. Only one is considered complimentary, the rest may be put on your bill.

Even arriving early and leaving a little late will now cost you. According to Consumer Reports, many chains used to charge guests a whopping $50 dollar penalty or impose a day rate fee which can be 60 percent of the regular nightly rate. More chains are now charging the full nightly rate.

Bag storage now has a cost as well. The charge is now $1 to $2 dollars per bag.

In the past many chains would allow a 48 to 72 hour cancellation notice to allow you to avoid a charge. It is now more common for hotels to make guests forfeit an entire prepaid hotel stay for cancellation. Some resorts are also billing consumers for up to a three nights stay for cancellation.

We all know room service can be pricey, but some hotel chains are now creating a mandatory tip or they can hit you with a $2.50 to $5 dollars service charge.

A resort fee is commonly charged by hotels with hiking trails, golf courses or tennis courts. It can cost consumers anywhere from $20 to $50 dollars a day and applies even if you do not utilize the amenities.

Consumers are rightfully frustrated over these new fees. Peter Mourad of Chesterfield explained that he felt "Disappointed, felt they tried to play games with you to utilize their hotels."

Consumer Reports says hotels do not rely on a magic formula when determining how much to charge for various services. It often comes down to what the market will bear. The amount charged starts out small and if that is accepted by guests they will raise it to see how much the consumer will take.

When it comes to protecting your wallet this summer consumers need to stay vigilant to what hotels may charge you during your stay. Also consumers can try joining a hotels loyalty program, these are usually free, to avoid a lot of the hidden fees.

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