Travel alert: Take this extra step to find the best hotel deals online

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Travel alert: Take this extra step to find the best hotel deals online
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The next time you go to reserve a hotel room through Hotwire, Priceline or any other hotel booking website, beware that what you think is a deal may be no deal at all!

Resort or amenity fees are often excluded from the advertised price, which can make comparing hotel rates a pain in the neck.

In a January 2017 report, the FTC said consumers are likely being harmed by the hotel industry’s practice of disclosing mandatory resort fees separate from posted room rates, without first disclosing the total price.

For consumers who are trying to comparison shop, either through hotel websites or through online travel agent sites, mandatory resort fees force them to click through additional web pages or calculate and remember total hotel prices. This leaves them with a choice “either to incur higher total search and cognitive costs or to make an incomplete, less informed decision that may result in a more costly room, or both.”

Many hotels charge resort fees (also called guest amenity fees) for internet, phone calls, bottled water, gym access and more. These add-on charges cost consumers billions of dollars a year.

Despite the name, resort fees are often applied at hotels that wouldn’t otherwise be considered “resorts.”

The FTC report said that hotels could include the resort fee in the advertised price or list the components of the total price separately and prominently disclose the total price first, but that’s not happening.

Read on to see how resort fees could keep you from getting the best deal and what to do about it!

RELATED: The best day and time to book a cheap flight

Resort fees: What you need to know before you book a hotel 

I went to Hotwire.com and searched for a hotel room in the Miami area. The results showed one room for $75 a night, another for $119 and the third option for $99 a night.

Based on price alone, you would think the $75 a night room is the best deal, right? Nope!

Hotwire.com search results
Hotwire.com search results

When I clicked on the link for the $75 a night hotel room, Hotwire directed me to a page with more information about the hotel. Right below “Book now,” you can see that the hotel charges a nightly resort fee of $33 per room.

Hotwire doesn’t make it clear on this screen that the resort fee isn’t included in the $75 rate, but keep reading for proof…

$33 resort fee
$33 resort fee

Next, I clicked “Book now” and was taken to the checkout page. This is where Hotwire cleared up the confusion and informed me that the resort fee is collected directly at the hotel and not by Hotwire.

To its credit, notice that Hotwire does clearly include the resort fee in the trip total at the bottom.

Hotwire.com
Hotwire: Resort fee due at hotel

The other two hotels that showed up in the search results didn’t charge a resort fee. That means the $99 room would have been a better deal than the $75 room.

This isn’t just a Hotwire thing. I checked Priceline and it also requires extra work to find the resort fees, which it sometimes call an “additional mandatory fee” on the checkout page.

The takeaway is to click beyond the initial search results page to see whether a resort fee is being charged or not.

If you don’t like the idea of paying a resort fee for services that you think should be included in the room rate, you don’t have to! Stay at places that don’t charge them. Use a website like ResortFeeChecker.com to identify hotels with resort fees.

Read Clark’s Hotel Booking Guide for step-by-step instructions to score the best Hotwire and Priceline hotel deals!

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Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, MichaelSaves.com.
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