Ridiculous: This Marriott Hotel Charges Fee To Use Points (Update)

Filed Under: Hotels, Marriott

About a week ago I wrote about how at least one Marriott property has been charging Bonvoy members a fee to redeem their points, which is outrageous. There’s now a positive update on this front, as this hotel will no longer be allowed to charge this fee.

I’ll start the post by recapping what has been going on, and then the last section below has the latest update.

Resort fees are bad enough…

Many hotels charge “resort fees,” which is one of the most frustrating practices in the hotel industry. There are two primary motivations that hotels have to engage in this practice:

  • It limits how much commission they have to pay travel agents (since travel agents don’t get a commission on resort fees)
  • It makes the rate appear lower and more competitive than it actually is, especially since many websites display hotel rates before all taxes and fees

The practice is bad enough at resorts, though in the past few years we’ve also seen this spread to city hotels, which is obscene. Hotels typically call these “destination fees,” and it’s nothing more than a money grab.

Typically when you redeem points you still have to pay these resort and destination fees. Even elite members typically aren’t exempt from these:

  • That’s one thing I love about World of Hyatt, as top tier Globalist members are always exempt from these fees, regardless of whether they’re on a paid or award stay
  • All World of Hyatt and Hilton Honors members are exempt from these fees when redeeming points

…but award redemption fees are even worse

That brings me to one hotel that has had a ridiculous fee exclusively for award stays. The JW Marriott Los Cabos doesn’t have a resort fee. If you’re paying cash, you’re just subjected to Mexico’s usually high hotel fees, which include 19% government taxes and fees, plus a 10% service charge, for a total of 29% on top of the regular rate.

As you’d expect, you don’t have to pay that on an award stay, since the 29% would be added to a rate of zero. I guess to make up for that, the JW Marriott Los Cabos has been charging a service charge of 30USD per night for all award stays.

It’s one thing to charge something on an award stay that’s also charged on a revenue stay, but to add fees to award stays that don’t exist on paid stays is just plain ridiculous.

The kicker here is that this policy has been in place for at least three years, as I wrote about this back in 2018. I figured Marriott corporate would’ve made the hotel undo it after this got publicity the first time around, but that didn’t happen.

Suffice to say that this is completely outrageous — the whole point of redeeming points is to avoid paying cash for your room, so if the hotel is just going to add an imaginary fee, what’s the point? Why stop at a $30 fee? Why not add a $289 service charge while you’re at it, and just charge the normal cash rate in addition to the points?

Marriott forces hotel to reverse redemption fee

Here’s what a Marriott spokesperson had to say about this practice:

“All hotel reservations at the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort and Spa include service charges. The full amount received from these service charges is paid directly to hotel associates as a gratuity. These service charges have also been applied to redemption stays using Marriott Bonvoy points which is inconsistent with the program’s terms and conditions.

We are taking this matter very seriously and have instructed the property to rescind the service charge for all redemption stays. Marriott is looking into whether this practice existed at other properties in the company’s portfolio. Once our review is completed, we will communicate with our members who were impacted by such charges and intend to address the situation.”

As you can see:

  • The claim is that this $30 fee was essentially being paid to hotel employees as gratuity
  • Marriott has instructed the property to no longer charge this fee for all award stays
  • Marriott is allegedly looking into whether this practice has been implemented at other properties
  • Marriott then intends to contact members who were impacted to “address the situation”

I’m happy to see Marriott forcing this hotel to reverse its policy, but I’d be shocked if Marriott proactively offers a refund to any Bonvoy member who has redeemed points at the hotel in the past

Bottom line

For the past few years the JW Marriott Los Cabos has charged Bonvoy members $30 per night when redeeming points, in what has been referred to as a “service charge.” The hotel doesn’t have any sort of a resort fee, so this didn’t apply on paid stays.

Fortunately Marriott corporate has addressed this, and the hotel will no longer be able to charge this fee going forward.

Comments
  1. @ Ben — What will it take for you to finally realize that you should not do business with Marriott?

  2. If one finds that fees outrageous, there is one simple way around it: don’t take your business to those hotels or resorts. Pretty simple, isn’t it.

  3. Every time I see news like this, I feel glad to have left Marriott for Hyatt, but condolences to everyone who have little choice because they need Marriott’s coverage.

  4. Yup stayed here for 7 nights on an award stay in Feb, and yes the fee was charged. Ridiculous.

  5. Just the Marriott equivalent of airline fantasy surcharges on airtickets.

    Quick reminder that the only countries with favorable customer rights in this regard are Brazil, Japan, Hongkong and Philippines.

  6. It’s annoying, but I would rather pay a service fee if it goes directly to the employees vs. a resort fee with 15 amenities I don’t need and the hotel keeps all of it. Also, is the hotel still expecting employees to be tipped or is this service fee supposed to cover it? I’m curious how the front desk justifies it at check in – they must get questioned all the time.

  7. I appreciate your sticking up for us… especially those of us who are dumb enough to remain loyal to Marriott (including me 🙁 )

  8. i would tell them to charge it to Marriott as awards includes room/tax/service charges as listed in the t&cs.

  9. What people need is a big time blogger like you to take on The Man on our behalf. Stuff like this is outrageous. If Marriott doesn’t back down, you should see if you can get a lawyer to help. Perhaps Matthew at LALF?

  10. I don’t get complaints about “money grabs” etc.
    things cost what they cost. If you don’t like it go/do something else. Businesses charge what they can to remain in business/stay profitable. Nobodies making you go on an overseas luxury vacation.
    Not like this is drinking water during a hurricane.

  11. @Christian

    Matthew is useless. All bark and no bite. He threatened lawsuit about his SWISS F award ticket, and then ended up with no updates, and we all know if he had gotten anything he would’ve gloated about it on his blog.

  12. looks like a method to recover the “service charge” part of the fee structure. If that indeed goes to staff then I’m fine with it, it doesn’t then not.

  13. Cannot believe this is something that has been going on for 3 years. Cannot believe Marriott has let this go unchecked for so long….

    The program is only as strong as hotel compliance with the rules… They need to clamp down on rogue properties…

  14. I wish I never started w Marriott. Unfortunately, Hyatt doesn’t have the footprint I need for work. But, this is the first I’ve heard of this practice and it’s disgusting. If this is their new norm, I’ll be switching my spend to other programs.

  15. I wonder if they have to pay the Mexican taxes on award stays and are recouping them by charging this fee? Still abhorrent.

  16. I guess the Courtyard Isla Verde Beach Resort blurs the line between a resort fee and an award service fee:
    “Mandatory resort fee 18 percent will be added to rate. Guest using Marriott Bonvoy points will be billed US 25 per day.”

  17. The problem with the Marriott bonvoy program is hotels get pretty dismal fees paid by the chain. Hotels benefit by being part of Marriott but some hotels benefit more than others. Some hotels have extra costs the more occupancy gets filled up. It’s hard to break even on the costs through hotel bar/March/restaurant spend. These hotels charge resort fees on the stays to recoup some. When you book with points, you need to read the award stay details to see exactly what’s included and what’s not. If you don’t like the resort fee, stay somewhere else.

    The Marriott program does get annoying for guests and hotels alike. Most would be better off with a fixed redemption value like TrueBlue uses (with the occasional bonus) or a no frills 2% back card. A select few extract a disproportionate amount of value out of the program while most hotels and guests would be better served by a fixed system.

  18. As always, Marriott is a company that lacks ethics and DGAF about the end consumer…it’s all about hotel owners/developers for them.

  19. Ben, This reminds me of the note I shared with you from the StR Bal Harbour on its no show/cancellation policy. That was the last straw for me and I’m done with Marriott. If a property makes since — like an upcoming trip to the StR Bahia for a wedding — I’ll stay. But I will never go out of my way again to get #bonvoyed. I know you get teased for being a Hyatt fan boy, but other than a few Andazs playing games, it feels like WoH mostly works.

  20. This is unusual for Marriott properties. Actually, I think IHG is even worse. While they do not charge you to redeem your points, they say that the points only apply to the room charges (e.g. taxes and other fees you still have to pay for).

  21. Seems almost quaint compared to the North Island question that was posted recently in Ask Lucky…

  22. Americans arguing it is fine to charge a fee if it goes to staff are irredeemable broken. A fee collected at checkout raising the compensation of employees, particularly in a developing economy? If you believe that actually happens I’ll sell you a bridge in Brooklyn. There is scant evidence the American fetish for tipping/service charges translates to better service or has mitigated asymmetrical income distribution, which is among the highest for a western democracy. Please stop promoting the export of this obnoxious attitude. If you feel strongly about the topic, make a voluntary excess tax contribution to your local or federal government (or the Mexican government….) to support funding of additional services.

  23. Had the worst experience at this hotel. Titanium member and I stupidly bought all inclusive which was not all inclusive. My husband wanted a Manhattan and vermouth wasn’t included!! Every experience we had was all about nickel and diming their guests.

    It completely turned me off of Los Cabos and especially this hotel!

  24. Had the worst experience at this hotel. Titanium member and I stupidly bought all inclusive which was not all inclusive. My husband wanted a Manhattan and vermouth wasn’t included!! Every experience we had was all about nickel and diming their guests.

    It completely turned me off of Los Cabos and especially this hotel!

  25. It’s interesting, I posted a link to Gary’s post on this at the Bonvoy Insider Group on FB. Marriott jumped in claiming that it’s just a language issue. That in fact everyone is charged a $30.00 resort/service whatever charge. That it’s not JUST award redemptions. But from the process of going through the reservations you show it appears that is not the case. Or else it’s veiled with paid rooms as well.

  26. This property is lovely, but this type of chicanery with charges for “free” rewards is simply stealing. Marriott’s refusal to fix this shows you just what collecting their points is worth. I am growing disillusioned with Marriott, even with a lifetime Platinum benefit. I’d like to think 25 years of hotel loyalty counted for something, but Marriott seems to think it’s OK when some bright young Assistant Manager figures out that loyalists spending their earned rewards can be nickel-dimed $30/day for a garbage fee. I’m sorry the company can’t seem to see how their failure to reign this in devalues the whole program and acts counter to the program’s purpose of presenting Marriott as a valued partner who should be the first choice wherever you go.

  27. Its the same what Lufthansa is doing, on their Miles and More awards they charge you horrible fees which are higher than on paid tickets and sometimes on intra European flights they are higher than the whole paid ticket. Thats 5* service made by Carsten Spohr, the worlds worst airline CEO.

  28. Why not just pay with a cash back card and forget the mileage trip wires?
    I use Costco and I get a better deal each and every time, I ask Marriott to match the Costco price and they say they can’t.
    For instance a 4 night stay at the JW Marriott in Cancun using Costco saved me, just on the room alone, $400 now lets add in the $50 Costco cash card I got, the Free breakfast for 2 people and of course they include the resort fees. If that was not enough they also gave $50 per day to spend as I see fit.
    Folks I hate to say it, I am soooo over the points game as it just doesn’t make sense.
    Cash back and never play the game again.

  29. As SullyofDoha says, it’s a “Simple solution, walk your wallet to another hotel!”
    It really is that simple………. And Marriott, that’s what you did, and keep telling them that over and over again!

    Thanks Justin Yeck for the post on other extra fees like “My husband wanted a Manhattan and vermouth wasn’t included!!” That is even worse than the $30/day fee you see BEFORE you hit select on using your points. I’d be more pissed off at that little gem vs. a measly $30/day on a $300+/Day property, if you decided it was worth it and selected the property.

  30. Sadly, this is one of the nicest JW Marriott properties out there. Unfortunately, they are notorious for not following the Bonvoy and before that Marriott Rewards rules and providing the required benefits. Upgrade? Ha. Never, not even in August with 20% occupancy. They have an executive club lounge called the Griffin Club but this is a “premium” lounge and access is not complimentary for any guest regardless of elite status. Breakfast? Bread and coffee. Like literally toast and coffee. I was told I could have some sugary muffins if I wanted more than stale toast and crappy coffee.

    I think this is a case of Marriott licensing the JW Marriott namer and allowing the franchisee to operate the hotel because many JW Marriotts outside the USA are directly managed by Marriott.

  31. I think it is one of the nicest Marriott properties in mainland North America. Maybe only rivaled by the Westin Los Cabos, although that is mostly timeshares and condos and not really a hotel proper. I stayed here in August 2017. They charged us $219 per night with several taxes and a fee that was called a service fee. The service fee was 10%. We disputed this because it was never disclosed at the time of booking. I was platinum premier at the time in the old Marriott Rewards program. They refused to upgrade me even though all of their suites were showing as available for booking. The property was completely empty. I imagine it’s as empty or emptier now. Best of all, we were there as part of a corporate junket. I was the meeting planner. We had 15 rooms. So most of the 25 people were our people. Our contract required them to upgrade me and the three other platinums or platinum premiers to the best available suite at the time of check-in. They flat out violated the contract. I had to call Marriott’s Latin America-Caribbean meeting and events sales manager, who pitched us on doing the event there, to get the property to comply with the contract and upgrade. It also took almost two months to get the points. Needless to say, neither Marriott nor the JW Marriott Los Cabos has ever pitched us on returning to the property despite us doing a good dozen events per year before COVID. I think this is a classic case of (a) really bad management, (b) a property that doesn’t care about returning guests or elite status guests, and (c) a property or an owner that knows they are in Mexico and can basically screw foreigners because none of us are going to sue them in a Mexican court.

  32. Yes, Marriott and Marriott Bonvoy are horrible. But you know what? Hyatt is horrible too. Hyatt owns and manages a property — the one in Hawaii — that is notorious for cheating elites out of award redemptions by playing games with room categories. Hyatt is only marginally better than Marriott, IHG or Hilton because (a) Hyatt’s footprint is, at least until recently, much smaller and (b) again, until recently, Hyatt managed the majority of its hotels worldwide. I don’t know if that will continue to be the case given all the acquisitions of late.

    By contrast, Marriott does not manage the majority of its hotels. These days, Marriott pretty much only manages a couple of high-end brands like Ritz-Carlton, Edition and JW Marriott and even then generally only internationally. Increasingly even Ritz-Carlton franchisees are being allowed to manage their own property or hire a third-party management company, like YTL in Malaysia. You can’t ensure compliance with this kind of model. Especially when the hotel development and hotel management divisions of Marriott International actively find ways to undercut the loyalty division; like cheating guests out of a breakfast benefit by actively encouraging properties, both Marriott-managed properties and franchisee/third-party-managed properties, to only provide bread and coffee for breakfast.

    If it were up to me I would be a free agent but my principal is a Marriott addict. Between us we have probably 5 million Marriott points banked. At this point we’re too invested to go to greener pastures. So when I plan our corporate junkets I don’t even deal with Marriott International anymore. The corporate sales folks are useless, especially when so many properties aren’t managed by Marriott corporate. Most of the time corporate sales just refers you to the property sales team, which means they do nothing but collect a commission for referral.

    It took a couple years but we finally found properties that knew what my principal and the folks who attend the corporate junket want in exchange for $20,000 to $30,000 of business over 3 nights. Triple points, guaranteed suite upgrades, complimentary full breakfast, drink chits, and group rate good three night before and three nights after. You should see the rider I put onto the contract.

    Before COVID, we were doing a dozen events a year worth as much as $360,000. The year before I took over planning the principal did six events at the Ritz-Carlton San Juan and four events at the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas. Neither property EVER upgraded him to a suite. Neither property EVER tossed in club lounge access. We stopped going to those properties when I took over.

    As bad as this JW Marriott Los Cabos is and was, right now is a great time to be a meeting and event planner for small groups because properties are desperate for this kind of guaranteed revenue. Especially if you’re a small group or a group without a lot of banqueting demands. My usual 15 attendees would rather eat in the restaurant at the hotel every night than do a banquet or worry about leaving the property and finding an off-property restaurant that wants to deal with 15 people (plus spouses) taking up table space for a couple hours. I’m putting out an RFP this week to a dozen different properties and will be asking for FIVE TIMES POINTS as opposed to my usual triple points. I’m sure I will get a taker.

    By the way, I would say my principal has spent somewhere between $1.2 million and $1.8 million on these junkets in the last four or five years. That’s not an insignificant sum of money. Never once have we been taken out to dinner by Marriott International’s sales team. Nothing. Not even a “thanks for doing business.” So, yes, while we continue doing business with Marriott it’s with individual properties and not corporate itself. If the Marriotts still ran Marriott I suspect Mr. Marriott would have flown out to see my principal by now.

  33. This is Marriott’s way of saying “%&^* you!” to all the loyalists. Now, no more reason to stay loyal with Marriott. WTH?

  34. There are a lot of really nice places in the world that aren’t Cabo/Cancun/Hawaii/Costa Rica that actually want your business and don’t try to screw you all the time. It sucks that Bonvoy lets this hotel get away with this, but what do you expect. You and everyone else are flocking to Cabo, so they get away with it.

  35. @Jerry: Agreed.

    There is actually an older but nice Sheraton in Samoa, the independent country, not American Samoa, the US territory. It’s not the easiest place to visit, but it’s basically a more authentic Hawaii and Polynesian experience. It’s also a deal on points being a category 3. The only problem? It’s a Sheraton so the food sucks and the hotel itself is probably four or five years overdue for an exhaustive renovation.

    There are also some excellent hotels that are cheap in terms of cash and points in Indonesia and Malaysia. Service is exceptional as is the case almost everywhere in Southeast Asia.

  36. @FNT Delta Diamon

    Haven’t done Samoa, but the Westin in Guam is pretty run down and I wouldn’t advise it. I guess Guam wouldn’t be considered Polynesian(it’s Chamorro), but it’s still an island culture.

  37. @bhcompy: Yeah, Guam is not in Polynesia. It’s Micronesia. I used to go to Guam a lot. It was actually great because Delta used to fly there and you would rack up lots of MQMs connecting through Tokyo-Narita. Plus, you used to on occasion get 747s from Narita to Guam. Those days ended in 2017, I believe. Too bad too. The Tokyo-based flight attendants for Delta, all of whom were fired by Delta after Narita was de-hubbed, were the best Delta had. The Hyatt in Guam is renovated or almost fully renovated. I was under the impression the Westin had been renovated too. The Sheraton is horrible, outside of the infinity pool. Guam’s hotels are all owned by two or third people. The big owner is a Japanese company, which as you can imagine has struggled with Japan’s multi-year economic woes. I did a month at the Sheraton and a month at the Hyatt. Dusit Thani is the newest and probably nicest hotel in Guam but no points. The Hyatt GM is great. One of the best GMs anywhere.

  38. “Fortunately Marriott corporate has addressed this, and the hotel will no longer be able to charge this fee going forward.”

    How do we know Marriott is actually doing something? We are talking about potentially thousands of guests who were wrongly charged by the hotel over the past few years. Is Marriott actually going to go back and manually refund or manually credit these guests? I would be interested to know who the franchisee is and what other properties they own and operate under Marriott brands since Marriott implied it was looking into other properties.

    Now, if only Marriott would stop properties from claiming toast and coffee is a compliant breakfast benefit.

  39. A quick Google search revealed that the JW Marriott Los Cabos is MANAGED BY MARRIOTT and owned by Grupo Diestra, which owns 17 hotels in Mexico including the Renaissance Cancun
    Resort & Marina, Villahermosa Marriott, Marriott Tuxtla Gutierrez, JW Marriott Santa Fe and Marriott Reform in Mexico City, Marriott Aguascalientes and Marriott Tijuana. It would be interesting to know if the other properties charge similar fees.

    Sources: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/jw-marriott-brand-to-open-luxury-resort-in-los-cabos-mexico-171583791.html and http://www.grupodiestra.com/

  40. While a mere $30 fee may outrage, this is quite small compared with some airlines. BA charges around $1,400 in fees on a transatlantic round trip using Avios. Of that amount, about half is taxes and landing fees, the other half is “carrier imposed fees,” formerly called a fuel surcharge. After a law suit following the drop in fuel prices to the lowest in over 40 years, BA just rebranded it; kind of: ok, we’ll just stop making excuses and just stick it to you because we can.

  41. The Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino charges a $15 fee per night for award reservations, but no such fee on paid reservations. Can you also bring to Marriott’s attention.

  42. Keith – ‘BA charges around $1,4000’ … ‘about half is taxes and landing fees …’

    That is absolutly incorrect.

    The actual figures are WORSE than that!

    The total taxes, fees and surcharges are approx £ 1,279 / $1,772

    Of that $1,400 (approx £1,010) is just the BA carrier surcharge.

    The proper taxes and airport fees are £ 275.72 – approx $ 372

    Head for Points did an article on thos very issue last weekend

    https://www.headforpoints.com/2021/03/21/avios-taxes-and-charges-from-united-states/comment-page-2/#comments

  43. @Lucky, what about the poor sod who’s getting charged $17k for their redemption for extra guests? Are they still getting bonvoyed or do you have an update on that?

  44. I got charged $2.50 by the Four Points by Sheraton at SFO as a service charge on a Bonvoy Award reservation…called Bonvoy and was told that it’s a “tax”… WTH??? On a zero revenue sale? Bonvoyed!!!

  45. I get it- this property needs it. Last time I ate there I used at least $30 of toilet paper dealing with what un holy hell that food did to my body. I usually leave $5 a night for the maid, after the destruction their food caused in my suites bathroom, they for a $20.

    Of course for my health and safety I will never stay there, but I hear they have an anti vaxxer anti masker special. You should go if you qualify. And get the special, it’ll taste good one of the two times it’s in your mouth.

  46. To be clear from the outset, I’m completely against this but mainly because I’m non-US based and therefore my points come from hotel stays. But I think US posters saying that this is flicking the Vs to loyal customers are now paying the price from the loyalty market in the US giving you 10,000 points every time you go to the loo. How many of those trying to redeem points in this hotel have earned them from stays with Marriott? Would suggest therefore that this isn’t so much hitting ‘loyal’ customers as opposed to people with fists full of points from other sources. Certainly the reason for BA reward flights from the US costing a lot more than those from the U.K. is because Avios are much, much easier to earn in the US.

  47. “If you don’t like it, go to another hotel” well in some destinations, like New York, Las Vegas, many hotels in Mexican tourist destinations, ALL the hotels do this. Are you suggesting people never visit places they want to visit because of this? This isn’t a problem unique to Marriott, or Hilton, or IHG. Voting with your wallet won’t fix this because people aren’t gonna stop going to Vegas.

  48. Just stayed at the Moana Surfrider in Honolulu for 1 night on March 23 using reward points. Was charged $10 for reward redemption and $42 for resort fees and $7.79 in taxes.

  49. I am having a similar issue with the Element in Moab, Utah. I redeemed points for my stay in March and was charged a $54 “redemption fee” by the property. I have been calling weekly with Marriott customer service and leaving messages for the manager, who has yet to return any of my calls. Unlike the first example at the JW Marriott in Los Cabos, there was no “warning” about any fee for redeeming points, nor did the reservation info say anything about it. This is also not a resort fee, just a charge to use points. My biggest issue is that nowhere along the way was I notified that a fee would be charged – I have never been charged to redeem points before and wasn’t charged at the Sheraton in Park City a few days later – and now the radio silence from the hotel.

    Unfortunately given COVID I used self-checkout and didn’t see the charge until I received my final bill a few days later. Lesson learned.

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