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
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.