There are few things that I despise more than hidden travel fees that chip away at your vacation budget. Unfortunately these fees have become much more prevalent as hotels, airlines, and other travel companies fight to show the lowest rate on travel booking websites.
Today we are going to talk about seven of the most common hidden travel fees and a few tips on how you can avoid them. Let’s get started.
1) Checked bag fees – Most airlines charge ~$25 per bag each way, with that number being closer to $50 per bag for some of the budget airlines. And of course that fee can more than double if your bag exceeds the posted weight limited for each airline.
Sure, you can try to fit everything in to a carry-on bag to avoid this fee, but that just isn’t realistic for some trips.
A better way to get around checked bag fees is to consider picking up the airline’s credit card before booking and taking your trip. Most major airline credit cards provide free checked bags as one of their many perks, which can add up to some serious savings if you travel frequently or with a large group.
Another option is to consider using points from a card such as the Barclays Arrival Plus or Capital One Venture card, which earn points that can be used to erase any travel charge made with the card (including checked bag fees). You can read more about those cards by clicking the banner on our credit cards page.
You can erase checked baggage fees with the Capital One Venture Card
2) Resort fees – Resort fees are mandatory fees added to a hotel stay in exchange for the use of amenities such as Wi-Fi, fitness centers, parking, etc. These fees have become incredibly common over the past few years, particularly in popular destinations like Las Vegas and the Caribbean.
The Venetian Las Vegas charges $32 per night for resort fees
Getting out of paying resort fees is difficult, but luckily you do have some options available.
The easiest way to avoid these pesky fees is to book an award stay. Many major chains (but not all) will waive resort fees for any stays booked with points, but this can sometimes vary by property. You might want to contact the hotel to confirm their specific policy before booking.
Another way to get out of paying resort fees is to simply ask if you can decline the amenities offered in exchange for the fee. This is a long shot, but asking never hurt anyone.
Finally, you can try to flex your “status muscles” at check in, mentioning that you have elite status with the hotel chain and already get a number of amenities for free.
If none of these options work you can erase the charge with points from a Barclays Arrival Plus or Capital One Venture credit card, which I just mentioned above.
3) Phone Ticketing Fees – Many airlines charge $15 – $25 if you want to book a ticket via the phone. Personally I think that having to deal with customer service representatives is punishment enough, but having to pay to do so simply adds insult to injury.
The best way to get out of phone ticketing fees is to simply claim that the airline’s website is having some sort of technical error. Whether true or not, mentioning a website error almost always results in the customer service representative waiving the fee.
Of course an even better option is to simply book your tickets online and avoid the hassle of having to call.
4) Rental Car Insurance – While not technically a “fee”, car rental insurance purchased from the rental agency might as well be considered one. Often times running ~$20 per day for full coverage, this expense can be completely avoided by taking advantage of the Auto Rental Coverage offered by Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Simply decline the insurance offered by the rental agency, pay with your Chase Sapphire Preferred, and you’re covered. Your Sapphire Preferred provides primary rental coverage for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. Make sure to double check the terms and conditions before taking advantage of this benefit.
You can find more information regarding Chase Sapphire Preferred by clicking the banner on our credit cards page.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers primary rental coverage
5) Rental Car Gas Prepayment – Before leaving any rental car agency you are sure to be asked if you would like to prepay for a full tank of gas for the rental car. Rental agencies will often try to sell you on the fact that they can offer a lower price than most competitive gas stations.
What they’re not so up-front about is the fact that you have to pay for a full tank of gas when you choose this option, not just the amount that you used. So even if you are saving 20 to 30 cents per gallon you are still losing money unless you return the car with the fuel gauge on “E”.
Better to decline their offer and fill the tank yourself.
6) Hotel and Airport Parking – Parking a car at a hotel or airport can cost as much as $50 per night, especially when you are traveling to higher cost of living cities like LA or New York. Many people overlook this expense when making the decision whether to rent a car vs rely on rideshare or taxi services.
Unless you plan on using a car extensively I would recommend sticking with rideshare services such as Uber or Lyft. They’re likely cheaper, more convenient, and will save you the time and hassle of returning your rental car before flying home.
If you must rent a car, consider parking offsite to find a cheaper rate. Or bill the parking charge to your hotel room and erase it with points from a Capital One Venture or Barclays Arrival Plus.
7) ATM Fees – I get dozens of emails each month asking about what services I use to withdraw or exchange money while traveling. My answer to all of them is the same, none of them!
A better option is to open a free checking account with Charles Schwab (no affiliation). Here’s why:
- Unlimited reimbursement of any ATM fees, anywhere on earth (this saves me hundreds of dollars each year)
- No fees or minimums
- Free checks and ATM cards
- A competitive interest rate on any deposits
Open a checking account with Schwab to save on ATM fees
Charles Schwab also does not charge currency conversion fees, so you can withdraw foreign currency from any ATM on the planet at market rates. Which also saves me hundreds of dollars per year.
I personally recommend creating a secondary account with Schwab and only funding it with enough money to cover your trip, just in case your debit card information is compromised while traveling.
Image Credit: JJbins.com, AA.com, Parade.com