Bonvoyed Again! Marriott HQ Weighs In On Insane Hotel Credit Card Fees
This article about hotel credit card fees is NOT our standard article. We’re going beyond that to look at a Marriott hotel that is fleecing its customers. “Bonvoyed” has become a pejorative lately–a term to describe customers getting screwed by Marriott. I reached out to several parties on this to understand what’s happening with this Florida Marriott property and its anti-consumer hotel credit card fees. This is an investigation of sorts to see if this behavior will continue.
Florida Marriott Property Charging Excess Fees
A friend of mine walked into the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort at the end of March and saw this sign in the lobby. I can confirm this sign is new and appeared sometime after March 1, 2021.
Good on him that he left and didn’t stay there, since he found this ridiculous. I agree that it’s ridiculous for a Westin (high-end hotel property) to charge a fee like this. After thinking about it, I decided to investigate.
I Reached Out To Key Parties
This fee really rubbed me the wrong way, so I decided to see what Marriot has to say about it. I also was interested in what the banks who issue Marriott credit cards have to say. Since this fee discourages people from using their credit card, would this bother American Express or Chase (the banks that issue the various Marriott credit cards)?
Marriott Customer Service
I contacted the Marriott customer service on Twitter. They told me they would have the hotel contact me within 5 days. 6 days later, I messaged them again asking what happened. A full 15 days after my original DM, the hotel contacted me by email.
I knew the hotel was going to say this fee isn’t illegal and give me some nonsense, which is why I hadn’t planned to contact them at all.
Yes, we do charge a credit card surcharge fee. I would reluctantly understand if you chose not to stay with us. However, should your travels bring you to our property please feel free to [contact the people CCed on the email] to be your personal ambassadors and showcase the experience so many rave about.
In other words: “Our hotel is so awesome, you’d be lucky to stay here, even if we charge a fee.” I’m not buying it.
Back To Marriott Customer Service
In my reply to the hotel, I included Marriott’s customer service email. I said that this fee is not disclosed on the website, and I find it silly. I asked for a direct answer to this question: if I pay with my Marriott credit card, would they still charge this fee? The hotel replied nearly immediately saying yes.
Marriott customer service said this:
It is up to the hotels to set their taxes and we would stand by them in their processes. If we can be of any additional assistance in the future, please let us know.
I replied saying that we aren’t talking about taxes. I included a picture of the sign and pointed out this is an extra, optional fee. I asked for a yes / no on whether Marriott knows about this and whether this is acceptable to them.
As mentioned by my previous colleague, surcharges, taxes, and fees vary from hotel to hotel and each hotel has its own policy regarding these charges.
Chase Customer Service
At the same time as I originally reached out to Marriott, I contacted Chase customer service to see what they had to say. I figure a bank would want to know if its co-brand partner is actively discouraging use of the credit card they have together.
It appears that the institution in your photo may charge their own fees at their discretion. If you have questions about the benefits of your Chase credit card, kindly call the number on the back of your card anytime. Thank you.
I replied saying that wasn’t my question, and is Chase OK with the hotel discouraging me from using my Chase Marriott card?
American Express Customer Service
American Express took the unique approach of just never replying to me. I gave up on them after 3 attempts.
Those Went Nowhere, So I Went Higher On The Food Chain
Since I was getting a lot of TV lawyer ‘my client has no comment at this time’ type of response, I figured I was talking to the wrong people. Would someone with decision-making powers have an interest in this?
Chase Media Contacts
I emailed the ‘media contacts’ at Chase via their website. I included a picture of the sign and said that I’m interested in their thoughts.
- 1-did they know about this?
- 2-do they have any thoughts on a hotel discouraging me from using the co-brand card they issue together?
- 3-what could they say to convince me having that credit card is worth it, if I have to pay extra to use it at the hotel?
- 4-I mentioned that I do write for a blog, in order to be fully transparent. I didn’t name the blog, but I figured no one could claim I surprised them by taking an email reply and putting it in an article.
Chase never replied to me. I tried twice with the media contacts, and this was over 2 weeks ago.
American Express Media Contacts
I sent the same email to American Express. I got a reply within 15 minutes.
Thank you very much for reaching out. Allow me to look into this to better understand the details here and I will get back to you.
More to come shortly.
By “shortly”, I understand she will never reply to me again. I tried two more times and got no reply. I think 2 weeks was more than enough time for the people I contacted to get back to me.
I Add Marriott Corporate To The Email
When Marriott customer service was giving me nonsense replies, I decided to break the cycle of “we don’t set hotel policy on taxes” and me saying “this isn’t a tax” then getting the same answer again. For the 2nd time in my life, I emailed a company CEO. (I did this previously with my insane United experience)
Marriott HQ Responds
Someone from Marriott HQ (in the Ireland branch of their Office of Consumer Affairs) emailed me saying they got my email to the CEO. That was it.
I replied asking if they had any more to say, so he asked for my number and a convenient time to call me.
On a side note: this couldn’t be more “Bonvoy=mess”. This guy is from Portugal, working at an office in Ireland, calling me from a German phone number, to talk to me about a hotel in Florida.
Lack of telling the customer about the fee in advance
Him: My first concern was whether this was showing in advance. I confirmed with the hotel that it shows.
Me: The hotel told you the fee is on the website? It’s not. I’ve looked everywhere.
Him: I believe that it is, but that is something I will tell our IT team. Because I agree with you that this fee should be known to the customer.
Marriott’s view of the hotel credit card fees
This hotel is a franchise. There are some limitations with what Marriott oversees. I assure you […] we are looking into it. I cannot guarantee you whether the hotel will continue to be allowed to charge that fee or not, but it is being looked at. If there is something we can do, it will be done.
What’s the point of a Marriott credit card?
That’s a very valid point. I will bring this to the attention of our departments to look into it. I can’t give you a straight answer.
Do you think consumers will choose not to stay at your hotels if they have this fee? I know I won’t.
I understand what you’re saying. It makes sense. This is the first fee like this I’ve seen in the United States. We were caught a little bit by surprise and have to look into it. It goes above me, because there are other situations we have to look into, especially considering the partnership with the hotel. But 100% I understand what you are saying. This is not a common practice–not at all.
Every Marriott hotel has signs saying I should have / use a Marriott credit card, but now I have to pay extra to use the card. Does it make sense to have the card?
I understand that you want to earn the points and enjoy the benefits from the card, which is why you signed up for it. And we want you to continue to enjoy that and keep the card. We understand what you are saying.
How will customers know if the fee is continuing or going away? Will you give me an update?
I cannot commit to let you know when this will be resolved. Our team is looking into it. It will be discussed internally, but we will not be able to release a statement at this moment concerning this.
In the future, if you want to try to make a booking for this hotel, you can look online or talk to the reservation department or call the hotel to check with them. Then you will see if the fee is there and being charged.
My Takeaway On This
I understand that swipe fees are going up on credit cards. Personally, I can’t fault a mom & pop shop that asks for a minimum purchase amount if you want to use a credit card. I also won’t fault them for adding 50 cents or a small fee if I use a credit card. They’re struggling to make ends meet.
Marriott is NOT that. Not by a long shot. For a high-end property in a multi-national hotel chain to charge a credit card fee is beyond ridiculous. But that’s just the base of how insane this is.
Here’s why this extra fee on credit cards is totally ridiculous:
- This fee is not disclosed in advance. I scraped every detail of Marriott.com and the info page for the Westin Fort Lauderdale. Next, I made dummy bookings. I even clicked on every link. There’s no warning about this fee. That lack of disclosure in advance is unfair to consumers. It’s been over a week since Marriott HQ was supposed to get this fee onto the website, and it’s still not there. (Our prediction is that it never will be)
- I’d wager no one pays for hotels in cash these days, so you’re essentially telling your customers that they all need to pay an extra fee for the fact it’s 2021.
- PLUS, you cannot even reserve a Marriott hotel without a credit card. Then they want to charge you an extra fee for paying with this credit card they required you to put on the reservation.
- Marriott has its own credit cards via American Express and Chase. If you actively discourage people from using credit cards, that means you are discouraging people from using your own credit cards. What’s the point of a Marriott credit card if I have to pay extra to use it at the hotel whose name is printed on the front?
- Other hotels aren’t doing this, which means customers can go there to save money. This is a negative competitive edge.
- Due to the pandemic, Marriott actively encourages no-contact operations at its hotels. This includes checking in online and checking out online. You can’t do any of these no-contact options that corporate is encouraging if you don’t want to pay this fee. This fee punishes you for following pandemic protocols put in place at the hotel. They are telling you to do 2 opposite things at the same time.
- Every Marriott property has signage encouraging you to pay with a Marriott credit card (or sign up if you don’t have one). Signs will tell you about the extra points you earn by paying with your Marriott credit card. Why is your signage telling me to do something that I’ll pay an extra fee for? Again, they are telling us to do 2 contradictory things at once.
For me personally
I’ve talked about the Marriott roller coaster and some of their anti-consumer/anti-loyalty moves before. I will drop my status with them in a heartbeat if this becomes a new norm. However, it sounds like Marriott doesn’t want this to happen and didn’t even know it was happening. That leaves me some hope this won’t continue / expand.
Granted, some of the discussion with Marriott HQ included non-answers or “no comment” because of their internal policies. And it sounds like the guy I talked to doesn’t set policy, so all he can do is listen to me, get my feedback, and tell me they’re looking into this. He can’t set policies or make any promises. It’s both good and bad.
Hotel Credit Card Fees – Final Thoughts
I loathe businesses that try to fleece their customers. I separate small businesses from mega-corporations in what I find tolerable. For Marriott, they rake in so much money every year that pretending they need an excess 2% credit card fee at a high-end Westin property is shameful. The fact corporate and regional management didn’t know about this speaks to a lack of oversight, which is another conversation entirely. I find this ridiculous and wouldn’t stay at a property that does this–especially if that fee still applies when I use a credit card with the hotel’s name on it. Too many hotels try to nickel & dime us already, and I’m not willing to pay additional hotel credit card fees. I’ll take my business elsewhere.
What would you do? Would you stay at a hotel if they charge an extra fee when paying by credit card? Stay there and eat the fee? Pay by cash or debit instead? Walk out? Let us know.