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When you make an award booking with Hilton or Hyatt you don’t have to worry about resort/destination/amenity fees because those chains waive their junk fees on award bookings. You don’t even have to hold elite status with Hilton or Hyatt to avoid these fees because everyone gets junk fees waived when booking awards with these guys.
Sadly, the same is not true of award bookings with IHG or Marriott.
Marriott’s website is far from perfect when it comes to prominently displaying the junk fees that some properties charge on award bookings but, on the whole, it’s not terrible. IHG’s website, however, has always been deceptive and following a recent minor refresh, it’s now even worse, so yet more people may be getting hit with junk fees that they were not expecting.
IHG’s deceptive website
If you search for a hotel on IHG.com and want to pay with money, this is the kind of results page that you can expect to see (I’ve deliberately filtered for properties that I know charge junk fees but other than that, this is a pretty standard page):
By placing a check mark in the appropriate box, I’ve instructed the IHG website to include all taxes and fees in the prices that it’s displaying, and when I select the Kimpton Hotel Palomar South Beach and proceed to the next page, the total price that I’m shown matches that shown on the search results page and includes the property’s ridiculous “amenity fee”.
So far, so good. There’s nothing to see here.
If I now perform the same search but instruct IHG.com to show the cost of a night in points rather than in cash, this is the results page that I’m presented with.
Once again, I’ve been careful to make sure to instruct the website to show me the cost of an award night including all taxes and fees and if you look closely, all three results in the screenshot above say that the cost shown “includes taxes and fees”.
There’s no mention anywhere that an amenity fee will be levied.
If I now select the Kimpton Hotel Palomar South Beach once again, this is the page that I’m presented with:
The website still shows that I’ve asked for my results to include all taxes and fees and it also confirms that the prices that I’m being shown include all taxes and fees, but, once again, there’s no mention anywhere that an amenity fee will be charged.
If I now go ahead and confirm that I want to make the booking with 25,000 points, this is the completion page that appears:
The very last line of the pricing quite clearly states that the total charges will be 25,000 points.
For most people, the word “total” means “final and complete” so someone who’s making a quick booking and who is not looking for any hidden fees, could easily be forgiven for thinking that the total cost of this stay will be 25,000 points only.
As we know, however, that’s not going to be the case.
Before the latest website refresh, IHG.com was almost as deceptive as it is right now with the difference being that when you reached the final payment page, the junk fee was buried in a paragraph under the “estimated total price”.
Now, however, that paragraph has been hidden and despite the fact that the IHG website will happily tell a visitor that it is displaying the “total charges” payable, you have to expand the section above the “total charges” to reveal the rip-off fee that will be added.
I have no idea how this is legal.
How can it possibly be right for a major hotel chain’s website to use phrases that suggest all the charges are being included and displayed when they are not?
I’m not sure what part of “show taxes and fees” IHG doesn’t understand, and I’m not sure who at IHG thinks that it’s ok to use the word “total” to describe a price when the price being shown is very clearly not the final price that will have to be paid, but something needs to be done about this. This is the sort of move I’d expect from a con-artist and not from one of the world’s biggest hotel operators.
The way IHG.com displays the total cost of award bookings at properties that charge junk fees is very deceptive.
While seasoned miles & points fans will probably know to watch out for the junk fees that some IHG properties love to add, it’s important to remember that the overwhelming majority of people are not seasoned miles & points fans and are therefore not looking out for sneaky, underhand fees.
Most people won’t know to check for IHG’s hidden junk fees so I suspect that an unacceptable percentage of travelers (mostly those who are new to the miles & points world) are probably being caught out by nonsense like this, and that’s very disappointing.
Hopefully, however, now that you’ve read this article, you won’t be one of them.