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It’s officially high travel season. The pandemic emergency has finally, officially been called off by the World Health Organization. The number of travelers passing through TSA checkpoints in June is approaching 2019 levels. And the travel industry has been enjoying slipping sneaky fees to unsuspecting travelers wherever possible.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, “odd and often avoidable” travel fees are becoming increasingly commonplace. One traveler the paper spoke reported being unexpectedly charged a $10 bellman gratuity fee, a daily $3 maid gratuity fee, and a $22 credit-card processing fee during his stay at a resort—even though he left a $10 cash tip for the maid and never used the bell service.
Unfortunately, it’s more than just resorts trying to recoup some of their pandemic-era losses. Airlines, car rental companies, hotels, and restaurants are also shamelessly charging you more money or inventing fees out of thin air. Luckily, there are ways to avoid some of these unwarranted fees.
Airlines charging a fee to book tickets online
Absurd fees have long been the norm when booking travel with a budget airline, but you can avoid one of them. Many budget airlines make you pay an “electronic carrier charge” when you book—essentially, it’s a fee for buying tickets online. Frontier charges $23 per passenger per flight, Spirit charges $23 per flight segment, and Allegiant charges $22. Breeze Airways calls this fee a “technology development charge,” and it ranges from $22 to $46 one way and per person, based on flight distance.
The simple way to avoid this fee is to buy your tickets at the airport. While it might be inconvenient for those who don’t live close by, the savings can be worth it if you’re buying tickets for multiple people (a five person family will run you $115 at the lowest fee). If you do decide to do this, keep in mind the airline’s ticket counter hours. (You can also try asking for the fee to be waived if you buy over the phone, provided the airline doesn’t charge a separate fee for that “service” too—Spirit Airlines was $35 for the privilege).
Fee for printing boarding passes
Some airlines are also happy to charge you a fee if you decide to head to the ticket counter to get your boarding passes printed:
- Breeze: $3 to print
- Allegiant Air: $5 to print
- Spirit: $25 to print or provide other services
- Frontier: $25 to print or provide other services
You can avoid this fee by printing your boarding pass at home or, at many airports, using a self-service kiosk. But the easiest thing to do is download the carrier’s mobile app to display an electronic boarding pass, or to save a screenshot of it on your phone.
Hotels charging you to get your mail
Some hotels are charging customers “package acceptance” or “handling fees” to receive their packages. The fees vary by hotel chain, location, and the weight of the package. One example, the J.W. Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live hotel, is charging $10 per item for shipping, receiving, or storing packages weighing 1 to 10 pounds (an envelope will cost $5). For heavier items, the cost increases by $1 a pound.
Car rental companies charging you the gas fee even after you filled the tank
It’s no surprise car rental companies love their fees, but some are taking it a bit too far. According to the Wall Street Journal, some customers who filled up their car’s tank before returning their rentals have reported being charged a refueling fee anyway. Depending on which company you rent from, this fee will vary. (Avis Budget Group, as one example, charges $16.)
Once you’re home, there’s not much you can do to prove you filled up the car, unless you kept your receipt and documented the fuel level with a picture on your phone. To avoid the hassle altogether, confirm your final charges before you leave the rental agency after dropping off the car.
If you have to drop it off after hours or without a clerk present, get a receipt at the pump when you’re refueling and take photos of the car’s gas gauge while in the rental company’s lot. Your phone will automatically save the time and location so you can use it as evidence the car was full of gas when and where it was returned. (The same rules apply when renting electric cars. Make sure you can prove that you charged up the vehicle).
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