Here’s the Deal with Hidden Taxes and Fees

woman using a credit card to book a hotel_estimated priceHidden fees and unexpected costs are the dread of any shopper. You think you’ll pay one thing, only to see taxes, shipping costs, or online “convenience fees” skyrocket the price right before you click “Check Out”.

It’s happened to us all. You hunt for concert tickets for your favorite band, add them to your cart, but then realize that the final total is 30-40% more than anticipated. The same goes for car rentals. The initial excitement of spotting an affordable daily rate is erased when you see the taxes and fees that get added on top. Airbnb does the same thing: Why is there an extra cleaning fee that is half the rental cost??

Hotel bookings can trap you too. You’ve probably seen it when searching for a room on travel sites like Expedia or You identify a nightly rate. Then, you proceed to checkout where, boom, you’re hit with lodging taxes, resort fees, hospitality fees, parking fees, Wi-Fi fees, and who knows what else. Try another OTA (online travel agency), and you’ll experience the same thing: more hidden fees and taxes tacked on at the last minute.

First, let’s pause for a quick second. It’s worth noting that some of these fees are unavoidable. Hotels all have state lodging taxes that they’re required. Upscale resorts often have resort fees to cover the costs of staff who wait on you by the pool. You’ll find Wi-Fi and parking fees at some properties, but these can be avoided if you’re savvy enough. So, the extra fees themselves might not be unfair, but you can hate the way they’re displayed to you. Hiding fees and burying taxes until the last second? Doesn’t feel right.

Hidden Fees: The Difference Between Us and Them

At Roomkey, we hated this too, so we decided to do something about it. We built a hotel search experience that puts transparency above all else. This is one of the many reasons we’re different from those other sites. We want you to know just how much you’ll pay before you hit “Confirm”. No hidden fees. No surprises.

For example, a night at the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square shows a $154 loyalty rate that totals to $180 with taxes. See below:

roomkey rate display for hotel

The total price is laid out to the right, showing the $154.37 for 1 night + $26.27 in taxes which totals $180.64. We also describe that this rate is a prepaid rate meaning that you won’t be able to cancel or modify your reservation.

Compare this to an OTA site, like Expedia for example, that shows $158 per night. However, the full price isn’t displayed until you click the “Reserve” button and go to their checkout page. But even then, Expedia buries the details of your total price. You have to click “View Price Details” in order to see that $26.74 in taxes are added on top of your $157.52 nightly rate for a total of $184.26.

We don’t want to shock you when it comes time to pay. So, our rate breakdown tool puts it all out in the open. We also clearly define the type of rate you’re getting and whether or not you can change, cancel, or receive a refund.

Not only is Roomkey more transparent and up front with our rate details, but you may have noticed that our rate is cheaper too. Find out why here: Being a Loyalty Member Gets You the Best Hotel Rates.

Roomkey Doesn’t Try to Manipulate You

In a Roomkey search experience, you won’t find flags such as “In high demand,” Someone just booked this property,” “Hurry, 50 people are looking at this room,” or “Only 3 rooms left.” On other sites, these are nothing more than persuasive tactics to try to get you to book a room sooner. They want to rush you into a decision as soon as possible, feeding you FOMO so that you think you need to book now or else you’ll miss your chance. You’re hurried into an uneducated decision because of these pressures, and we don’t think that’s very fair.

Taxes that are subtracted from your total price until the last minute and hidden fees that aren’t revealed until checkout are similar to this. These sites want you to think you’re snagging a great rate, but you actually aren’t. In contrast, we believe that rate transparency is more important. When you search on, you know you’ll be in a gimmick-free zone. We focus on just the facts and present them in a way that makes sense. We are in the business of helping you, not pick-pocketing you while you’re not looking.

What’s the Deal with Rates that Have a Strike-Through?

You might be wondering why you see prices on our site that are displayed with a strike-through (most often, you’ll see this with Marriott properties). Simply due to how Marriott defines their contracts with non-Marriott search sites, they don’t list the Marriott Bonvoy rate on sites other than When you see a Marriott rate that is displayed with a strike-through, we promise that it’s lower than the non-member rate… you just have to click through to Marriott’s site in order to see it.

How to Save on Hotel Rates

  1. Know Where to Find the Lowest Rates. As we’ve mentioned before, booking through the hotel’s loyalty program gets you a lower rate than what you’ll find on OTA sites. It also offers you extra benefits. Member perks like late checkout, free parking, complimentary breakfast, or access to executive lounges can help offset any incurred fees.
  2. Be Honest About What Amenities You Need. If you know you won’t use the beach, pool, or workout facility at a hotel, consider an alternative property. Use our search tool to filter by which amenities you want or don’t want.
  3. Sign Up for Price Alerts. Take advantage of Price Alerts, which will email you when the price drops for a hotel that you’re considering.
  4. Know What You’ll Pay in Taxes and Fees. Hotels should be up front about taxes or extra fees. Roomkey vows to be transparent, too. Conversely, OTAs and their hidden fees and buried taxes make you feel like you’re getting a deal. But you should know what you’ll actually pay before you pay. That’ll help you compare the total price for one hotel against the total price of another.

When you’re ready, start your hotel booking process. You’ll know your full rate right from the start, so you won’t feel like you’re getting taken for a ride. At Roomkey, there are no tricks. Just travel.