Outrageous! Hotels are charging for parking — whether you have a car or not

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By Christopher Elliott

Hotels are taking fees to the next level: Now they’re charging guests for parking even if they don’t have a car.

Seriously. It happened to Sira Mas checked into a boutique hotel in Chicago recently. She found a $25 per night fee on her bill for parking.

But she didn’t have a car.

“The parking fee was mandatory for every visitor,” says Mas, who works for an e-commerce company in Spain.

She appealed to a manager, who agreed to delete the parking fee.

Folks, hotel fees are starting to come unhinged. More properties are charging their guests for parking, the fees are higher than they’ve ever been — and sometimes, hotels even charge guests who don’t have a car.

I’ll have a few more parking fee stories in a minute. But first, let’s find out how bad they’ve gotten — and what’s behind the rise in these fees.

How much do hotels charge for parking?

The average hotel parking fee is $44 a night, according to research by ResortFeeChecker.com. The site has a database of more than 10,000 properties, of which about 1,100 disclose their parking fees. 

The most expensive cities for hotel parking are New York, San Francisco and Chicago, says Randy Greencorn, publisher of ResortFeeChecker.com. “Each of these cities charges an average parking rate in excess of $60 per night,” he says.

In New York, parking fees can exceed $100 a night. The Pierre and Hyatt Centric Times Square both charge $105 a night. There are five hotels in Manhattan that are part of what I like to call the Parking Fee Century Club. The Westin New York Grand Central, Embassy Suites by Hilton New York Manhattan Times Square and Millennium Hilton New York One UN Plaza round out the list.

It’s harder to establish that parking fees are on the rise. Although ResortFeeChecker.com doesn’t have any historical data, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that more hotels than ever are charging parking fees.

Why are hotel parking fees on the rise?

Experts say the rise in hotel parking fees — and hotels’ insistence on charging a fee even if you’re not parking a car — is driven by a variety of factors. They include increased land costs, inflation, and higher costs of maintaining a parking facility. 

The economics of parking are also shifting. Thanks to ridesharing and mass transit options, more guests are arriving without a car. 

“Parking fees can account for up to 20 percent of a hotel’s total revenue,” explains Greg Bessoni, general manager of Parkingaccess.com, a site that sells airport parking. “So having fewer guests with cars can affect their bottom line.”

But how did optional parking fees become mandatory? For years, hotels have added parking charges to all of their guest folios only after verifying they came by car. But somewhere along the line, the parking fees became required — whether you drove there or not.

Hotels employed the same logic as they did with resort fees, the mandatory charges added to your hotel room after the hotel quotes a price. (In other words, a hotel will quote you a room rate of $150 but then add a mandatory $25 per night resort fee, regardless of whether you use the resort amenities.)

Hotels are charging a mandatory parking fee using the same reasoning. You could have used the parking spot, but you didn’t.

Mandatory parking fees are the new resort fees

Don’t expect your hotel to bother asking you if you are parking your car at the hotel. You may just see a charge on your bill.

Sam Girach did when he stayed at a hotel in Los Angeles.

“Although I didn’t have a car, I was surprised to find a parking charge on my bill at the end of my stay,” says Girach, a game designer from Skeffington, England. “When I inquired about it, the front desk explained that it was a mandatory fee for all guests — whether they had a vehicle or not.”

But Girach felt that was unfair, so he decided to fight the charge. (Related: Hotel fee warning: What “for your convenience” really means.)

“After some negotiation, they finally agreed and removed the charge from my bill,” he says. “This experience made me wonder why hotels are increasingly charging for parking, even when guests don’t use the service.”

Maybe Girach has seen the future. While mandatory hotel resort fees may be on their way out, thanks to proposed new federal regulations, mandatory parking fees may turn into a rich new source of revenue for hotels. Maybe mandatory parking fees are the new resort fees.

You can fight these parking fees — and win

As far as hotel fees go, most hotel guests feel mandatory parking fees are completely ridiculous. They’re right up there on a list of the worst hotel fees next to energy surcharges (now illegal) and resort fees (soon to be illegal). 

But there’s good news for any hotel guest hit by a mandatory parking fee. You can fight the charge and win. (Related: Ridiculous or not? Airport parking fees start to multiply.)

If you start to think about the logic behind the latest parking fee, the absurdity comes into focus. Charging a mandatory parking fee makes about as much sense as adding a mandatory pet fee to your room, whether or not you brought your dog. Maybe they’ll try that next? (Related: Hidden hotel fees are back with a vengeance. Here’s how to avoid them.)

Guests should not tolerate it. If mandatory parking fees feel unfair to you, then you should refuse to pay them. You should also not give your future business to any hotel that added a parking fee to your bill without your consent. Otherwise, parking fees could become the next hotel resort fees. 

Elliott’s tips for fighting a hotel parking fee

You don’t have to pay a mandatory parking fee the next time you stay in a hotel — unless, of course, you want to use the hotel’s parking lot. (Related: How to avoid hidden hotel fees on your next trip.)

Read the fine print very carefully

Some hotels will disclose parking fees before you check in. You’ll also find them on the form you sign at check-in and on the electronic folio on your in-room TV. Make sure you ask the clerk about parking fees when you check in. Carefully review your bill at check-out time and say something if you see a parking fee.

Don’t wait to resolve this

The sooner you say something, the better. Ask the hotel receptionist to remove the charge. If that doesn’t work, politely ask to speak with a manager. If that fails, contact the hotel’s owner or hotel chain in writing to request it to undo the unwanted parking charge.

Dispute the charge on your credit card

The Fair Credit Billing Act allows you to dispute a credit card charge for goods or services you didn’t pay for. Contact your bank or credit card company and explain that your hotel charged you for parking when you didn’t park a car at the hotel.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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