Our Fabulous Fridays topic this week is the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program available to U.S. based Amex Platinum & Centurion card holders that offer a variety of top line benefits for each reservation (no minimum stay required).
This program is especially useful when it comes to hotel chains that don’t offer an elite level program such as Four Seasons or Rosewood (among others) where the usual top tier benefits like late check out and upgrades are an integral part and breakfast would be quite pricey to purchase as an additional item.
When it comes to the advertised “on property benefits” one has to consider if it really adds value or services that hotels usually do if they can no matter who you book with (such as a late check-out), those can be called ‘Soft Benefits’.
For example I consider an early check in / late check-out within reasonable limits as a soft benefit you’ll always be able to get at a decent hotel.
Receiving complimentary items such as Food & Beverage credit, complimentary breakfast, substantial room upgrades and airport transfers have a significant monetary value attached to them (even more so in luxury hotels) so those are definitely ‘Hard Benefits‘.
There are a range of providers who offer negotiated rates with certain luxury hotels but I found American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (access their website here) as well as Virtuoso (I wrote about that last year) to be the most generous in terms of what you’ll be able to get. For example every reservation comes with a US$100 Food & Beverage credit (careful: some hotels offer the $100 as a spa credit) at the property you’re staying at as well as complimentary breakfast.
Even though Amex FHR & Virtuoso are practically the same thing there are pro and con arguments for each. What I like about Amex FHR is that you can book the hotels online and receive instant confirmation – con: You need to be an Amex Platinum card member or above. Virtuoso is available to everybody but it has to be booked through a Virtuoso Agent which is a bit of a pain and rather useless for last minute bookings unless you already have a reliable agent contact that answers FAST. Virtuoso sometimes has slightly better rates and amenities though.
Example: I looked at a 1 night stay at the Rosewood Beijing and searched rates with Rosewood Hotels & Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts.
This is the rate Rosewood offers for a plain Standard room without tax/service charge:
The F&B outlets at the Rosewood Beijing are pretty nice and I usually spend these $100 anyway whenever I stay there. The MEI Bar is a nice spot during weekends so you can use the credit for alcohol as well.
It’s possible to change hotels every day and get the $100 daily or alternatively if you’re two guests then you book Night 1 in the name of guest A and then the next under Guest B. Rinse and repeat as often as you like.
What are the drawbacks?
Basically none. The only negative experience I have is that some hotels don’t recognize the FHR (Pay at Hotel) rate as eligible for additional benefits based on the loyalty program status such as Hyatt Globalist which would include suite upgrades. You do however always get the tier point and night credit.
Also you have to consider what these benefits are really worth to you. I’m already Hyatt Globalist so my only real benefit would be the $100 F&B credit. In other words the difference in rate compared to the lowest available Hyatt Rate (or eligible corporate rate) must reflect that otherwise no point for me to bother. For someone who doesn’t hold top tier status (across all chains) it’s an exceptional deal though.
The FHR reservations are supposed to show up in your online account but every so often they do not and if you have to cancel for any reason it’s a real pain. I was on the phone with Amex last month and to get the reservation cancelled required a full card security check which was one of the weirdest (and most annoying) things I’ve ever experienced. If you have something like this happening always try and cancel with the hotel itself first – I learned my lesson!
Over the years I’ve suggested this option to many friends who weren’t equipped with hotel top tier status and still enjoyed luxurious experiences this way, getting an excellent value for money. That doesn’t mean however that you shouldn’t compare prices and be realistic when attaching a value to your benefits.
If someone doesn’t have an American Express Platinum Card then it’s always possible to book the same arrangement with Virtuoso.