With the ever-changing landscape in the world of hotel rewards points, I’m always prudent in choosing whether I want to pay with cash or with points.
When the points price doesn’t align with my target valuations, I’ll explore ways to reduce my out-of-pocket cost instead, whether through special discounts or unique booking channels that stretch the value I get from each dollar – a prime example of which is the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) program.
Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts is offered through American Express Travel, the financial institution’s in-house travel agency. Eligible cardholders who book accommodations at select luxury properties will receive a host of additional perks and benefits.
The Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) designation is reserved for high-end or luxury establishments, whereas properties in the “mid-range” or “upscale” category are more likely to be part of the American Express Hotel Collection, though the two programs function similarly.
How to Book Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts
(While any Amex cardholder can book the hotels that are part of the FHR program through American Express Travel, only Platinum cardholders get access to FHR benefits for their stay.)
To get started, click here to access the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts landing page, or you can navigate to the American Express Travel portal from the menu at the top of the Amex website.
Here, you can make searches as you would with any other booking site, indicating the location where you want to search, the dates of your stay, and the number of guests.
Hotels participating in the Fine Hotels & Resorts program will look similar to this, clearly indicating that there are additional benefits to be enjoyed during your stay.
Other than the additional benefits offered at the hotels, one of the main reasons why it’s worth looking at Fine Hotels & Resorts is that the Canadian-issued American Express Platinum Card offers a $200 annual credit per membership year as a perk of holding the card, while the US-issued Platinum Card also offers an annual US$200 credit per calendar year.
The US Platinum Card’s annual credit, in particular, is eligible only for bookings made directly with American Express Travel for hotels participating in the FHR or Hotel Collection programs, so if you’d like to maximize your benefits from the card, you’ll want to book this way at least once annually.
It’s worth noting that, unlike many of the other hotel booking channels out there, occasionally the FHR rate will be higher than the flexible rate, member rate, or discounted rate that the hotel themselves publicly advertise.
In these cases, you should think about how much you value the incremental Amex FHR benefits compared to the difference in rate in order to decide which channel to book through.
The last thing to note is that when booking a non-prepaid stay via FHR, you’ll be asked to settle your bill upon checkout using an American Express card; however, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the American Express card that you had originally used to secure the reservation.
What Are the Benefits of Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts?
You’ll be offered a standard set of benefits whenever you book through the Fine Hotels & Resorts program. These include:
- Daily breakfast for two every morning
- Guaranteed 4pm late checkout
- 12pm early check-in, subject to availability
- Room upgrade, subject to availability
- US$100 unique property credit per stay
The first four benefits listed here are standard across all Amex FHR properties, whereas the US$100 unique property credit can vary from hotel to hotel.
This usually takes the form of a US$100 credit to be spent on any incidentals at the property, but may also sometimes be more limited in nature, like a food and beverage credit, spa credit, or an airport transfer.
Some of these benefits may sound familiar, as they’re actually quite similar to the benefits offered by hotel elite status levels like Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite, Hilton Diamond, or Hyatt Globalist.
In fact, if you choose to stay at Amex FHR properties where you are also an elite member, there’s going to be quite a bit of overlap in the benefits you receive.
Some of these elite benefits can be stacked upon your Amex FHR benefits, while some may not. This depends on your specific status level and benefits.
For example, if you are staying at a luxury hotel brand which includes breakfast as an elite benefit, such as the St. Regis, the breakfast offered through FHR would neither be incremental nor useful.
Neither would the guaranteed 4pm check-out or early check-in benefits, as these are already available for all Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite or higher status members.
However, if you booked a property which does not include a free elite breakfast, such as the Ritz-Carlton or EDITION brands, then the Amex FHR-included breakfast benefit would certainly be something to pay attention to, and potentially a great reason to pick Amex FHR over booking directly.
Meanwhile, a benefit such as the complimentary room upgrade might be combinable with your elite status, in the sense that a hotel may give you greater priority for upgrades as an elite member who also booked through a premium channel – potentially upgrading you twice compared to the upgrade you would’ve received purely based on elite status!
How to Maximize Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts
Now that you know all about American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, let’s talk about some strategies around when to use the program and how to maximize its offerings.
Earn 5x Points on the Amex US Platinum Cards
Most Amex FHR bookings have flexible cancellation terms and you can choose to pay upon checkout when making the initial booking. Recall that you’ll need to present an Amex card for payment on-site.
However, there’s also a good reason why you might choose to prepay in advance: both the Amex US Platinum Card and the Amex US Business Platinum Card offer 5x US Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotel bookings made through Amex Travel, which is the best way to maximize points earned on any Fine Hotels & Resorts stay.
Earn Elite Nights & Points
Unlike third-party online travel agencies like Expedia or Hotels.com, hotel staff and management treat members who book via Amex FHR the same as any guest who books direct (and sometimes even better!)
To take advantage of your elite benefits or if you want to earn elite nights and points, simply include your membership number in the appropriate field during your Amex FHR booking process, and the reservation should be automatically attached to your hotel loyalty account.
Doing so will also enable you to access the hotel’s live chat feature through the app, which is one way to “suite-talk” and make a request for an upgrade before your arrival. Reiterating this request upon check-in can result in an upgrade that wouldn’t have been possible if you had simply booked direct.
Try a New Hotel Brand with Elite-Like Benefits
If you’re accustomed to enjoying elite status perks with a major loyalty program like Marriott Bonvoy on your hotel stays, then the Amex FHR program can help you unlock elite-like benefits when trying out an independent hotel or a luxury brand with a typically inaccessible loyalty program.
For example, Fairmont, Four Seasons, and Shangri-La are known as some of the world’s top-tier hotel brands, though neither of their loyalty programs make it easy to earn and redeem points for free stays or earn meaningful benefits without significant loyalty to the brand.
By booking through Amex FHR, you’ll at least be treated to benefits that are on par with top-tier elite status treatment while sampling a new experience with a different chain.
The same idea applies if you happen to hold no status with a hotel chains that does have a loyalty offering, like Hilton or Hyatt.
Alternate One-Night Stays with a Partner
One creative way to maximize Amex FHR benefits is by alternating one-night stays between you and a partner’s name, if you’re travelling together. Since the US$100 property credit is applied once per stay, you’d technically be eligible to receive a credit each night this way.
This wouldn’t work if you were to make separate bookings yourself under your own name, since consecutive stays on separate bookings with the same guest name are almost universally treated as the same stay, thus resulting in only one property credit.
Of course, it’s also worth factoring in the potential headache of having the change rooms if you alternate one-night stays, as well as how likely you are to actually take advantage of the US$100 property credit each time, before deciding to pursue this strategy.
Each hotel booking channel can offer its own unique promotions to incentivize travellers to book through their channel, and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts is no exception.
You’ll often see limited-time discounts or property credit offers floating around for various hotels, which can significantly elevate the value proposition if you were considering a stay at this property.
For this reason, it’s always worth checking the Amex FHR rate and comparing against your other options as you’re deciding how to book.
As a perk of the global American Express Platinum cards, the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program allows travellers to elevate their luxury hotel stays through a series of perks and benefits at a wide range of the world’s best properties – all while continuing to earn elite qualifying nights and points in your hotel loyalty program of choice.
If you’re staying somewhere without an ideal points redemption, looking to use up your annual Platinum travel credit, or simply feeling keen to splurge on a luxury hotel while retaining elite-like benefits, consider booking through Fine Hotels & Resorts for your next high-end stay.