Combine Hotel Loyalty with American Express Platinum & Fine Hotels & Resorts

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amex fine hotels and resorts hawaii
Waikiki Beach.
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From Shawn: A couple of weeks ago PDXDealsGuy brought us a great look into using the American Express Fine Hotels & Resort program in Las Vegas. Today we have a guest post from Tom Fakes who runs the FHR News free newsletter.  His goal is to help American Express Platinum card holders better use their Fine Hotels and Resorts benefits to get free nights at 800+ great hotels worldwide. You can find out more at: FHRNews.com

Hotel loyalty programs and American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) are like peanut butter and chocolate – two great tastes that taste great together. Apologies to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

With hotel loyalty programs, if you don’t book through the hotel’s website, you often won’t get the points, nor the night/stay credit to move to the next level. You may pay a lower rate, but you lose the benefits.

With American Express FHR, I get to stay in the hotel rooms I like, and get some great benefits like free full breakfast, late checkout, and often a room upgrade.

But if I can combine both sets of benefits, I can get my FHR perks, and also earn credits and points for my hotel program too! And if the hotel program has extra promotions available, I can get those as well.

How is this possible? The American Express Platinum Travel Service is an Online Travel Agent for Fine Hotels and Resorts bookings, and these qualify for all of your hotel program goodies. You need to give Amex a call to add your account numbers to your travel profile, and to any existing bookings you may have, but this is an easy process.

You do pay a little higher room rate for the Fine Hotels and Resorts bookings. These rates are usually about the same price as the hotel’s refundable rates, within a few dollars. But the room rate isn’t the entire story, as FHR often has free night offers available for 3rd or 4th night free. This reduces the room rate by either 33% or 25%, so you’ll be paying about the same as a pre-paid rate, and you’ll get a free breakfast for 2 people.

If you use Shawn’s recent post for the Ameriprise Amex Platinum card to avoid the annual fee, you’ll save even more.

How I earned points whilst sipping Mai Tais on the beach in Hawaii

amex fine hotels and resorts hawaii
Royal Hawaiian Hotel

In November 2014, I used all of these programs for a 5 night stay at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki. This is a Starwood property, and SPG stays earn 2 points per dollar spent.

As another bonus, American Express Platinum card holders get bumped to SPG Gold, just by being a Platinum card holder. You must call American Express, and they conference in the SPG customer support, and in a few minutes, you’re SPG Gold. SPG Gold gives you 50% more points for each dollar spent on Starwood hotel stays, as well as some minor other benefits.

In late 2014, SPG offered a Double and Triple points bonus, for certain types of stay, on the base points earned. My stay was over a weekend, so I qualified for the Triple Points bonus.

With all the bonuses together, I earned 7 SPG points per dollar spent, instead of the 2 points per dollar base and I also got 250 SPG points at check-in just for being an SPG Gold member!

Starwood Points Earned Total

  • Base Points (2/dollar): 4,558
  • Gold Bonus (50% of Base): 2,279
  • Triple Base Points: 9,116
  • Gold Checkin Gift: 250
  • Total SPG Points: 16,203

In a single 5 night stay, I earned enough points for a 4 night stay at a Category 2 hotel, or 2 nights at a Category 3.

But We’re Not Done Yet

With Fine Hotels and Resorts, you MUST pay with an Amex card on your account. It doesn’t need to be the Platinum card you have, it can be another card, and I have the Amex Everyday Preferred card. With 30 transactions per month, I earn 50% more points on everything, including when I pay for a hotel stay! (Sadly, I didn’t have this card for this trip, so I only earned 1 MR point per dollar.)

So now, for the SPG hotel stay, that’s 7 SPG points, plus 1.5 MR points per dollar spent.

But Wait, There’s More!

amex fine hotels and resorts hawaii
Royal Hawaiian Lanai

For my stay, there was also a free night offer available with Fine Hotels and Resorts. For the room I wanted – ocean front with a lanai, with a great view of Diamond Head – I saved $700 with the free night, including local taxes I didn’t need to pay. With the Fine Hotels and Resorts free breakfast benefit – about $60/night, and a $100 Food and Beverage credit, I saved a total of $1,100 on this 5 night stay.

This brings the price down to the cost of a pre-paid rate for a similar room in this location.

I have a full review of my long weekend in Waikiki with FHR on my blog to see what I like about this hotel.

Which hotel brands does this work for?

The Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts program targets the higher end brands of a hotel group, so you’ll be staying in the nicer properties that a group has. For Starwood, this is mostly Luxury Collection and St Regis, with a few Westins and Ws in the mix. Mariott has Ritz Carlton and Bulgari, Hyatts are mostly Park Hyatts, and one or two Andaz

Keep an eye out to combine benefits for great savings

Beach front Waikiki is not an inexpensive place to stay, but using all the tricks I have available with SPG Promotions and American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, I managed to earn enough points to be useful, and saved enough cash to make this trip possible.

Keep an eye out for similar promotions from your favorite hotel chains, and combine them with Amex benefits, like peanut butter and chocolate.


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12 COMMENTS

  1. Great post, Tom & Shawn. As I mentioned, I’m definitely looking forward to spreading my wings with FHR and using it beyond Vegas. Tom – your Hawaii example is great.

  2. This is antithetical to what travel hacking is all about. I haven’t paid for a hotel night in YEARS – at least not directly. Nor should anyone else!

    You can MS hotel points at the fraction of the cost of a paid night – I’d be HORRIFIED if I had to pay the rates mentioned in this post. Bare minimum, I expect to save 50% of the cost of a refundable room using points. And a high percentage of the time I save closer to 80% (thanks to being upgraded to suites).

    • a) Not everyone has amassed the points required to pay for a long hotel stay, especially at a higher-end property. Great that you are an experienced hacker and haven’t had to for years.

      b) In some cities (or some specific properties), using points/miles isn’t an option. That’s why I love FHR in Vegas. There’s not a lot of options to pay with points/miles in Vegas (other than Hyatt/MLife – but those aren’t great redemption values). And whether it’s in Vegas or elsewhere, with FHR it’s all about calculating the value you get for what you pay out-of-pocket (as described in Tom’s post today and my previous post).

      But to each his own! I personally think FHR is a great tool to consider using, when it makes sense relative to other options.

      • Thank PDXDealsGuy,

        Using FHR is a different way of getting value when traveling, and another tool on the belt that you can combine with others. It isn’t for everyone, in the same way that backpacking around Europe is not for everyone.

        I know that, as I get older, I personally want exactly what I want, and I have the ability to pay for some of it, but if I can get a deal as well, then thats a bonus.

    • A lot of times high-end properties are not a good redemption value points wise. Using cash can often be beneficial and of course Hawaii is an expensive example. The real point of this is that it is another tool or options when looking for rooms. This obviously isn’t for the hardcore travel hacker with millions of points.

      With that said, I recognize that a lot of people do things differently and I want to expose people to different options and programs. I also recently wrote about my trip to Kauai earlier this year where everything was paid for with points. In fact I have written about three such trips to Hawaii, so that type of information is available on this site as well.

      I am like you and also tend not to ever pay for hotels, although sometimes manufacturing cashback and paying for hotels or finding deals is the way to go as well. Thanks for your perspective. It is definitely appreciated.

  3. I have stayed at this hotel on points before. I don’t think it is anywhere close to worth $700 per night. I have had breakfast here too – and don’t think its worth the $60.

    So if you value the hotel at $700 and the breakfast at $60, then yes, using the Amex FHR would be worth it otherwise you might be better off looking for a nice hotel that costs less then $700 per night that also offers a delicious breakfast for less then $60. I have seen many good deals in Hawaii for less then $500 per night.

    • For this hotel, the room rate was 560, and the taxes put it over 700! Clearly this is worth it to many people, or they’d always be empty. There are many hotels in Waikiki, many cheaper, some more expensive. This variety is part of what makes travel accessible and travel hacking fun at every level

      For breakfast, many people like a pastry and coffee, but on vacation, I want a bit more, and I don’t want to think hard before my morning coffee! The most I’ve ever seen for breakfast is $120 for 2 in the Four Seasons Bora Bora – now that’s an outrageous number, and it’s easy to get a deal with breakfast included there

  4. So a question, this combo only works if you do a FHR booking to earn your hotel loyality points and the benefits of american express.

    Do you also get the hotel points if you book thru amex travel a regular hotel (no FHR). Lets say like a holiday inn or a marriott? Will this then be handled by the hotel like a third party website?
    I just talked to Amex and they told me I will get the amex points but for the hotel points I have to talk to the hotel.
    I called IHG and they told me I wont get any points if i book thru a third party website…
    But this question is soley related to non-FHR hotels

    • Hi Peter,

      Regular Amex Travel bookings and FHR bookings are different systems. The FHR bookings allow hotel points, but the Amex Travel do not. I think regular Amex Travel is run through Orbitz, and those don’t qualify.

      Amex has made this overly complicated, and it’s easy to think you may get FHR benefits, when you don’t because you booked it wrong!

  5. Great post. How about staying at SPG properties via FHR and pay by Amex SPG card? I think SPG card earn bonus category if used to pay a stay at SPG properties, isn’t it?

    • That’s a good question. If it’s possible for your Amex SPG and Platinum cards to be on the same account, I think this might work. You’d earn an extra 2 SPG points per dollar spent on this stay, instead of the 1.5 MR points using the Everyday Preferred card. Presumably, if you have the Amex SPG card, you already value SPG points more, so this is a good use of that card.

      On it’s own though, the Amex SPG card doesn’t qualify for FHR benefits.

  6. Would this also apply to hotels booked through AmexTravel.com ? I have a spend $600 get $100 back offer on my Amex gold card. By itself I wasn’t going to use it, but if I can earn points and have the night count towards fulfilling my IHG Accelerate promo and get an additional 50k points…

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