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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
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!
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.