As one of the smaller hotel chains out there, I’ve never had the opportunity to stay at one of the 67 Fairmont hotels around the world. Though the limited footprint isn’t the key factor that has kept me from trying out the brand. Instead, the fact that they have historically not offered points – only airline miles – has been a major turnoff. That being said, the Fairmont President’s Club still has some great perks, like free WiFi for all members and significant discounts on spa and dining.
Fairmont recently teamed up with Chase to launch a new Visa Signature card that offers two free nights at any Fairmont after $1,000 spent within the first three months. The card also awards a new currency, Fairmont points, on all purchases and those points can be redeemed for free nights. This announcement makes me suspect that a point-earning structure will become central to the program and also at some point in the future Fairmont will become a transfer partner of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
Some of the key benefits of the new card are:
-Earn 2 free nights with free breakfast at any Fairmont in the world when you make $1,000 in purchases within 3 months of account opening.
-1 free night at any Fairmont every anniversary of cardmembership when you spend $12,000 on the card within the year.
-Existing Premier and Platinum members receive an Annual Fairmont Gold Room Upgrade.
-$95 annual fee waived the first year when you apply by July 31, 2012.
-Automatic Fairmont Premier elite status.
-Basic membership with Lounge Club (which I wrote about here) and 2 free lounge visit passes each year to over 350 airport lounges in 200 cities. Pay $27 per person per visit thereafter.
-Earn 5 Fairmont points per $1 spent at Fairmont.
-Earn 2 Fairmont points per $1 spent on airfare directly from airlines, at car rental agencies and on transit and commuting expenses.
-1 Fairmont point per $1 on all other purchases.
-No foreign transaction fees.
-Car rental collision damage waiver insurance, trip cancellation, travel accident coverage, travel and emergency assistance, purchase protection coverage and extended warranty protection.
Overall, this is a great offer considering nights at some Fairmonts like the Plaza in NYC and the Fairmont Orchid on Hawaii can go for well over $500 each, so this sign-up bonus alone can be worth over $1,000. The two free room certificates are pretty flexible – they must be used within a year of issue date and they can be used in conjunction with Fairmont President’s Club Platinum Room or Suite Upgrade Certificates (but not with the Premier Complimentary Third Night certificate.) If you’re already a Fairmont President’s Club Platinum member, you can transfer those free nights to immediate family members. Fairmont has a number of honeymoon-worthy properties, so I could see this card being useful for people who want to plan a high-end trip on the cheap.
If you’re already a Fairmont President’s Club Premier or Platinum member, you also get a yearly Fairmont Gold Upgrade to a Fairmont Gold room (not a suite). One of these certificates is good for one stay up to five nights. If you apply for the card by July 31, you’ll also get a “Charter Member Offer” that includes two extra Fairmont Gold Floor upgrade certificates and an extra $150 in dining certificates.
Every year you make $7,500 in net purchases, you will receive 1 stay credit towards the next Fairmont President’s Club status level up to 2 stay credits per calendar year. Top tier Platinum status is achieved after only 10 stays/ 30 nights.
One of the other key benefits, Fairmont Premier status, also entitles you to a few extra perks that might make this card worth it to you including 750 bonus airline miles for each stay, credit for stays at Raffles and Swissotel hotels, the choice of four additional benefits such as a year $50 credit in dining or spa services, a complimentary third night on a three-night stay, and complimentary room and suite upgrades.
Additionally, the 1 free night every anniversary with $12,000 in annual spend easily negates the $95 annual membership and the free night is not limited to lower level category stays.
Finally, existing Premier President’s Club members get two $25 dining certificates and Platinum members get four, adding up to another $100 in value from this card.
One of the most interesting facets of this card from a points perspective at least is that it might change the entire structure of Fairmont’s loyalty program for cardholders. Right now, the President’s Club has no real points system to speak of, and only elite members earn a free night for every 10 paid nights they stay at Fairmont, and all members receive perks like free internet access.
However, with this card, Fairmont and Visa are implementing a new points-based system for earning free nights. You can find the Chase Fairmont Rewards homepage here.
Redemption rates look a bit high, with standard rooms at Collection A (lowest) properties like the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto or the Swissotel Kolkata in India starting at 25,000 points and ranging up to a huge 65,000 points at top-tier Collection D properties like the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai and the Raffles Hotel Singapore. However, suite upgrades are in 5,000-point increments, so there’s potential value there if you value upgrades. You can go from a standard room to a Junior Suite for just 5,000 points more, and from a standard to a Fairmont Gold room or suite with 10,000 extra points – so I can see the potential for tremendous value – especially at some of those high-end Collection D hotels where suites can be prohibitively expensive. It’s nice to be able to confirm upgrades, especially when it matters for special events, like honeymoons.
Now let’s just take a quick look at this card in comparison to Chase’s other top hotel card offer that offers two free nights (one I personally carry at the moment) the Hyatt Visa. Off the bat, the Hyatt Visa has no spend requirement and a $75 statement credit essentially making the first year free, so that’s better than the Fairmont card. (Note: If you’ve applied for the card without the $75 credit, send a secure message to ask for it and send a copy of the application link if needed).
The 1 free hotel night on the account anniversary with the Hyatt card also comes without a minimum spending requirement, but is only good at a Category 1-4 property (out of 6 categories), while the anniversary free night at Fairmont can be used at any property. Plus, Platinum members who apply for the Hyatt Visa get two suite upgrade certificates each good to upgrade a standard room to a suite on paid stays of up to 7 nights each—probably the most valuable part of the whole deal. Diamond members get their two free nights in a suite.
The Fairmont card wins out with lounge access – the two free visits from The Loung Club are easily worth $50 (depending on how you value lounge access) and the Hyatt card doesn’t have a similar benefit.
On the redemption side of things, even Hyatt’s top-tier properties only require 22,000 points for a free night at properties like the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, whereas Fairmont’s redemptions will start at 25,000 points per night and go up to 65,000 points for high-end hotels. So for instance, you’d only need 22,000 Gold Passport points to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, whereas it would take 65,000 Fairmont Rewards points to stay at the comparable Raffles Le Royal Monceau in Paris. Excluding bonus categories, that’s $22,000 in regular spend on the Hyatt card for a top tier night vs $65,000 on the Fairmont card.
Personally, I think the Hyatt card is a better deal overall because it’s much easier to qualify for those free nights (all you have to do is get accepted!), there are so many more Hyatt properties around the world where I get those points-earning bonuses and where I can use my free nights (even counting those Raffles and Swissotel properties that you can use Fairmont Rewards points at), and since I already had Diamond status my two free nights are in a suite.
However, since I already have the Hyatt card, it’s nice to have another option out there that lets me earn some free nights at fancy hotels without having to lay out a lot of cash. I have a couple more months to go before my next Chase applications (I recently got the Ink Bold and Freedom cards), but this card is definitely on my radar.
Are there any Fairmont TPG readers out there who can shed any light on their experiences or their thoughts on this credit card?