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Amex Platinum FHR (Fine Hotels and Resorts) Program: Worth It?

by on November 29, 2012 · 47 comments

in American Express, Hotel Industry

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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here

When it comes to travel, I’m usually fixated on the points angle (I mean, I am TPG!) and how many I am earning or redeeming to have a specific experience. However, the whole point of points, in my opinion, is about reaping as much value out of your experience as possible. Points and elite status are great ways to do that since they can often earn you back a ton of value in future award night stays or confer perks like room upgrades and VIP treatment.

However, when it comes to getting more value from a hotel stay, hotel loyalty programs are not the only game in town competing for your business. There are other programs and portals like Fine Hotels and Resorts program for American Express Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders which throw in a bunch of added perks and benefits, so that even though you most likely won’t earn hotel points or elite status stay credits (since most loyalty programs make you book directly through their site or corporate travel portals to get points), you can still get lot of extra value and perks out of your booking. Plus, there have been many reports of people still getting points and elite status benefits when booking through FHR, so it is possible to double dip, though I wouldn’t bank on it.

Hotels that participate in this program offer cardholders perks that can be more valuable than your hotel elite status can provide- like room upgrades, free night offers, complimentary breakfast, early check-ins and guaranteed 4pm check-outs, resort credits for expenses like restaurants or spa treatments, and sometimes even free WiFi. Room rates are typically about the same as those being offered on the hotel’s website so the perks may not cost you anything beyond the room rate (and taxes, of course).

Here are a couple examples where it might make sense to book a hotel stay through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts rather than through a hotel loyalty program. Note: I placed a dollar value on things like upgrades and spa credit, but clearly if you don’t value those perks, these calculations will be different for you. 

The St. Regis Punta Mita is a SPG Category 6 hotel that requires 20,000 to 25,000 Starpoints for a free night. Rates in early February start at $440 a night for a Deluxe Room. With Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program you would get a room upgrade to a junior suite if available (worth about $60 a day), noon check-in, daily continental breakfast for two (about $47 a day) and 4pm guaranteed late check-out.  The hotel is also throwing in a $100 spa credit per stay and a fourth night free.

The total you would spend on the room for a four-night stay booking through Amex is $1,702.80 including taxes (remember the fourth night is free.) And you would get about $528 more in value with all those perks added in.

If you were to book through Starwood (where the rate was also $440 per night), a normal SPG Preferred member would earn 3,406 Starpoints ; 5,109 for SPG Gold (and remember, you get automatic SPG Gold status just for having the Amex Platinum card) and 50-night Platinum members, and as a 75-night Platinum member, I’d earn 6,812 points myself. I could earn an additional 3,406 points for putting the entire bill on my Starwood Amex or my SPG Business Amex, but they charge foreign transaction fees, so I’d probably put it on my Sapphire Preferred to earn the 2x points on travel without foreign transaction fees instead. Starwood also has a 250-point amenity for Golds and a 500-point amenity option for Platinum elite members, which also sweetens the deal, though you can only pick the points or free breakfast (Platinums) or Internet (Golds) so take that into consideration when calculating value.

With my SPG 75 night Platinum status, I’d also be high up the chain for a suite upgrade, and I could invoke the YOUR24 to check-in at 9am and still get the 4pm late checkout (on availability). I’d also get my choice of 500 bonus Starpoints, continental breakfast for the entire stay, or a local gift, as well as free internet. I wouldn’t, however, get the $100 spa credit.

Here, it would be a bit of a wash for me since I earn so many points and get value-added perks from my high-tier elite status. Though the spa credit would be nice,  since I value SPG points at about 2.5 cents each, those 6,812 I’d earn would be worth about $170 to me and I could put them towards a future high-value Cash & Points stay.

Over at the Arizona Biltmore, a member of Hilton’s Waldorf-Astoria collection, rooms in February start at $259 a night. With FHR, you’d get all of the standard perks – room upgrade ($100 a day), early check-in and check-out, daily continental breakfast for two ($26 a day) along with a $100 food and beverage credit per stay.

So in total, for a four-night stay at the Biltmore, you would pay $1,412.34 including taxes and a $28 per day resort fee. Your benefits added up would be about $400 for the room upgrade, $104 for the daily breakfast and $100 for the food and beverage credit for a total of $604. If it weren’t for those pesky taxes and the resort fee, you’d be getting a 50% bonus on the cost of your room.

If you were to book this hotel through Hilton, you’d earn 10 base HHonors points per $1, plus with their Double Dipping, you could earn either 5 more HHonors points for the Points + Points option, 500 airline miles with the Points + Fixed Miles option, or 1 airline mile per $1 you spend with the Points + Variable Miles option.

So a normal HHonors member would earn 14,123 base points, a Silver member would earn 16,242 points, a Gold member would earn 17,654 base points, and a Diamond member would earn 21,185 base points plus either 7,062 additional HHonors points, 500 miles, or 1,412 miles depending on their Double Dip choice.

Let’s say you were just a normal Hilton HHonors member who chose Points + Points, you’d earn 21,185 points from your stay – not quite the 25,000 you’d need for an award night at a Category 3 property like the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton at the Nashville Airport where rooms go for around $120 per night. You’re almost making up that value with the $100 food and beverage credit alone through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts.

And since it’s the end of 2012, hotel promos are winding down and there don’t seem to be many enticing points bonuses out there. Hopefully you’ve got your elite status stays wrapped up (or are close) by now, so you could have some fun trying out some non-points properties for your holiday vacations.

At The Breakers Palm Beach, an iconic winter getaway spot favored amongst East Coasters and their families (and which is not currently affiliated with any loyalty program), Fine Hotels and Resorts is offering the following:

+ Room upgrade when available (about $100)
+ Noon check-in when available
+ Daily continental breakfast for two ($44 value for each day)
+ Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
+ $100 resort credit to be used during your stay

The rate and perks available through Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts at The Breakers this February.

The hotel is also offering a complimentary fourth night free when you book three nights. Considering that room rates are about $600 a night, that’s a big load of change to save. A deluxe room king is going for $580 a night the first week in February – high season for Palm Beach. The next room category is a deluxe partial ocean view room for $620. So let’s say you actually book the $550 room and get lucky and get upgraded to the $620 room, with the fourth night free, and all the other perks, you’re getting a value added of $1,176 over the course of your stay:

+$70 per day for the upgraded room
+1 free night in the $620 room
+$100 resort credit
+$176 for four days breakfast

The program is in place at over 700 hotels all over the world, so there’s a good chance there will be a participating hotel in a city or destination you may be visiting.

If you’ve already scored some of this year’s hotel bonuses and are over the threshold to meet your elite status goal, booking through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts can be a great way to explore some non-points properties while still enjoying a ton of extra perks that will add value to your stay.

Bottom Line
FHR may not make sense if you have top tier status and need stay credits to re-qualify for elite status, but it can really enhance the experience for those with low or no elite status and who want to be recognized with perks.

I’ll have more on using the Fine Hotels and Resorts program later this week and when I talk about my recent Vegas hotel stays and the incredible value I got out booking through FHR.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Brooke Zigler

    I actually just booked a trip to St. Regis Punta Mita in Jan for the same rate through FHR. Do you think I won’t earn SPG points for my trip though? That was definitely a consideration when selecting this hotel vs. FS Punta Mita (also the rate was much better than FS). It wouldn’t be a deal breaker, but I didn’t realize there was a possibility of not earning SPG points when booking through FHR.

  • SgFm

    I have had two FHR stays at Starwood properties this year, in San Francisco and Boston. My Gold status was recognized at both, and I got Starpoints for both stays. Obviously YMMV, but from what I understand, you should be able to get points for your FHR stays.

  • Mindray

    TPG, you say in your post that: “Starwood also has a 500 point amenity option for Gold and Platinum elite members”…

    Isn’t the amenity option for Gold members 250 points, not 500.

    Also, I have Amex Plat and I find that the rates, especially for SPG properties, are often higher through FHR than booking directly through SPG.com which often limits any upside you would get from booking a room through FHR.

    Is there anyway around this? For example, will Amex match a lower price for the room if you can find a lower price on SPG.com?

  • Mindray

    Same boat as SgFm, I had a stay at the SF Palace (SPG Luxury Collection). Booked through FHR, got the points no issues.

  • Dw

    I’ve found the upgrades through FHR really hit or miss. (I guess this shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that many properties play the same upgrade game with their high level elites who are supposedly entitled to upgrades.) My observations regarding FHR after trying out many properties over the past few years: (1) Las Vegas properties tend to be really good at giving (at least 1 room category) upgrades; (2) Park Hyatts are generally good at (again, at least 1 room category) upgrades; and (3) Ritz-Carltons have, IMHO, been the stingiest with upgrades.

  • Santastico

    I use the FHR from Amex when booking hotel stays for my parents. They live abroad and have an Amex Platinum and really don’t care for elite status since they only travel couple times during the year. I usually book them on high end properties that would not earn points anyway (Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Viceroy, Jumeirah, TAJ, etc..) and they really see the value in getting one night free, breakfast, late check out, room upgrade and the $100 credit that can be used in the hotel restaurant. So far their experience has been outstanding when using FHR.

  • http://twitter.com/TheDealMommy The Deal Mommy

    Just adding more data points. I had a Hyatt FHR stay in the Spring earn points and a Ritz Carlton FHR stay this summer not only earn Marriott points, but credit towards the stay twice get one free promo. Both were at rates equal to .com and I was recognized both as FHR and elite.

  • Clee

    I have been to Punta Mita many, many times. You might want to switch to the FS. It is head and shoulders better than the St Regis.

  • http://www.travelbypoints.com/ Jimmy @TravelByPoints

    From my own experiences, reservations booked with FHR DO earn points and qualify for promotions with various hotel chains. These FHR bookings seem to differ from other third-party bookings. During the booking process, you can add your hotel loyalty membership numbers or call FHR or the hotel directly to add that information.

  • Adam1222

    Agree with others. I believe the entire premise of the post is off, because FHR bookings generally do earn points/stay credit.

  • David

    I don’t understand this post…do FHR properties now not honor elite benefits? I’ve been able to add my SPG or Hyatt number in the past to get elite benefits and credit.

  • Eric

    That got left out by accident – thank you for pointing it out.

  • DavidYoung2

    Used FHR to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua in October. Got $299.00 rate, upgrade to a suite, breakfast for two included ($70/day value), $100 resort credit, late check-out and 4th night free. And got Marriott points. Personally, I think the FHR is the best deal out there.

  • DP81

    I’ve always received points for my *wood and Hyatt stays booked through FHR. The FHR program is one of the key reasons I hold on to my AMEX platinum card. The prices are comprable to what you can find on the hotel website and it seems a lot of the properties put a priority on upgrading bookings made through AMEX FHR. I recently went to Bali and booked the cheapest room on all of the resorts we stayed at. We upgraded to VILLAS most of the time. My partner now says “Suites are overrated…where’s my villa?!?”

  • Unclpaully

    I’ll pile on a bit here. In about a dozen FHR stays in the past couple years (including 3 this year), I have never not received my normal elite benefits and/or points and I have yet to miss an upgrade. I am careful to book a class of room with upgrade space above it, which sometimes takes some work, but the other perks are often reason enough.

    There was a comment about pricing and I have found that almost invariably, the FHR price is higher than the “best available rate” the hotel’s site, but as done in the article, you have to weigh the perks against the total cost of the stay and it usually evens out.

  • alxstevens

    You absolutely earn SPG points/perks for an FHR booking – I’ve done so MANY times with no issues at all. I’ve even gotten better upgrades since some hotels look at the FHR upgrade eligibility and my SPG Plat eligibility almost as a double upgrade.

    Also, as per the FHR T&C’s: Payment must be made with an American Express Card in the U.S. Platinum Card member or Centurion member’s name.

    That means you can pay for the FHR booking WITH the SPG American Express, so you get the extra points value, etc. It really is almost a triple-dip.

  • John K

    By the way, for those who do not have AMEX platinum, Virtuoso booking is another option. Same low rate, comparable perks (upgrades, credits, daily breakfast, etc…) and you get your status recognized and awarded points on top just like FHR. (i.e. my stay at US grant this past thanksgiving…rate was 199 via SPG, and through virtuoso was same. Got daily breakfast up to $50, and $75 incidental credit. Could not even think about using points or C&P….. In the end, got all my SPG points for the stay and the credits as well)

  • Guest

    Nobody has mentioned Hilton here re points- do you get your Hilton points when booking through FHR rather than Hilton directly? As many points as HIlton gives out (inflated), this can be important. Your example above would involve easy 40K HH points. Then can also pay using Hilton AMEX (Surpass for 12x now- assuming we aren’t talking about international Hiltons since there is FOREX on AMEX Hilton cards) and this would not break the rule of using an AMEX in the AMEX Plat member’s name.
    So, anybody with real experience here? Do you get your Hilton points when booking through FHR? I would assume yes?

  • [email protected]

    Incorrect on HHonors…

    As a silver member and using points and points I would earn way more than you have noted.

    1,400 spend would equate to x10 base and x10 double equals 28,000 points plus 15 percent bonus on base as a sliver equates to 2,100 points and if you used your Hilton AMEX you would receive an additional 9x points for 12,600 more plus booking with AMEX also gives you 1,000 HH points and for all my reservations this year I had received a 2,500 point AMEX reservation bonus…also MY WAY would provide another 1,000 points and online booking through their web site additional 500 points….total would be 47,700 – 34 points per dollar…and remember I’m only silver.

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  • KP

    Always have received status benefits + AMEX FHR benefits, receive additional treatment it seems as well. FHR AMEX program is great! Just booked the Ritz in Maui.

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  • Evan

    TPG – I’m booked on an FHR rate at the Palazzo in March. Do you know if I can use the $100 F&B credit at a Venetian restaurant? Would love to go to Tao for dinner. Thanks!

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  • Dr. Joe

    Just tried booking four nights with FHR at the Hotel Bristol in Vienna. The FHR rate was about $300 per night higher than the regular rate. Has any one else had a similar experience?

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  • Ed

    I have a question: Would I be able to book a st regis hotel using my Starwood points, and then present my gf’s platinum card at check-in to get all the benefits? With Starwood +, I get early check-ins and late check-out, but no credit for spas or anything. Thanks!

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  • Dan

    What is the best way to earn Marriott Rewards and HHonors points on reservations made via FHR? I called Marriott to try to link my rewards number to a FHR reservation and they steadfastly refused stating that I cannot earn points on third-party reservations. Should I just give them the card at check-in then?

  • http://india.dialus.com/ dialus

    It is great post.I agree with your points.

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