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How To Book Cheap (Almost Free!) Summer Deals with American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts and Visa Signature Hotels

by on August 8, 2013 · 15 comments

in American Express, Visa Signature Hotels

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Last week, Lucky spotlighted some great Phoenix summer hotel deals through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, which got me thinking about some other summer destinations where the benefits and property credits of booking through an engine like FHR or Visa Signature Hotels outweigh, or at least take a good-size chunk out of, the nightly room rates. So I took a look around the world at some other great properties where you get so much from booking through FHR and Visa Signature that your stay is almost free in some cases.

One of my favorite perks of the American Express Platinum and Business Platinum – is the Fine Hotels and Resorts program. Hotels that participate in this program offer cardholders perks that can be more valuable than your hotel elite status can provide including room upgrades, third- and fourth-night-free offers, complimentary breakfast, early check-in and guaranteed 4pm check-out, resort credits for expenses like restaurants or spa treatments, and 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).

Head to the Arizona Biltmore this summer.

You can get a great deal at the Arizona Biltmore this summer through Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts.

Where this really gets valuable, however, is in circumstances where the value of the perks potentially outweigh the room rates you pay. Although summer is typically a high travel season in most parts of the world, in a couple popular destinations, it’s actually low season, which means that room rates can get very low, even at high-end properties. So low, in fact, that if you really take advantage of the perks of booking through Amex FHR, you could end up staying nearly for free, essentially.

Here are a couple examples of where of where you can really maximize the value from the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts rather than through a hotel loyalty program this summer. With all of these, the best way to maximize the value is to book one-night stays, since you only receive the local hotel amenity ($100 food and beverage credit, round of golf) once per stay.

$99 per night at the Arizona Biltmore.

$99 per night at the Arizona Biltmore.

As Lucky also talked about, at The Arizona Biltmore, located in Phoenix, Arizona, summer rates start at $99 per night ($142 with taxes), and the current FHR package includes the following:

  • Room upgrade when available
  • Noon check-in when available
  • Daily continental breakfast for two
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
  • $100 food and beverage credit to be used during your stay

So for $99, you get a $100 food and beverage credit right off the bat which more than covers the cost of the room (excluding taxes). Although ostensibly if you book through FHR, you forego any points or elite benefits you’d earn through a hotel points program, many folks report earning elite stay credits and points as well as getting their elite benefits even when booking through FHR by calling up the hotel after the reservation is made and adding their hotel loyalty program membership number to the reservation.

So although it’s taking a chance, since the Biltmore is part of Hilton, if you are also a Hilton HHonors elite member, you’ll receive even more perks. The hotel also offers a third night free through Amex FHR bringing down the price to $67 per night if you stay for 3 nights.

$99 per night at the Loews Ventana Canyon.

$99 per night at the Loews Ventana Canyon.

At the Loews Ventana Canyon, which is located in Tucson, Arizona, they are also offering summer rates starting at $99 per night ($142 with taxes), and their current package includes the following:

  • Room upgrade when available
  • Noon check-in when available
  • Daily continental breakfast for two
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
  • A complimentary round of golf up to two people (valued at $118)

So for $99, you get two complimentary rounds of golf in addition to the standard perks. The hotel has a fourth night free offer through Amex FHR bringing down the price to $74 per night if you wanted to stay for four nights.

$98 per night at the Miramonte Resort & Spa

$98 per night at the Miramonte Resort & Spa

At the Miramonte Resort & Spa which is located in Indian Wells, California, they are offering summer rates starting at $98 per night, and their current package includes the following:

  • Room upgrade when available
  • Noon check-in when available
  • Daily continental breakfast for two
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
  • $100 property credit to be used during your stay at the hotel restaurant or spa

So for $98, you get a $100 property credit right off the bat, which covers the cost of the room (again, not including taxes, which bring it to $140) in addition to all the other perks like complimentary breakfast and a room upgrade.

$149 per night at the Boca Raton Resort.

$149 per night at the Boca Raton Resort.

At the Boca Raton Resort & Club, another Waldorf Astoria property, which is located in Boca Raton, Florida, they are offering summer rates starting at $149 per night ($195 with taxes), and their current package includes the following:

  • Room upgrade when available
  • Noon check-in when available
  • Daily continental breakfast for two
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
  • $100 property credit to be used during your stay

So for $149, you get a $100 property credit to be used however you like on amenities. If you are also a Hilton elite member, you could receive even more perks, since this is part of the Waldorf Astoria collection.

The Hongta, A Luxury Collection Hotel,

$128 per night at The Hongta, A Luxury Collection Hotel

It’s not just properties in the US where you can find great deals either. It also happens to be low season in many major destinations in Asia thanks to the sticky summer weather.

At the The Hongta, A Luxury Collection Hotel, located in Shanghai, they are offering summer rates from $128 per night (about $150 with taxes) and their current package includes the following:

  • Room upgrade when available
  • Noon check-in when available
  • Daily continental breakfast for two
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
  • Complimentary formal afternoon tea service for up to two people per room

You could also add on your Starwood Preferred Guest member number to your reservation to reap the points and elite perks here as well.

$259 per night at the Ritz-Carlton Beijing

$259 per night at the Ritz-Carlton Beijing

At the Ritz-Carlton Beijing, Financial Street, located in Beijing, they are offering summer rates from $259 per night ($297 with taxes) and their current package includes the following:

  • Room upgrade when available
  • Noon check-in when available
  • Daily continental breakfast for two
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
  • $100 food and beverage credit to be used during your stay

If you’re a member of either Ritz-Carlton or Marriott Rewards, you could put your membership number on the reservation here as well to earn points and elite credit.

Other cheap Amex FHR properties available this summer include La Quinta Resort & Club from $99, the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa from $109, and chances are you can find some great ones in Mexico and the Caribbean in September as well because of hurricane season.

I also want to point out that you can reap some savings with Visa Signature Hotels, which Visa Signature cardholders are entitled to book, and which include room upgrades, free internet, free breakfast, food and beverage credits, early check in and late check out, and more.

Visa Signature cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire, British Airways Visa, the Hyatt card, the Marriott Rewards Premier and Marriott Rewards cards, the Southwest Plus card, Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines cards, Capital One Venture, Citi Hilton HHonors and Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve, US Bank FlexPerks, Citi AAdvantage Visa Signature, and many more, so chances are you’re carrying at least one of them in your wallet, even if you don’t have an Amex Platinum card.

For instance, one good possibility for Visa Signature Hotels is booking a cheap room in Vegas, which, though it can be busy during the summer, also usually has really low room rates due to the blazing heat…but it’s a dry heat! For example, Vdara at City Center is offering room rates of about $94 ($119 with fees) this August.

Screen shot 2013-08-02 at 3.43.00 PMBut that rate includes the following:

- The best available rate
- Automatic room upgrade upon arrival, when available (potentially a value of $20-$90)
- Complimentary continental breakfast daily  ($20 per person)
- 3pm check-out, when available
- VIP guest status
- One $25 food or beverage credit per stay
- Free in-room Internet

While the internet is already included in a $25 resort charge, the $20 per person breakfast for 2 people and the $25 in food & beverage credit comes out to $74 – just $20 shy of the base rate, and a good deal if you know you’ll be taking full advantage of it. Plus, although you’re theoretically not supposed to earn hotel points on stays booked through Visa Signature, thanks to Hyatt’s new partnership with MGM Resorts (of which Vdara is a part), after you make your reservation, you can try putting your Hyatt Gold Passport number on the reservation (make sure you’re a member of MGM’s M life program as well) and possibly get points and elite credit for your stay.

So as you can see, while there are a bunch of perks, they only offer a $25 food or beverage voucher and free WiFi and breakfast, whereas many FHR reservations include a $100 credit of some sort – so if you have a choice of cards to use, be sure to check both sites, otherwise, if you have one card or another, you still have options for how to book and still earn savings and extra perks.

Are there any other FHR or Visa Signature properties where you can get great deals this summer? Feel free to share your favorites below.

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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  • FranP

    I have always received Starwood points when booking a property thru AMEX FHR.

  • David

    When you say 1 night stays.. are you hotel hopping? or are you booking multiple 1 night stays at the same hotel?

    I read on flyertalk somewhere you can book 2x 1-night stays but using different names and different amex cards (husband and wife), then combine the reservation at check in and receive $200 credit.

    Never tried booking 2x 1-night stays back to back at the same hotel.

  • Jeffrey

    This is really useful, and I’d love to see a follow-up post suggesting some winter properties to get great rates on, too. We were looking at Vegas properties for Thanksgiving week and saw rates at THEHotel for something like $75 that included $40/pp in breakfast per day and $100 spa credit, plus possible room upgrade worth about $20/night.

  • alxstevens

    @Fran is correct. AMEX FHR is treated (by Starwood) as a real travel agency booking eligible for points, not an OTA booking. I have confirmed as much with my Ambassador and received the benefits numerous times.

  • STEVE KOENIGSBERG

    The taxes for hotels in Phoenix are 42%? That’s outrageous.

  • al zhou

    FHR rates are the same as best available but can be higher than discount rates. For example the best available rate for Boca Raton Waldorf Astoria is $149, but the MVP rate is only $119. So that’s $30 difference. Sure you get $100 in house credit but that doesn’t mean you are really getting $100 value. We all know how expensive things like room services and massages can get. Say you really get $50 value out of the $100 in house credit. Now your saving is only $20 compared to the MVP rate.

    I understand I MAY earn night/stay credit and even base points. But what are my chances of getting the following:

    1. 500 base and 1000 bonus MileagePlus miles
    2. Double/triple points bonus
    3. Diamond amenity 1000 points

    Those items combined are worth far more than $20 savings…

  • al zhou

    I suppose FHR booking makes sense if it’s an independent hotel, or if you are not an elite and there are no meaningful promotions going on.

  • John K

    When you book with FHR, and book multiple rooms, are the FHR amenities multiplied by the amount of rooms you book or is just once?

  • MarkJ

    I am alternating this week between AMEX FHR program and the Chase Luxury Hotel program. MGM Signature [Chase], The Hotel [FHR], MGM Signature, and The Hotel. Four nights. Each one with a $100 Spa credit [$400 total although the MGM credit can be used for entertainment as well]. Each one with free breakfast. Each one with room upgrades possible.

    Best part…all four should be eligible for Hyatt stay credit as well.

  • cg

    Its not almost free, its out of pocket at least $100…. c’mon

  • John Beeler

    Taxes for phoenix hotels aren’t 42%. I actually booked the Arizona Biltmore last night through FHR. Room rate was $139/night (for a room that wil upgrade to Ocatillo no less!), but came out to $375 because they charge a $29/night resort fee that FHR includes, instead of getting screwed at check-out. And the $100 credit at the Biltmore is great for a 2 person 3 course dinner at Frank & Albert’s :)

  • John Beeler

    It’s per room :) each room gets upgrades and breakfast. I’m not sure about the spa/dining credit. Typically 1 per stay, and I don’t know if that’s per room or not.

  • MiamiMike2

    Used FHR to stay at the Boca Resort earlier this summer. One night in a bungalow room for $129 (plus $30 resort fee and taxes). My company had booked me a room for more so I called from the lobby and booked this and walked right up to the desk. Got upgraded to a bungalow suite which is basically a 1/1 condo with full living room and kitchen, $100 property credit, 4 spa passes (the pool at the spa is better) and breakfast for two. Used breakfast on Sunday brunch which I think was $50 per person but it was covered. Used the $100 credit to buy gifts for friends and family. I have used FHR at many Waldorfs and always had my Hilton points post automatically.

    So $100 in food, $100 in gifts, Hilton points, huge room and two peaceful days at the spa for around 160- I LOVE FHR!

  • MiamiMike2

    I always get my Hilton points/perks when booking through FHR.

  • raygine

    Can I book seperate 2 nights, but different type of room?

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