Using Amex Business Cards to Maximize Your Return at Hotels
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Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele discusses how you can use benefits on a variety of Amex business cards to get the most out of your next hotel stay.
After airfare, hotel charges represent the largest expense incurred by most business travelers. But thankfully, there are plenty of ways to use business credit cards to save money while earning additional travel rewards. In this post, I want to look specifically at the different hotel discounts and rewards programs available to American Express business credit card users, and explain which ones are most lucrative.
Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR)
The Amex FHR program is available to Centurion and Platinum cardholders, which includes the Business Platinum® Card from American Express. The program offers several valuable perks when you book a stay at an eligible hotel, including free nights, room upgrades (when available), daily breakfast for two, Free in-room Wi-Fi, early check-in (when available) and guaranteed late checkout, and a special amenity that varies by property. When you utilize this benefit, it’s not uncommon to find a fruit basket, chocolates, or even a bottle of wine waiting for you in your room, although food and beverage credits are also typical.
While these amenities are valuable, the cost of admission can be high, as the program tends to focus on more expensive luxury properties. For example, among the many properties offered in New York City, you’ll rarely find one that goes for under $500 per night. TPG used the FHR program last year to get about $925 in value during his stay at the St. Regis in Bali, so there’s value to be had whether you’re staying in a high-end location or visiting out of season (e.g., Arizona in the summer).
The Hotel Collection
This program is similar to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, but is also available to Gold cardholders (including the Business Gold Rewards card from American Express). The choice of hotels is entirely different, and somewhat more affordable. Benefits include a room upgrade at check-in (if available) and a $75 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities (excluding charges for taxes, gratuities, fees and the cost of the room).
This program may also offer lower rates depending on what Amex has negotiated with the property in question. There is a minimum stay requirement of two nights — and no, you can’t book consecutive stays within 24 hours to qualify for benefits again. Thankfully, you can book for up to three rooms at one time, so it can work out well if you’re traveling as a group. For more information, you can read my post on Saving with The Hotel Collection and Amex Premier Rewards Gold.
Amex OPEN Savings at Hyatt
A variety of American Express business cards are eligible to receive benefits from the OPEN Savings program, which offers a 5% discount or two bonus Membership Rewards points per dollar spent with featured partners, including Hyatt. Since Membership Rewards points are worth 2 cents according to TPG’s latest monthly valuations, the 5% discount would appear to be the better choice. However, there are many situations where Membership Rewards points can be worth much more than two cents each. For some examples, check out TPG Contributor Richard Kerr’s post on Redeeming Amex Membership Rewards for Maximum Value.
This program also presents the interesting possibility of earning both Membership Rewards points and Starwood Preferred Guest points when you pay for your Hyatt stay with a Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. Unfortunately, this benefit is limited to $10,000 per card, per calendar year and it excludes Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Hyatt Zilara, Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Residence Club locations. I can understand excluding the vacation properties, but Hyatt Place and Hyatt House are specifically designed for business travelers. For more information, check out Richard Kerr’s post on 6 Ways to Maximize Amex OPEN Savings Discounts and Rewards.
Starwood Business Card
Alongside the personal version, this card has pretty much achieved cult status among travel rewards enthusiasts for the ability to transfer points from Starwood Preferred Guest to over 30 different frequent flyer programs. With significant (and mostly positive) changes coming to the card in August, I’m sure it will remain a favorite for some time. Those changes include free premium in-room Wi-Fi, access to Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots, and (finally) the elimination of its 2.7% foreign transaction fee.
In addition, the business version will add free access to Sheraton Club lounges, which feature complimentary daily breakfasts, premium beverages and snacks. This might not seem like a big deal, but it can save business travelers time in the morning while freeing up the per diem allowance to splurge a little on lunch and dinner. All cardholders earn at least 4 points per dollar when staying at Starwood properties, while Gold and Platinum elites earn 5 points per dollar. With TPG valuing Starpoints at 2.4 cents apiece, you’re looking at savings of up to 12%.
American Express Travel
Amex cards that are part of the Membership Rewards program will earn bonus points on prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel. These bookings are also eligible to use Amex’s lowest rate guaranteed policy, which offers a refund of the difference if you find a lower price. Since you book Fine Hotels & Resorts as well as The Hotel Collection through American Express Travel, you should be eligible to receive those benefits as well as bonus Membership Rewards points from the same booking.
Delta Partner Hotels
The final way to earn additional rewards by paying for hotels with your American Express business card is to book through Delta Air Lines. Since co-branded Amex cards like the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express earn double miles on Delta purchases, you can capitalize on the many hotels Delta offers on its website regardless of whether you’re purchasing airfare. Granted, Delta SkyMiles are not the most valuable (or stable) loyalty currency, but they’re far from worthless. Even if you’re not a regular Delta flyer, this is one way to earn a few extra miles from the ground.
The Starwood Preferred Guest card is the only Amex business card that’s affiliated with a hotel (there are no business versions of the Amex Hilton cards), but with the variety of benefits available, there are still plenty of ways to use American Express business cards to save money on your hotel expenses. I’d love to hear suggestions from readers, so please share your favorite strategies for using Amex benefits on hotels in the comments below!