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Today, TPG Contributor Richard Kerr delves into one of my favorite luxury hotel programs, and explains how you can use it to get free nights and more at select properties around the globe.
I tend to enjoy hunting for the perfect hotel more than I do booking the perfect flight, and when I’m searching for a luxury property, I like to have multiple tools at my disposal. Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) is one tool I rely on often to see what additional perks, free nights or bargains I can find.
In this post, I’ll look at the value you can get from Amex FHR free night offers and highlight some of the best deals available, along with a few strategies to help you decide whether a FHR rate is the best option for your stay.
If you hold The Platinum Card® from American Express (including The Business Platinum® Card from American Express and other variants) or the Centurion Card, you’ll have access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts travel portal, which offers a lineup of standard benefits at a collection of luxury properties worldwide. These benefits include complimentary breakfast for 2 people, guaranteed 4pm checkout, free Wi-Fi, room upgrades (when available) and a benefit specific to each property that is often a $100 food and beverage credit or spa credit of similar value.
Perhaps the greatest unsung benefit of booking through FHR is that unlike reservations made through many online travel agencies, you’ll still earn points and elite stay credits in your hotel loyalty program. You can book up to three rooms for a stay under your account, and all three rooms will qualify for FHR benefits.
Free Night Offers
In addition to the standard benefits, FHR properties sometimes offer a third or fourth night free deal. The FHR website will show you the total price for your stay without the free room discount, which is then credited upon checkout from the hotel.
When browsing the current free night offers, I see numerous properties offering substantial savings compared to publicly available rates. Here are a few of the best deals I’ve found on room rates (not taking into account any of the additional FHR benefits):
Third Night Free Properties
|Property||Lowest Public Rate||FHR Rate||Savings after Free Night|
|Grand Hotel Medici, Florence||$337.00||$375.00||$261.00|
|Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam||$539.00||$645.00||$327.00|
|The Phoenician, Scottsdale||$171.00||$205.00||$103.00|
|The Joule, Dallas||$360.00||$399.00||$282.00|
|Round Hill Hotel and Villas, Jamaica||$399.00||$399.00||$399.00|
|Fairmont Mayakoba, Riveria Maya, Mexico||$280.00||$320.00||$200.00|
Fourth Night Free Properties
|Property||Lowest Public Rate||FHR Rate||Savings after Free Night|
|Belmond Copacabana Rio de Janeiro||$379.00||$379.00||$379.00|
|Jumeirah Port Soller, Mallorca, Spain||$539.00||$634.00||$254.00|
|Four Seaons Costa Rica at Penninsula Papagayo||$326.00||$326.00||$326.00|
|St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point||$1,062.00||$1,090.00||$978.00|
|Mokara Hotel and Spa, San Antonio||$299.00||$299.00||$299.00|
|Park Hyatt Paris Vendome||$876.00||$1,012.00||$468.00|
When you factor in the savings of two free breakfasts, a room upgrade and the property amenity, you can get significant savings at some pretty swank properties, like TPG did at the St. Regis in Bali last year.
My only real complaint with FHR free night offers is with the FHR website itself. Many times there’s no way to tell that a property is offering a free night. Some properties advertise free nights in the search results, while others require you to click through to individual room rates. You almost have to get lucky with your dates already coinciding with a free night offer to make it visible.
Another common complaint from cardholders is that the FHR website often returns significantly higher room rates than the hotel’s own website. After searching dozens of properties for the tables above, I’d have to agree. However, the added FHR benefits usually cover the rate difference and help your bottom line. If you’re getting a free night as well, you should easily come out ahead.
So, how do you find these free night offers and decide whether you’re better off with the FHR rate and benefits or a publicly available rate?
TPG reader Tom wrote in to introduce his website FHRNews, which is dedicated to sharing the best FHR properties and free night offers via a weekly newsletter. His dedication to the program is impressive, and his site provides great tools to get the most out of it.
One frustrating aspect of the FHR website is that there’s no easy way to see all of the participating properties. Tom has you covered with a geographical listing that can make planning your next trip much easier. What I found most useful is a downloadable spreadsheet he designed with built in formulas to unequivocally let you know just how much better or worse the FHR rate is compared to a publicly available rate.
I have a wedding to attend in Atlanta in October, so I used the spreadsheet to see what kind of a deal FHR could provide. After reviewing the participating Atlanta properties from FHRNews.com, I found The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, one of my favorite properties in my home state. I completed the spreadsheet to reveal whether the publicly available or FHR rate prevailed.
I’m a bit surprised to see that the Ritz-Carlton and FHR rates were equal. Also, note that the spreadsheet does not include the value of free Wi-Fi, a room upgrade or 4pm late checkout.The math is pretty easy in this particular example, and FHR gives me an advantage of $164. The next category of room is going for $589 a night, so assuming I get an upgrade (which usually occurs with an Amex FHR rate), I could be adding $240 more in value to my stay.
Amex FHR isn’t always going to come out ahead. You will find rate differences that are too high compared to public rates for the additional perks to make up the difference. Keeping in mind how expensive some of the FHR properties are, my first strategy will always be to use points for an award stay where possible. Elite status can get you many of the same benefits offered by FHR, so you can have a similar experience even when you stay for free.
FHRNews is a great resource for finding current free night deals, and deserves a bookmark for future reference. If you’re headed where either there are no award properties or you prefer a property that doesn’t happen to have a loyalty program, check out your options on Amex FHR to see if you can find luxury accommodations and benefits that might otherwise be out of reach.
For other strategies on getting free hotel nights and other benefits, check out these posts:
- What Are the Best Sites to Book Hotel Rooms?
- How to Save 25% on Hotels with the Citi Prestige Card
- How Do FoundersCard Hotel Benefits Compare to Amex FHR?
Have you had success using Amex FHR for free nights? The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), up to a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.