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One of the lesser-known American Express benefits is access to The Hotel Collection, which offers room upgrades and hotel credits for dining, spa and resort activities. To use this benefit, you just need an eligible card and to book your room through American Express Travel Services. This program can save you money and improve your experience during your next hotel stay.

In this post I’ll take a closer look at The Hotel Collection, and compare it to the better-known Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program to help you understand what to expect and how to take full advantage of the benefits.

How The Hotel Collection Works

The Hotel Collection benefits are offered to holders of the following American Express cards:

Card holders with access to The Hotel Collection receive the following benefits:

  • A room upgrade at check-in if available
  • Up to $100 hotel credit. You can use this credit to spend on eligible dining, spa and resort activities
  • Lower rates, depending on what Amex has negotiated with the property
  • 2x Membership Rewards points for Gold card holders on prepaid bookings
  • 5x Membership Rewards points for Platinum card holders on prepaid bookings
  • The ability to use Pay With Points on prepaid bookings
Enjoy perks at properties like The Strings by InterContinental Tokyo. Image courtesy of the hotel.

Rooms must be booked in an eligible hotel in the program either through American Express Travel Services online at amextravel.com or by phone at 800-297-2977. There’s a minimum stay requirement of two nights, and you cannot book consecutive stays within 24 hours if you want to qualify for this benefit again. The perk is available for up to three rooms booked at one time though, so if you’re traveling with your family or in a group, you can receive up to $225 in credits per stay. Finally, the $100 credit excludes charges for taxes, gratuities, fees and the cost of the room.

Properties in The Hotel Collection

The Amex Hotel Collection includes a range of both popular brands and smaller boutique properties. Here are some examples:

This hotel costs more than $100 a night more than originally quoted, due to taxes and fees.
This hotel costs over $100 a night more than originally quoted, due to taxes and fees.

New York

I picked a date this winter and performed a search for properties available in New York City, which turned up dozens of options ranging from the Soho Grand Hotel at $237 to the NoMad Hotel at $445.

Beware that Amex displays only the base rate that excludes taxes and fees. While airlines are prohibited by DOT regulations from displaying one price and charging another, this practice is common in the hotel industry. For example, the New York NoMad hotel quoted at $445 night, but actually costs at least $554 after all taxes and mandatory hotel fees are included. In fact, an Amex representative explained, and the website’s fine print confirmed, that the hotels could add government taxes and fees as well as hotel-imposed fees that could only be known in advance by calling the hotel. For more information about this issue, read my post, Comparing Hotel Price Transparency Across Booking Sites.

Often you won’t earn hotel points from your stay when you book through a third party such as American Express Travel Services. However, this can be a small price to pay in exchange for the $100 credit, since the hotel points you would earn for a two-night stay would typically be worth far less. Furthermore, many of the featured hotels don’t participate in a loyalty program, so there’s no trade-off to consider in that case.

Phoenix

On the other end of the price spectrum is Phoenix in the summer, which stands out for having some of the lowest prices for hotels featured by these types of programs.

When searching for a weekend in July, I found the Tempe Mission Palms initially quoted at $169 a night, which becomes at least $210 when all of the initially disclosed taxes and fees are added in. On the other end of the spectrum, the Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix Cityscape was $399, which jumped to at least $472 when all the taxes and hotel fees were added in.

Tokyo

I looked at a weekend in Tokyo this summer, and found both the Strings by InterContinental and the InterContinental ANA for $254 a night, rising to $430 with taxes and hotel-imposed fees.

The Hotel Collection vs. Fine Hotels & Resorts

Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) offers more valuable benefits, but is only available to Amex Platinum and Centurion card holders. Benefits include the following:

  • Noon check-in when available
  • Room upgrades when available
  • Daily breakfast for two
  • Free in-room Wi-Fi
  • Guaranteed 4 pm late checkout
  • A special amenity that varies by property, often a $100 hotel credit
  • Special rates, sometimes including a fourth night free

While I expected to find significant overlap in the properties offered by The Hotel Collection and the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, I actually found none. A comparison of the two programs reveals that each has its strengths and weaknesses.

In general, Fine Hotels & Resorts has more properties, but they tend to be far more expensive. For example, I looked at a stay next spring in New York City, and most of the properties in the Fine Hotels & Resorts program were more than twice as expensive as those in the Hotel Collection.

The FHR benefits are superior, especially the free breakfasts, early check-ins and late checkouts. But at the same time, you’re looking at a much more expensive class of hotels, which may be outside the budget of many travelers (or their company’s expense accounts). Thus, the real benefit of The Hotel Collection appears to be access to high-end (rather than ultra-high-end) hotels. One other thing I noticed is that both The Hotel Collection and FHR properties often don’t show hotel prices and availability unless you call Amex Travel. I suppose at some of these price points, if you have to ask, then you probably can’t afford it!

How to Best Utilize The Hotel Collection Benefit

Food, beverage and other services at hotels can be very expensive, so the $100 credit can be very easy to use. I think the real sweet spot of this program is for business travelers who are already being reimbursed for their room and meals. For these hotel guests, the $100 credit can be put toward drinks, pay-per-view movies and spa services that would not be allowed by most company expense policies. I can also see some leisure travelers utilizing this benefit, especially when they find great deals like summer stays at Arizona resorts.

The benefits of the Fine Hotels & Resorts program — such as early check-in, late checkout and free breakfast — seem geared toward leisure travelers, albeit those who can afford the more expensive properties.

What’s interesting is that both programs are offered to Platinum and Centurion card holders, which indicates that The Hotel Collection and Fine Hotels & Resorts programs each offer distinct benefits. In short, The Hotel Collection is a valuable perk of the Amex Gold and Business Gold Card. It’s not just a watered-down version of FHR.

Featured image courtesy of the Soho Grand Hotel.

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American Express® Gold Card

With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
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Regular APR
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Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
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Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.