Everything you need to know about The Hotel Collection, an under-the-radar Amex Gold perk

Aug 9, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information. For the most up-to-date card benefits and category bonuses due to the pandemic, read our guide to limited-time COVID-19 card perks

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 — whenever that might be.

For the latest credit card tips and travel news right to your inbox, subscribe to The Points Guy daily newsletter.

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.

In This Post

How The Hotel Collection works

The Hotel Collection benefits are only offered to holders of certain American Express cards. Those cards include:

If you have one of the above cards, then you’ll have access to The Hotel Collection’s following benefits (terms apply):

  • A room upgrade at check-in when available
  • Up to a $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
(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

Rooms must be booked in an eligible hotel in the program either through American Express Travel Services online at Amex Travel or by phone at 800-297-2977.

You can also use the Platinum Travel Service, Business Platinum Travel Service, Centurion Travel Service phone numbers. 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.  However, the $100 credit excludes charges for taxes, gratuities, fees and the cost of the room.

Related: Best hotel credit cards

Thankfully, those who have a card that’s part of the Membership Rewards program can pay for reservations with points, using a minimum of 5,000 points. However, you’ll only receive a very poor 0.7 cents in value per point redeemed, which is less than half of the 2.0 cents that TPG currently values these points at, according to TPG’s latest monthly valuations.

And since Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders will earn 5x points for prepaid reservations made through Amextravel.com, this is a case where it’s better to charge it and save your points for higher-value redemption options.

Other things to know

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, a search for The James New York – SoHo hotel was initially displayed at $194 per night, but actually costs 40% more at $272 per night 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 also add additional government taxes and fees as well as hotel-imposed fees that could only be known in advance by calling the hotel.

Related: Comparing hotel price transparency across booking sites

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 more than $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 James New York – SoHo at $272 per night to The William Vale at $540 per night.

James Hotel Soho (Photo courtesy of the hotel)
James Hotel Soho (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

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.

Related: The best weekend getaways from New York City

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, I was surprised to find the Extended Stay America Phoenix – Chandler quoted at just $44 a night, which becomes $50 per night when all of the initially disclosed taxes and fees are added in. On the other end of the spectrum, the Great Wolf Lodge Arizona offered a family suite, including waterpark access, for $404 per night, which became $509 after taxes and fees.

Related: The best road trips from Phoenix

Tokyo

Tokyo Cherry Blossoms
(Photo by Phattana Stock/Shutterstock)

While international travel might not be on your radar right now, know that there are a diverse array of options abroad too.

I found the APA Hotel Nihombashi-Hamachoeki-Minami listed at $54 a night, which went to $66 a night including taxes and fees. The InterContinental Tokyo Bay was listed at $533 per night, which rose to $690 at the time of booking.

Related: A travel guide to Tokyo 

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 4:00 p.m. 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 a 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.

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park is part of the xxx. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)
The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park is part of the Fine Hotels & Resorts program. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

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.

Related: The best Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts

How to best use 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 — not just a watered-down version of FHR.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong

Featured photo by Katherine Fan / The Points Guy

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 restaurants worldwide, at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.