Your ultimate guide to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program
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American Express card members with a Platinum or Centurion-branded charge card, including The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, have access to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program. But, since Platinum and Centurion-branded cards are packed with benefits, you may have overlooked — or not yet be maximizing — the FHR program.
The FHR program can add serious perks and benefits to your hotel stays — and may not cost much more than booking direct. Here’s what you need to know about American Express’ Fine Hotels & Resorts.
What is Amex FHR?
The American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program provides elite-like benefits at over 1,000 properties in over 500 cities worldwide when you book through the program. American Express card members with a Platinum or Centurion-branded charge card, such as the Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum, can utilize the FHR program.
The properties bookable through the FHR program are a mix of branded and independent properties, but they’re all well-rated luxury properties that Amex says are hand-selected. There are many reasons you may choose to book a stay through FHR, but the primary reason are the perks and benefits provided when you book through the program.
Main perks and benefits
Booking through Amex FHR oftentimes isn’t the cheapest option but the perks you’ll receive by booking through Amex FHR may more than make up for any price difference.
Here are the perks you’ll receive with every FHR booking, regardless of the length of your stay:
- Room upgrade upon arrival, when available at check-in
- Some room types may be excluded and some hotels may simply give you a room with a better view
- Daily breakfast for two people
- The provided breakfast must be, at a minimum, a continental breakfast
- Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout
- Noon check-in, when available at check-in
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- When a property includes Wi-Fi in a mandatory resort fee, you’ll receive a daily credit from the property in the standard amount that the property charges for Wi-Fi
- Unique property amenity
- The amenity should be valued at $100 or more and usually consists of a property credit, dining credit, spa credit, private airport transfer or similar amenity
You can maximize your FHR bookings even further by targeting hotels that offer unique property amenities that are worth more than the standard credit and will provide significant value to you.
For example, The Peninsula Shanghai offers a complimentary dinner for two (excluding alcohol, taxes and gratuity) once during your stay, which can easily net you more than $100 in value.
And the St. Regis Bali Resort offers a complimentary 50-minute massage for two people once during your stay as its welcome amenity.
You may value some types of unique property amenities more than others, so consider the value you’ll obtain from the unique property amenity when comparing your options. For example, I value a $100 food and beverage credit more than a $100 spa service credit because (1) I may struggle to find spa services for less than $100 at some properties, and; (2) I likely wouldn’t use the spa if I didn’t have a credit.
How to book FHR stays
You can book FHR stays through the Platinum Travel Service, Business Platinum Travel Service, Centurion Travel Service, americanexpress.com/fhr, any American Express Travel office or the agency services desk.
However, you’ll want to book online at americanexpress.com/fhr if possible. This is because only FHR prepaid stays booked online will earn 5 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on an eligible Amex Platinum or Amex Business Platinum card. If you don’t want to use your Centurion or Platinum-branded charge card to pay for your booking, you can use any American Express card in your name to pay for the reservation — but the earnings will depend on the card you use.
In order to get FHR benefits, you (the card member) must stay on the itinerary booked. However, you can book up to three rooms for a stay under your account, and all three rooms will qualify for FHR benefits. If you need to book more than three rooms for a trip with family or friends, keep in mind that you can get up to three additional cards/cardholders for your personal Amex Platinum for $175 total per year (see rates & fees). Then, your additional cardholders could book more rooms using their own accounts.
You can also use Membership Rewards Pay With Points for prepaid FHR bookings, but you’ll only get a value of 1 cent each for your points. Since you can get much more value from your Amex points — TPG’s valuations peg the value of Membership Rewards points at double that at 2 cents each — most travelers will be better off instead earning 5x points on prepaid bookings.
Will I earn elite status or loyalty benefits?
In short… maybe.
When Amex started offering 5x earning on prepaid FHR stays, I booked an FHR stay at the Park Hyatt Beijing to test whether card members would still get elite earnings and benefits on stays. I received elite earnings on my stay, but then reports appeared of readers not getting elite earnings and benefits at some Marriott properties. So until recently, I believed that you’d usually receive elite earnings and benefits at Hyatt and Hilton properties on FHR bookings, but possibly not at Marriott properties.
However, we’ve recently received reports of some Marriott, Hyatt and IHG properties refusing to offer elite status earning or benefits on FHR stays. Yet, we’ve received multiple reports of the reverse as well, where elite status earning and benefits were provided by other properties on FHR stays (including some Marriott properties).
Also, in the past, I assumed I’d get elite earnings and benefits if a FHR stay showed up in my loyalty account within a few days of booking. However, recent reader reports indicate that whether a stay shows up in your loyalty account before check-in has little bearing on whether you’ll get elite earnings and benefits. Likewise, reports show that whether you prepaid or pay at the property also has little bearing on elite benefits and earnings.
So, where does this leave us? At this point, it seems whether you’ll get elite earnings and benefits varies greatly. My best advice is to book a refundable prepaid FHR reservation. Then, email the property a few days after making the reservation and ask whether your stay will be eligible for elite earnings and benefits. This isn’t an ideal solution, but it’s currently your best option if you want to ensure you’ll get elite earning and benefits. And of course, we’d love to see your data points in the comments section below as well.
Can I get a free night?
Amex highlights FHR properties on their webpage that currently offer a third, fourth or fifth night free. You’ll get all the normal FHR benefits and perks during your stay — but for many of these properties, the free night is the most valuable amenity you can receive.
The free night is included in the nightly rate, so your statement will show the lower nightly rate.
Here are some — but not nearly all — hotels that currently offer a free third or fourth night for FHR bookings on select dates:
- Viceroy Riviera Maya in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico (third night free)
- Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, CA (third night free)
- Park Hyatt Chicago in Chicago, IL (third night free)
- Conrad Tokyo in Tokyo, Japan (third night free)
- Conrad Cartagena by Hilton in Cartagena, Colombia (third night free)
- Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort in Phoenix, AZ (fourth night free)
- Fairmont Orchid in Kamuela, HI (fourth night free)
- Grand Hyatt Vail in Vail, CO (fourth night free)
- Rosewood Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas (fourth night free)
- Conrad Dublin in Dublin, Ireland (fourth night free)
- Park Hyatt Sydney in Sydney, Australia (fourth night free)
- Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora in Bora Bora, French Polynesia (fourth night free)
Presumably, booking through FHR will be your best option when you’re getting a free night. But, it’s always a good idea to compare the net price of an FHR booking — accounting for the value you’ll get from the perks and benefits — with your other favorite booking methods.
Is FHR worth it?
Booking through FHR can provide serious benefits. Let’s consider how the price of booking through FHR compares to both booking direct, and booking through Hotels.com for a few sample properties.
For each of the properties below, the price shown is for the cheapest refundable rate currently bookable for a two night stay on November 8-10, 2019. The rate shown is for two people including taxes and fees.
|New York EDITION (New York City, USA)||$1,751||$1,561||$1,591|
|Park Hyatt Beijing (Beijing, China)||$483||$483||$483|
The Palazzo at The Venetian (Las Vegas, USA)
|The Savoy London (London, England)||$1,567||$1,578||$1,567|
|The Langham Sydney (Sydney, Australia)||$911||$822||$820|
As you can see from this small set of examples, FHR rates are usually not the cheapest.
But booking cost isn’t everything. The elite-like benefits provided on FHR stays, including daily breakfast for two, guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout and an amenity worth at least $100, have tangible value. Plus, if you’re earning 5x on a Platinum card, you’ll get a 10% return via the Amex Membership Rewards points you’ll earn on prepaid FHR bookings made online, and you may get loyalty points on some stays as well.
Considering these benefits and earnings, booking through FHR may be the best choice on some bookings. And, if you snag a FHR property that’s offering a third, fourth or fifth night free, booking through FHR can end up being significantly cheaper than booking direct or through Hotels.com.
When to use FHR
Despite not always offering the lowest rates, FHR can still be an incredibly compelling booking option. However, there are a few scenarios where this program really outshines the competition:
- Short stays: One of the biggest selling points of FHR is the unique property amenity, which is often a property credit valid for food, drink or spa treatments. You receive an amenity worth at least $100 no matter how long your stay is, so the shorter your stay, the better a value this represents. So, it might be worth going out of your way to book FHR hotels for only one night, at the beginning or end of your trip, to squeeze the most value out of this credit. For example, I got $160 of value out of a $153 one-night FHR stay at the Loews Chicago last spring.
- Boutique/non-chain hotels: You can still get elite-like benefits at non-chain hotels when you book through FHR. And, unlike at chain hotels, you don’t need to worry whether you’ll get elite earning and benefits during from your stay. So, if you want to stay at a hotel like DC’s historic Watergate Hotel, booking through FHR may be the way to go.
- Travelers without elite status: With the exception of the onsite property credit, most of the benefits of FHR are also offered to those with hotel elite status. This means that FHR becomes an even better value if a) you don’t have any hotel elite status, or; b) you’re staying at a different chain than the one you have status with. At some properties, the free breakfast alone is enough to offset any difference in the room rates.
If you’re already planning to stay at a luxury hotel, booking through Amex’s FHR program provides elite-like benefits, sometimes at little to no extra cost. You might even save money with the third, fourth or fifth night free offers available at some FHR properties. But, you don’t normally book through FHR for cost savings — you book for the benefits that come with FHR bookings.
Indeed, the benefits that come with an FHR booking can sometimes make paying a bit more for the stay worthwhile even for budget-conscious travelers, especially if you need early check-in or late checkout and don’t have an elite status that provides those benefits.
My suggestion: If you have an eligible Platinum or Centurion-branded Amex card, add Amex FHR to your list of booking options to consider when booking a hotel stay. Sometimes you won’t find a property or price point that works, but on occasion you’ll uncover an excellent property with perks that fit your needs.
Featured image of the Observatory Bar at The Langham Sydney by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy.
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