Your complete guide to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program
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American Express card members with a Platinum or Centurion-branded 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 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 is everything you need to know about American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts.
What is American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts?
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. Access to the FHR program is reserved for those with a Centurion or Platinum card (i.e. Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum).
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 for most cardholders are the perks 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 may 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 equal to the normal Wi-Fi charge.
- Unique property amenity
- The amenity should be valued at $100 or more and usually consists of a property, dining or spa credit.
You can maximize your FHR bookings even further by targeting hotels that offer unique property amenities that are worth more than the standard credit.
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.
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 amenities more than others, so consider the value you’ll obtain 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.
However, you should book online at americanexpress.com/fhr if possible. This is because only FHR prepaid stays booked online will earn 5x Amex Membership Rewards points on the Amex Platinum or Amex Business Platinum card. That being said, you can use any American Express card in your name to pay for the reservation – you’ll just earn fewer points.
To get FHR benefits, the cardmember 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 authorized users for $175 total per year (see rates & fees) on the Amex Platinum consumer card. These additional cardholders could book more rooms under their own accounts.
Will I earn elite status or loyalty benefits?
In short… maybe.
When Amex started offering 5x points on FHR stays, I booked a stay at the Park Hyatt Beijing to test whether cardmembers would still get elite earnings and benefits on stays. While I did receive elite benefits on my stay, some readers reported not receiving these benefits at some Marriott properties.
Recently, we’ve received reports of some Marriott, Hyatt and IHG properties refusing to offer elite status earnings or benefits on FHR stays. We’ve received multiple reports of the reverse as well, so keep that in mind. As usual, YMMV.
In the past, I assumed I’d get elite earnings and benefits if an FHR stay showed up in my loyalty account within a few days of booking. However, recent reports indicate that whether a stay shows up in your loyalty account before check-in has little bearing on whether you’ll get these benefits. Likewise, reports show that whether you prepaid or not also has little bearing on whether you get 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 the best of both worlds.
Related reading: Easy ways to earn hotel elite status before your next vacation
Can you use Amex Points to book?
You can use Amex Membership Rewards for FHR bookings, but you’ll only get a value of one cent per point. TPG values Membership Rewards points at two cents each, a value you’ll get much closer to via travel partner transfers. Most travelers will be better off paying for their stays with a Platinum card and earning 5X points on prepaid bookings.
Can I get a free night?
Amex highlights FHR properties on their webpage that currently offer a third, fourth, fifth or sixth 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.
The free night is included in the nightly rate displayed.
Here are some – but not nearly all – hotels that currently offer a free third or fourth night for FHR bookings:
- Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, in Phoenix, AZ (fourth night free)
- Boca Beach Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, in Boca Raton, FL (fourth night free)
- Carmel Valley Ranch, The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, in Carmel, CA (fourth night free)
- Conrad Bora Bora Nui in Bora Bora, French Polynesia (fourth night free)
- Conrad Koh Samui in Koh Samui, Thailand (third night free)
- Conrad Maldives Rangali Island in Rangali Island, Maldives (third night free)
- Fairmont Grand Del Mar in San Diego, CA (third night free)
- Four Seasons Hotel Boston in Boston, MA (third night free)
- Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL (fourth night free)
- Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach in Palm Beach, FL (fourth night free)
- Grand Hyatt Vail in Vail, CO (third night free)
- Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, CA (fourth night free)
- Park Hyatt New York in New York, NY (third night free)
- Park Hyatt Sydney in Sydney, Australia (fourth night free)
- Park Hyatt Tokyo in Tokyo, Japan (third night free)
- Rosewood Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas (fourth night free)
- Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas in Las Vegas, NV (third 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.
Related reading: How to extend your hotel award stays with a free night
Is Amex FHR worth it?
Booking through FHR can provide serious benefits. Let’s consider how the price of booking through FHR compares to booking direct 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 Dec. 11-13, 2020. The rate shown is for two people, including taxes and fees.
|New York EDITION (New York, NY)||$2,061||$2,019|
|Kimpton EPIC (Miami, FL)||$707||$772|
|Park Hyatt Beijing (Beijing, China)||$495||$442|
The Palazzo at The Venetian (Las Vegas, NV)
|The Langham Sydney (Sydney, Australia)||$879||$792|
|Casa del Mar (Santa Monica, CA)||$1,181||$1,166|
As you can see from this small set of examples, FHR rates are usually not the cheapest.
Remember, the nightly rate isn’t everything. The elite-like benefits provided on Amex FHR stays, including daily breakfast, guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout and an amenity worth at least $100, have tangible value. Plus, if you use your Amex Platinum Card to make a prepaid FHR booking online, you’ll get a 10% return via the 5x Amex Membership Rewards points you’ll earn.
Considering these benefits and earnings, booking through Amex FHR may be the best choice in some cases. And, if you snag an FHR property that’s offering a free night, booking through FHR can end up being significantly cheaper than booking directly.
When to use Amex FHR
Despite not always offering the lowest rates, Amex FHR can still be an incredibly compelling booking option. However, there are a few scenarios where this program really outshines the competition:
One of the biggest selling points of Amex FHR is the unique property amenity, which is often a 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 value this represents. 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 year.
You can still get elite-like benefits at non-chain hotels when you book through Amex FHR. And, unlike at chain hotels, you don’t need to worry whether you’ll get elite earning and benefits during 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
Except for 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 through the promotions 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. That’s especially true if you need an early check-in or late checkout and lack the status to get these benefits.
My suggestion: If you have an eligible Platinum or Centurion-branded Amex card, add Amex FHR to your list of booking options when researching a hotel stay. Sometimes you won’t find a property or price point that works, but occasionally 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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