How an Amex perk I thought I’d never use got me 3 nights for the price of 1 in NYC
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Last year, when I finally decided to apply for my first premium credit card — The Platinum Card® from American Express — I carefully added up savings from the perks I knew I’d use to make sure the $695 annual fee (see rates and fees) would be worth it for me.
But there was one major offering from which I thought I’d never see value: the $200 annual prepaid hotel credit.
Eight months later, as I scrambled to find a last-minute hotel for a three-night trip to New York, I decided to check out the Amex Travel portal, knowing I’d get 5 points per dollar if I booked and prepaid for the accommodations there using my Amex Platinum. When I got to the site, a pop-up reminded me that I hadn’t yet used the $200 credit — which is eligible for stays of any length at Fine Hotels + Resorts properties as well as stays of two nights or more at The Hotel Collection properties.
For kicks, I decided to see what was available in the portal, which on previous checks had offered properties that were eye-wateringly expensive. Long story short, I ended up at a Hotel Collection property, where I booked a sizeable junior suite, breakfast included, for just $98 a night.
Here, I’ll break down exactly how that happened and why the $200 annual prepaid hotel credit isn’t just for big spenders at hotels that cost thousands of dollars a night.
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How I chose the hotel
In December, I leveraged Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on the TodayTix app — and an Amex Offer that gave me $25 back for spending $100 or more with Telecharge — to buy tickets to eight Broadway shows, three of which I planned to see during my recent stay.
That meant I needed to crash somewhere within walking distance of the theaters. Coupling that with my desire to be near the Manhattan cruise terminal to take advantage of any ship-spotting opportunities, I chose the Ink 48 on 11th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen.
Having stayed at the Ink 48 on two other occasions for work events (read: I didn’t have to pay for it), I knew it was a trendy place with an elegant lobby, a stellar cafe, comfy accommodations and rooftop views that are arguably some of the best in the city. But I also knew it had the potential to cost a little beyond what I was willing to spend.
Cue the hotel discounts. Because this was a Hotel Collection property and I booked a stay of at least two nights, I scored a $100 hotel credit. In addition, the property was offering a third night free, for a combined savings of $405 right off the bat.
My total was $853 for three nights with taxes and fees (including a dreaded destination charge, classified as a “hotel amenity fee”). And the $100 credit just about covered breakfast at the cafe for both me and my travel companion during our stay.
Burning and earning
To knock the price down even further, I burned 30,000 Amex points, which took off another $210. I realize that, by spending 30,000 to save $210, each point was worth only 0.7 cents. It’s not great, but saving that extra money did wonders for my bottom line. For me, it’s more important to be able to save when and how I need to, rather than to find the best redemption value.
It’s a small consolation, but I also earned back a few points on the purchase. Because I booked through the Amex Travel portal and prepaid for the stay, I earned 5 points per dollar for a total of 2,530 points. According to current valuations, they’re worth $0.02 each or about $50 total.
The final breakdown
Here’s a breakdown of all charges I incurred, along with discounts, promotions and points factored in:
- Three nights = $610, including the third-night-free discount.
- $106 taxes and fees.
- $137 hotel amenity fee.
- 30,000 points burned (knocked $210 off the price).
- $200 statement credit.
- $100 hotel credit (used to cover breakfast).
- 2,530 points earned (worth $50).
Total cost: $293 for three nights, or $98 per night
So, how was my stay? A 500-square-foot junior suite with a king bed was only $10 more per night than a standard king room that was just half the size, so I went for the upgrade.
When I arrived, I was stunned. The room had a separate sitting area, a dressing table and a massive bathroom, complete with a toilet room, dual vanity, soaking tub and separate shower. It was clean, bright and minimalist, complete with trendy lighting and neutral colors.
The best part, however, was the view. Looking out over the Hudson, we had a clear look at Pier 86’s Intrepid aircraft carrier, which is home to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. It’s also just a stone’s throw from piers 88 and 90, where cruise ships dock when they’re in town. (Unfortunately, none were there during my visit.)
The front desk folks were super helpful with regard to check-in, adding my travel companion’s name to the reservation and leaving a key for him at the front desk. One oddity worth noting is that they don’t accept cash and, therefore, can’t give change if you use the ATM in the lobby. (This happened to me when I was trying to get change to leave a tip for housekeeping at the end of my stay. Thankfully, the bellman was able to break some bills for me.)
Breakfast at the lobby’s PRINT cafe was excellent (try the pancakes), but service was unexpectedly aloof for how expensive everything was. If you find yourself at or near Ink 48, stop in at night and take the first elevator up to The Press Lounge, a rooftop bar with incredible views of both the Manhattan skyline and the Hudson River.
All charges, discounts, credits and points considered, I walked away paying $293 for three nights — or $98 a night, including breakfast — at a high-end hotel. When all was said and done, I got three nights for less than the price of one night at a comparable hotel (or at the same hotel if I had booked directly through Ink 48).
After years as a budget traveler worried mainly about cost, I’m still adjusting to the fact that I can achieve a higher standard at a similar price point if I’m smart about leveraging credit card benefits. I’m also still learning what constitutes a good value in terms of points redemptions.
Overall, I consider this experience a huge win for me. Next time, I won’t be so quick to dismiss perks that don’t immediately resonate with me. They just might be worth a second look.
Featured photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.
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Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy Bonus Points after spending $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 8/31/22.
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- 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
- 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
- Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
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