How I almost came out ahead on my luxury hotel stay

Dec 6, 2020

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Sometimes, you find a travel deal that’s too good to ignore.

That’s what happened when I was looking for a place to stay for a night during a recent trip to Tucson, Arizona.

My colleague suggested I check out the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, an upscale property nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. It still had availability (many other properties in the area were sold out), very competitive rates and I could stack multiple credits to nearly eliminate the cost of my stay.

Cascade Lounge at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort (Photo by Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy.)

You can easily find rooms here for under $200 a night, but I decided to spend a bit more to book through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program. The room rate was $209, but included all the standard perks of an FHR stay: a room upgrade upon arrival, daily complimentary breakfast for two, guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout and a $100 property credit, among other perks.

After taxes and fees, my total came to $234.19 (plus a $32.49 resort fee charged at the hotel). I paid with my Platinum Card® from American Express, earning me 5x on the hotel stay — a total of 1,170 Membership Rewards points worth approximately $23, based on TPG’s most recent valuations.

And that was just the beginning.

I was able to use the $100 property credit to offset the cost of my meals, and my breakfast was covered. Plus, the hotel stay triggered the new up to $200 Amex Travel travel credit available to personal Platinum cardholders who renew their card between April 2020 and March 2021.

Breakfast at the Flying V at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. (Photo by Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy.)

In total, I earned $323 for a stay that only would have cost about $267.

Sure, that $100 credit can only be used during your stay, but careful travelers could easily check out with a few extra dollars’ worth of Membership Rewards points and zero dollars due.

At the end of my stay, I owed about $45 in taxes, service charges and that pesky resort fee — which, of course, I charged to my Ink Business Preferred Credit Card for 3x (only applies to the first $150,000 spent in combined category purchases per account anniversary).

Bottom line

Even if you don’t make money on your next hotel stay, there are still a lot of serious deals for travelers right now.

If you also have or will receive a $200 Amex Travel credit, you can use it for eligible travel purchases made through the American Express Travel Portal until December 2021 (so, no rush!) — and that includes Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts and International Airline Program bookings.

Be sure to pay with a credit card that will earn you bonus points on your stay, whether that’s your Platinum card or another travel rewards credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x) or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card (which I always put down as my card for incidentals at hotels).

In addition to searching for a solid room rate, look for bookings that include value-added incentives. The perks of an FHR booking are great, but you might choose to stay at a hotel that’s waiving fees or providing more lucrative credits — whatever will help you get the most value out of your stay.

And, finally, remember to always check for credit card offers before making any reservations. If I’d stayed longer at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, for example, I could have spent enough to trigger an Amex Offer for $150 on prepaid Fine Hotels & Resorts purchases of $800 or more.

Of course, I also could have walked away with zero dollars due and a stash of Membership Rewards points if I’d kept my on-property spend under $100. But this is 2020, after all. Sometimes, you have to treat yourself.

Feature photo by Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy. 

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