Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts has added verbiage to its terms and conditions that prevent customers from earning duplicate credits on back-to-back reservations.
When you book a hotel through the American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts program, you get access to a VIP experience during your stay thanks to several elite perks. 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, can book select hotels through the Amex FHR program.
The Amex FHR program can add serious perks and benefits to your hotel stays and may not cost much more than booking direct. However, Amex has packed its Platinum- and Centurion-branded cards with benefits that you may have overlooked or underestimated under the Amex FHR program.
In fact, these perks can go a long way to offsetting the $695 annual fee on each card (see rates and fees for the personal Platinum and rates and fees for the Business Platinum).
Here is everything you need to know about the program.
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What is American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts?
The American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts program provides elite-like benefits at more than 1,100 properties worldwide when you book through the program. Amex reserves access to its Amex FHR program for cardmembers with a Centurion or Platinum card, including the Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum.
The properties bookable through the Amex FHR program are a mix of branded and independent locations. The program offers a collection of well-rated luxury properties that Amex says are hand-selected. While there are many reasons you may choose to book a stay through Amex FHR, most cardholders primarily book through the program to get extra perks on their stay and ease a few of the stresses that come with traveling.
Related: How American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts can land you elite-like benefits at top hotels
Main perks and benefits
Booking through Amex FHR often isn’t the cheapest option. But the perks you’ll receive may make up for any price difference.
Here are the can’t-miss perks you’ll receive with every Amex FHR booking, regardless of the length of your stay:
- Room upgrade upon arrival, when available at check-in.
- Properties may exclude some room types and some may only give you a room with a better view.
- Daily breakfast for two people.
- Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout.
- Noon check-in, when available.
- Complimentary Wi-Fi.
- When a property includes Wi-Fi in a mandatory resort fee, you’ll receive a daily credit equal to the Wi-Fi cost.
- Experience credit.
- The experience should be valued at $100 or more and usually consists of a property, dining or spa credit.
You can maximize your Amex FHR bookings even further by targeting hotels with specific experience credits that are unique or worth more than $100.
For example, The Peninsula Shanghai offers a complimentary dinner for two and The Peninsula Manila offers a complimentary 50-minute massage for two people per room. These perks could easily net you more than $100 in value.
The St. Regis Mumbai offers a complimentary lunch or dinner for two people per room, while the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort offers an up to $200 property credit.
You may value some amenities more than others, so consider the value you’ll obtain when comparing your options and see if any experiences pique your interest. For example, some will value a $100 food and beverage credit more than a $100 spa service credit because, (1) it may be a struggle to find spa services for less than $100 at some properties, and (2) some people likely wouldn’t use the spa if not for the credit. Regardless, Amex prohibits you from stacking benefits by booking back-to-back stays, so you can only earn one experience credit per stay.
These perks are useful and easy to capitalize on, and if you book your stay through Amex FHR with The Platinum Card’s hotel credit, you’d be getting an even better deal along with your high-end benefits. As long as you prepay for your stay through American Express Travel using the Amex Platinum, you’ll enjoy a statement credit of up to $200 once per calendar year, giving you easy access to a discounted trip. In fact, there are properties around the world where you can practically stay for free thanks to the new perk.
Related: I use my hotel credit card benefits to travel in luxury — here are 5 ways to do it
How to book Amex FHR stays
To get Amex FHR benefits, you’ll need to book through American Express Travel. In particular, you can book Amex FHR stays through the Centurion Travel Service, the Platinum Travel Service or American Express Travel Online.
I find it easiest to book online at www.amextravel.com/featured-hotel-searches. Plus, prepaid Amex FHR stays booked online earn 5 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on the Amex Platinum or Amex Business Platinum card. That being said, you may use any American Express card in your name to pay for your reservation.
To get Amex FHR benefits, the Platinum or Centurion 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 Amex 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 $195 total per year (see rates and fees) on the Amex Platinum consumer card. These additional cardholders could book more rooms under their own accounts.
Just note that only the personal Amex Platinum is eligible for the up to $200 FHR statement credit.
Related: You can now earn 5 points per dollar and get VIP benefits at even more luxury hotels
Will I earn elite status or loyalty benefits?
In short: maybe.
When Amex started offering 5 points per dollar on FHR stays, I booked a stay at the Park Hyatt Beijing to test whether cardmembers would still get elite earnings and benefits on Amex FHR bookings. While I did receive elite benefits on my stay, some readers reported not receiving elite benefits and earnings on their stays.
Since that stay, we’ve received more reports of some properties refusing to offer elite status earnings or benefits on Amex FHR stays. But we’ve also received multiple reports of the opposite, so it’s probably best to contact the hotel and check ahead of time.
Initially, I assumed I’d get elite earnings and benefits if an Amex FHR stay showed up in my loyalty account within a few days of booking. However, 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 prepay has little effect on whether you get elite benefits and earnings.
So, where does this leave us?
At this point, whether you’ll get elite earnings and benefits varies greatly. My advice is to book a refundable prepaid Amex 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. Although it’s not an ideal solution, at least you’ll know before your visit what benefits you can expect.
And of course, if the rate for booking a hotel via FHR is comparable to booking directly with the property, the array of perks you’ll receive may outweigh the fact that it won’t count as a qualifying stay.
Related: 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. Specifically, you’ll get a value of 1 cent per point when you redeem Amex points for FHR bookings.
However, TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, based on the value you can get when transferring Membership Rewards points to Membership Rewards transfer partners. As such, most travelers will be better off paying for their stays with a Platinum card and earning 5 points per dollar spent on prepaid bookings.
Related: Here are 9 of our favorite ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points
Can I get a free night?
Amex highlights FHR properties on its webpage that currently offer a third, fourth, fifth or sixth night free. You’ll get all the standard Amex FHR benefits and perks during your stay. But, for many of these properties, the free night is the most valuable amenity you’ll get by booking through the Amex FHR program.
As you can see in the example below, Amex includes the free night in the nightly rate displayed.
Here are some — but not nearly all — of the hotels that currently offer a complimentary third or fourth night for Amex FHR bookings:
- Alila Napa Valley in St. Helena, California (complimentary fourth night).
- Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows in Scottsdale, Arizona (complimentary fourth night).
- Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach in Fort Lauderdale (complimentary fourth night).
- Conrad Washington DC in Washington, D.C. (complimentary third night).
- Equinox New York in New York City (complimentary fourth night).
- Fairmont Orchid in Kamuela, Hawaii (complimentary fourth night).
- Grand Hyatt Vail in Vail, Colorado (complimentary fourth night).
- Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort and Casino in Noord, Aruba (complimentary fourth night).
- Miraval Austin Resort & Spa in Leander, Texas (complimentary third night).
- Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Spa and Golf Club in Carlsbad, California (complimentary third night).
- The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel in New York City (complimentary third night).
- The Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. (complimentary third night).
You can see the full collection of comped-night hotels, plus a plethora of other top-of-the-line perks, on Amex’s FHR offer page:
Presumably, booking through Amex FHR will be your best option when you get a free night. But it’s always a good idea to compare the net price of an Amex FHR booking, accounting for the value you’ll get from the perks and benefits, with your other favorite booking methods.
Related: How to maximize longer hotel stays by using a free night benefit
Is Amex FHR worth it?
Booking through Amex FHR can provide valuable benefits. But, Amex FHR rates are often (but not always) more expensive than booking directly.
That said, the nightly rate isn’t everything. The elite-like benefits provided on Amex FHR stays have tangible value. They include daily breakfast, guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout and an experience credit worth at least $100.
Plus, if you use your Amex Platinum Card to make a prepaid FHR booking online, you’ll get a 10% return via the 5 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar spent. And, at some hotels, you’ll still get elite benefits and earnings when booking through Amex FHR.
That means booking through Amex FHR may still be the best choice for some trips even if it doesn’t provide the least expensive rate. And, if you snag an Amex FHR property that’s offering a free night, booking through FHR can end up being significantly cheaper than booking directly.
Related: How does FHR compare to the Citi Prestige’s 4th Night Free when booking luxury hotels
When to use Amex FHR
Despite not always offering the lowest rates, Amex FHR can still be an incredibly compelling booking option. Here are a few scenarios in which you may get outsized value by booking through the Amex FHR program:
One of the most significant selling points of Amex FHR is the experience credit. After all, this credit should be worth at least $100 regardless of how long you stay. So the shorter your stay, the better value this credit represents.
For example, I’ve booked an FHR hotel for a night at the beginning or end of my trip on multiple occasions. By doing so, I can squeeze the most value out of this credit. I even got $160 of value out of a $153 one-night FHR stay at the Loews Chicago once.
This is even more important when considering the personal Platinum Card’s up to $200 statement credit, as you can cover a larger portion of a shorter stay with this once-yearly perk.
Related: 7 amazing hotels around the world you can book with points
You can snag 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 such as DC’s historic Watergate Hotel, booking through FHR may be the way to go.
Related: Should you stay at a new hotel right when it opens?
Travelers without elite status
Hotel loyalty programs often offer many of the Amex FHR program’s perks to their elite members. As such, booking through Amex FHR will typically provide more value if you don’t have a mid to high tier of elite status with the hotel’s loyalty program.
At some properties, the complimentary breakfast alone may justify booking through Amex FHR – every-morning savings can add up fast with some coffee and a bite to eat. But, even if you have elite status with a hotel’s loyalty program, you may still want to book through Amex FHR for access to the experience credit, breakfast for two and guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout.
Related: When to book through Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts vs. Chase Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection
If you’re planning to stay at a luxury hotel, booking through Amex’s FHR program can provide extra elite-like benefits. Sometimes you can book through Amex FHR for little to no additional cost compared with booking directly. And on top of the savings available to Platinum cardholders through the new hotel credit perk, you might save even more money through the promotions offered at some FHR properties. But you don’t usually book through Amex FHR for cost savings — you book for the benefits that come with FHR bookings.
Indeed, the benefits that come with an Amex 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 is to add Amex FHR to your list of booking options when researching a hotel stay. You may not always find the perfect property, but the program can uncover places with perks that fit your needs — and offer a little extra something to add to your trip.
Don’t have an eligible card? Apply here for The Platinum Card from American Express or The Business Platinum Card from American Express
Additional reporting by Kyle Olsen
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, click here.