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In addition to its history of service as a credit card issuer and financial services provider, American Express has long cultivated a brand synonymous with the jet-setter lifestyle. Upscale travel and lavish experiences are part of the company’s identity, so it’s fitting that Amex offers a hotel booking platform featuring some of the most luxurious properties in the world.
If you’re looking for extravagant accommodations with valuable perks, the Fine Hotels and Resorts program can provide them.
We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.
Fine Hotels and Resorts: Amex Travel’s Luxury Hotel Program
What Is Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts?
The Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) program offers select American Express card members exclusive benefits at over 1,300 hand-picked luxury properties. The list is vetted and periodically reviewed to ensure every hotel and resort meets Amex’s exacting standards. American Express isn’t the only credit card issuer to curate a luxury hotel booking program, but Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts sets the standard among them.
Properties are added to and (occasionally) removed from the Fine Hotels and Resorts program over time, so the list isn’t static. You’ll find far-flung tropical beach escapes, stately mountain ski lodges, lavish city digs, and tranquil countryside retreats in dozens of countries worldwide. These properties range from high-end to very high-end, with many charging thousands of dollars per night. In short, Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts isn’t a good fit for traveling on a tight budget, but not all prices are stratospheric, and the program benefits can elevate any stay regardless of cost.
Who can book American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts stays?
To book an Amex FHR stay, you must have The Platinum Card® from American Express – Product Name Only, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express – Product Name Only, or Centurion Card (also known as the Black Card). Different versions of the Platinum card are all eligible, including co-branded cards from Charles Schwab and Morgan Stanley. These are all premium credit cards that carry hefty annual fees in exchange for high-end benefits.
You must use your eligible card to book your stay, and payment must be made in the primary card member’s name. That means you generally can’t book Fine Hotels and Resorts stays for other people, though you can book additional rooms for your party.
You can book online through the landing page for Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts or by searching for hotels at American Express Travel and limiting the results to Fine Hotels and Resorts properties. You can also book over the phone by calling the number on the back of your card.
Note that Amex also curates a second list of properties called The Hotel Collection, which is available to those with the American Express® Gold Card – Product Name Only and American Express® Business Gold Card – Product Name Only, as well as to Platinum and Centurion cardholders. The Hotel Collection is a step down from the Fine Hotels and Resorts program, but still offers high quality and valuable benefits.
Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts Benefits
Cardholders who book through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts get a set of explicit core benefits, some guaranteed and consistent across the whole portfolio, and others that depend on availability and vary from one property to the next.
Room upgrade upon arrival
When you check in for a stay booked through Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts, you’re eligible for an upgrade to a higher-category room or one with a better view in the same category. Upgrades depend on availability, so you’re more likely to be offered one when demand is low — don’t expect to get bumped from a standard room to the presidential suite when you show up at a busy resort on a holiday weekend.
Upgrades have the most upside of Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts benefits, but also the greatest variance. The distinctions between hotel room categories are often murky, so an “upgrade” sometimes means getting a room that was recently renovated (for better or worse) or one with an extra amenity you may not care about.
On the other hand, upgrades are not limited to a single category, so you very well could end up in that presidential suite with some good fortune and timing. If you’re willing to risk it, you can try to game the upgrade benefit by identifying the room categories at your property and booking one category below the room you really want. Not all room categories are eligible for upgrades, so call ahead if you need clarification.
Daily breakfast for two
Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts describes this benefit as a complimentary breakfast for up to two people per room, which is generally accurate. However, the benefit terms clarify that the breakfast is valued at a minimum of $60 per room per day. You may be charged for purchases exceeding that amount, so breakfast isn’t strictly “complimentary” depending on menu prices and how much you order.
The daily breakfast benefit is another that varies widely between properties. Some offer a specific complimentary option in one restaurant (like a breakfast buffet). Others offer a range of specific complimentary options in one or more venues, and some simply offer daily statement credits to offset qualifying on-property charges up to the preset amount, even covering multiple transactions.
If this makes the benefit sound unpredictable, don’t worry. In my experience, daily breakfast benefit options have always been explained clearly at check-in for Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts stays.
Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts bookings at the Wynn Las Vegas include daily breakfast for two at spots like Jardin Brunch and Breakfast Restaurant.
Wynn Las Vegas
When you book at an Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts property, you’re guaranteed an experience credit of at least $100 toward eligible on-property charges. The amount and nature of the experience credit are clearly indicated for each property when you book.
The benefit is most commonly provided as a statement credit to offset food and beverage charges, spa services, or any purchases billed to your room. However, in some cases, it comes in the form of a specific experience (like a complimentary meal or massage) rather than a credit. The baseline value is $100, but you’ll often receive more. I’ve seen on-property credits offered up to $200, and some of the experiential options have sticker prices well beyond that amount.
You’re eligible for the experience credit regardless of how long you stay — even a single night qualifies. That makes it an exceptional value for shorter stays.
The Amex FHR experience credit varies between properties.
Early check-in and late check-out
While the benefits above provide fairly well-defined value, these two are harder to quantify. Nonetheless, early check-in and late check-out are useful in the right conditions, like when you have a morning arrival or evening departure.
Early check-in at Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts starts at noon and is subject to availability; if your room is unavailable, then you’ll have to wait until it’s ready. Regardless of the official early check-in time, some hotels will accommodate you before noon if they can.
Unlike early check-in, the late 4 p.m. checkout is guaranteed. In my experience, Fine Hotels and Resorts properties are proactive about honoring this benefit, so you shouldn’t have to worry about your key demagnetizing prematurely or hotel staff entering the room while you’re still in it.
The final core benefit of the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts program is free Wi-Fi, which is guaranteed even if the property normally charges for it. At properties where Wi-Fi charges are folded into another mandatory fee (like a resort fee), a daily credit will be applied to your bill at checkout to offset the cost.
Other benefits of booking with American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts
Aside from the core benefits listed above, there are other perks of booking with the Fine Hotels and Resorts program, some more tangible than others.
First, Amex maintains a list of special offers available at select properties. These include complimentary nights (like a free fourth night), discounts on nightly room rates, on-property credits, and more, all provided in addition to the core benefits. Special offers show up in standard Fine Hotels and Resorts searches, so you don’t have to browse the linked page to find them.
Next, Fine Hotels and Resorts bookings are eligible for the Amex The Platinum Card® from American Express – Editorial Name Only’s $200 annual hotel credit, so you can stack that discount on top of the other benefits you receive. You’ll also earn 5 points per dollar for booking Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts stays with your The Platinum Card® from American Express – Editorial Name Only.
Finally, you may receive an elevated level of service when you check in as a Fine Hotels and Resorts guest. That has consistently been my experience, especially comparing stays at a single property booked through Amex versus other channels. The differences in service are subtle and hard to define, but palpable.
You can score special offers like free nights and more when you book through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts.
Important considerations for booking with American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts
The terms and conditions of the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts program are mostly benign to cardholders, but there are a few potential pitfalls and other details to keep in mind.
Reservations are mostly prepaid
When you book through Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts, you typically pay for room charges and taxes up front, while additional charges (like resort fees and incidentals) are paid at the property. You can sometimes opt to put down a deposit rather than prepay the entire reservation. Either way, bookings are mostly cancelable, but Amex does not impose a universal cancellation policy, so keep yourself out of trouble by reading the hotel’s cancellation policy in the listing before you book.
Benefits are non-transferable
All perks and credits must be used during your stay (i.e., prior to checkout). You can’t save or bank them for later, so use them or lose them.
Back-to-back stays count as one
If you or your party book separate stays at the same property within a 24-hour period, it will be considered a single stay and only eligible for one set of Fine Hotels and Resorts benefits. In other words, you can’t rack up multiple experience credits by making separate reservations on consecutive nights at the same property.
Benefits apply to multiple rooms
You can book up to three rooms for an Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts stay, and all three are eligible for the full slate of benefits. That adds a lot of value to the program for those traveling in a group.
You must present a valid Amex card in your name at check-in
In addition to booking Fine Hotels and Resorts stays with an eligible American Express card, you must present a valid Amex card at check-in to cover incidentals. However, the card you check in with doesn’t have to be the one you used to make your reservation. If you canceled your The Platinum Card® from American Express – Editorial Name Only or simply forgot to bring it, for example, you could provide another Amex card. The terms say the card you present must be in the name of the primary guest, but my wife and I had no trouble presenting my Amex card at check-in for a reservation in her name.
Hotel rewards and elite benefits are not guaranteed
Many hotels offer rewards and elite benefits only when you book directly. As a result, booking through a third party like Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts may cause you to miss out on those perks. From my own experience and anecdotal evidence, reward outcomes are unpredictable. I’ve sometimes earned rewards automatically, sometimes earned them upon request, and sometimes been denied. Case in point: The Bellagio Las Vegas honored my MGM status and waived resort fees for one Fine Hotels and Resorts stay, but flatly refused to do so for another.
You can pay with points, but you shouldn’t
Amex lets you redeem Membership Rewards points for Fine Hotels and Resorts stays, but the redemption rate is only 1 cent per point. That’s far below our average valuation of 1.8 cents for Amex points, so save your points for transfers to airline and hotel partners (or other award redemptions that provide a better return).
How does American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts compare to booking directly?
Hotel perks are nice, but they’re not much good if you have to pay more than they’re worth to get them. Fortunately, the rates offered by Fine Hotels and Resorts are generally consistent with those you’ll find when booking directly or through other third parties. However, a true comparison is more complex than identifying which room rate is lower.
For example, consider a two-night weekend stay at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle. Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts lists a nightly room rate of $550.
The Fairmont Olympic Hotel costs $550 through Amex FHR, but you’ll get extra perks.
The same room with a similar cancellation policy booked directly through Fairmont also shows a $550 nightly rate. However, there’s a 5% discount ($27.50 per night) available to members of the Accor Live Limitless (ALL) program, which is free to join. Since you won’t have to pay Seattle’s 15.7% hotel tax on that amount, the total savings comes to around $31.60 per night, or over $60 for the stay.
Booked directly, the Fairmont Olympic is similar in price but doesn’t come with additional benefits.
On the other hand, booking through Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts gets you perks that easily outweigh the $60 savings, including a $100 food and beverage credit, breakfast for two each day, and more. So long as you value those benefits, you’re better off booking through Amex.
There are other factors to consider, such as the rewards you earn, whether your elite status will be recognized, currency exchange discrepancies (at properties abroad), cancellation policies, convenience, and more. Comparing prices is prudent, and you’ll need to decide on a case-by-case basis whether booking through Amex makes sense, but you can be reasonably confident that you’re not getting gouged in order to secure the Fine Hotels and Resorts benefits.
Is Fine Hotels and Resorts worth it?
There’s no guarantee that booking through Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts is your best option, but in my experience, the program offers consistent value. I have yet to pass up a Fine Hotels and Resorts stay to book an identical reservation through a different channel.
Some benefits are accentuated during shorter stays, when the experience credit is relatively large compared to the total cost, and the extra hours you get from checking in early and checking out late represent a larger portion of the total time you spend at the property. In contrast, room upgrades and daily breakfast are more rewarding on longer stays, since the value of those benefits adds up each day. Think about which benefits you’ll use and how much they’re worth to you before you accept them at face value.
One final caveat: Asking whether the Fine Hotels and Resorts program is a good deal is not the same as asking whether you should use it. Stays at these properties tend to be pricey, and if the benefits tempt you to step too far beyond your budget, then any value you get from them is specious.
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