The complete guide to the benefits of the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts programme
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
The Platinum Card from American Express and its business version, the American Express Business Platinum Card, offer dozens of travel-related perks for cardholders. One of the most valuable benefits is access to a luxury hotel booking system called Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR).
The FHR programme allows Amex Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders to book a stay at more than 1,100 luxury hotels worldwide at a rate very close to the best flexible rate. And instead of just a typical stay, FHR bookings also come with a host of extra benefits for free:
- Room upgrade upon arrival, when available;
- Daily breakfast for two people;
- Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout;
- Noon check-in, when available;
- Complimentary Wi-Fi; and
- Unique property amenity, such as a spa or food and beverage credit.
An FHR booking can be made either on the phone or via the FHR web portal. It could be worth finding a deal that suits you online and then calling up Amex Travel with the exact details. Sometimes the prices over the phone offered by an agent can be cheaper.
Because of the slew of benefits that come with booking through FHR are so valuable, it can sometimes be worth paying a little more for your nightly rate in order to take advantage of the savings. And with travel beginning to resume, it could be a good time to book that holiday stay now.
Let’s break down the list of benefits individually.
Room upgrade upon arrival, when available
While this benefit is subject to availability (i.e. not guaranteed), in my experience, it’s always been honoured. I’ve had my luck provided the hotel is showing availability in the room one category above on the day of check-in.
The best value tends to come when booking one notch below a club room or one notch below the entry-level suite. Some hotels may be wise to this and specifically prohibit upgrades across categories like this, in which case they will make it clear at the time of booking. If the hotel allows these upgrades, since the value is so good, I find it successful to specifically state your intent at the time of booking.
If you book online, you can specify something like this in the comments section: “Booking a Grand Deluxe Room wishing to upgrade into a Deluxe Club Room.”
If booking by phone, the Amex agent will be able to specify something along these lines in their notes section for you.
TPG U.K. valuation of this benefit: £80 per night
Daily breakfast for two people
Free breakfast is a very useful benefit at luxury hotels, where prices can often exceed £35 per person. When booking with FHR, you’ll get free breakfast each day of your stay for two people. Some FHR properties will also allow you to order your breakfast as room service, rather than eating in the restaurant.
In a city hotel, you can certainly argue that you could easily head out for a coffee and a pastry, which would set you back far less than £35 per person. However, in a resort or countryside hotel, where you are effectively captive, the savings are hard to argue with.
TPG U.K. valuation of this benefit: £40-£80 per night
Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout
Quite possibly the most powerful benefit of an Amex FHR booking is the guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout. Many hotel elite statuses and other “preferred” booking channels will offer late checkout “subject to availability.” However, Amex FHR is the only method of guaranteeing a 4 p.m. checkout at a host of hotels. You’ll get the benefit even if you have no elite status whatsoever — you just must book through FHR.
On a one-night booking, you could find yourself checking in at midday on Saturday after arriving from an early morning flight and checking out at 4 p.m. on Sunday before catching the early evening flight home. You get the room for 28 hours, enjoying it for the better part of two full days. In doing so, you save yourself the cost of one additional night’s stay, a potentially huge savings.
Even if you choose to book a heavily discounted prepaid rate for your stay, it can make sense to pay a more expensive FHR rate on your final night, purely in order to secure your late checkout. (There is also the possibility that the room upgrade benefit from your final night will carry over into the rest of your stay in order to avoid the unnecessary admin of a room change during your stay.)
TPG U.K. valuation of this benefit: £50-£80 per stay
Noon check-in, when available
This benefit is fairly variable, as it is entirely dependent on a hotel’s willingness to accommodate you. Unlike the upgrade benefit, I have had mixed luck with this. Sometimes I’ve been able to check-in as early as 9 a.m., while other times there is no room ready until 3 p.m.
However, given the high calibre of hotels participating in FHR, I’ve always been offered baggage storage as well as access to the hotel’s gym and pool when waiting to check-in. After all, a high-end hotel is interested in making the best first impression possible, and if you’re on premises relaxing by the pool, chances are you’ll also want to spend your money on a meal or drink while you wait.
TPG U.K. valuation of this benefit: £0
Some hotels still charge for Wi-Fi — especially the more old school, Grande Dame-style properties. In such a case, this benefit could represent a savings of £15 or more per night.
TPG U.K. valuation of this benefit: £0-£20 per night
Unique property amenity, such as a spa or food and beverage credit
This perk can vary from property to property. However, it is almost always a $100 dining credit, which can be applied to in-house bars, restaurants, the mini-bar or room service in many cases. Some properties will have greater restrictions where you can use the credit, such as excluding the minibar or room service.
Other times, you are limited to a set lunch or dinner, excluding drinks, which can sometimes have a slightly higher value than $100 but ties you to a more formal meal rather than just grabbing drinks in the bar or room service after a night out.
Some hotels offer the $100 benefit as a spa credit, which is arguably the least-valuable benefit. Everybody needs to eat and drink, but not everybody uses the spa. However, if you’re somebody who uses the spa anyway and you had meals planned at restaurants outside of the hotel, this would be a very valuable benefit indeed.
TPG U.K. valuation of this benefit: £80
Things to note
- The online FHR rates are only set once per year, and it is possible for hotels to both increase or decrease their best flexible rate on a far more frequent basis. This means that you may end up paying slightly more (or less!) when booking via FHR.
- Amex FHR rates are fully flexible, and your bill will need to be settled with an Amex card upon checkout, which means you’ll be paying the 2.99% foreign transaction fee if you’re staying abroad.
- Amex FHR rates are qualifying stays for the purposes of most major loyalty programmes, meaning that you’ll likely earn points and stay credits. For example, when I booked the cheapest-possible room at the Shangri-La Sydney, I received a double upgrade to a Deluxe Sydney Harbour View. One notch was thanks to FHR and the second as a result of my Shangri-La Jade status, which is a separate and additional Amex Platinum card benefit.
- Amex FHR rates cannot be combined with corporate discount codes and cannot earn cashback via Topcashback.
The £575 annual fee on the Amex Platinum Card and the £595 annual fee on the Business Platinum Card can come as a bit of a shock. But, the FHR benefit alone goes quite some way toward justifying the cost.
Even if you’re not a frequent traveller, you could easily make the fee back over the course of two or three one-night stays booked via Fine Hotels & Resorts.
Featured photo by Eric Rosen / The Points Guy.
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