View of the Hills from Kahala Hotel

Fine Hotels and Resort Program: Best Luxury Hotel Travel Hack

View from an open window facing the Pacific Ocean with palm trees

One of my favorite benefits about the American Express platinum card is the Fine Hotels and Resorts program. I have found so many amazing deals through using this program for stays at luxury hotels. 

When I first heard about it, I instantly dismissed it as not being something I would be interested in.  A quick look at the offerings and you see these are for luxury hotel stays.  The room rate listed in some locations can be shocking but once you start to do the research and add in the additional perks and credits, you can find some great deals for luxury properties.  

This benefit available on the American Express Business or Personal Platinum card is now one of my favorites.  I love nice hotels and this benefit offers a great chance to stay in some beautiful hotels for less than or the same as other hotels in the area.  This benefit is only available at select properties when booking at least two consecutive nights.  

Interested? Check out the article below for details.

sunset over Kokohead from the Kahala Hotel

The Fine Hotels and Resorts Benefits:

  • Early check in (noon, if available)
  • Guaranteed Late Check Out (4:00pm)
  • Room Upgrade, if available
  • Free Breakfast for Two, Daily
  • Experience Credit
  • Welcome Gift
  • Free Wi-fi

Why I Like the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program 

Noon Check-In (if available)

When you book a room with the Fine Hotels and Resorts program using your American Express platinum card (or your American Express membership rewards points) you can check in at noon the day you arrive (if the room is available).  This is such a nice feature because I usually try to book early flights and want to get to my room to settle in.  If you do book and are hoping for an early check in, call the hotel in advance to confirm that they can provide it.  There has only been one time we tried to check in early and weren’t able to.  

Guaranteed Late Checkout 

Late checkout (up to 4:00 pm) is guaranteed.  Confirm when you check in that you would like to use this benefit.  To me, late check out is even better than early check-in.  I hate the feeling on the last day of vacation of getting up early to try to pack up the room and get out before 11:00 am.  With this benefit, you can relax and enjoy most of your day, before returning to your room to pack.  I like to schedule my flights so I can take advantage of this benefit.  

Combined, the early check-in and late checkout, add almost another eight hours to your hotel stay.  I am a fan of the weekend getaway so arriving early on a Friday and leaving late on a Sunday is ideal.  Just those extra few hours in the hotel pretty much as a whole day to your stay.  Instead of checking in at 3 PM or 4 PM and checking out at 10 AM you have a lot more time to get set up in the hotel and enjoy your adventures. 

Free Breakfast for Two

Another perk from the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program is free breakfast for two.  Every hotel we have stayed in does this a bit differently.  Some will issue statement credits to cover the cost of breakfast, others will just waive the breakfast fee for two people.  Most of these hotels have amazing breakfast buffets that are worth sticking around for.  At the Kahala on Oahu this was one of our most favorite perks.   The Conrad New York City offered a daily credit of $80 to use toward the value of the daily breakfast which didn’t cover the cost of the full buffet breakfast.  Other hotels just offer complimentary breakfast for two, usually a buffet and still others will allow you to use this credit for in-room dining during certain hours. Check my hotel reviews for specifics.    

Experience Credit

Every Fine Hotel and Resort Partner gives a resort credit between $100-$600 during your stay.  These offers change often and vary widely between hotels.  I suggest checking the Fine Hotels and Resorts website for special offers.   This can be used on dining, spa, parking, mini bars (every hotel has different rules for this credit.  Ask them when you check in.)  At the Kahala, I used this for the spa and had the best massage.  At my most recent stay at Conrad New York City, it was only to be used for dining.  This was kind of a disappointment since there are so many great restaurants in New York City and we didn’t want to spend all of our time dining at the hotel.  At the Allia Marrea in Encinitas, I used it as a spa credit and it was well worth it.  Like I mentioned, definitely check out the property that you are interested in and see what they offer as far as the type of experience credit.  They all seem to differ.  

Room Upgrade, if Available

I am not sure if I am just unlucky with room upgrades or not.  They never seem to be available when I check in.  Our room was upgraded to an ocean front room at the Kahala, other than that, a room upgrade never seems to be available. While listed on the Fine Hotels and Resorts website, I think our room was only upgraded one.  At the Kahala, we were upgraded to an oceanfront room.  In most other locations, I don’t think an upgrade was available.  This is just one of those benefits  that I kind of hope will happen, but don’t really count on it.  

Welcome Gift

I love a welcome gift.   The first time we used this program was in at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando and we didn’t realize we were going to get an additional amenity, and it was just such a nice touch to be like surprise with a little box of chocolates and upon check in.  At the Conrad Tokyo, it was the nicest little set of Japanese treats, including the very expensive grapes.  These little details really matter when traveling and I give extra points to hotels that get it right.  

How to Book the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program 

To book through the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program, you will log into your American Express account and search for hotels under the travel menu.  American Express offers The Hotel Collection and the Fine Hotels and Resorts program.  Choose the latter and make your hotel booking as normal.  The system will give you options at various room categories and may even show special offer for your particular stay.  For example, we are staying at the Alia in San Diego and the third night was complimentary.  You can also choose to book with Membership reward points, cash or a combination.  Remember, payment must be on your American Express card for you to receive the benefits.  But, if you do pay for the stay with your platinum card, you also earn 5 X points towards future travel.  

This offer is only for AmEx platinum cardholders (personal or business).  If you don’t have an American Express platinum card, start with applying for one. This is my favorite card for travel–even with the high annual fee.

The benefits of the card outweigh the cost of the fee.  

Once you have the American Express Platinum card, you can book through the American Express portal.  You can choose to pay with points or cash or a combination of both.  And, remember, if you do book with cash and pay with the Am Ex Platinum card, you earn 5 X membership rewards points.  

Additionally, you get a $200 hotel credit if you book hotels on the American Express website through their portal, which includes the Fine Hotels and Resorts program.  Typically I try to avoid booking through a third-party portal but have had a lot of success with the Fine Hotels and Resorts program.  I appreciate all the benefits and the extra $200 hotel credit per year.  (This only applies to the American Express Platinum Personal card, not the business cards.) 

Can you combine a loyalty program with the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program?

Yes, some hotels do allow this.  The only hotel that didn’t allow this was the Conrad New York City.  Definitely ask when you check-in. 

Is the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program really worth it?

Just like any travel hack, it can be but you have to do your research.  During our recent stay in New York City, I was comparing the cost of the Hilton Garden Inn South Central Park to the Conrad Hilton, a few blocks away.  The posted rate for a basic room at the Hilton Garden Inn was $280 per night, plus taxes and fees (so about $320 per night).  The Conrad Midtown was listed on the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program website for $400 per night, plus taxes and fees (so about $450 per night).  

Instead of booking two nights at the Hilton Garden Inn, with a 4 pm check in and a 11:00 am check out time. I booked two nights (with early check-in and late check out) at the Conrad for a one bedroom suite.   The cost for two nights in a one bedroom luxury suite at the Conrad was about $900.    I used my $200 American Express Platinum hotel benefit as well, bringing the out of pocket cost to $700.  Additionally, through the Fine Hotels and Resorts program, we got free breakfast and an additional $100 dining credit.  For two nights at the Hilton Garden Inn, was about $640 and though Hilton Garden Inn is good for a simple hotel stay, it cannot compare in value to the Conrad. Tiny room at the Hilton Garden Inn or one bedroom luxury suite at the Conrad?  

Can I book the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program with Membership Rewards points?

Yes!  You will be given the option to pay with your car, points or a combination of both.  I have regularly used a combination of points and cash as I wanted to be sure to earn the 5 X points on the purchase.  

Does this program work for short stays in a hotel?

Yes, I think it is ideal for short stays.  The early check-in and late check out make it feel like you get a whole extra day of time to explore.  

What are your favorite hotels to use the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program?

If you are curious where we have used the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program, take a look at these posts:

The Kahala Hotel, Oahu

Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu (review coming soon)

Park Hyatt, New York City (review coming soon)

Mr C’s, Miami, Florida (review coming soon)

Conrad Tokyo (review coming soon)

Waldorf Astoria Orlando (review coming soon)

Allia Morrea San Diego (review coming soon)

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