I frequently get asked if the Platinum Card’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program is worth it. The Platinum card is offered by American Express, a CreditCardForum advertising partner.
Previously, it has been hard for a prospective applicant to know that answer, since the directory of hotels was not published online (so you had to apply and get the card before you saw it).
But guess what? American Express recently started publishing the FHR directory online. Anyone can view it, whether you have the card of not.
Here is the 2014 worldwide directory list (note: that links to a PDF file). Take a gander, there are nearly 750 participating properties.
But even with this perk, sometimes you will be better off with another travel rewards card.
Why I love this benefit
The American Express Platinum Card has quite a few benefits. So many in fact, that even many current cardmember aren’t aware of all of them.
But do you know which perk is my personal favorite? That would be the Fine Hotels & Resorts program. At each participating hotel you get the following benefits:
As one would expect, the noon check-in and room upgrade are subject to availability. But that shouldn’t be a problem as long as you’re not traveling during some special event, where there could be 100% occupancy (for travel itineraries I have booked, the only time I can think of that happening was during the NCAA Final Four games in New Orleans last year… where every hotel room and plane seat was sold).
How much are these perks worth?
It used to say on the American Express website that the added value of these benefits, based on double occupancy, was over $450 per stay. Now I don’t see any specific number mentioned on the website anymore, so let’s run some real-life scenarios to see what we’re actually getting in return.
Test #1: The St. Regis Princeville Resort
This property is located on the north side of Kauai, the side you want to be on.
Right off the bat, you see that you’re getting a $100 resort credit to use during your stay.
I pulled a quote from the St. Regis website, which guarantees the lowest rate. If you were booking the lowest tier room, that would be one with only a garden view (no ocean view!) for about $578 per night.
- Mountain/Garden View Rooms – $578/night
With a room upgrade from American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, that should get you at least the next room tier – ocean view room. It also has additional amenities like double vanity. Normally the price of that room is $640.
- Ocean View Rooms – $640/night
The net difference? $62 per night.
If you’re staying 5 nights, that’s an upgrade that’s worth $310.
And keep in mind, that’s assuming you were only upgraded to one tier above. Depending on availability, it’s not uncommon for hotels to upgrade more than one tier up. So the value might be even higher.
And the free daily breakfast for 2? Even if you valued that at only $40 per day (which is low balling the cost) over 5 days that’s a $200 value.
So let’s see… $100 statement credit + $310 room upgrade + $200 in breakfasts = $610. And we haven’t even pegged a dollar amount for the 12:00 early check in and 4:00 pm late checkout.
Test #2: Gramercy Park Hotel
There are several properties in New York City that are part of Fine Hotels & Resorts, with this being one of them.
Once again, you get a $100 food and beverage credit to use during your stay.
Let’s say you booked the “Park View Suite.” For the dates I checked in August, the lowest advertised price on the official hotel’s website for that room is $785/night.
The next tiers up are Park View Premier Suite and Park View Luxury Suite.
If you got upgraded one tier to the Premier, that carries a price tag of $1,250/night.
That’s a big price difference, but there is a big difference in square footage of 750 versus 515. That’s almost a 50% bigger room.
If you had a 3-night stay and your AmEx Platinum Card scored you this upgrade through the FHR program, then that would be approximately a $1,395 in added value for the bigger room, subject to availability of course.
Even if you were just staying one night, the upgrade value in the above scenario would be worth around $465, which happens to exceed the annual fee of the Platinum credit card, just for sake of reference.
Then when you add in the $100 dining credit, early check-in, and late check-out… you’re doing quite well for yourself.
Test #3: Bauer Il Palazzo Hotel Venice
The first two were domestic, so I think it’s appropriate to include an international hotel in the mix. I chose Italy for this one. This will provide you with the quintessential Venice experience, as it overlooks the Grand Canal.
We start out with a free lunch or dinner for two. Since it excludes alcohol, taxes and tips, basically I’m only going to value this as the cash price of 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, and 2 desserts. They don’t publish all of their menus online, but from the looks of their a la carte menu for their De Pisis restaurant, the cost of those are probably going to run you at least $150, probably more like $200. But to be conservative, let’s slap a $150 price tag on it for this calculation.
If you were booking the deluxe suite, the difference between that and the next room up – deluxe room with view – is approximately $60 (give or take some, depending on the euro to dollar conversion).
If you were staying here 4 nights, that’s a $240 in savings.
Or if you’re really high rolling this trip, the upgrade perk might be worth thousands. The Canal Suite ($2,127) and the next one up, the Presidential Suite ($5,122) is a substantial difference. Then again, with such a huge difference, I do wonder how willing management would be to upgrade you. Would they say it’s unavailable?
Going back to the aforementioned deluxe suite… between the possible room upgrade ($240) and the free lunch or dinner ($150), we’re already ahead $390, thanks to Fine Hotels & Resorts. The value of the early check-in and late check-out is certainly, at least to me, worth a couple hundred dollars. That means this is another example where you might very well come out ahead by several hundred dollars or more in total.
It’s worth noting there are lower cost options
While the three examples I gave involve higher-end properties and rooms, there are plenty of options in the FHR directory that are lower cost.
Even the Gramercy Park Hotel had entry level rooms starting in the $300′s per night. For New York City, that’s not expensive.
That being said, we are talking about the Platinum Card, so this isn’t geared towards travelers who stay at the Motel 6. If you want something that will score you perks at entry level hotels, then check out these hotel credit cards.
All that for only $450?
The annual membership fee for the Platinum Card is $450. Obviously that’s not inexpensive. It’s one of the more exclusive credit cards in the market. For the average Joe or Jane, it probably won’t make sense because in order to enjoy its true value you must utilize the benefits.
And if you do use the benefits? Well, then the card could be worth its weight in platinum.
Because in addition to the Fine Hotels and Resorts from American Express, you are getting a number other benefits that can save you quite a bit of money. The most noteworthy are:
- Up to $200 each year in airline fee credits. Simply select an airline (any qualifying airline) and enroll it with AmEx to get refunded up to $200 each year in the incidental fees charged by the airline. For things like checked bag fees, in-flight food and beverage, pet kennel fees, and that kind of stuff.
- Airport lounge access. With how disastrous airports are nowadays, being able to wait in the private lounges gives you some serenity. Not only do you get complimentary access to Priority Pass Select Lounges when you enroll, but also access to participating Delta Sky Clubs when flying with them. To put that value in perspective, a yearly pass for just the Delta Sky Club alone would set you back anywhere from $300 to $450 (the price depends on your frequent flyer status with Delta, the lower you are, the more you pay).
- Companion tickets on international flights. When booked through American Express travel, Platinum cardmembers get a companion ticket when they purchase a qualifying business or first class ticket. Around 20 different carriers participate in this.
Conclusion? Even if you only go on trips as little as once or twice per year, it could be worth getting the Platinum if you’re the type of person who prefers to travel in style. As you can see from the examples, the value-added benefits from the Fine Hotels and Resorts program alone are reason enough, but then when you add in everything else, you can defray quite a bit of the cost of first class travel.