“The last time I made a mistake was in the summer of 2006 and…”
“False! …oh, wait! Are we playing 2 truths and a lie??” my wife yells from the other room.
No one enjoys admitting that they made a mistake, particularly a travel blogger that makes a HUGE mistake while traveling. But I admit it… I made a rookie mistake. It’s been weighing on me and I hope this helps you in your future travels.
Both, Amex and Chase have programs that allow specific cards holders the ability to book high-end hotels and receive a set of elite-like benefits.
The programs are:
Amex FHR says they have “more than 1,000 luxury properties across 100 countries, in over 500 cities” and the FHR benefits include:
- Early check-in
- Suite upgrade, when available
- Breakfast for two ($30 per person) each day
- $100 Food and Beverage Resort credit (per stay)
- Guaranteed 4 PM check-out
PRO-TIP: In my experience, the “breakfast credit” has not been limited to traditional breakfast times and usually includes room service all day long.
Additionally, Amex FHR sometimes runs promotions such as “third, fourth or fifth nights free” which is phenomenal when you consider all the benefits that you’re receiving.
My wife and I have enjoyed the Amex FHR program for the past few years that I’ve held the American Express Platinum Card (Read More). Normally, we wouldn’t stay in these luxury hotels, but there have been a few times when Amex FHR has presented us with deals that couldn’t be beat. More importantly, bookings through Amex FHR earn loyalty program points and night credits, and you can still receive your elite benefits if you have status with the hotel’s chain.
Obviously, Amex FHR stays in our bag of tricks as we, sometimes, find a great deal at an awesome hotel that we wouldn’t have otherwise considered. For example, last year we stayed at the The Ritz-Carlton, Santa Barbara.
Typically, it’s 6x more than our budget but we were able to stay for a quarter of the price BEFORE taking the benefits into consideration.
Over the last year (or two), I’ve noticed that FHR seems to be plagued with a lot of challenges. In particular:
- Showing “No Availability” when rooms are available
- Booking requires calling to check availability and rates
- Astronomical rates
- No Current free night promotions
I know that FHR renews their contracts with participating properties each year (which I assume is burdensome given that they have more than 1,000 properties) but I’ve seen major problems arise near the end of the calendar year.
Fast Forward…I used FHR to book our one-night stay at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. When I checked in at the Bellagio hotel, I was thanked for booking through the FHR program and presented with this…
Everything aligns with my benefit expectations…except one. Take a look at the last bullet point:
- FHR Special Amenity: $100 Bellagio Spa credit to be used during your stay. Restrictions apply*
If you book any hotel through Amex FHR, that last bullet point will say “$100 Food and Beverage Credit” such as the St. Regis (New York City):
Bellagio Stay: 1 night @ $150
Daily Breakfast for Two: The Buffet costs $30 per person (and my daughter eats free because she’s 1). That’s a savings of $60 that I would otherwise be paying.
FHR Special Amenity: $100 Food and Beverage Credit. In other words, the hotel will erase $100 of food and beverages from my bill upon checkout. Las Vegas is expensive so I’m sure we can maximize this.
$150 – 60 (for breakfast) – $100 (other food) = the ”savings” are obvious
However, during check-in the front desk attendant handed me a paper that read: FHR Special Amenity: $100 Bellagio Spa credit to be used during your stay. Restrictions apply*
I quickly attempted to making another booking on my phone to see if there has been some kind of mistake and noticed that all of the Las Vegas properties on Amex FHR now show a “$100 Spa Services credit / per stay” as the property amenity.
Needless to say, for virtually every person staying in Vegas, a food & beverage credit is far more valuable and easier to use than a spa credit! With no recourse, I took the journey to my hotel room questioning how I overlooked that benefit while booking.
WHAT DOES CHASE HAVE TO DO WITH THIS?
After I arrived in my room, I explored Chase’s LHRC to determine if they had changed their benefits too. Fortunately (or unfortunately), LHRC had all the same benefits as FHR but also had the $100 Food and beverage credit. Ouch!
IT GETS WORSE
My amazing wife made me feel better by assuring me that the spa credit would be put to use. However, there was one problem, Spa services begin at ~$200. After searching through additional Spa services, she found manicures for ~$100 but do you remember the “restrictions apply” disclaimer listed after the benefit? Well, manicures and pedicures are the restrictions for the Spa credit.
I’ve published this article for a few reasons.
First, I certainly want you to be aware of the numerous challenges with the Amex FHR program. Obviously, this is a massive devaluation if these problems are not fixed soon.
Second, I want to be candid in saying that regardless of your level of expertise in points, miles, and tricks, you will make mistakes.
I hope that the ‘Food and Beverage Credit’ returns to the Las Vegas properties soon!
Meanwhile, if you have plans to visit Las Vegas and possess the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, Ink Preferred, Ink Cash, and a few other Chase cards, you have access to the Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection and may want to book your stays through that program.
What is your experience with the Amex FHR program? Were you aware of the changes they made in Las Vegas? What is your experience with the Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection?