In addition to leveraging points and elite status for hotel stays, there are also some other programs which can help you get the most bang for your buck. Two of my favorites are Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, available with The Platinum Card® from American Express, and Fourth Night Free, available with the Citi Prestige® Card.
I’m planning a trip to Peru (one of the destinations I most want to visit this year), and figured I’d share how I’m leveraging those two programs to book all of my hotel stays, and how they can transform the number of nights I choose to stay at a destination for.
First a bit about both programs (you’re eligible to earn hotel points & elite night/stay credit for booking through either):
American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts
FHR is available to those with The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, and is a really useful program. If you have access to this benefit you can book either by phone using the Platinum Concierge, or you can book directly online, which is my preferred method.
There are over 815 hotels participating in Fine Hotels & Resorts, and by booking through the program you receive:
- Daily breakfast for two people
- Room upgrade upon arrival, when available
- A unique property amenity (usually a $100 property credit, free massage, car transfer, etc.)
- Guaranteed 4PM check-out
- Noon check-in, subject to availability
- Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi (exclusions apply)
Those are some incredible perks, especially given that you typically pay the same price the hotel is charging directly for a flexible rate. In some cases participating hotels also offer a third or fourth night free, which can add even more value.
To give an example, I’m headed to Las Vegas soon, and will be spending a night at The Delano, which is part of the MGM. It’s an FHR hotel (new as of 2016). The rate is $118 for the one night, and for that I get a $100 property credit, plus a $60 breakfast credit.
I should note that I could get a lower rate by booking directly through M Life (they have members only rates), but I’d rather pay an extra $20 and get $160 worth of hotel credit.
Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit
The single best benefit of the Citi Prestige Card is the fourth night free hotel benefit, which is the best hotel benefit offered by any credit card, in my opinion. With this perk, Citi refunds the cost of the fourth night of your stay at any of thousands of hotels worldwide (including virtually all chain hotels). This applies on flexible rates, pre-paid rates, AAA rates, etc.
What’s great is that Citi refunds you for the fourth night behind the scenes, meaning you still earn points and stay credit for the fourth night.
I’ve written extensively about this perk, so see my previous post for more details.
How this plays into my trip to Peru
The Citi Prestige® Card really has changed the way I plan my travel in many cases. While previously I would sometimes book three night hotel stays, in most cases I’ll extended my stay to four nights nowadays, since that fourth night is free.
I’m planning on going to Peru in June, and I’m planning on staying at three hotels, all of which are Starwood Luxury Collection properties (which I’m especially excited about since I’m presently eligible to earn double elite qualifying nights):
These hotels all look great, and consistently get rave reviews from guests. I was planning on doing 3-5 nights at each hotel, so figured I’d share how I plan on approaching booking these hotels, given that Palacio del Inka and Tambo del Inka both belong to Fine Hotels & Resorts, and are both offering third night free.
For my dates, here are the rates at Palacio del Inka, both through Starwood directly and through FHR:
That means there are three options for booking this:
- Three night stay: $277 per night with taxes for the Fine Hotels & Resorts rate, with the third night free, bringing down the average cost to $185 per night
- Four night stay: $277 per night with tax for the flexible, which I could book using the Citi Prestige® Card, bringing down the average cost to $208 per night
- Five night stay: 10,000 Starpoints per night, and if I stay five nights I’d get the fifth night free, meaning I’d be spending an average of 8,000 Starpoints per night
Then here are the rates for Tambo del Inka, directly through Starwood, and also through FHR:
I also have three options for booking this (all include the taxes and service charge):
- Three night stay: $358 per night with taxes for the Fine Hotels & Resorts rate, with the third night free, bringing down the average cost to $239 per night
- Four night stay: $319 per night with tax for the member exclusive rate, which I could book using the Citi Prestige® Card, bringing down the average cost to $239 per night
- Five night stay: 12,000 Starpoints per night, and if I stay five nights I’d get the fifth night free, meaning I’d be spending an average of 9,600 Starpoints per night
I have to say, I’m sitting here scratching my head deciding which option to book, since they’re all compelling in their own ways, and dependent on whether I want to do three, four or five nights. Further considerations include that:
- Fine Hotels & Resorts would include a $100 spa credit at each property, complimentary breakfast (which I receive anyway as an SPG Platinum member), but if breakfast is included I could instead choose 500 Starpoints as my welcome amenity, and guaranteed 4PM check-out (which isn’t guaranteed as an SPG Platinum member at resorts)
- If I book four nights through the Citi Prestige fourth night free benefit, I’d earn four elite night credits, which would be doubled, since the fourth night is refunded directly to my credit card and behind the scenes; meanwhile through Fine Hotels & Resorts the third night would be refunded at check-out by the hotel, so I’d only earn two elite night credits, which would be doubled to four elite night credits
- I’m still tempted to redeem points, since there’s something nice about not being “out of pocket” at all for a hotel stay, but five nights also seems like too long at each property; redeeming for shorter stays wouldn’t be a bad deal, but also wouldn’t be optimal
Lastly, for Hotel Paracas I’ll be using the Citi Prestige® Card fourth night free benefit, since it’s not a Fine Hotels & Resorts property. That’ll lower the nightly rate from ~$200 to ~$150.
While I’ve been using Fine Hotels & Resorts for years, the Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit is only something I started using last year, and it really changed how I approach booking hotel stays. This trip to Peru is the perfect example of how my booking method is more dependent on the number of nights I’m staying than anything else.
Has anyone else changed their average length of stay thanks to the Citi Prestige® Card fourth night free benefit? Which booking method would you use for the above hotels?