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After much anticipation and countless rumors, earlier this year American Express announced changes to The Platinum Card® from American Express. Unfortunately, this saw the annual fee jump from an already lofty $550 to an industry-leading $695 (See Rates).
Of course, there was a suite of new benefits to accompany this change, mostly in the form of annual statement credits for a variety of lifestyle uses. Theses include a monthly Equinox statement credit**, an annual credit for an annual CLEAR airport security membership**, a monthly digital entertainment credit** (which frustratingly can only be used at four specific media outlets), and a credit of up to $200 a year for prepaid hotel bookings made through Amex Travel for Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts or The Hotel Collection properties.
Read more: The Amex Platinum card just increased its annual fee to $695 — but fancy new perks and a 100,000-point offer could take the sting out of it
Platinum Card benefits have historically operated this way, but most of these credits are niche and require jumping through a few hoops in order to use. In fact, the Equinox credit, digital entertainment credit, and CLEAR membership credit aren’t worth much at all to me, especially since there was recently a targeted Amex Offer that was giving away CLEAR membership credits to many non-Platinum cardholders as well (I managed to get enough credits for my entire family to use).
New Amex Platinum hotel credit
See Pay Over Time APR
100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership, plus 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership
The hotel credit is probably the new benefit that most people will have the easiest time using, but even still it posed a bit of a problem for me. For starters, I’m loyal to Marriott almost to a fault when I travel. I currently have Bonvoy Titanium elite status, which entitles me to suite upgrades and free breakfast at most hotels I stay at, but that’s only guaranteed if I book directly with Marriott.
If I booked through Amex Travel I’d risk forgoing my hard-earned benefits and the ability to earn elite night credits to requalify for next year. That’s to say nothing of the cost. Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts partners with some of the most select, luxurious properties around the globe, and it’s not unusual for rates to break $1,000 a night.
Read more: The Amex Platinum card comes with up to $200 in hotel credits each year — here’s how it works and which hotels qualify
I love staying at a luxury hotel when I can redeem points to do it for free, but the price tag on most Fine Hotels and Resorts properties is well out of my budget.
Not wanting to let this benefit go to waste, I managed to take advantage of the $200 Fine Hotels and Resorts credit for an upcoming trip to Chicago. Here are a few strategies I used to get the most bang for my buck.
One-night stays offer a better value
One of the best features of the Fine Hotels and Resorts program is that it offers elite-like benefits at non-chain hotels, and at certain chain hotels where you may not have status.
Read more: The Amex Platinum card gets you access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program for luxury hotel benefits — after a stay in Paris, I think it’s worth the hype
The exact benefits vary by property, but you can generally expect the following when booking through Fine Hotels and Resorts:
- Room upgrade on arrival (depending on availability)
- Daily breakfast for two
- Guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out
- Noon check-in when available
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- A $100 property credit to be used for food, beverages, or spa treatments
By far the most tangible benefit here is the $100 property credit. I’ll get to the booking process in a minute, but even after my $200 Platinum Card credit this rate still set me back a few hundred dollars out of pocket.
Read more: I haven’t paid for a hotel room in 10 years — here’s how I stay for free
Since the $100 credit is only valid once per stay, you get a better dollar-for-dollar return if you get $100 back and only pay for one night at the hotel, as opposed to two or three or more. We’re going to Chicago to see one of our favorite bands play, and turning it into a long weekend trip.
We decided to spend the first three nights at a Marriott property (The W Lakeshore, to be exact), using a combination of Marriott Bonvoy points and 35,000-point free night certificates to stay for free, before switching over to The Peninsula for our last night.
Pick a property with a restaurant you want to eat at
Amex has a number of Fine Hotels and Resorts properties in Chicago, including The Peninsula, The Waldorf Astoria, The Four Seasons, and more. Rates were roughly comparable between them, and the locations weren’t a deciding factor either.
Read more: Hotel programs from Amex, Visa, and more can get you free elite benefits like room upgrades and on-property credits — here’s how
So how did we narrow down where to stay? By focusing on the on-site restaurants, and where we’d have the most fun using our $100 dining credit. As luck would have it, I went to college in Chicago and had always wanted to try Shanghai Terrace at The Peninsula (before, ironically enough, moving to Shanghai).
There’s a decent chance we would’ve ended up eating here on this trip anyway, so why not enjoy $100 off our bill and the convenience of staying on-site?
Consider paying with Membership Rewards points to drop the cost even further
When booking a prepaid hotel through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, you’ll have the option to pay entirely with your card or to use points for some of the cost.
Read more: How to earn, redeem, and maximize Amex Membership Rewards points
Unfortunately, Amex only gives you a value of 1 cent per point if you redeem this way, which is much lower than you can get if you transfer your points to an airline partner to book flights instead.
Still, if your goal is to use this luxury benefit without spending any money out of your own pocket, you may want to consider redeeming some points to offset the cost.
The $200 Fine Hotels & Resorts credit that’s now available on the Platinum Card is tricky to use, especially if you’re loyal to a specific hotel brand or don’t want to pay expensive room rates.
Still, by focusing on shorter stays, identifying properties where I’d enjoy the $100 credit more, and offsetting some of the remaining cost by paying with points, I was able to get a decent value booking one of the nicest hotels in all of Chicago and making sure the perk I’m paying for didn’t go to waste.
3 Free Nights (valued up to 50,000 points each) after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, plus 10x total points per $1 spent on up to $2,500 in combined purchases in select categories within your first 6 months
$200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening