FHR is the abbreviation for Fine Hotels & Resorts Program, which is an exclusive benefit for American Express Travel’s Platinum Card and Centurion Card members. In the hotel and tourism sector, FHR is also a luxury hotel trendsetting / rating system. As a Platinum card holder and a hotel addict, FHR is one of the major reasons to continue to hold on to the card. FHR and Centurion Lounge access are in fact benefits that even Centurion cardholders can enjoy (Looking forward to the HKG Centurion Lounge opening at the end of this year). Departures Magazine, which is sent out to Platinum card holders quarterly, contains introductions to a number of FHR hotels. Centurion Card Members receive a fascinating FHR atlas. Let’s get to the point, the purpose of this article is to share some basic knowledge of FHR and how to use it.
Please feel free to ask questions / talk about your own experience with FHR and let us know if there are any discrepancies.
Conclusion at the beginning
- FHR is the exclusive benefit of the Amex Platinum Card. If you want to know more, please click “Amex Platinum Platinum Card“.
- FHR is a luxury hotel reservation channel. While understanding the direct use of the hotel points / credit card points could give a great value, FHR and redeeming with points for stays do not conflict. FHR is simply another way of booking, and many of the properties listed are in fact not tied to any major hotel chain. Moreover, many of the luxury hotels stays can not even be redeemed with flexible points like through the Chase Ultimate Travel Portal.
- FHR is not cheap, and in all likelihood is very expensive. Given that you are planning to spend this kind of money on a luxury hotel stay, the selling point lies in its value, which they pin at an average of $550 per two night stay.
- FHR has someone to serve you. For all the details regarding your stay such as pillow selection, room upgrade requirements, early check-in, late check-out, you can e-mail or call to communicate with someone at Amex Travel. This saves lots of time by essentially having your own concierge and there’s no need to worry about long distance calls to communicate with someone at the hotel.
- FHR is a great companion to having status at the hotel if they do happen to be part of a chain. Another benefit of the Platinum Card card is getting a variety of elite memberships at hotel chains for free. In many cases, benefits can be superimposed. Also, the FHR is a reservation channel and you will receive stay/night credit and can earn points for your stay.
Many blog readers asked me why FHR is good. Isn’t it best to just use the Best Available Rate (BAR) to book? Isn’t it better to find a cheaper price on Booking.com, Expedia? I would say that even if you can find a cheaper price on a 3rd party website or even the hotel’s website, when you add up the value of breakfast, room upgrades, the hotel exclusive credit, 3rd/4th night free benefits, and the fact that you still receive stay/night credit, FHR undoubtedly wins out. Take the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong (a place I am very familiar with having worked in the Hong Kong hotel industry and later for Amex) as an example. You pay the same price through FHR, receive an extra $100 credit, early check in, guaranteed room upgrade, late check out, and the hotel sees you as a VIP.
Looking at this from the other angle, why would hotels value FHR? First of all, as one of many booking channels for the hotel (refers to who can bring business the hotel, such as Booking.com, Agoda, Expedia, the hotel official website, ). FHR channel guests (Platinum and Centurion) are looked at as those with the most spending power. Besides churners, the Platinum Card’s typical customer (high spending, excellent payment history) is able to spend large amounts of money. FHR guests’ spending in hotel, including catering, laundry services, and other services are 3 to 5 times higher than ordinary guests. Hotels are more willing to have high quality guests stay, a big reason is to be able to earn more money with less costs (economics principles 101). Once the guests check in to the hotel, the hope is that they could have more spending in the hotel. So this is why the hotel wants to have FHR guests and seeks to please these guests. A lot of luxury hotels are dedicated to setting up a Director of Sales for FHR to manage and care for FHR guests, as well as handle the relevant complaints and guest requests. When using the FHR booking channel, you are a big fish and will enjoy a variety of benefits. In the eyes of the hotel practitioners, FHR guests are $$$.
Although each hotel wants to be a FHR hotel partner, not every hotel is FHR. Similar to the Michelin selection mechanism, the FHR mystery guest’s sampling method examines whether the partner hotel is qualified for becoming a FHR. The conditions includes hardware (restaurants, gyms, swimming pools, location, stars, etc), and more importantly, the service standards. Since I was a member of the selection, I can share some of the requirements:
- Whether the hotel acknowledges the booking is through the Fine Hotel and Resorts Program by American Express
- Whether the five major benefits of FHR (see below) are clearly explained at the time of check-in
- Whether there is a questionnaire provided by American Express FHR at the time of check-in (including the check-in experience, the degree of maintenance of the facility and the level of courtesy)
- Whether a reminder is given to use an American Express card as payment at checkout.
Tip: it’s not required to use the Platinum Card at checkout. In fact if you are staying at an SPG property, please do not hesitate to take out your SPG Amex to earn double points. Also you do not need to use a US Amex card, a Chinese Amex card with Amex logo can be used.
- Other requirements include whether the guest feels welcomed, time requirements for check-in/check-out and so on
This mysterious guest’s sampling happens twice a year. If a hotel fails to meet the standard in both selections, it will be removed by Amex FHR in the next year. So there are differences if you look at 2015 FHR and 2016 FHR. Hotels generally removed by the FHR hotel, relatively speaking, have seen their quality of service and hardware quality decline. In contrast, you can really see the lift of hotel service after the fact, Hong Kong InterContinental Hotel is one example (2016 was removed by FHR).
FHR as one of the hotel’s booking channel, usually charges 10% of the room rate as commission fee. FHR does not have any agreement price with hotels, so your money is paid directly to the hotel. This means that the hotel still gives you points and stay credit. On the contrary, Expedia and Booking.com or similar OTAs often use an agreed upon price. Your money is paid to the OTA, so you can not earn any hotel points or stay. Within Amex, there are a variety of luxury hotel sales representative to give us presentations to introduce their hotel facilities, so that Amex Travel can recommend its hotel to Card Members. From the business model point of view, FHR and the hotel are a model of mutual symbiosis.
Many readers may ask, in addition to the advantages of value and exclusive courtesy, what other advantages the FHR have? Please let me tell you:
- 975 hotels cover the vast majority of popular and unpopular tourist destinations. North America has more than 300 hotels, 283 in Europe, 222 in Asia. Many Centurion Card Members would say to go to tourist destinations only if there’s an FHR hotel. After all, in addition to the quality of the hotel itself; security of the destination and cultural integration are also considered as objective factors in FHR hotel evaluation.
- A collection of luxury hotel brands. 975 hotels, a total of 49 different hotel brands or hotel collection, of which only 1/4 are part of a hotel program. The FHR allows you to enjoy VIP treatment in hotels like the Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula, which do not have a regular member program. In many cases, FHR can provide you with more choices. After reading, some readers said they never heard of the other hotel brands on the page (Belmond, Oetker Collection, One and Only). I would like to write follow up articles to share these more niche brands.
If you are interested, please click on the FHR Digital Directory to find it out. Search for your favorite FHR hotel there.
FHR basic benefits
- Noon check-in. Most hotels’ check-in time is 2 pm to 3 pm. As FHR bookings, in most cases, you can get the room before the noon. And if you need to check in at an earlier time (morning), it might be possible in many cases.
Tip: At the booking time or after booking, call the phone number behind the Platinum card, transfer to Amex Travel, ask them to communicate to the hotel on your behalf. Many times, you can get a 10AM or even earlier check-in. For a lot of passengers flying overnight and arriving at their destination at the beginning of the day; early check-in, settling down and then going out for sightseeing is very important. It is possible that some agents may advise you to book an extra night for early check-in. I suggest that you insist: “I don』t want to book an extra night for early check-in. Please check with the hotel reservation to see when is the earliest check-in time for me, considering I am using FHR.”
- Room upgrade. This is basically inevitable. Choosing basic room type, generally you can get an upgrade to the room of the next level. If you have status at the hotel brand, even a two level upgrade is possible.
- Two breakfasts. Breakfast Buffet and in-room breakfast can be chosen. The default is buffet breakfast, but many times it is also possible to have in-room breakfast.
Tip: Communicate with Front Office in advance. Ask for two breakfasts, even if one person is going to stay, so remember to invite your local friends to have breakfast together.
- Guaranteed 4 PM late check-out. In many cases, late check-out is an exclusive benefit of the hotel elite members, and in most cases it is just until 2 PM. Think about it, when taking the evening flight to leave you can leisurely do last minute shopping or sightseeing in the morning, head back to the hotel and slowly pack your luggage, no rush to check out before noon. And if your flight leaves very late, ask the hotel front desk one day before check out if it would be possible to delay it to 5:00. You could spend more time getting ready to leave and even take a bath! In general, a hotel postponing check out to 4:00 is considered as half a days rent.
Tip: When communicating with the front desk, be sure to emphasize that you booked through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts Program. Intentionally or unintentionally to mention that you will receive a FHR questionnaire survey. Front desk staff normally will give in.
- Free Wi-Fi. A considerable part of the luxury hotel until now still charge for the wireless network. It is one of the important sources of hotel revenue, and the profit margin is very high.
- The exclusive courtesy depending on the hotel. Generally two things: welcome gifts are usually pre-placed in the room inside, or will be given after check in. I know that there are freshly prepared chocolate, champagne, hotel logo souvenirs, all kinds of food differ hotel by hotel. The other is the hotel’s credit, there are restaurant credits (if the hotel has Michelin restaurant, it might cover half of a meal), spa credits, and more general property credits as well.
Tips: If you do not receive at the time of the stay, remember to communicate that to FHR, maybe there are surprises.
FHR reservation method
- FHR official website：https://www.americanexpressfhr.com/featured_hotel_searches/new. Use Amex’s account login, enter the destination or hotel name, check-in date, check-out date, and you can book!
2. Call the customer service phone number behind Platinum Card and transfer to manual booking. Suggest opening hotel booking pages and telling the customer service information, including: hotel name, check-in date, check-out date, guest name, hotel membership (if any).
Tip: Direct online booking sometimes can not be recognized by the hotel’s reservation system (FHR booking sometimes requires manual verification) and you may miss the time to get the best room. By manual booking, Amex Travel staff will communicate with the hotel reservation department and will be conveying your requirements one by one.
Tip: In general, you can only book three rooms through FHR. If you have a secondary card, it can also be used to book another three rooms. But this does not belong to any general situation.
This is a translated article , please click “中文” at the top right corner of this page (desktop version) for the original Chinese version. The article is written by Chibi717, and translated by boboo.