If you're into the expensive hobby of booking luxury hotels (like me), you need to know how to book these properties like a pro to get the best value from your stay. If you're not already getting a guaranteed 4 PM checkout, food & beverage credits and or guaranteed upgrades; keep on reading.

Park Hyatt Paris

In this post we're going to look at 10 exclusive luxury hotel programs, some you might know about, others may be new to you. In any case, all these programs offer exclusive discounts and benefits. Usually, they are only accessible via approved travel advisers, so it's not something you will generally find on your average online hotel booking portal.

American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts

Amex FHR is an exclusive hotels program offered to those with an American Express Platinum or Centurion card.

When you hold one of these cards, you will be able to access the FHR booking portal online or by calling the Platinum travel team. FHR bookings enjoy a range of perks, while it can differ between hotels here's what you can expect:

  • Room upgrade upon arrival (subject to availability)
  • Daily breakfast for two people
  • Guaranteed 4 PM checkout
  • Noon check-in when available
  • Complimentary wifi (not really a perk in 2019 but oh well)

Unique Property amenities such as a spa or food and beverage credit (minimum US$100 value)

Virtuoso

Virtuoso is similar to Amex FHR when it comes to available hotels, but the key difference is that it's open to anyone. Virtuoso utilises a global network of approved travel advisers to book your stay with a range of added benefits.

When you sign up to Virtuoso (free), you will get assigned a travel adviser who you can contact to book your stay. In most cases, you will need to liaise with them as there's a limited number of hotels that can be booked through the site.

Booking through Virtuoso will get you the following benefits:

  • Room upgrade upon arrival (subject to availability)
  • Daily breakfast for two
  • Food & beverage credit or Spa treatment credits (minimum $US100)
  • Early check-in/late checkout (subject to availability)
  • Special Virtuoso experiences (depends on the hotel)

Hyatt Privé

Hyatt Privé offers a range of benefits for bookings at Park Hyatt, Andaz, The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, Grand Hyatt & Hyatt Regency. There is no minimum stay required for Park Hyatt (except for Park Hyatt Sydney). There is a 2-night minimum stay requirement for The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency & Park Hyatt Sydney.

  • Up to USD$100 property credit per stay (US$100 at all Park Hyatt hotels)
  • Room Upgrade priority (confirmed within 24h of booking – based on availability at time of booking)
  • Early check-in priority subject to availability. As early as 9 AM
  • Late checkout priority subject to availability. Latest checkout is 4 PM
  • Connecting Rooms Priority. Subject to availability
  • Full daily complimentary breakfast at the hotel restaurant for 2 guests per room
  • Welcome Amenity upon arrival at the hotel

Rosewood Elite

I just completed my first Rosewood stay, and I'm a big fan! The Rosewood hotel group has a program for travel advisers called Rosewood Elite, it's very similar to what you can get via Amex FHR and Virtuoso, but it's more flexible since prices can be adjusted for example if a special promotion comes out after you book.

While all Rosewood hotels are part of the Elite program, that's not always the case with FHR and Virtuoso, so this can be a great backup. As part of the Elite program, you can the following benefits:

  • Daily breakfast for two
  • Room upgrade subject to availability
  • Early check-in and late checkout, subject to availability
  • Personalised welcome amenities
  • VIP Recognition and personalised welcome
  • Elite Price assurance

Peninsula Hotels PenClub

The Peninsula hotel brand is pure luxury, and while I've only stayed at their refurbished Beijing property, it was a fantastic experience. Just like the above, Peninsula Hotels have their own program for travel advisers called the PenClub. The benefits vary from hotel to hotel (although it's mostly the same) and are on par with what you can access via FHR or Virtuoso.

  • Exclusive Hotel Amenities – usually US$100 hotel credit per stay or at some hotels it's a complimentary massage, set lunch/dinner or afternoon tea.
  • Daily breakfast for up to two persons
  • “Peninsula Time” – Flexible check-in and checkout times (while this is subject to availability, it's no joke! When we checked in at our Beijing hotel, they allowed a 7 AM check-in)
  • Room upgrade to the next category upon arrival (subject to availability)
  • Upgraded welcome amenities and a welcome note
  • Complimentary long-distance calls via VOIP in hotels at Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Paris and Bangkok
  • Local daily newspaper
  • Complimentary 30-minute extension on any 50-minute body or facial treatment (excluding manicure/pedicure)

How to maximise your benefits

The key to getting the maximum benefit from these programs is to do your research. Comparing prices is crucial since the benefits don't always stack up. It's also important to note that all these programs (unlike online hotel booking sites) do allow you to submit your hotel reward membership number (when applicable). This way you can enjoy benefits from being a hotel elite + whatever extras you get via FHR/Virtuoso etc. By entering your Hilton/Hyatt/Marriott membership number, you also earn points and status nights for each booking.

When booking Amex FHR, I always recommend checking hotel specials such as "pay for 2 stay 3", while they don't always show up on the online portal, your Platinum travel adviser will be able to contact the hotel direct to see if they can book the same rates.

Conclusion

While most hotels are available via Amex FHR and Virtuoso, when they are not, the other elite programs I mentioned are a great backup (such as Hyatt Prive). It's essential to do the maths on prices quoted and work out if the extra benefits will result in a price that's better compared to booking directly or via an OTA (online travel agent) such as hotels.com. When comparing FHR vs Virtuoso, the key difference I find is the 4 PM checkout. While it's guaranteed (for the majority of hotels) on Amex FHR, on Virtuoso it's mostly "subject to availability" which isn't ideal when you have a late flight etc. Another thing to keep in mind is that Virtuoso usually shows prices excluding taxes while Amex FHR always shows the final amount.

Usually, when you book through a third party, your elite hotel benefits are excluded which means you don't earn points, don't collect status nights and don't get access to club lounges, upgrades and late checkouts. This isn't the case when you book through any of the programs I've mentioned above. Hilton will still credit your points and stays + give you all the perks you would get from booking direct and the same goes for Hyatt.

An Example

My most recent Amex FHR booking was for the Shangri-La in Sydney, the direct hotel price was $240 (for a Sunday night) and so was the price on Amex FHR. However, booking through FHR resulted in me getting Au$130 food & beverage credit, 4 PM guaranteed checkout, upgrade to a better room and breakfast for 2.

Since I'm also a Golden Circle member (you get this status for free as part of the Amex Platinum) I also received a welcome amenity and points. Sweet spot bookings like this aren't always available, but it's essential to check all your options.

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