Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts vs. MGM Gold: A Tale of Two Bellagio Stays

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Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) is a “luxury” hotel program that is available to both business and personal Platinum cardholders and provides a suite of valuable benefits on all hotel stays booked through the portal. While the benefits of FHR are accessible to all Platinum cardholders, consumer Platinum cardholders also enjoy an annual $200 statement credit toward prepaid Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings.

Nightly prices for properties in the program can vary from $1000+ to under $200, in which case the statement credit actually provides a free night. Domestically, Las Vegas is an extremely popular place to burn these $200 credits as there are multiple properties that often have rates hovering at or below $200 during off-season or mid-week periods, making the FHR credit extremely useful.

There’s quite a bit of information on the interwebs comparing the FHR benefits at various Las Vegas properties already. But I also have MGM Rewards Gold status due to the Hyatt-MGM status merry-go-round, which allows MGM and Hyatt elite members to match tier status across both programs and double-dip rewards while staying at MGM properties.

I thought that it would be fun to compare the same property booked two ways: one direct using MGM Gold, the other booked through Fine Hotels and Resorts. So, last month, I stayed at the Bellagio twice mid-week, booking the exact same room category through both FHR and MGM to see how different the stays would be.

Bellagio Fountains from Fountain View Penthouse Suite

Program Benefits of FHR and MGM

Let’s take a quick second to review the benefits of each program.

Fine Hotels & Resorts

  • Daily breakfast for 2 (up to $30pp at the Bellagio)
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Unique property amenity (the Bellagio provides a $100 food & beverage credit that can be used at any MGM f&b outlet in Vegas, provided you charge it to your room at the Bellagio)
  • Noon check-in when available
  • Room upgrade upon arrival based on availability

MGM Rewards Gold

  • Waived resort fees when booking direct
  • Late check-out when available
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Room upgrade upon arrival based on availability

There are a few other benefits that are shared across both programs like dedicated check-in areas and the ability to skip the lines at some food and beverage outlets. The main difference in the benefits as written is that, with FHR, 4pm checkout is “guaranteed” and up to $150+ of food and beverage/property credit is included. On the other hand, FHR bookings are still subject to the resort fee, whereas it’s waived for MGM Gold members.

I was very curious to see how differently the Bellagio would treat the upgrades between the two programs, as the wording is almost exactly the same. My assumption was that MGM members booking direct would get preferential upgrades beyond FHR customers. I was in for a big surprise.

View from chaise lounge in the Fountain View Suite bedroom

A Tale of Two Stays

Fine Hotels and Resorts

I booked the same room category for each stay, the base-level Resort Queen. The rate booking though FHR was $179/night + tax for a grand total of $203, with the caveat that I was on the hook for another $51 in resort fees + taxes. Booking direct through MGM for the same night would have been $20 less, not counting the resort fee.

I was unable to try out the early check-in availability as I wasn’t arriving until early evening, but I did receive a surprising notice when I looked at my stay in the MGM app once I landed in Vegas: I had been upgraded proactively to a Fountain View Penthouse Suite. This was way more than I was expecting and amounted to a 7-category upgrade. The night that I was there, the Fountain View Suites were selling for $1,147.50/nt.

Check-in was fairly speedy, and I received a room on the 34th floor that I was blown away by. It was a beautiful room, almost 1600 square feet with separate dining and living-room areas. The foyer and the gargantuan main bathroom were all marble and there was a whirlpool bath for two as well. Both the bedroom and the living room/dining room had floor-to-ceiling windows with views over the lake and the dancing fountain displays. I had a great time sitting by the windows and watching the fountains while working. (I’ll post a full bottom line review within the next couple of days).

2 Person whirlpool tub in suite bathroom.

The dining outlets all seemed to be understaffed for the amounts of business that they were receiving. Everyone was pretty stressed out. I used the first part of my $100 F&B credit at Noodles Restaurant the night that I arrived. It took almost 45 minutes for the food to come out, but it was quite good when it finally did come out and the total was $31 + tip (the f&b credit can’t be used for tips).

The next morning, I had breakfast off the atrium at Sadelle’s Cafe. The bill for one dish + coffee was right at $30 as well. Later, after working in the room and out by the pool all day, I wanted to get lunch before I flew out and still had $69 in credit burning a hole in my pocket. So I went to Lago, which is right on the lakeside, and had a surf+turf that came out right to $70 with one drink. Perfect. All the f&b was proactively removed and my only out-of-pocket costs were the tips, about $28 total.

Surf and Turf at Lago Restaurant

On the way out, I stopped by the front desk and asked if they could remove the resort fee because I was an MGM Gold member. The front desk agent said that normally Gold members had to pay the resort fee when using FHR, but that she would remove it for me as a courtesy. So, the grand total for the entire stay was about $31 after the Amex credit.

I’ve heard of mixed results in getting both elite night credit and points from prepaid FHR stays, which is what you have to use in order to get the $200 Platinum credit applied. In this case, I was only given points for the uncomped f&b spending (the gratuities) and no elite night credit. After making two requests for credit through the Hyatt concierge team and waiting for over a month, one of the concierges finally applied an elite night to my account. I never received points for the room.

Bellagio Tower King
MGM Gold

Returning a couple of days later, I booked directly through MGM, and the base-level Resort Queen was the exact same rate of $179/night + tax, with no resort fee. The FHR rate for the same night would have been $30 more, not counting the resort fee.

I was surprised to see that, this time, I wasn’t proactively upgraded, even though the same array of rooms was available as my earlier FHR stay. When I checked in at the front desk and asked if there were any upgrades available, the agent offered me a one category upgrade to a tower room on a higher floor, this time on the other side of the building from the fountain.

Then, the agent said, “oh wait just a minute, I have a bunch of suites open, would you like one of those?” Well, absolutely I would! She then dropped the hammer and said that she could offer an upgrade to the base-level Salone Suite for $150 additional. I asked if there was a Fountain View Penthouse Suite open (the same room I stayed in a couple of days earlier) and she said, “Absolutely, I could upgrade you for $450!” I declined, took the keys to my Tower King room and sauntered up to the 20th floor.

View from Bellagio Tower King

The room was very nice, if a bit underwhelming after the grandiosity of the Fountain View Suite from my earlier stay. The next day, I went down for breakfast to Sadelle’s again and paid the same $30 + tip (this time for their delicious lox plate). I didn’t need a late checkout but asked out of curiosity and the front desk told me I could get it extended by one hour.

After the stay, both MGM Rewards and Hyatt points posted quickly and as expected.

The Tale of the Tape

FHR MGM
Breakfast Included $30
Total F&B Credit $130 $0
Room Upgrade 7 categories 1 category
Upgrade to Suite Yes No
Resort Fee Waived Yes (YMMV) Yes
Free Wifi Yes Yes
Late Checkout 4 hours 1 hour
Total Cost $235 $235

Final Thoughts

I was quite surprised at how much better the Fine Hotels and Resorts stay at the Bellagio was than the stay booked direct as an MGM Gold. Leaving the f&b credits aside, I got a waaaaay better upgrade, later checkout and still got the resort fee waived when booking through FHR. I wouldn’t count on the resort fee being waived every time, as I’m sure that it’s somewhat rep dependent. But still, the cost of breakfast for one person was essentially the difference in the nightly rate between the two programs for both nights that I booked. Even if I had to pay the resort fee, the additional benefits seem to far outweigh the cost.

Fountain View Suite Living Room

There are some nights that I’ve seen a greater variance between the FHR rate and the MGM rate and I have to think that not every FHR stay is getting an upgrade of that magnitude. I’m both Gold and Globalist, and I have no idea if that affected anything. But that said, it seemed clear the suite upgrades were not on the table for the MGM Gold/Globalist direct booking, but obviously were once I was on an FHR stay. It’s also worth noting that I don’t gamble much and folks who do get MUCH better treatment when booking direct. This seems to die off a bit when using FHR.

Getting the elite night credit and points to post can be a bummer when trying to use the Platinum credit because of the requirement to prepay. From what I can tell, prepaid FHR stays are made as an OTA (online travel agency), so are treated differently by both Hyatt and MGM than the FHR stays that are paid at the property. I’ve read varying reports of being able to get credit in the end, but at best, it’s a pain in the butt. (although they do earn 5x Membership Rewards)

Still, I can’t imagine that I would ever choose to book direct at the Bellagio again, even if I knew I had to pay a resort fee and wouldn’t get elite credit. The small difference in price to book through Fine Hotels and Resorts yielded a vastly more enjoyable stay

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Jack

Hi. One thing I think was lacking in your review was the free rooms and f and b credit offered to mgm gold. I got 3 free nights, $15o in f and b credits and $100 casino feee play. So in the end a way better deal. In fact I get a blast from mgm bimonthly with about the same offer! Please check out the free room factor. Keep up the great work as I love your articles.

MFK

I had a slightly different experience recently. I spent a night at the NoMad and one at the Bellagio via prepaid FHR bookings on either end of a hiking trip to Utah. I asked at both hotels to add my Hyatt and MGM numbers at check-in. I’m Globalist and Gold. I was upgraded one tier at both hotels. At NoMad the rep proactively deducted the resort fee from my bill. The rep at Bellagio proactively informed me that I would have to pay the resort fee. I earned Hyatt points only for incidental spend at the NoMad, but didn’t get an elite stay credit. I got bupkis at the Bellagio. I contacted my concierge about this and she said she sent in a request, but I haven’t heard anything since. It’s been a little over a week.

PS – I was driving my own car and did not see any free lots at either hotel, but fees are waived for MGM Gold elites and above, regardless of booking source. You can swipe your card at the gate after inserting your ticket. If you forget to bring your physical card with you, you can get a new one made on-site quickly and easily.

Tom

I’ve had very mixed luck with FHR vs MGM Rewards. Delano (no longer a FHR hotel) a big no on the hyatt stay credit but yes at the NoMad. NoMad is much nicer than Delano IME. Minimal upgrades with FHR and typically none with MGM rewards but once a nice suite upgrade at Mirage. When staying at MGM hotels I’ll stick with MGM rewards and use FHR at other Vegas participating hotels. Hopes of outsized upgrades, hyatt stay credit and waived resort fees are just too YMMV for me when staying at MGM properties using FHR on the strip.

Dee

I just stayed at an upgraded room at the Paris hotel! What a dump. Such a bad experience all around. Never again!

SamBam

Great job Tim. Your writing has gotten much clearer. Thanks. Superb article.

Jasn

Great article. Really enjoyed the comparison.

Chris

Interesting article..

I am MGM gold a few compd nights at the Bellagio and was thinking of sticking an FHR booking at the beginning, as I arrive in Vegas really early that day.

I am wondering if a get upgraded through the FHR if they’d let me keep that room for the other regular booking. It’s during the week in December so fingers crossed!

JohnB

We did exactly this and Bellagio kept us in the same room for all 6 nights, a King Fountain view.

The other Jason

Nice pull with FHR!

I am MGM gold simply from status match ($17 in comps to may name from restuarant spend). Was upgraded from a base room to a 1 bedroom tower suite (1,000 sq ft) at Mirage a couple of months ago. No mention of money, I just asked if Gold upgrades were available.

Meanwhile, at MGM last year, I had to complain of mold (no mold for the gold!) to get out of a West wing room into a base room in the Grand tower.

Jason

last time with FHR on a M-Th stay at Bellagio using back to back FHR, low occupancy, no upgrades except for higher floor, so FHR doesn’t guarantee it.

petersfo

Wow, it’s surprising how stark the contrast is between booking methods. Definitely food for thought. Maybe they thought that if you had access to FHR that you might be a high roller and thus worth proactively upgrading in the hopes that you’ll spend big at the casino?

I wish FHR would encompass more lower budget hotels (I know it’s luxury hotel collection but usually the hotels on the list are $1000/night plus for a lot of popular destinations), I would make use of it a lot more. I wonder if you’d get different treatment if you booked through a travel agent through Virtuoso type program.

Sam

FHR is definitely via an OTA. Not quite sure if it varies how Amex books by property but I did check into a smallish (5 or 6 around several continents) boutique chain in Granada & was asked to verify my Expedia reservation. After getting my room & an hour on the phone, I finally talked Amex in to calling the front desk to verify my food & bev credit. Obviously no upgrade to be had because they had zero clue. Also learned that Amex have different support phone numbers for online vs phone reservations, which was interesting. Maybe they have dedicated reps at Expedia or wherever else. It would certainly be interesting to see how many still book via phone!

Andy

Great job! Love the comparisons and would like to see more.

Reno Joe

Boraxo is correct. Over the years, I’ve read a number of articles and comments from individuals who have casino tier status — up to the top non-invitational tier status. Tim, consistently, it is as you’ve reported. In the case of individuals whose tier status includes complimentary suite upgrades if available at check-in, the casinos denied such upgrades BUT were willing to sell the member the upgrade. “If you’re willing to sell me a suite upgrade, it means that a suite is available — and, if a suite is available, I’m supposed to get it complimentary.” The casinos didn’t care and weren’t going to budge. Gee, sounds like Marriott. I think FHR is the way to go.

Ben

Good article

Fernando

Have you considered if FHR would still be the clear winner on a 2 or 3 nights stay? I imagine the probability of being upgraded to a suite would be reduced, and the $100 food credit will be diluted on a per day basis.

JohnB

A few years ago, pre Covid, we booked the Wynn thru FHR. At that time the Wynn gave an $80 breakfast credit. Which when the rate was between $160 and $180 per night, makes a lot of sense. Although upgrades at the Wynn just amount to a better view, and not a substantially better room.

Boraxo

The casino clubs are just a marketing scheme they provide no real benefits and just a ploy to increase bookings. But good to hear that FHR is solid in Vegas.

Andre

Honestly — one of the best articles I’ve read on this blog. Love the comparisons. I have a stay at the Bellagio in September and I booked via MGM app — I’m gold. But I also have the Amex and I considered booking that way — but the cost was significantly higher than the MGM app. Going to look at Amex again and see if the prices have come down since I booked. Thank you, Tim. Wonderful read!

JL100

Great article – it is a bigger difference if you have some play with them – normally I get 3 nights comped and of course no resort fee now, but I usually get the same room I booked. I had the same suite the one time I booked with FHR. I have seen rates almost $100/night higher though for FHR even when I am not getting a discount. I plan to stay there for at least the one night with FHR to get the platinum credit this year.