Getting the elite experience without elite status via credit card & preferred partner hotel booking programs

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This hobby has spoiled me into a love of luxury hotels and elite status perks thanks to both shortcuts to status and many amazing “free” stays I have enjoyed using hotel points. Things like free breakfast, room upgrades, and late checkout can be among the luxuries enjoyed by those with elite access. However, many of those perks can be bestowed upon you even without elite status when you book through the right partner programs. I’ve been surprised to find that this is not only applicable to overpriced luxury hotels but that you can sometimes score these perks at mid-tier properties (or at luxury properties with mid-tier prices when rates are reasonable). Standout values are possible on short stays and when room rates are low. This post compiles a list of many of these programs and their associated benefits. Don’t sleep on these hotel booking programs: we sometimes see extraordinary values emerge when room rates are low and in some cases the range of included properties is wider than you may expect.

The bedroom in a standard room at Delano, my preferred place to stay in Las Vegas and bookable via FHR and Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection

Credit card programs

American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts

Amex Platinum for Less

Link

Participating properties

Varies by city. Note that Fine Hotels & Resorts is a program available to Amex Platinum cardholders (including each of the consumer flavors as well as the business card). Also noteworthy is that you can book up to three rooms with the included benefits. One of my favorite things about FHR is that unlike traditional online travel agency programs, FHR bookings typically earn hotel points and elite credit. Furthermore, I have often found that these bookings have also triggered associated Amex Offers when paying at checkout. Finally, note that while you need a Platinum card in order to book, terms indicate that you can pay with any Amex card at checkout.

Benefits
  • Daily breakfast for 2
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Unique property amenity (usually a $100 resort credit, food & beverage credit, or spa credit)
  • Noon check-in when available
  • Room upgrade upon arrival based on availability
  • No minimum stay requirement

I have long been a big fan of Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts and have previously contrasted it with the Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. The key strength of Amex over many other similar programs is that Amex guarantees 4pm late checkout (whereas most other programs offer it based on availability).

Chase Luxury Hotel Collection

Link

Participating properties

Varies by city. Note that Chase doesn’t publish clear criteria in terms of which credit cards offer access to this program. You need to enter the first 6 digits of your credit card number in order to see search results. Anecdotally, it seems that the first 6 digits on most Chase credit cards seem to work.

Benefits
  • Daily breakfast for two
  • A special amenity unique to each property such as lunch or dinner for two, a spa treatment, golf green fee waivers, welcome gift, or airport transfers. Note that this benefit is highly inconsistent from one property to another. Unlike Amex FHR, it is not a standard value of $100 but rather varies by property so check the details.
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi (though I don’t see this at all properties)
  • A room upgrade (when available at select properties),
  • Early check-in and late check-out (when available at select properties)
  • No minimum stay required

Mastercard Travel & Lifestyle Services Luxury Hotels and Resorts

Link

Participating properties

Varies by city. Note that Mastercard Travel & Lifestyle Services is the most variable value of any of the included programs and includes the widest range of properties. I recently saw a Hyatt Regency available for $85 that included a $50 dining credit, but another property that was $136 through all other booking channels (with a $100 property credit and breakfast for 2) was $281 through Mastercard. You have to shop around. Also note that the Mastercard program appears to work with any Mastercard.

Benefits

These vary (and are only available at participating properties, which are indicated with an icon in search results. Benefits at included properties are listed along with the rates). Typically, benefits are similar to the other programs in this list and include:

  • Daily breakfast for two
  • A special amenity valued at up to $100. This is highly variable and could be as small as $25 in some cases (check the rate details).
  • A room upgrade (based on availability)
  • Early check-in and late check-out (when available at select properties)
  • No minimum stay required

Visa Infinite Hotels

Link

Participating properties

Varies by city. You need to have a Visa Infinite card to search (you’ll need to enter it before being able to search properties).

Benefits

These vary but are similar to others in this list and typically include:

  • Daily breakfast for two
  • A special amenity valued at up to $100, typically a resort credit (note that I’ve found Visa to sometimes include a resort credit at times when Amex provides only a spa credit)
  • A room upgrade (based on availability)
  • Early check-in and late check-out (when available at select properties)
  • No minimum stay required

Public programs

Virtuoso

Participating properties

Varies by city but is typically very similar to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. Note that anyone can book via Virtuoso (no special credit card required), but you’ll need to book through a Virtuoso agent.

Benefits

Note that Virtuoso benefits are identical to Amex FHR benefits in general, though late checkout is subject to availability via Virtuoso (whereas Amex guarantees it).

  • Daily breakfast for 2 guests per room
  • Room upgrade (subject to availability)
  • Early check-in (subject to availability)
  • Late checkout (subject to availability)
  • A special hotel amenity (usually a $100 property credit or other amenity valued at a minimum of $100)
  • No minimum stay to receive benefits

Hotel Preferred Partner Programs

Note that most chains now offer Preferred Partner programs. We’ll continue to add more programs to this list. Of key importance is that almost all of these programs require booking through an affiliated agent. I believe that most agents do not charge a fee for this, though some may. I have had positive experience booking through Travel Zork as they have an easy online request form (direct link to online request form), excellent turnaround time, a secure online system for entering payment information, and they have been responsive to my questions and requests. Furthermore, they are able to book all of the preferred partner programs listed below and more. While Travel Zork has a particular expertise in Las Vegas, they are able to book worldwide through these programs.

Also note that these programs and their associated benefits typically require booking the best flexible rate. Special rates including member rates, corporate rates, AAA, etc, do not qualify. That is a little counter-intuitive: you won’t be able to access the room discount available to members of the loyalty program, though in many cases the benefits affiliated with these programs outweigh those discounts. One key strength of booking through these hotel programs is that you will earn hotel points and elite night credits and likely be prioritized for things like room upgrades.

Hyatt Privé

Living room of my suite at the Park Hyatt Washington DC, where I received a guaranteed upgrade to this suite when booking the category below it and where I could have used my $100 property credit at their formerly-Michelin-starred restaurant.
Participating properties

One Mile at a Time has a full list of participating properties here.

In short, all Park Hyatt, Andaz, and Miraval properties participate. Select Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Centric, Hyatt Regency, Unbound Collection, Thompson, Alila, and Joie de Vivre properties participate (though it is quite a long list of these properties that do participate).

Benefits

Benefits vary somewhat by brand. For starters, there is no minimum stay to receive Prive benefits at Park Hyatt or Andaz, but other participating brands require a 2-night minimum.

Hyatt Prive benefits include:

  • A $50 or $100 property credit per room per stay (this is always $100 at Park Hyatt hotels but can be either $50 or $100 at the other participating brands. It varies by individual property, so you’ll have to reach out to a Prive advisor to inquire about your preferred property)
  • A one category room upgrade confirmed within 24 hours of booking (room-to-room or suite-to-suite) — based on availability at the time of booking
  • Daily full breakfast for two in the hotel’s restaurant
  • Early check-in (as early as 9AM) and late check-out (as late as 4PM), subject to availability
  • A welcome gift and letter
  • No minimum stay at Park Hyatt or Andaz, 2-night minimum at other participating brands

More info: I’ve written about my experience with Hyatt Privé and I would definitely look at booking via Privé any time cash rates are cheap at a participating property.

Hilton Impresario

Paid rates at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui can be pricey, but the savings with free breakfast for 2 and $100 property credit could add up for someone without Hilton elite status.
Included properties

Almost all Waldrof-Astoria, LXR, and Conrad properties

Benefits

Normally, the Hilton Impresario program includes the same benefits as most other preferred partner programs, including:

  • Daily complimentary full breakfast for up to two people per room
  • A complimentary room upgrade, subject to availability at check-in
  • A $100 property credit once per stay
  • Early check-in and late check-out, subject to availability
  • Double Hilton Honors points (valid at select properties)
  • No minimum stay to receive benefits

However, through December 31st, Hilton Impresario is offering “Twice the Perks” at select properties, which includes:

  • A guaranteed room upgrade upon reservation
  • Complimentary breakfast for two guests daily
  • $200 hotel credit per stay (Double hotel credit)
  • Double Hilton Honors Points
  • Book a minimum 7 nights and you can get an adjoining room at a 50% reduced rate. Available only from February 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021. Must book a minimum 2-night stay.

See the full list of properties participating in Twice the Perks here. H/T to Travel Zork for bringing this promotion to my attention.

Marriott STARS

Booking the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi via Marriott STARS can be a phenomenal deal when paid rates are low.
Participating properties

The nice thing about Marriott STARS is that several of the included brands do not otherwise recognize Marriott elite perks like free breakfast and suite upgrades, so these programs can be a great way to access those types of benefits on paid stays. All properties in the following brands participate in Marriott STARS:

  • BVLGARI
  • EDITION
  • Luxury Collection
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • Ritz-Carlton Reserve
  • St. Regis
Benefits
  • Complimentary full or continental breakfast daily for up to two people per room
  • Hotel credit valued at $100 (USD) once per stay
  • Room upgrade (subject to availability at check-in)
  • Complimentary basic Wi-Fi daily
  • Personalized welcome amenity and note
  • No minimum length of stay to receive benefits

Marriott Luminous

I’m not sure whether the JW Marriott Phu Quoc is a participating property, but a $100 credit could get you a couple of room service dinners if it is included.
Participating properties

Select properties in the following brands participate (note that individual properties can opt out, so you’ll need to contact an advisor to find out if your chosen property participates):

  • Autograph Collection
  • JW Marriott
  • Le Meridien
  • Marriott
  • Renaissance
  • Tribute Portfolio
  • W Hotels
  • Westin
Benefits
  • Complimentary daily breakfast for two people per room
  • Early check-in & late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary room upgrade, subject to availability at check-in
  • Local welcome amenity and note
  • Complimentary basic Wi-Fi daily
  • Only at select properties: Hotel credit valued at $100 once per stay
  • No minimum length of stay required

Bottom line

These credit card and preferred partner programs offer most of the key benefits of elite status by simply booking your stay through the affiliated program or agent. That can be a great deal for those making paid stays who want to enjoy elite-like benefits such as full breakfast for two and access to early check-in or late check-out. One of my favorite things about these programs is that most of them require no minimum stay, making them a great way to get fantastic value on short stays. At times, my wife and I have even booked separate back-to-back 1 night stays (one in her name and one in mine) to double up on key benefits and save a bundle on a weekend away.

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